Best New Articles November 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 previous months, which you can access by clicking here.

This month I read articles from:

Here are my favourites, in no particular order:


Erika Dyck and Maureen Lux, “Population Control in the ‘Global North?’ Canada’s Response to Indigenous Reproductive Rights and Neo-Eugenics,” Canadian Historical Review 97, no. 4 (December 2016): 482-512.


What it’s about: This article focuses on discourses and practices around reproductive choices, rights, and technologies for Indigenous women in the North. Dyck and Lux argue that despite the 1969 amendments to the Criminal Code that removed the state from the “bedrooms of the nation,” this period saw the increasing intervention of the federal government in the lives of Indigenous women in the North, particularly with respect to their reproductive rights. At the same time, Indigenous women in the North began seeking information about and access to newly legalized reproductive technologies. However, their access to this information and/or technology was shaped by a variety of factors, including 1970s discourses on population control, Indigenous feminisms, Indigenous sovereignty and self-government activism, assumptions about the reproductive choices of Indigenous women, language barriers, the accessibility of doctors and nurses, and the desire on the part of the federal government to control and regulate Indigenous peoples.

What I loved: If there is one word that I associate with this article, it is the word “nuance.” Too many people associate the 1970s as a time of sexual liberation due to the legalization of birth control. But as this article demonstrates, this is a vast oversimplification of what actually happened. I also really appreciated the discussion of neo-eugenics here. We tend to mostly associate eugenics in Canada with the 1930s, but as this article demonstrates, rhetoric around the connection between poverty and large family size in the 1970s and into today is not actually that different. I also think this article does a great job of showing how colonialism and imperialism are modern phenomena.

Favourite quote: “Characterizing the [North]’s high birth and infant death rates as ‘Canada’s Shame,’ a newspaper editorial applauded the decision of the NWT Council to distribute freely birth control literature and technologies, asking ‘is this India or Latin America?’” p. 505

Suggested uses: While I did appreciate this article, I think that the writing and argument are far too complex for undergraduate students. This article would be better suited to graduate courses in general, perhaps ones specializing on colonialism or the history of sexuality.


Bonnie Huskins and Michael Boudreau, “Irresponsibility, Obligation, and the “Manly Modern”: Tensions in Working-Class Masculinities in Postwar Saint John, New Brunswick,” Labour/Le Travail, no. 78 (Fall 2016): 165-196.


What it’s about: This article uses the diary of a working-class woman, Ida Martin, in postwar Saint John to critically examine working-class life in this time and place, with a particular emphasis on the family economy and multiple discourses of masculinity. In contrast to Chris Dummit’s findings that men in postwar Canada embraced an idea of “manly modernism,” (think Don Draper), Huskins and Boudreau found that older forms of masculinity persisted well into the 1980s and beyond. These forms of masculinity, described here as “rugged masculinity” and “racial manliness,” combined seasonal work, risk-taking behavior, and homosocial recreation with labour activism. Their presence is related to the endurance of older forms of family economy and industry alongside modern developments in Saint John.

What I loved: First of all, the fact that Huskins and Boudreau were able to find a diary by a working-class woman that spanned decades is absolutely amazing and I am insanely jealous. There is so much insight to be gained from Martin’s diary. I was fascinated by the descriptions of the daily lives of working-class men and women, the relationship between husbands and wives, and the pride and stubbornness of these male workers. This article is beautifully written, and it paints a rich portrait of life in working-class postwar Saint John. This is one article you can read just for the sheer pleasure of it.

Favourite quote: “And one can discern a hint of sarcasm in Ida’s 1945 depiction of [her husband] waiting for his dump truck to be repaired: “got dump welded and [husband’s] eyes were sore from watching.” P. 165

Suggested uses: This is a must-read for any social historian. You’ll be alternately jealous that you didn’t find the diary and fascinated by the information it reveals. I think this would also be a great article for an undergraduate course, even for a survey course. It would be a great way of showing students that there are no clear lines between traditional and modern, as well as demonstrating the importance of doing history from below. It’s also a great example of micro-history and how it works. I think students will also be able to relate to Ida Martin and her husband very easily, since many of the issues addressed in this article persist even to this day.


Carmela Patrias, “More Menial than Housemaids? Racialized and Gendered Labour in the Fruit and Vegetable Industry of Canada’s Niagara Region, 1880-1945,” Labour/Le Travail, no. 78 (Fall 2016): 69-104.


What it’s about: In this article, Patrias compares the experiences of several distinct groups of temporary and seasonal farm/cannery workers in southern Ontario: the “usual” group; so-called “imported workers,” consisting of non-British women and girls (mostly immigrants, many of whom were from the US) and Indigenous families; and the young female volunteers and Japanese internees who worked during World War One and Two. A comparison between these groups illustrates the racialized and gendered hierarchy of workers and work that existed (and still exists) in the Canadian labour market as well as the ways in which certain individuals are included in or excluded from local communities and Canadian citizenship.

What I loved: This article has many strengths that I think should be mentioned. I really appreciated how this article problematizes whiteness. As Patrias notes, racialization is a process that affects all people, not just people of colour. Certain groups of people, especially from southern and eastern Europe, would not have been characterized as ‘white’ at the time. I also really appreciated how Patrias shines a light on women and girls, people of colour, and Indigenous people who worked, and the way in which she talks about the commonalities and differences these groups of peoples. It is unfortunate that Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples tend to be segregated in the Canadian historiography.

Favourite quote: “However proud the farmerettes themselves were of their work in the fruit and vegetable industry, they were unwilling to perform this work for patriotism and praise alone.” P. 85

Suggested uses: This article would be great in any labour history class, especially since it discusses often-invisible workers. It would also be a great article to use in any course to talk about racialization and othering. I especially think this article would appeal to students because Patrias takes us right up to today and ties her argument to current controversies about seasonal agricultural workers in Canada and elsewhere.


Shannon Stettner and Bruce Douville, “’In the Image and Likeness of God:’ Christianity and Public Opinion on Abortion in The Globe and Mail during the 1960s,” Journal of Canadian Studies 50, no. 1 (Winter 2016): 179-213

Author’s Twitter: @slstettner


What it’s about: This is one case where the title describes the content of the article exactly. While we tend to think of the 1960s as a period of increasing secularity in Canada, Stettner and Douville show that religion was still a very important factor when it came to public opinions on abortion. In particular, Christian attitudes about conception and women’s roles in society shaped public debates. Stettner and Douville analyze public opinion by looking at letters-to-the-editor published in The Globe and Mail.

What I loved: There is always a debate about issues of representation and definitions of “ordinariness” when it comes to social history, especially when it comes to the question of public opinion. I really appreciated how Stettner and Douville handled this by emphasizing that their analysis was qualitative rather than quantitative, and that drawing on the dominant themes present in the letters-to-the-editor is a good method of gauging public opinion. Similarly, I loved their discussion of their research methods. I’m a sucker for a good methodology section. My one quibble is that since Stettner and Douville only looked at one newspaper (and they clearly explain why), they miss an opportunity to compare English and French Canadian views on the subject, to say nothing of debates within racialized and ethnic communities. But I think this is more a to-be-continued thing rather than a true criticism.

Favourite quote: “All of this is to say that the narrative of secularization is a complicated one. Both institutionally and discursively, Christianity has lost authority in Canada since the 1960s. It has been far more persistent and resilient, however, than some pundits in the secular 1960s would have predicted, and not just in the private realm.” P. 205

Suggested uses: This article would be great in any history of sexuality and history of religion course. It would also be a good option for students studying historical methodology, since the clear methodology in the article allows students to possibly retrace Stettner and Douville’s work. The persistence of religious beliefs in a period described as ‘secular’ is also particularly relevant, considering the recent American election.


Daniel Macfarlane and Peter Kitay, “Hydraulic Imperialism: Hydroelectric Development and Treaty 9 in the Abitibi Region,” American Review of Canadian Studies 46, no. 3 (2016): 380-397.

Author’s Twitter: @Danny__Mac__


What it’s about: This article focuses on the hydroelectric power project at Lake Abitibi in 1914-1915 to talk about the relationship between waterways, megaprojects, treaty-making, and Canadian imperialism in the 20th century. Macfarlane and Kitay argue that the Canadian government engaged in a process they refer to as “hydraulic imperialism,” by using waterways as a tool to extend their control to the James Bay watershed. This was accomplished through the reimagining of an Indigenous landscape as a Western industrial landscape and the establishment of Western systems of land ownership in the area.

What I loved: First of all, the quote below. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read articles that purport to be about Indigenous peoples, but are devoid of Indigenous voices. Many times it is implied that more research needs to be done with respect to Indigenous perspectives, and while it is still a very small concession, the fact that this is explicitly noted by Macfarlane and Kitay is significant. Second, I really appreciated the nuanced and complex analysis present in this article. It takes real skill and patience to weave together so many considerations while also making the article eminently readable. And, incidentally, Abitibi-Temiskaming was my favourite word to say for many years. It just rolls off the tongue in such a delightful way. Yes, I have issues.

Favourite quote: “Further research is required in this area in order to engage and include the perspectives and memory of First Nations’ communities on both sides of the interprovincial border around Lake Abitibi regarding this experience.” P. 395

Suggested uses: Obviously, this is a great article to use in an environmental history course, especially when it comes to discussing the relationship between physical and discursive landscapes. But I think this article would also work well in a course about imperialism and colonialism, as a way of talking about the forced isolation of many Indigenous communities in Canada, how the establishment of provincial and federal borders complicates Indigenous identities and political activism, and to show how treaties operated in the twentieth century and beyond. This is also a very timely article considering this new era of megaprojects, such as hydroelectric projects and pipelines.


Jason Chalmers, “Canadianizing the Holocaust: Debating Canada’s National Holocaust Monument,” “None Is Too Many and Beyond: New Research on Canada and the Jews During the 1930-1940s, ” Special Issue of Canadian Jewish Studies 24 (2016): 146-165.


What it’s about: This article is a critical examination of debates around the establishment of the first national monument to the Holocaust: The National Holocaust Memorial. Chalmers argues that the main purpose in building the memorial was to integrate the Holocaust into the Canadian national narrative, reconceiving the Holocaust a Canadian history. It holds a central place in reinforcing Canada’s vision of itself as a progressive society, while also holding Canada accountable for its past crimes.

What I loved: I just wanted to shout YES when I was reading this article. The extent to which the Holocaust has entered the Canadian national consciousness both fascinates and confuses me, so I really appreciated the fact that Chalmers called this out. I also really loved his analysis of memorials and national identity, since that subject is something I happen to have some opinions on.

Favourite quote: “While Canadians may have once remembered the Holocaust only as a people living in a post-Holocaust world, it seems that now they are beginning to remember it as Canadians.” P. 161

Suggested uses: This article is a great tool for teaching students about collective memories and narratives, as well as public history. I think this would also be a great one to use in any course on the Holocaust or genocide that is taught in Canada. I think we need to continue to problematize the public’s fascination with the Holocaust and genocides in general, and why some of them are deemed more worthy of remembering than others.


Others that I also enjoyed:


That’s it for this mega-edition of Best New Articles. Whew. Have you read any of these articles or journal issues? What did you think?

This week we have two blog posts, and we’ll be back on Friday with another edition of Upcoming Publications for January. On the one hand, I’m shocked the year is almost finished. But on the other, I can’t wait for 2016 to be over… Anyways, happy thoughts and I’ll see you on Friday!

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