The Canadian Carceral State: Violent Colonial Logics of Indigenous Dispossession

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Thibault, Katie
Indigenous Studies , Black Studies , Feminist Studies , Prison and Carceral Studies
This thesis examines the over-representation of indigenous women in Canadian federal prisons. I situate the prison as a site of modernity to draw attention to the ways that the prison is underpinned by the logics of white supremacy. I posit that the prison is a complicated geography wherein the differential and overlapping colonial histories of slavery and indigenous genocide are intricately linked and also bifurcated. The prison enables racial violence and at the same time, erases this violence against indigenous women from public purview. This is to say, that the prison upholds the project of modernity through the sequestering and dispossession of indigenous communities, and this spatial act must be considered alongside other geographies of removal, such as the plantation and the reserve. Colonial carceral logics also operate beyond the space of the prison, which leads me to consider the staggering numbers of murdered and missing indigenous women as part of the colonial project that is deeply invested in the maintenance of white supremacy. In addition to reviewing key theories in black and indigenous prison studies, I discuss reports released from the Correctional Investigator’s Office to clarify how reportage narratives of “change” are unable to rectify the disproportionate rates of federally incarcerated indigenous women. I also explore maps of Canadian prisons to think through how colonial and carceral geographies conceal racial violence. Throughout this project, I centralize that within colonial spaces there are always decolonial narratives. I posit that prison abolition must be accompanied by decolonial projects invested in dismantling the logics of white supremacy. Specifically, turning to creative texts, such as storytelling, illuminates how practices of human relationality are subversive acts wherein articulations of a better future emerge.
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