Contact Zones: Aboriginal and Settler Women in Canada's Colonial past


Rutherdale and Pickles write, Page 1, 11:

"Women’s raced and classed bodies were a vital “contact zone” in the Canadian colonial past. During colonization, women and bodies mattered and were bound up in creating and perpetuating an often hidden, complex, contradictory, and fraught history. Women occupied the spaces of colonial encounter between Aboriginals and newcomers as both colonizers and the colonized, transgressing restrictive boundaries and making history. In varied sites of encounter, aboriginal women, white women travellers, missionaries, and settlers were all integral to the colonial project. Colonial relationships of power were expressed locally and in different times and places that were grounded in the materiality of women’s day-to-day lives. By focusing on the nexus between women’s bodies and colonization, this book reveals and interprets contact zones in English Canada’s colonial past. It demonstrates the importance of women’s history in expanding the understanding of imperialism and colonialism.

The book is divided into three thematic parts. The first part of Contact Zones focuses on Aboriginal women and the ways in which they contested the colonial quagmire so that they would not just survive, but also benefit from the changing circumstances of their own and their people’s lives. Part 2 looks at the regulation of Aboriginal women’s and girl’s bodies by non-Aboriginal or Anglo-Canadian church and stat authorities. The third part considers both Aboriginal and white women in publicly demarcated spaces. In each of these public encounters, preconceived ideas about whiteness and entitlement were reinforced and sometimes challenged. Throughout the collection, contributors grapple with the ongoing difficulty of writing women into history, incorporating feminist and postcolonial theory. The contributors employ a wide range of methods to make sense of their material, which ranges from personal testimonies to government records. 

Contact Zones sets out to explore Canadian history in new ways. The history of colonization is a tense and difficult area to write about, but there are many vital and important stories, especially those of women, that need to be told. The contributors to Contact Zone resist homogenizing colonial experiences, instead offering diverse perspectives. Aboriginal and settler women, the state and society are all present and marshalled together around colonial themes. The material spans episodes that occurred in a variety of places and time periods, ranging from the late-nineteenth-century streets of Victoria to Ontario public gatherings, prairie homes, and mid-twentieth-century northern communities. Often outside the mainstream of Canadian historiography, the women’s experiences uncovered in this volume serve as a potent reminder of the implications of colonialization." Pg 1, 11.

Publication Information

Rutherdale, Myra, and Katie Pickles. Contact Zones: Aboriginal and Settler Women in Canada's Colonial past. 2005.

Rutherdale, Myra
Pickles, Katie
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