Creative Subversions
252 pages, 6 x 9
35 b&w and 10 colour photographs
Release Date:01 Jul 2012
Release Date:01 Dec 2011
Release Date:01 Dec 2011

Creative Subversions

Whiteness, Indigeneity, and the National Imaginary

UBC Press

Creative Subversions explores how whiteness and Indigeneity are articulated through iconic images of Canadian identity -- and the contradictory and contested meanings they evoke. These benign, even kitschy, images, she argues, are haunted by ideas about race, masculinity, and sexuality that circulated during the formative years of Anglo-Canadian nationhood.

In this richly illustrated book, Margot Francis shows how national symbols such as the beaver, the railway, the wilderness of Banff National Park, and ideas about “Indianness” evoke nostalgic versions of a past that cannot be expelled or assimilated.  As Canadians consume versions of a past that does not nourish, the living themselves become ghostly. Juxtaposing historical images with material by contemporary artists, Francis shows how artists are giving taken-for-granted symbols new and suggestive meanings. From director Richard Fung’s Dirty Laundry to the work of Indigenous artists Jeff Thomas and Kent Monkman and to Shauna Dempsey and Lorri Milan’s performance work Lesbian Park Rangers, this book explores how banal objects can be re-imagined in ways that offer the possibility of moving from an unproblematized possession by the past to an imaginative reconsideration of it.

This book will appeal to anyone interested in Canadian identity and culture and to students and scholars of sociology, Native studies, critical race theory and women’s and gender studies.

Through the concept of haunting, Francis provides a new and sophisticated way of thinking about the circulation of images of nationhood, showing how ideas about whiteness, aboriginality, race, and sexuality that were formative in the development of Anglo-Canadian nationhood continue to haunt its contemporary representations. Anne Whitelaw, Department of Art History, Concordia University
Engaging and insightful...Francis's analysis of the history of national parks in Canada and their meaning for national identity will ring particularly true to anyone familiar with the substantial literature in the United States on its national parks system. Chris Herbert, Grand Valley State University, BC Studies, No. 176, Winter 2012-13
In addition to its scholarly rigour and theoretical sophistication, Creative Subversions is highly readable and engaging...This book is a major contribution to the study of Canada across the disciplines of history, art history, media and film studies, and cultural studies, and it will also be of value to scholars and students of colonialism and culture more generally. Candida Rifkind, University of Winnipeg, Journal of Colonialism and Colonial History, Vol 14, No 1, 2013
This book is both timely and of broad appeal. Its exploration of artistic forms that speak back to and re-flesh cultures rendered into ghosts makes a significant addition to the debate on Canadian national memory and identity. Beverley Haun, author of Inventing ‘Easter Island’
Margot Francis is an associate professor of women’s studies and sociology at Brock University.



1 Introduction: "Ghosts Trying to Find Their Clothes"

2 The Strange Career of the Beaver: Anthropomorphic Discourse and Imperial History

3 Things Not Named: Bachelors, Dirty Laundry, and the Canadian Pacific Railway

4 Exploring Banff National Park: Rangers on the Mountain Frontier

5 Playing Indian: Indigenous Responses to Indianness

6 Conclusion: Living in “Haunted Places”



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