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The smallholder project Open Access


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Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
McCarroll, Cody
Supervisor and department
Bracken, Christopher (English and Film Studies)
Examining committee member and department
Barney, Darin (McGill University, Art History and Communication Studies)
Gow, Andrew (History and Classics)
Kellogg, Catherine (Political Science)
Simpson, Mark (English and Film Studies)
Ball, Karyn (English and Film Studies)
Department of English and Film Studies

Date accepted
Graduation date
Doctor of Philosophy
Degree level
This dissertation examines the ideological force of the smallholder trope in various discourses, from classical political economy to early Canadian poetry and agribusiness advertising. The project investigates the increasing elision of smallholders from the socio-economic landscape in Canada by tracing the discursive means of their erasure. I theorize smallholders as ideological tools for reifying industrial culture by focusing on the rhetorical strategies of their deployment. Smallholders emerge in this interdisciplinary analysis as liminal figures enunciated through two motifs: the nature-culture binary and the savage-civilized binary. Through these familiar formulations, smallholders perform ideological tasks in the texts under discussion. These texts, from the political economy of Adam Smith, John Stuart Mill, and Karl Marx to contemporary Canadian fiction by Mary Lawson, deploy smallholders to explain production in processes which are prefigured by rhetorical forms; thus smallholders are at once productive of discourse and figures for discursive production. The dissertation focuses less on “what is” and more on “what is said,” as the figures emergent in these discourses have less to do with flesh and blood smallholders than with rhetorical strategies and attendant ideological effects. Smallholders are then allegories for the manner in which discourses perform political work. The comparative analysis of western European literature, political economy, and early Canadian literature, as well as the recent documentary film Food, Inc. and various pop-cultural texts, reveals that smallholders are marshalled as liminal figures. They hover at the limit between pre-capitalist and capitalist socio-economic forms and between primitive and civilized worlds. Smallholders are mobilized to naturalize and thereby moralize forms of capitalist production, as this form of production does the ideological work of expropriating smallholders. In discourse, smallholders are the naturally good labourers that perform the political tasks of explaining capitalist production while reifying it. Smallholders, because they retain traces of their primitive, pre-capitalist past, may also be denigrated and relegated to extinction.
License granted by Cody McCarroll ( on 2011-09-27T16:59:06Z (GMT): Permission is hereby granted to the University of Alberta Libraries to reproduce single copies of this thesis and to lend or sell such copies for private, scholarly or scientific research purposes only. Where the thesis is converted to, or otherwise made available in digital form, the University of Alberta will advise potential users of the thesis of the above terms. The author reserves all other publication and other rights in association with the copyright in the thesis, and except as herein provided, neither the thesis nor any substantial portion thereof may be printed or otherwise reproduced in any material form whatsoever without the author's prior written permission.
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