Anglican missionaries and governing the self, an encounter with Aboriginal peoples in western Canada, 1820-1865
Peikoff, Tannis Mara
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Despite a growing interest in the investigation of various forms of non-state governance, few studies have considered the informal governmental processes that have been bro ght to bear on Aboriginal peoples. This study explores missionary work as a form of colonial governance. The sensitizing concepts provided by Foucault's work on governmentality are used to examine missionary governmentalities that were deployed amongst relatively autonomous and resistant Aboriginal populations. In particular, attention is directed to technologies of self-formation that were used in attempts to transform traditional self-identities to those of 'civilized' Protestants. Based on an analysis of texts found within the Church Missionary Society archives in Manitoba, this study examines the encounter between the Aboriginal peoples of Red River and the Anglican missionaries between 1820 and 1865. The findings show that the sustained attack on Aboriginal spirituality and kinship systems, and particularly the strategies used to transform traditional self-identities, were deeply invasive technologies of governance. The findings also show that Aboriginal resistance played a key role in both the governmental technologies of the missionaries and the eventual outcome of this encounter. It is argued that the nature of colonial governance was such that, due to the vast differences in ontologies between the two groups, Aboriginal peoples could not be successfully transformed into the mould of the nineteenth-century British Protestant unless most elements of their traditional. culture and self-identity were first destroyed. Regardless of the fact that many Aboriginal people resisted conversion to Christianity at this time, the data indicate that the governmental technologies of the missionaries had disruptive effects on Aboriginal self-identity and forms of social organization. On the other hand, the outcome of this interaction was clearly a hybridization of forms of governance and resistance. The continued survival of traditional cultural institutions and forms of knowledge has created spaces for resistance in the present as well as ways of repairing some of the damage that has been done as a result of such forms of colonial governance.
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