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“The Dirty Scruff”: Relief and the Production of the Unemployed in Depression‐era British Columbia

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Abstract:  In this article, I examine this nexus between the social and political meaning of unemployment and the political responses that follow. I focus on Depression‐era Vancouver and investigate the broad ideologies, representations and practices that contributed to the derision of the unemployed, which in turn, informed the establishment of rural relief camps that aimed to address the unemployment crisis of the 1930s. The social and political meaning of unemployment shaped the contours of the Federal Unemployment Relief Scheme, which housed men in work camps and aimed to both discipline and rehabilitate the unemployed. However, the relief camps were plagued by several contradictions exploited by the Relief Camp Workers Union, which constructed oppositional understandings of unemployment. In discussing the relationship between unemployment and relief I attend to questions of space, highlighting the urbanisation of unemployment and the ideological distinctions between the city and the country.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Department of Geography and Program in Planning, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada; michael.

Publication date: September 1, 2012


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