Burial Places, White Supremacy, and Racial Necrogeographies in Eastern North America

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  • This dissertation examines how the places inhabited by the racialized dead have been destroyed or disallowed in regimes of racialization and colonization in the territories of the Saugeen Anishinaabeg (an area colonially known as Bruce and Grey Counties, Ontario) and throughout eastern North America. I include the burial places of four interconnected peoples: Anishinaabeg of the Great Lakes region, Black communities in Ontario and the Mid-Atlantic, Protestant English-speaking white populations of Ontario and the eastern United States, and Muslim communities who may be part of the three preceding groups, but who also comprise large numbers of more recent migrants to eastern North America. This dissertation maps a variety of case studies across these communities, while remaining centred on the Anishinaabe world. I chronicle how white people have engaged in patterns of desecration and destruction of the burial places of Indigenous and Black communities and resisted efforts by Muslims to establish space to bury their dead. White people have thus maintained the landscape of whiteness both through the destruction of existing graves and the denial of new ones. I argue first that processes of racial dehumanization and colonial dispossession have not only been inflicted on the living but also the dead and the sites they inhabit, and that this violence has its roots in traditions of posthumous dehumanization that are part of British/North American Protestant cultures while also, paradoxically, being deeply at odds with this culture's worldviews about the dead and the respect owed to them. Second, I argue that processes of colonial dispossession rooted in the removal of peoples from their lands extend to the grave itself, and that the grave is a symbol of power over a place. Thirdly, I argue that there is a wide pattern of burial place destruction across eastern North America. Finally, I highlight the profound and magnified importance of these sites to Indigenous, Black, and Muslim communities, as evidenced by both reclamation efforts, and the presence of burial places in the spoken and literary statements of these communities, for whom these sites are essential connectors to threatened pasts, violent presents, and resurgent futures.

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  • Copyright © 2022 the author(s). Theses may be used for non-commercial research, educational, or related academic purposes only. Such uses include personal study, research, scholarship, and teaching. Theses may only be shared by linking to Carleton University Institutional Repository and no part may be used without proper attribution to the author. No part may be used for commercial purposes directly or indirectly via a for-profit platform; no adaptation or derivative works are permitted without consent from the copyright owner.
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  • 2022


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