Best New Articles August 2016

Because, let’s face it – who has time to catch up on all the journal articles published in Canadian history?


Welcome back to the Best New Articles series, where each month, I post a list of my favourite new articles! Don’t forget to also check out my favourites from July, which you can access by clicking here.

This month I read articles from:


(I did also look at the Canadian Journal of History, but since none of the articles deal with Canadian history, none of the articles made it into this post. It’s still worth checking out though!)

As you can see, there was quite a lot to read this week. So in the interest of keeping this post to a manageable size, I’m going to fully profile only my absolute favourite article (with one exception) in each issue. Other articles that I liked from each journal, and would normally provide full profiles for, will be listed immediately below. There are also three individuals articles that deal with Canadian history, and they are discussed at the end of this post.

Here are my favourites:


Journal of the Canadian Historical Association

Elise Chenier, Lori Chambers, and Anne Frances Toews, “Still Working in the Shadow of Men? An Analysis of Sex Distribution in Publications and Prizes in Canadian History,” Journal of the Canadian Historical Association 26, no. 1 (2015): 291-318.

Authors’ Twitter: @elisechenier@Anne_Toews

Link: [warning, it’s an auto-download]

What it’s about: In this article, Chenier, Chambers, and Toews provide incontrovertible evidence of the bias against women and women/gender/feminist history in the field of Canadian history. They do this through a statistical analysis of the sex distribution of scholarly monographs and edited collections, book reviews, journal articles, and prizes awarded by the CHA. The data is shocking. I live-tweeted my reading of this article, so I’m not going into too much depth here. If you’d like to read a comprehensive summary, please see my live-tweet stream here.

What I loved: All. The. Things.

Favourite quote: “It is time for the CHA, and the profession more widely, to revisit openly and explicitly how academic excellence is determined, and how structural forces produce the sexual inequalities documented here and elsewhere.

We offer a few recommendations to jump-start this process:

  1. Further study of the questions raised here should be undertaken.
  2. Curricular review at individual institutions, and perhaps also by the CHA, should explore the extent of the inclusion of women’s and feminist scholarship in core courses on Canadian history.
  3. All historians should read and engage with women’s and feminist history.
  4. Publishing houses and journal editors should work explicitly towards equity in publication.” p. 313-314

Suggested uses: If you only read one article this month, read this one. If you only read one article this year, read this one. In my opinion, this is the single most important publication in Canadian history to come out in a long time. Anyone and everyone connected to the field of Canadian history needs to read this article.


Francesca D’Amico, “’The Mic Is My Piece:’ Canadian Rap, the Gendered ‘Cool Pose,’ and Music Industry Racialization and Regulation,” Journal of the Canadian Historical Association 26, no. 1 (2015): 255-290.

Author’s Twitter: @hiphopscholar82

Link: [not yet available online]

What it’s about: This article looks at the emergence of the Black Canadian Rap movement in the 1980s and 1990s using written documents, artefacts, and oral histories. Artists involved in this movement used their families’ local and transnational heritage and their “hyper-racialized and hyper-gendered Cool Pose” to talk back to hegemonic discourses that constructed Canadianess as white and to the limitations of multiculturalism. In response, however, the Canadian music industry imposed certain strictures that systemically limit the ability of these artists to spread their message across the country.

What I loved: Oh let me count the ways…. I loved this article so much that I had to break my own rule about one article per journal issue. To me, this, and a couple of other articles this month, are the epitome of what scholarship should be about: adding to our knowledge of a subject while also providing insights into the problems we are facing today. I was also really happy to see scholarship on Black Canadians in the late 20th century, which is a severely understudied subject. Other aspects of this article that I greatly enjoyed included the successful integration of local and transnational analysis, the discourse analysis of song lyrics, the emphasis on histories of resistance, and the unpacking of the nature of Canadian nationalism.

Favourite quote: “In each case, rather than simply reiterating the dominant national narratives of Canada as seasonally ice cold, Choclair and Kardinal recasted the tropes of a cold landscape coded literally and metaphorically as “White” to articulate a sense of self that mandated a rethinking of national boundaries, local contexts, and citizenships. It could also be the case that Choclair and Kardinal were responding to the cold attitudes of white Canadians towards non-white citizens. In either case, by locating themselves within the physical iconography of Canada, these rappers negated the claim that Black bodies could not withstand the harsh Canadian climate, a discourse that had long been used by mainstream immigration policy makers to deny Black Canadians access into Canadian geographic space.” P. 276

Suggested uses: While I don’t think this is a good article to assign to a first- or second-year course, I definitely think this article should be featured in third- and fourth-year courses as well as graduate courses. It could work in a number of classes, from discussions of Canadian culture and/or nationalism, the history of popular music, the history of activism, Black history in Canada, changing conceptions of citizenship, social history, history of immigration and so on. This article would also be really useful for scholars working in the fields of activism and resistance, Canadian hegemony, local and transnational analysis, gender and race studies, and the experiences of racialized peoples in Canada.


Also Recommended:

Krista Barclay, “From Rupert’s Land to Canada West: Hudson’s Bay Company Families and Representations of Indigeneity in Small-Town Ontario, 1840-1980,” Journal of the Canadian Historical Association 26, no. 1 (2015): 67-97.

  • This is a great article, primarily for its showcasing of the history we can learn from family heirlooms (particularly things created and passed down by women) and for its discussion of how some individuals today are rediscovering and romanticizing their families’ previously hidden Indigenous ancestors.


Journal of Canadian Studies

Jenny Ellison, “A ‘Unifying Influence on Our Nation: Making and Remaking the Meaning of Terry Fox,” Journal of Canadian Studies 49, no. 3 (Fall 2015): 170-190.

Author’s Twitter: @thejennye


What it’s about: This article takes a critical look at the history and mythology surrounding Terry Fox. Exploring the history of the man himself and his efforts to run across the country, Ellison also focuses on how certain parts of his story have been erased while others were emphasized, all in the service of the national and regional narratives of Canadian identity. At the same time, Ellison breaks down the idea that Fox was a unifying figure, beloved across the country, and showing how his run and his memory were actually quite contentious.

What I loved: First of all, and perhaps superficially, this article appealed to me because I’m a long-distance runner. J I haven’t run in a Terry Fox race yet, but I still feel like, as a Canadian, it’s something that I should do. This article helps to unpack this imperative, and how Terry Fox has come to stand for certain values that are deemed to be “Canadian.” I also loved reading about the man himself, as a person rather than an icon. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, I really appreciated how the history of disability took centre stage here along with the history of nationalism. Disabilities studies are so important, and we need more of this kind of scholarship!

Favourite quote: “He was sometimes grouchy: he struggled with his mortality and fame, and sometimes felt frustrated with the media. The Marathon of Hope was also itself a struggle, with Fox taking on the role of activist, fundraiser and runner prior to gaining the full support of the Canadian Cancer Society. This complexity matters, and I include it here because it humanizes Fox and makes his story the stuff of everyday life and not heroic myth.” P. 185

Suggested uses: I’m not really old enough to remember Terry Fox himself (insert groans about baby historians here), but I do remember his mythology. Which is why I was shocked to read that he actually encountered a great deal of apathy when he started his run. In an era of renewed discussion about our national heroes (including the American debates around Harriet Tubman and Andrew Jackson on the American $5 bill and our debates around the appearance of a woman on our currency), this article provides an important argument: that we need to think very critically about the message that we are sending. So I think this is a great article for scholars, both academic and amateur, who look at the idea of commemoration, public memory, and national iconography. It would also be a great introduction to these ideas for first- and second-year students, since this article is accessible and easy to read. At the same time, this article would be great in upper-level courses on the history of sexuality, the history of the body, the history of gender, and the history of disability. I know I’ll be adding it to my syllabus the next time I teach my history of sexualities course.


Also Recommended:

Allan Downey, “Playing the Creator’s Game on God’s Day: The Controversy of Sunday Lacrosse Games in Haudenosaunee Communities, 1916-24,” Journal of Canadian Studies 49, no. 3 (Fall 2015): 111-143.

  • Great look at how the Haudenosaunee used lacrosse as a method for talking back to and resisting colonialism, while also challenging assumptions that Indigenous communities are homogenous. (also, Ahkwesáhsne is near Montreal, and I’m a sucker for all things related to Montreal history.)


BC Studies

Sabrina Trimble, “Storying Swílcha: Place-making and Power at a Stó:lõ Landmark,” BC Studies, no. 190 (Summer 2016): 39-66.


What it’s about: In this article, Trimble explores the history of colonialism and the environment of the Stó:lō peoples (located in the Lower Fraser Valley and Fraser Canyon), particularly with respect to place and power. She does this by examining three types of stories written or spoken about Swí:lhcha/Cultus Lake by both the Stó:lō and non-Stó:lō: origin stories, trail stories (making connections) and boundary-making stories. As she argues, “Stories about the Swí:lhcha environment have been central to building local identities and claiming place, but they have also always been part of a history of diverse, competing claims to space and shifting interactions among peoples.” P. 66

What I loved: This, folks, is how to write a superb scholarly article. I think I read this entire thing in one sitting because I loved it so much. Trimble’s writing, and the way in which she structured her article, are just beautiful. But, it was the way in which she unpacked ideas about storytelling and its relationship to place while also addressing the contested and contradictory nature of history itself and its relationship to power that really stood out for me. I learned so much from reading this article. As someone who grew up in a Jewish community, the tradition of storytelling is so important, particularly the way in which it anchors people to both places and times and serves as a scaffolding upon which personal and communal identities are built. So I am excited to see story-telling taking centre stage, particularly when used to expose the power dynamics that justified colonialism as well as the impartial implementation of settler colonialism.

Favourite quote: “Through storying, people have made claims, explicit or implicit, to Swí:lhcha; built local identities; fostered community connections; and defined and reified hierarchies of power. Swí:lhcha’s stories have always been about situating people within a diversely valued environment and in relation to the others with whom the environment is shared. Indeed, conflicted ideas about what makes the Swí:lhcha, or Cultus Lake, environment home have undergirded and reflected power imbalances, while its many stories have often excluded people with competing claims.” P. 66

Suggested uses: Just read this article; you’ll thank me later. 😉 While this article focuses on BC and Indigenous histories, and will be most useful to students and scholars working in those areas, I think that all Canadian scholars stand to benefit from reading this article. It really drives home the point that how we tell our country’s stories has real world implications, and that is something we, as Canadian historians, need to consider.


Also Recommended:

Madeline Rose Knickerbocker and Sarah Nickel, “Negotiating Sovereignty: Indigenous Perspectives on the Patriation of a Settler Colonial Constitution, 1975-83,” BC Studies, no. 190 (Summer 2016): 67-87.

  • Rewrites the history of the repatriation of the Canadian constitution. Also does a superb job of showing how Indigenous resistance has prevented the total implementation of settler colonialism in Canada. Loved!


Journal of Critical Race Inquiry

Timothy Stanley, “John A. Macdonald, the “Chinese” and Racist State Formation in Canada,” Journal of Critical Race Inquiry 3, no 1 (2016): 6-34.


What it’s about: Stanley argues that we must consider John A. Macdonald as the “father of biologically defined Canadian white supremacy as an organizing principle of the state.” (p. 7) As he notes, it was Macdonald who, in 1885, introduced legislation banning individuals of “Mongolian or Chinese race” from voting, the first time that biological categories of race were used in Canadian legislation. To ignore this, or to explain that he was simply a man of his time, is simply wrong. Rather, several members of Parliament argued against this legislation, and Macdonald admitted that it was part of his larger vision for an Aryan Canada. To further complicate matters, he supported enfranchising Indigenous peoples who held property, since, for him, property ownership was a mark of cultural “whiteness.”

What I loved: Stanley doesn’t pull any punches here, which I think is great! I also love that Stanley uses his scholarship to provide knowledge about the past while also disrupting or challenging problems with our current state and society. For me, this is an example of what political histories should do.

Favourite quote(s): “Significantly, Macdonald is the only member of the House of Commons or of the Canadian Senate to speak of the ‘Aryan’ nature of Canadian society. Indeed, the term is so unfamiliar in 1882, when he first used it, that the clerks recording the debate in the House of Commons spelled it ‘Arian’” p. 24


“Perhaps it is time that Canadians commemorate these exclusions and bear witness to the thousands and even millions of lives that they have ruined, rather than celebrate the architects of white supremacy as national heroes. “ p. 29

Suggested uses: Stanley has a really great and clear treatment of critical theories of race in this article that I think makes it a good choice to introduce second- or third-year students to these ideas. This is an article that I think is more suited to upper-level and graduate students. I definitely think this is a good option for a graduate course on Canadian history, taught in connection with Philip Abrams’ “Notes on the difficulty of studying the state.” All credit for this idea, however, goes to Peter Baskerville, who insisted the students in his 19th century Canadian history graduate course read the Abrams article. This article should be mandatory reading in any course on Canadian political history. It would also be a great option for courses on race and ethnicity in Canadian history, as well as scholars working in all of these areas.

I think someone like Barbara Kay might also want to read this article, but I highly doubt that is going to happen, so…


Also Recommended:

Laura Murray and Paul Carl, “Beyond Sir John: Unsettling Public Memory in Kingston,” Journal of Critical Race Inquiry 3, no 1 (2016): 61-86.

  • Really great treatment of public memory and heritage in Kingston on the topic of John A. Macdonald, and how these create a specific image of the people who live in Kingston. Also provides some awesome suggestions of alternative historical plaques to help restore Indigenous peoples’ histories to the city.


Individual Articles

Allison Mills, “Colonialism in Wizarding America: J.K. Rowling’s History of Magic in North America, thorugh an Indigenous Lens,” The Looking Glass: New Perspectives on Children’s Literature 19, no. 1 (July 2016).

  • Maddie Knickerbocker already live-tweeted this one, so I’m going to direct you to that Twitter conversation.

Funke Aladejebi, “Resistance – Send Little Outbursts across the School: Black Women Teachers and Micro-Resistive Strategies in Ontairo Schools, 1960s-1980s,” The Journal of Education Matters 4, no. 1 (2016): 16-22.

  • This is a great little article showing how Black women teachers inserted units and activities on Black History into their classrooms, resisting government-sanctioned curriculums. It’s more of an exploratory study than anything else, but it’s still worth a look.

Stacy Nation-Knapper, “Shoes, Canoes, and Lives in Unexpected Archives: Searching in Fur Trade Ledgers beyond the Hudson’s Bay Company Archives,” Past Imperfect 16 (2016): 35-54.

  • A must read for anyone who has done, does, or is planning to do any research relating to the fur trade.


That’s it for this month. There were just so many great articles and I wish I had the space to talk about them all. Once again, this list contains the articles that I liked the best. I’d love to hear what you thought about any of these articles, or any other other ones published this past month, so please post your comments below! And don’t forget to check back on Sunday for a brand new Canadian History Roundup.

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