Deaf Education, the Politics of Humanitarianism, and State Formation in Saskatchewan and Alberta, 1880-1931

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Barron, Sandy




This study traces the development of deaf education in Alberta and Saskatchewan between 1880 and 1931 and its corresponding effects on state formation in Western Canada. Through this topic, it identifies a rise of deaf politics in the wake of the First World War that achieved notable successes in Saskatchewan in the interwar period. A new term for discussing oppressive attitudes against deaf communities from hearing people, humanitarianism, is proposed and explored. These provinces took decades to develop state institutions that were meant to ensure "productive" and "independent" futures for deaf children in the burgeoning nineteenth-century liberal colonial order on the Prairies. In doing so, they began to define their own provincial boundaries, both in the sense of geography and responsibility. They also began to define theoretical boundaries between deafness and hearing, intellectual ability and disability, as well as rights and humanitarian assistance. The development of deaf education in Alberta and Saskatchewan, I argue, pushed emergent provinces to accept the rights of deaf youth to education, though this process was uneven and did not represent a straight teleological arch. Deaf associations and individuals themselves pushed the provinces and took leadership roles in this process, making them heretofore unrecognized political agents in search of rights. Chapters include considerations of deaf education as an instrument of settler colonialism, histories of hearing and deaf families with deaf children, the role played by the Manitoba School for the Deaf in marking intellectual disability in the three Prairie provinces, and the role of the Western Canadian Association of the Deaf in the founding of the Saskatchewan School for the Deaf in 1931.


Education - History of
Canadian History




Carleton University

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