15 June 2021

“They Have Decided What Houses Will Be Built”: Indigenous Peoples, Architecture, and the Settler-Colonial State, 1920–1970s

McGill University, Montreal

Faiq Mari (ETH Zürich)

Beginning in the late nineteenth century, the settler-colonial Indian Affairs bureaucracy—responsible for relations with Indigenous peoples in Canada—employed architects and was one of just a handful of federal government departments to have its own construction agency. Between 1920 and the 1970s, this department’s prolific architectural output, of national scope and representing a diverse array of building types, was a major force in the spatial transformation of Indigenous communities as part of Canada’s nation-building project. This architecture was aligned with oppressive policies such as residential schooling, segregated healthcare, settlement, relocation, displacement, assimilation, and integration. While the reorganization of built environments for colonial purposes has been examined in various global contexts, existing literature has not focused extensively on architecture’s colonial uses in settler societies. This dissertation thus posits architecture as a site of encounter between Indigenous peoples and the settler-colonial state, interrogating its place in constructing and reproducing power relations and as a space in which subjects are shaped through their relations to one another, both in terms of physical settings and as sets of discourses and practices. This study looks beyond institutional histories to investigate the broader ecology of architectural production in the context of settler-Indigenous relations in twentieth-century Canada—from bureaucracy, legal regimes, architects, and architectural drawings to land, labour, materials, buildings, and inhabitants. In particular, it mobilizes architectural and visual evidence, such as drawings, photographs, films, and extant buildings, to demonstrate how these relations, as well as competing sovereignties, were enacted and materialized through the built environment.

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She Has Always Lived in the Castle: Shirley Jackson and Architecture as Biography

McGill University, Montreal

Gerlinde Verhaeghe (ETH Zürich)

In the winter of 1945, Shirley Jackson, the gothic horror writer now most famous for her 1948 story “The Lottery” and 1959 novel The Haunting of Hill House, moved to a Greek Revival house in North Bennington, Vermont with her husband and children. My talk explores the two houses where Jackson lived in North Bennington in parallel with her two “domestic” memoirs, each centering around one house. I employ the methodology of architecture as biography through a feminist framework and ask: What do the houses show, conceal, or reveal about Shirley Jackson? In her writing, material agency exposes Jackson’s authorial biography. I examine architectural elements in her fiction as well - her writing is spatially very rich, and Jackson used to sketch plans of the houses before she wrote about them in novels.
I argue that, both in her fiction and memoirs, the house acts as a substitute for the authorial persona: the house becomes the author – it is the house that plots, reveals, conceals, and acts upon the characters’ psyche through the themes of haunting, mobility, and architectural misdirection. In many cases, the architectural design of the house aids the haunting. By looking at the literary, physical, and reciprocal relationships between writing, architecture, and the author, I discover how a shift in Jackson’s writing coincides with a major architectural change in her life. Finally, through this shift in her fiction and living spaces, I track Jackson’s rising agoraphobia, a condition she started experiencing in the late 1950s but wouldn’t be diagnosed until 1963. Focusing on a parallel analysis of the architectural arrangements of Jackson’s houses (both fictional and real) and the way Jackson lived in/wrote about them exposes new insights on her authorial biography.

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