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Canadian Ethnographies About Non-indigenous People?

My request for help finding an ethnography to teach in a First Nations of British Columbia anthropology class has generated more than a dozen comments on the blog, via email and through facebook. Since I wasn’t entirely clear that I was looking for an ethnography of an indigenous group or community — but the list that was generated turns out to be exclusively about indigenous peoples — Charles Menzies raised the following question (which I’ve edited only slightly):

Can you suggest ethnographies about British Columbia (or Canada) that focus on non-aboriginal peoples? The works should be clearly anthropological as there are certainly books by sociologists, historians, geographers, about non-aboriginal peoples. Where are the ethnographies written by anthropologists set in BC, the Yukon, or Alaska that are not about aboriginal people?

What can you recommend?

(And thank you to all for the very useful suggestions of BC ethnographies. The list keeps growing.)

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  1. My own slightly larger version of this question is found on my Forests and Oceans for the Future blog:

    Thursday, September 16, 2010 at 10:43 am | Permalink
  2. One suggestion, via Facebook: “In the Shadow of the AntiChrist: The Old Believers of Alberta by David Scheffel (Thompson Rivers U), based on his Ph.D dissertation.

    Thursday, September 16, 2010 at 1:22 pm | Permalink
  3. qmackie wrote:

    For the non-aboriginal ethnography, how about Leslie Robertson’s

    Imagining Difference:
    Legend, Curse, and Spectacle in a Canadian Mining Town

    Which I understand is mainly about European settlers in and around Fernie. I have no idea if it is any good or useful for your class, but it does seem to be an ethnography by an Anthropologist of a non-indigenous, [and non-fishing] community.

    Thursday, September 16, 2010 at 2:31 pm | Permalink
  4. Thanks Quentin. I don’t know the book, but, judging from the title and UBC Press description it sounds quite worthwhile. -Tad

    Thursday, September 16, 2010 at 3:36 pm | Permalink
  5. She is now at UBC in the women’s studies dept. It centers around a discursive analysis of a ‘myth’ about an indian princess and the settler miners (among other things. I did read it as a dissertation in our dept., but haven’t read the book to see how different it is or not. She also worked with Dara Culhane on a project with women in the downtown eastside of Vancouver

    Thursday, September 16, 2010 at 4:31 pm | Permalink
  6. qmackie wrote:

    Just saw the “or Canada” qualifier.

    The Hutterian people: ritual and rebirth in the evolution of communal life

    Peter H. Stephenson

    I don’t know it for a fact, but as Charles suggests, there has been an awful lot of “applied ethnographic” work done around the HIV/AIDS issue, at needle exchanges, etc.

    Friday, September 17, 2010 at 9:31 am | Permalink
  7. Michelle Walks wrote:

    I remember your original posting, and now I see this more than 3 years later! In addition to the couple mentioned above, here are a few others that I know of:

    Leslie Robertson & Dara Culhane’s ethnography of life stories of women in Vancouver’s DTES called “In Plain Sight: Reflections on Life in Downtown Eastside Vancouver” (Talonbooks, 2005)

    Parin Dossa’s “Racialized Bodies, Disabling Worlds: Storied Lives of Immigrant Muslim Women” (U of T Press, 2009) focuses in Vancouver.

    Jacquelyne Luce’s ethnography “Beyond Expectations: Lesbian/Bi/Queer Women and Assisted Conception” (University of Toronto Press, 2010) focuses in BC.

    My own PhD dissertation available online, and focused on BC butch lesbians’, transmen’s, and genderqueer individuals’ experiences of pregnancy and infertility, “Gender Identity and In/Fertility” (Michelle Walks, 2013). (

    In terms of other places across Canada, “The Rock Where We Stand: An Ethnography of Women’s Activism in Newfoundland” by Glynis George (U of Toronto Press, 2000)and Margaret MacDonald’s “At Work in the Field of Birth: Midwifery Narratives of Nature, Tradition, and Home” (Vanderbilt University Press, 2008) come to mind.

    Thursday, December 19, 2013 at 8:37 pm | Permalink
  8. Thanks for adding these, Michelle. I’m now wondering if there’s been a surge in this genre in the past three years. -Tad

    Tuesday, December 31, 2013 at 11:52 am | Permalink