Canada 150 Discovery Pass; Anxiety, Desire and the Structure of Settler-Colonial Attachments to the Land

Authors: Laura McKinley*, York University
Topics: Canada, Ethnicity and Race, Landscape
Keywords: white settler colonialism, commemoration, affect, anxiety, desire, land.
Session Type: Paper


As part of the sesquicentennial celebration in Canada this year, Parks Canada is offering free entry to all national parks through the ‘Discovery Pass’, a name barely concealing the violent colonial doctrine of discovery required for the presence of the white settler nation in the first place. The initiative invited Canadians and other tourists the opportunity to come to know themselves as Canadians, or to play Canadian, through the ‘discovery’ of wilderness, naturalizing entitlement to stolen lands. The invitation to affectively identify the commemoration of the founding of the nation with the exploration of state-controlled representative wilderness presents a compelling case study for the connection between land, anxiety and desire. This paper will explore the following questions using a psychoanalytic discourse analysis of advertising and popular media representations of the 2017 Canada Parks Discovery Pass: do anxieties around the historic trauma of the violent removal of Indigenous peoples produce desires for more innocent connections to the land through the national park-scape? What can the desire to increase the number of Canadians visiting national parks as part of a commemorative event reveal about white settler colonial governance and the affective attachments necessary for the naturalization of ongoing colonial theft and exploitation of Indigenous lands?

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