A Feminist Poststructural Analysis of Aboriginal Women’s Positioning in a Colonial Context: NEHINAW ISKWEW AK E-PIKISKWECIK

McKay, Marlene Elizabeth
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Faculty of Graduate Studies and Research, University of Regina
This research examined the lives of single-parent Aboriginal women of Northern Saskatchewan. This group of women was interviewed to give them an opportunity to share how they see their lives being produced for them. Aboriginal women’s marginalization has become normalized through the systems, practices, and institutions that have materialized through the Indian Act, Christianity, Indigenous knowledges, and colonial relations with non-Aboriginal society. Discursive practices located in these structures establish and maintain ideas of how and who these women are supposed to be. How these women are positioned is largely a product of our Canadian colonial history. Aboriginal women continue to be situated in binary oppositions of good/bad or chaste/promiscuous, and the assumption is that they are on the negative side of the binary. This is the starting point for many Aboriginal women that continues to justify their oppression. Aboriginal women are positioned as marginal in both mainstream society and Aboriginal communities; both systems produce the effect that it is normal to position them as secondary. Colonization in a Canadian context was established by placing value on race, class, and gender. The theoretical framework used in the analysis was derived from feminist poststructuralism. Discourse, power, and language are examined to analyze how bodies are positioned in particular ways. Interviews were conducted to examine the women’s language through a discourse analysis. The work of Michel Foucault informed this research. Foucault’s rules and norms served as a lens to demonstrate how Aboriginal women are produced as unimportant and inferior. The notion of rules and norms is a social production that requires effort, and in this way these rules and norms are continuously being reproduced. Because this group of women has a sense that rules and norms are being imposed on them, they also perform themselves in ways that run counter to the oppressive systems. These women perform themselves through an ethical practice of self by going to school and working toward a better future for themselves and their children.
A Thesis Submitted to the Faculty of Graduate Studies and Research In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements For the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy In Education. University of Regina. ix, 206 p.