Idling No More: Reading Japanese Canadian World War II Road Camps Alongside Specters of Indigeneity on the Hope-Princeton Highway in British Columbia

Authors: Desiree Valadares*, University of California Berkeley
Topics: Historical Geography, Ethnicity and Race, Canada
Keywords: infrastructure studies; World War II heritage; roads and highways; road building camps; forced labour; dispossession
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/8/2021
Start / End Time: 9:35 AM / 10:50 AM
Room: Virtual 36
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


In this talk, I examine the residual landscape of World War II Japanese Canadian confinement sites in
Interior British Columbia. I argue that a study of British Columbia’s roads reveals the ways in which
settler colonialism and carcerality intersect and are subsequently obscured through histories of
infrastructure building, tourism promotion and selective commemoration along these routes. I show,
through archival research in legal, cartographic and engineering archives, how Asian Canadian and
Coast Salish dispossession takes place along a single route - the Hope Princeton Highway (Highway 3).
I argue that the spatial logics of Japanese Canadian internment and forced “enemy alien” labour on
road building projects are embedded in the punitive mechanisms of the carceral settler state. I build on
theoretical positions in critical infrastructure studies and critical ethnic studies and apply these to
analyze recent efforts by the British Columbia Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure’s “Legacy
Highway Road Signs” to identify, mark and interpret these sites through highway road markers. I draw
on gender studies scholars, Sherene Razack and Mona Oikawa’s methodology of “unmapping,” which
denaturalizes how a space came by historicizing what has been rendered invisible. I argue that this
requires a recognition that claims to land and space are often inadvertently settler colonial in their
nature through the ownership of territory, acts of “boundary making” and “territorialization” which
can be framed within longer history of B.C. government tactics of “space claiming” and “place
promotion” along the Hope-Princeton Highway.

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