Burial Places, White Supremacy, and Racial Necrogeographies in Eastern North America

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Creator: 

Felepchuk, William Leonard

Date: 

2022

Abstract: 

This dissertation examines how the places inhabited by the racialized dead have been destroyed or disallowed in regimes of racialization and colonization in the territories of the Saugeen Anishinaabeg (an area colonially known as Bruce and Grey Counties, Ontario) and throughout eastern North America. I include the burial places of four interconnected peoples: Anishinaabeg of the Great Lakes region, Black communities in Ontario and the Mid-Atlantic, Protestant English-speaking white populations of Ontario and the eastern United States, and Muslim communities who may be part of the three preceding groups, but who also comprise large numbers of more recent migrants to eastern North America. This dissertation maps a variety of case studies across these communities, while remaining centred on the Anishinaabe world. I chronicle how white people have engaged in patterns of desecration and destruction of the burial places of Indigenous and Black communities and resisted efforts by Muslims to establish space to bury their dead. White people have thus maintained the landscape of whiteness both through the destruction of existing graves and the denial of new ones. I argue first that processes of racial dehumanization and colonial dispossession have not only been inflicted on the living but also the dead and the sites they inhabit, and that this violence has its roots in traditions of posthumous dehumanization that are part of British/North American Protestant cultures while also, paradoxically, being deeply at odds with this culture's worldviews about the dead and the respect owed to them. Second, I argue that processes of colonial dispossession rooted in the removal of peoples from their lands extend to the grave itself, and that the grave is a symbol of power over a place. Thirdly, I argue that there is a wide pattern of burial place destruction across eastern North America. Finally, I highlight the profound and magnified importance of these sites to Indigenous, Black, and Muslim communities, as evidenced by both reclamation efforts, and the presence of burial places in the spoken and literary statements of these communities, for whom these sites are essential connectors to threatened pasts, violent presents, and resurgent futures.

Subject: 

Canadian Studies
Native American Studies
Black Studies

Language: 

English

Publisher: 

Carleton University

Thesis Degree Name: 

Doctor of Philosophy: 
Ph.D.

Thesis Degree Level: 

Doctoral

Thesis Degree Discipline: 

Canadian Studies

Parent Collection: 

Theses and Dissertations

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