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Title: Visual art discourses as rhetoric: exploring the colonial creation of the Canadian Northwest Passage
Authors: Anderson, Daryl
Keywords: Canadian landscape;art politics;Northwest Passage;internal colonization;cultural tourism;eco-tourism
Issue Date: 15-Jun-2015
Abstract: In the 1920s Canadian colonialism became domesticated; a political and economic change was publically presented and mystified through the creation of a professedly nationalist landscape mythology. In the words of A.Y. Jackson, Canada needed “a new, modern landscape art tradition, for a new modern nation.” According to Jonathan Bordo, such colonial myths of origins have served to supplant aboriginal peoples by establishing a precolonial belief of “ terra nullius,” which was later enforced by the removal of visual and cultural references to aboriginal cultures and peoples, rendering their historic and contemporary presence invisible to colonizers. In Canada, however, a second modern art tradition interceded. Even as the Group of Seven’s interpretation of the Canadian landscape became definitive, Robert Flaherty’s Nanook of the North rose to acclaim as well. Flaherty’s devotion to the idea (also borne of Europe) that morally uncorrupted pre-modern landscape essentialist communities existed in protective isolation would re-implant certain aboriginal peoples back into the Canadian landscape imaginary, but on particularly disadvantageous terms. Farley Mowat’s mid-Century reconfiguration of these two landscape art traditions as rhetoric continues to define Canadian understandings of the political relations between aboriginal and non-aboriginal peoples, as well as the Canadian understanding of political claims and relations between mainstream Canadians and their government(s) and internally colonized peoples. Since the closure of the two historic economic engines along the Northwest Passage, sealing and the cod fishery, in the mid 1980’s and early 1990s respectively, the turn to cultural and eco-tourism based economies has resulted in the wide promotion of images founded in Mowat’s reimagined history of Inuit and Newfoundlanders. Cultural and eco-tourism have, in turn, led to a drive to conformity with Mowat’s visions in Northwest Passage communities, which have resulted in both processes of cultural selection, and instances of resistance. As the Canadian administrative state positions itself with regard to melting Northwest Passage, it behooves those wishing to understand the politics pertaining to the Northwest Passage to analyze the rhetoric of the images underlying and promulgated during these international negotiations.
Appears in Collections:Doctoral Theses
Human Studies and Interdisiplinarity - Doctoral Theses

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