(De)constructing nation and race along the Canadian Pacific Railway: First Nations and Chinese migrants in the colonial project




Petrie, Emilee

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Much has been written on the history of the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR), but rarely are conversations regarding the experiences of First Nations and Chinese immigrants on the railway brought together. This thesis will analyze how First Nations and Chinese people in Western Canada experienced the construction of the railway and how, as racialized peoples, they were excluded from the original national mythology centered on the completion of a transcontinental railway. The seemingly benign symbol of a railway representing the nation continues the violence of naturalizing colonial, capitalist structures in the national landscape. A closer look at this history reveals the dispossession of Indigenous peoples, the destruction of their ways of life and incorporation of the capitalist economy—all processes that continues today. The history of the railway also reveals the place of Chinese immigrants as a distinct, racialized labour force in late-nineteenth-century Canada that reinforced and that was informed by the racial and economic interests of the national subject at an important time in the development of the nation and its national myths. Drawing on the insights of Manu Karuka’s Empire’s Tracks, this analysis situates the CPR as a tool of colonial, capitalist, countersovereignty.



indigenous, canadian history, chinese canadian, nationalism, canadian pacific railway, labour history, indigenous history