Let’s face it – who has time to catch up on all the journal articles published in Canadian history? Most of the time, the latest journal issues sit in a pile on your bookshelf and gather dust or are socked away in a random file on your computer, never to be seen again. And it’s just as difficult to tell which articles are the most important. Thankfully, there is a solution to this problem. Anyone familiar with the beauty-blogging community knows that “monthly favourite” videos are one of the most popular regular features. So I’m going to apply the same basic principle to the latest journal articles!
Each month, I’ll be posting a list of my “favourite” new articles, along with a short summary, my favourite parts of the article, and some suggestions on how I think it could be used. Please keep in mind that these are solely my opinions, based on what I found interesting. You might very well have a totally different list, and I’d love to hear about it!
In this first edition of Best New Articles, I read the latest issues of the Journal Of Canadian Studies, Historical Studies in Education, Acadiensis, Canadian Journal of History, and the Canadian Bulletin on Medical History.
**In order to keep this manageable, I’ve only read articles on Canadian history in Canadian history publications. If an article did not deal with Canada, or was from another discipline, I excluded it.**
Here are my favourites:
Griffith, Jane. “One Little, Two Little, Three Canadians: The Indians of Canada Pavilion and Public Pedagogy, Expo 1967.” Journal Of Canadian Studies 49, no. 2 (Spring 2016): 171-204.
- What it’s about: In this article, Jane Griffith picks apart The Indians of Canada Pavilion from Expo 67. She highlights the pavilion’s “public pedagogy,” and how organizers sought to displace traditional narratives of Canadian and Indigenous history taught in schools. However, as she notes, this message often did not reach its intended targets, due in large part to the nationalist and colonial rhetoric around the Centennial.
- What I loved: The discussion around the concept of public pedagogy as well as more information about Indigenous activism in the 1960s.
- Favourite quote: “Thomas wished to visit the British Pavilion because of his budding interest in music, which one teacher had cultivated in him. “I wanted to go there because of the British invasion, the Beatles. I wanted to go there, find out about the music.” The students, though, were prohibited. Thomas remembers the teachers throughout the trip rushing the students, always “saying ‘Come on! Come on!’” and “always going somewhere really fast and quick.” Despite taking particular interest in street artists at Expo, he was “never, never [able to] stop and look at them” because he had to “keep moving.” P. 194
- Suggested uses: When I teach post-confederation Canadian history, I always do a class on social movements of the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s, and the Native Rights Movement is one of the movements I profile. I’ve often struggled to find a good reading on the topic, so I will definitely be using this in the future! This would also make great source material for a lecture and/or great discussion around the concept of nationalism and education.
Alpha Johnston Hurst, Rachel. “Colonial Encounters at the Turn of the Twentieth Century: “Unsettling” the Personal Photograph Albums of Andrew Onderdonk and Benjamin Leeson.” Journal Of Canadian Studies 49, no. 2 (Spring 2016): 227-267
- What it’s about: In this article, Rachel Alpha Johnston Hurst compares and interrogates photo albums created by two different settlers in BC during the mid to late nineteenth century. However, rather than simply examine and describe the pictures, Hurst instead seeks to “unsettle” the visual narrative presented by these albums, where the Indigenous peoples of BC are depicted as a dying race or absent all together.
- What I loved: The analysis of photography (as a former photo lab technician, this makes me super happy) in such a sophisticated manner. I also loved the breakdown of settler colonialism and the author’s use of Paulette Regan’s concept of “unsettling.”
- Favourite quote: “My inquiry is a part of a longer process of unsettling these micro-narratives that continue to shape the dominant ways settlers in Canada refuse responsibility for the stories that are contained within, and far beyond, the albums (the macro-narratives of settler colonialism and Canadian nationalism). It is a part of my responsibility as a settler “to question the myth, to name the violence, to face the history” (Regan 2010, 237) that shapes these albums, in an effort to resist the denial and forgetting of colonialism in Canada. P. 260-261
- Suggested uses: This article should be mandatory reading for anyone who is interested in decolonizing themselves, their teaching, and their research, as well as settlers who want to be allies in the Indigenous rights movement. It would also make a great reading for upper-level or graduate courses on Canadian history, colonial history, and historical methodology.
van den Berg, Ryan. ”Thank Goodness We Have a He-Man’s School”: Constructing Masculinity at the Vancouver Technical School in the 1920s.” Historical Studies in Education 28, no. 1 (Spring 2016): 96-123.
- What it’s about: Ryan van den Berg takes a look at interactions between middle-class and working-class masculinities at the Vancouver Technical School. School administrators and teachers envisioned a new idea of masculinity as “worker-citizen.” The students internalized and modified this message, creating an idea of masculinity as athletic, heterosexual, skilled breadwinners. Both women and femininity were seen as obstacles to be avoided and excluded.
- What I loved: The author’s consideration of working-class masculinity as constructed by teenagers and young men in the 1920s as well as the use of class yearbooks as a primary source.
- Favourite quote: “The markedly different tones toward both boys are almost entirely based on their performance of masculine able-bodiedness and stoicism. While Leech, an athlete with good character, is granted a heroic death, Firth is remembered more curtly for his studiousness and sickliness.” P. 110
- Suggested uses: This paper would work really well in a graduate course either on gender in Canada or class in Canada. It’s one of the best pieces in the area of “masculinity studies” that I’ve seen in a long time. It also does a great job at looking at tensions between the social classes. The article reminded me a lot of Adele Perry’s On the Edge of Empire.
Lane Jonah, Anne Marie. “Everywoman’s Biography: The Stories of Marie Marguerite Rose and Jeanne Dugas at Louisbourg.” Acadiensis 45, no. 1 (Winter/Spring 2016): 143-162
- What it’s about: This article looks at the constructions of biographies for two women as part of the living history presentation at the Fortress of Louisbourg National Historic Site. These women were selected specifically because they were ordinary individuals. Much of the history of these two women had to be inferred from more general sources, however they have come to be both active agents and recognizable figures in their own right. This article looks at this process of the reconstructions and how the constraints of public history shape the stories that are told.
- What I loved: The way that this author looks at intersections between academic and public history, particularly around issues of accessibility, representation, and the public’s increasing desire to learn about the everyday experiences of ordinary people. I also loved reading about the process through which the biographies of Marie Marguerite Rose and Jeanne Dugas were created as well as interviews with some of the actors who portrayed these two individuals.
- Favourite quote: “The emotions evoked by powerful theatrical performances and fictionalizations, as well as the reflection invited by discussions of the ambiguities that remain in their stories and of the significance of their individual actions in the historical context, will keep their stories and stories like theirs present and relevant in our shared history. Present and past interact continuously, and, despite the many constraints placed on official public history, we can be encouraged by the degree to which what is seen as “commonsensical” has the capacity to evolve, however slowly.” P. 162
- Suggested uses: This article has a really broad appeal. While it would obviously work really well in a class on public history, I think it could also work in an introductory class on Canadian history where students consider the issue of public history, commemoration, and relevance. And again, I think this should be part of graduate classes in Canadian history as well. While this would present an opportunity for a deeper and more theoretical consideration of commemoration and representation as well as addressing the ongoing problem of making academic history accessible and relevant to the public, there is also the reality of the job market to consider. With academic jobs in history disappearing by the day, future Canadian history PhDs will have to consider doing public history work, and should be familiarized with the field.
St-Onge, Nicole. “‘He was neither a soldier nor a slave: he was under the control of no man’: Kahnawake Mohawks in the Northwest Fur Trade, 1790-1850.” Canadian Journal of History 51, no. 1 (2016): 1-32
- What it’s about: This article presents a nuanced look at the experiences of several hundred Kahnawake Mohawks who worked for the HBC and the NWC as independent contractors. Using the contracts these men signed, St-Onge argues that Kahnawake Mohawk men were highly valued for their skills, and as a result, were able to negotiate lucrative contracts, even when the fur trade economy was experiencing a decline. Fur trade companies were able to successfully recruit these men due to the generous stipulations in their contracts, but also because the work was desirable due to its location and potential for danger.
- What I loved: I hate to say it, but it is so refreshing to see such a nuanced consideration of Indigenous peoples in the fur trade and Canadian history in general. Rather than simply portraying the Kahnawake Mohawks as victims or simply ignoring them, St-Onge shows how individuals adapted to changing circumstances. She also shows that Kahnawake Mohawk culture was dynamic and ever evolving. I also loved the appendixes with excerpts from some of the contracts discussed in the article. My one caveat is that I would have loved to see an oral history with some of the Mohawks who still live in Kahnawake about this time period.
- Favourite quote: “Mohawk men wanted to define a masculine native space for themselves within the confines of fur trade society and economy. They aspired to be a part of the “voyageur world” as described by Carolyn Podruchny, but they also tried to maintain a certain cultural and psychological distance from both their French Canadian counterparts and their Scottish or English employers.” p. 24-25.
- Suggested uses: I think this would make a great article in an introductory Canadian history class in a lecture on the fur trade. It would open up a lot of potential discussions about the role of Indigenous peoples in the fur trade, especially if accompanied by a piece on women in the fur trade by Sylvia van Kirk, as well as the erasure of Indigenous peoples from the fur trade and Canadian history more generally.
Gleason, Mona. “Avoiding the Agency Trap: Caveats for Historians of Children, Youth, and Education.” History of Education 45, no. 4 (2016): 446-459.
- What it’s about: Mona Gleason problematizes the concept of agency by looking at three significant problematic conceptions of it: contributory (focusing only on contributions or outliers), binary (categorizing people, ex. resistant/passive), and undifferentiated (without taking context into account). To solve these problems, she suggests three approaches: empathic inference (see quote below for an example), using age as a category of analysis (rather than just studying the experienes of children, consider how their age impacted their experiences), and considering agency as relational and contextual (how does power/constructions change over time).
- What I loved: While Gleason is speaking specifically with respect to the study of children, youth, and education, this is a fantastic consideration of agency more generally that I think broadly applies to all research in social history. I also loved her consideration of emphatic inference, since I feel that history has become increasingly cold and scientific in approach.
- Favourite quote: “If we infer, therefore, that Denise similarly chose to borrow Little Women, we might imagine that the themes of the book – young women’s struggles to balance family commitments and personal growth, the constraints of traditional gender roles, the value of hard work, and the importance of staying truthful – intrigued her and perhaps resonated with her own situation. Reading may have been an important way to mitigate boredom or loneliness, give[sic] the remove location of her family’s home. It may have also been an enormous source of pleasure for Denise, as she immersed herself in the classic tale of young women not far from her own age, coping with life’s trials and tribulations in the New England countryside.” P. 455
- Suggested uses: This article should be required reading in all graduate courses in Canadian history, social history, history of children and childhood, and even history of women/gender/sexuality. This article should also be read by any historians working in these fields. I know I’ll be incorporating some of these ideas into my future work.
Those are my picks for the month! Have you read any of these articles? What did you think of them? Do you have different favourites from the past month? Let me know in the comments below!