Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


English and Cultural Studies


Dr. Susan Searls Giroux


Dr. Chandrima Chakraborty



Committee Member

Dr. Rick Monture


The marketing of Indigenous peoples, lands, art and culture from within areas that can loosely be drawn together under the rubric of “tourism,” draws Indigenous peoples in a tenuous and complex web of negotiations of imagery, authenticity, nationalism, economics, and identity. Many scholars have explored the economic implications of such interactions. My dissertation, however, is instead focused on attending to the relationship between the contemporary representation of Indigeneity, Canadian national identity, and the intensifying commoditization of ‘all things Indigenous’ (such as Indigenous bodies, identities, languages, spirituality, and material culture) within such spaces. My work asks, what are the consequences of particular forms of commodification of Indigenous culture and identity? In what ways are Indigenous peoples complicit with such forms and in what ways do we negotiate and/or resist them? How do current representations differ from those during the height of “Wild West” shows during Canada’s early nation- building phase, if at all? Mapping a trajectory of representations and visual spectacle in the latter part of the twentieth and early twenty-first centuries across a number of sites I explore Indigenous and Canadian tourism marketing, the 1976, 1988 and 2010 Olympics, and Casino Rama. Such Indigenous self-conscious representation has often taken up through a constitutive, discursive lens of “Aboriginality.” Since the Canadian state’s entrenchment of the term “Aboriginal” within the Constitution Act (1982), Aboriginality has become its own representational force whereby some Indigenous peoples embrace it as a pathway to community economic revitalization. It is rather more productive, I argue, to recognize the Aboriginal as an allegorical figure of a contemporary market-focused society. While certainly related to what Daniel Francis refers to as the “Imaginary Indian,” the figure of the Aboriginal and of Aboriginality conceals much more sinister state projects that are tied to lingering Canadian state racism and colonializing agendas that seek, through, neoliberal economic terms, to assimilate Indigenous peoples. This assimilationist project is relaunched by the intensification of the corporatization and marketing of culture and identity. Indigenous peoples participation in the production of Aboriginality is increasingly positioned by the state as evidence of a willingness to assimilate but also as evidence of the reconciled nature of relationship between Indigenous and settler Canadians and the indigenization of settler Canadians. I close out by engaging in the fourth chapter a discussion of the artistic expression of Indigenous mixed media artists Rebecca Belmore and Terrance Houle, artists who, I contend, resist the increasingly regimented frame of Aboriginality and challenge the ease with which the state and settlers lay claim to Indigenous imagery, stories, lives, and lands.

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