Claiming Animals, Claiming Sovereignty: Animal Welfare, Indigeneity, and Sovereignty in the Canadian Eastern Arctic

  • Author / Creator
    Kerfoot, Brandon
  • This dissertation examines a series of case studies in the politics and semiotics of animal welfare, Indigeneity, and sovereignty in the Canadian Eastern Arctic from 1950 to 2017. Arctic animals such as seals, sled dogs, wolves, and polar bears often become the focus of Canadian animal welfare activism, fundraising, and policy, a focus that quickly becomes conflict, for these animals are central to Inuit hunting and social relations, whereas many Southern Canadians have never encountered them. Drawing on Frank Tester and Peter Kulchyski’s analysis of the twentieth-century welfare state and animal management in Tammarniit (Mistakes) and Kiumajut (Talking Back) respectively, I argue that in contemporary literature and politics, various politicized groups make covert sovereignty claims as they assert kinship with arctic animals. This research exposes the animal welfare state, which formed in the late twentieth century to circumvent Indigenous activism and continue colonial policies under the guise of concern for animals.

    This project defines and analyzes the appropriated meanings that sustain the animal welfare state. Deploying Roland Barthes’ analysis of myth, I develop a semiotic framework that addresses the movements and barriers between Inuit speculative fiction, environmental and animal welfare activism, and political documents, and I contribute to the fields of critical animal studies and Indigenous literary studies by identifying the common structure by which seemingly disparate groups make legitimacy claims. By exposing the mechanics and pressure points of the animal welfare state’s mythological structure, I also show how its apparent resilience belies a deep instability and vulnerability.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Fall 2018
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Doctor of Philosophy
  • DOI
  • License
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