From the ground up: archaeology as colonial knowledge production in Upper Canada, 1830-1860
Sutton, Catherine Elizabeth
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This thesis presents a study of archaeology as a form of colonial knowledge production employed in Simcoe County in the years between 1830 and 1860, set against the backdrop of the Native assimilation policies in Upper Canada. I argue that the identification of archaeological sites, their survey, documentation, excavation, and the collection of their contents shaped new epistemologies that contributed to the administration and governance of Aboriginal populations, their territories and the nation-building efforts of this period. I ask: Who took on the tasks of digging, mapping and collecting in Simcoe County? Why were Aboriginal remains and artifacts tom from their original contexts and reinserted as new forms of knowledge into European historical chronologies? What did settlers, colonial administrators and missionaries cum archaeologists know, and how did they know? To address these questions, I draw on the theoretical framework advocated by historical anthropology and the anthropology of colonialism. Cultural studies of colonialism have revealed how, in the nineteenth century, all across the globe, territory was conquered not only through physical force and economic expansion but also through the creation of facts that gave colonial agents and settlers power over indigenous societies, their natural resources and their culture. Colonial domination was enacted through the defining and classifying of space, the counting of populations, the codifying and representation of the past, and the insertion of this information into government reports and archives (Cohn 1996; Dirks 1992). While historical anthropologists have focused heavily on the textual documentation found within these archives, I also interrogate the material, archaeological archive to reveal the complex architecture of colonialism. Yet, as this thesis demonstrates, colonial knowledge production was not monolithic, nor was it without its uncertainties: what was observed and how it was recorded and made into governable knowledge was conditioned by particular socio-political circumstances (Stoler 2009; Thomas 1994). Through the four case studies that structure this thesis, I seek out the ways in which the project of colonial archaeology in Simcoe County was both contingent and often unsettled. In addition, I identify how the production of archaeological knowledge was not an isolated activity. Published reports and archaeological evidence from Simcoe County moved quickly across imperial space, influencing the formation of emerging racial typologies and categories of difference within the metropole that, as I conclude, reverberate in the present.