Writing with Scissors and Arranging Skin: Worlds of Woe and Happiness in the Child Welfare Scrapbooks of John Joseph(J.J.) Kelso, 1893 - 1894 Ontario
Guistini, Sean Robert
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This dissertation examines the Child Welfare Scrapbooks of John Joseph (J.J.) Kelso, Ontario’s first Superintendent of Neglected and Dependent Children. Kelso was appointed to educate public sentiment following the passage of the 1893 Gibson Act that introduced new laws and policies regarding child management, and promoted the proliferation of the Children’s Aid Society across Ontario. I provide the historical context for a ‘snapshot’ of the scrapbooks by focusing specifically on a fifteen-month period between 1893 and 1894. (The scrapbooks were assembled over the period 1893 to 1940). I pay attention to what is archived, including Kelso’s handwritten notations and reflections, to explore what Kelso might be serving, and what is in service to him in his child-saving ideas and practices. The theoretical and methodological framing is inspired by critical studies that view archives not simply as objective depositories, but take seriously the notion of encountering the archives-as-process and subject. Most notably I invoke Ann Stoler’s concern of the ‘emotional economy’ that underpins colonial archiving practices. The theoretical influences variously borrow from Michel Foucault, Mikhail Bakhtin, Northrop Frye, Roberto Gonzalez Echevarria, and Jacques Derrida who inspire a reading of the artifacts that interlaces myth, the novel, body-culture, and Kelso’s personal experience into the narratives of law and governance in the animation of subjects. I examine Protestant culture, the liberal order, British Home Children, and Ontario’s pastoral history to consider pervasive currents in Provincial culture that influenced Kelso’s mission and archival choices. I explore how Kelso fabricates a personal archive alongside his professional mission of educating public sentiment with regards to a new understanding of the “everyday” of childhood experience in Ontario.