Ethnoscaping Canada's boreal forest: liberal whiteness and its disaffiliation from colonial space

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This essay examines the construction of Canada's boreal forest from the point of view of critical whiteness studies. Through an evaluation of two texts—a film and a book—produced in conjunction with a 2003–2004 environmental campaign, it argues that the boreal forest is constructed as a white ethnoscape and that, as a result, boreal forest conservation comes to be associated with ‘white’ identity, although by no means exclusively so, and certainly not without significant contradictions. The essay deploys Robyn Wiegman's notion of liberal whiteness to argue that liberal white subjectivity is cultivated in these texts by its self-conscious distancing, or disaffiliation, from colonial spatial practices. It is argued that this distancing is achieved through the active inclusion of First Nations peoples in the texts such that the boreal forest is constructed as a socio-natural working landscape. Liberal white disaffiliation is explored through three specific tropes: inclusion, inverted racial historicism and economic partnership.

Keywords: blancheur libérale; boreal forest; ethnoscape; forêt boréale; liberal whiteness; nature; particularity; particularité; universality; universalité; ≪ethnoscape≫

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Department of Geography, University of Manchester, Manchester, United Kingdom M13 9PL ( ), Email:

Publication date: December 1, 2009

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