“Killing the Indian in the Child”: Political Formations of Life and Materialities of Death in the Canadian Indian Residential School System


Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowships


Communication Studies


This project examines the Canadian Indian Residential School System from 1876 to 1996. Provoked by the schools’ mandate, “kill the Indian in the Child,” the project points to the centrality of physical death in shaping contemporary political life. Exploring how the ideological drive to kill in the name of improving life took shape within institutions whose aim was to make good on normative approaches to managing populations, the dissertation analyzes the epistemological shift in which life is disaggregated from individual subjects, becoming instead an objective reality separable from the singularity of concrete beings. In this model of politics, life is defended by the regulation and removal of undesirable, abnormal characteristics that are viewed as dangerous because they deviate from the norm.