Rethinking the Great White North – 2008

City: Kingston
Country: Canada

A two-day workshop addressing the myth of the “Great White North” as a major theme in contemporary debates about Canadian geography and identity. Discussions placed critical race theorists in dialogue with scholars studying the idea of nature in order to consider how social constructions of race, whiteness and nature are interconnected in creating the Canadian nation. The objectives of the workshop were:

  • to evaluate how the concept of nature has been and continues to be implicated in the co-construction of race and whiteness in Canada
  • to draw scholarly attention to the geographical configurations of racisms in Canada and elsewhere
  • and to initiate interdisciplinary debate on the complex ways that history and geography are implicated in the production of racialized social formations.

Archived Presentations


Citation: Erickson, Bruce. “A Phantasy in White in a World that is Dead: Grey Owl and the Whiteness of Surrogacy.” Rethinking the Great White North. 1 February 2008.
Abstract: This presentation takes the Indian masquerade of Grey Owl/Archibald Belaney as a productive place to investigate the functions of race in the field of wilderness conservation in Canada. As an early advocate of wilderness, and of recreational encounters with wilderenss, Grey Owl used his performance of the “Indian” to promote a visual logic to wilderness that still dominates conservation dialogues today. Drawing upon work by Jacques Lacan, this presentation examines how this visual regime relates to whiteness as a structure of race in Canada. Part of Rethinking the Great White North: Historical Geographies of Whiteness in Canada.


Citation: Thorpe, Jocelyn. “Making Race, Nature and Nation in “Tegagami’s Tangled Wild.” Rethinking the Great White North. 1 February 2008.


Citation: Mackintosh, Phillip. “The ‘occult relation between man and vegetable.'” Rethinking the Great White North. 1 February 2008.


Citation: Milligan, Richard & Tyler McCreary. “Inscription, Innocence, and Invisibility: Early Contributions to the Discursive Formation of the North in Samuel Hearne’s ‘A Journey to the Northern Ocean’.” Rethinking the Great White North. 1 February 2008.
Bio: Richard Milligan teaches English at Vanier College and McGill University.
Tyler McCreary is a PhD candidate in Geography at York University.
Abstract: Although very few Canadians have ever ventured into the artic, the now-mythic image of the harsh and unbridled North remains a significantly defining characteristic of Canadian identity. Published in 1795, Samuel Hearne’s A Journey from Prince of Wales’s Fort, in Hudson’s Bay, to the Northern Ocean is one of the first representations of this contested terrain attributable to a European. In his narrative inscription of this uncharted land and its inhabitants, Hearne etches themes that were instrumental to historical processes of colonization and that remain prominent in Canada today. Thus, using Hearne’s A Journey, we explore how narrations of the natural environment are inextricably linked to social processes, particularly the exercise of colonial power and the performance of cultural identity.


Citation: Cameron, Emilie. “Of Beaver Dung and Copper Wires: Rethinking Narrative Geographies of the Central Arctic.” Rethinking the Great White North. 1 February 2008.
Bio: Emilie Cameron is a Doctoral Candidate in the Department of Geography at Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario. Her research focuses on imaginative geographies of the Canadian Arctic and their intersection with cultural, political, and economic power. She is particularly interested in story and in articulating a ‘critical narrative geography’ of the Arctic.
Abstract: This paper intervenes in efforts to ‘rethink’ the Great White North by considering the materiality of stories structuring racialized imaginative geographies of the Canadian Arctic, and by attempting to story the Arctic differently by attending to different ‘things’. It focuses on ‘copper stories’ and the networks of people, places, and things involved in the exploration, extraction, and manipulation of copper as a way of rethinking hegemonic understandings of the Bloody Falls massacre story.


Citation: Vedal, Lauren. “Geographies of VIctimhood and Whiteness in Two First Nations Novels.” Rethinking the Great White North. 1 Februrary 2008.
Bio: University of Wisconsin-Madison


Citation: Hulan, Renee. “White Technologies and the End of Science in Gwendolyn MacEwen’s Terror and Erebus.” Rethinking the Great White North. 1 February 2008.
Bio: St. Mary’s University


Citation: Bocking, Stephen. “Indiginous Knowledge and the Intersection of Science, Nature and Cultural Identity in Northern Canada.” Rethinking the Great White North. 2 February 2008.
Bio: Trent University


Citation: Dempsey, Jessica, Stephen Gould and Juanita Sundberg. “Changing Land Tenure, Defining Subjects: Neoliberalism and Property Regimes on Native Reserves.” Rethinking the Great White North. 2 February 2008.
Bio: University of British Columbia.


Citation: Egan, Brian. “Titles, Territories, Treaties: The Long Road to Reconciliation in British Columbia.” Rethinking the Great White North. 2 February 2008.
Bio: Carleton University


Citation: Mire, Amina. “Purity, Prairie Wheat and the Politics of Whiteness.” Rethinking the Great White North. 2 February 2008.
Bio: Carleton University


Citation: Keil, Roger & Claire Major. “SARS and Service Work: Infectious Disease and Racialization in Toronto” Rethinking the Great White North. 2 February 2008.
Bio: Roger Keil is the Director of the City Institute and Professor at the Faculty of Environmental Studies at York University, Toronto. He is the co-editor of the International Journal of Urban and Regional Research (IJURR) and a co-founder of the International Network for Urban Research and Action.

Claire Major is a PhD student at the Department of Geography, York University. Her doctoral research is on the relationships between social class, social reproduction and the civic infrastructure of Fort McMurray, Alberta.
Abstract: Saskia Sassen calls the formation of global cities a narrative of eviction: as the major nodes of the world economy take shape, the stories that are told are constructions of hegemony and exclusion, which drown out various forms of otherness. One such story is the creation of racialized and often genderized labour markets of low wage service work. Among those are the hospitality and hospital workers who provide different but equally vital services to the world city economy. In the spring and summer of 2003, these particular labour markets were battered by an unusual crisis: the outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). Here we examine the social and political fallout of the outbreak for these precariously employed workers in Toronto. Based on interviews, focus group research and participant observation, we argue both that the SARS crisis laid bare the fault lines of racialization in the multicultural city and that the financial, emotional and social consequences of the SARS outbreak contributed to the overall construction of racialized social relations in Canada.


Citation: Anderson, Kay. “Discussant Address.” Rethinking the Great White North. 2 February 2008.
Bio: University of Western Sydney.


Citation: Razack, Sherene. “Discussant Address.” Rethinking the Great White North. 2 February 2008.
Bio: Ontario Institute for Studies in Education / U. of T.

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