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Liberalism, Surveillance, and Resistance

Athabasca University Press | The West Unbound: Social and Cultural Studies

Canada is regularly presented as a country where liberalism has ensured freedom and equality for all. Yet with the expansion of settlers into the First Nations territories that became southern Alberta and BC, liberalism proved to be an exclusionary rather than inclusionary force. Between 1877 and 1927, government officials, police officers, church representatives, ordinary settlers, and many others operated to exclude and reform Indigenous people. Presenting Anglo-Canadian liberal capitalist values and structures and interests as normal, natural, and beyond reproach devalued virtually every aspect of Indigenous cultures. This book explores the means used to facilitate and justify colonization, their effects on Indigenous economic, political, social, and spiritual lives, and how they were resisted.


"As an introduction to postmodern ideas and analysis, the contribution Liberalism, Surveillance, and Resistance makes to Canadian Aboriginal history is significant. Sophisticated, thoroughly researched, and readable, it provides a very useful framework for analyzing familiar events in the history of Aboriginal/non-Aboriginal relations in Canada and colonialism everywhere."


“Smith concludes that ‘disciplinary surveillance’ of aboriginal people as employed by the federal government has persisted to the present day, despite the evidence of sporadic resistance by individuals and groups. What makes this book even more timely, is that the Canadian government continues to monitor the activities of aboriginal people who resist incursions on their indigenous rights and territories.”


Keith D. Smith is Chair of the Department of First Nations Studies and teaches in the Department of History at Vancouver Island University in Nanaimo, British Columbia.

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