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The Eskimo Rental Housing Program (1965-69): A Case Study in Cold War Authoritarian High Modernism


The Eskimo Rental Housing Program (1965-69): A Case Study in Cold War Authoritarian High Modernism

Couto, Erika Ashley (2015) The Eskimo Rental Housing Program (1965-69): A Case Study in Cold War Authoritarian High Modernism. Masters thesis, Concordia University.

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During the Cold War years of 1965-1970, the Canadian Department of Indian and Northern Development implemented the Eskimo Rental Housing Program (ERHP) across parts of the Central and Eastern Arctic. Using the work of Inuit graphic artists alongside archival visual culture materials, this thesis argues against previous claims that the program was instituted as a welfare-improving measure in the Arctic, instead providing evidence that the ERHP was an act of acculturation, meant to sedentarize and drastically alter social patterns of the Inuit for the intended and exclusive benefit of the Canadian state.

To establish the framework for this argument, this thesis begins with an examination of James C. Scott’s discussion of Authoritarian High Modernism, expanding upon it in the context of the Arctic in order to understand the Canadian federal government’s eagerness to protect and harness its resource extraction rights through the progress and ordering of the land and people on it. Additionally, the government was concerned about invasion and challenges to its Arctic sovereignty from both the Soviet Union and the United States and to this end, the state enacted modernist and authoritarian schemes to assert its ownership over the Arctic.

Through an examination of shifting housing prototypes introduced to the Arctic throughout the 1950s and 1960s, this thesis argues that while the ERHP was purported to have been introduced to aid the Inuit, in reality, the federal government’s sedentary housing initiative was intended, first and foremost, to bolster Canada’s claims to the North. Archival research reveals that while efforts were made during the 1950s to create culturally sensitive architectural forms modeled from Indigenous housing prototypes, within the span of a decade, government-built homes shifted to small, Southern-style housing models. These scarcely equipped houses designed for the ‘nuclear family’ were a poor match for Inuit families and had ongoing impacts on communities. Furthermore, by examining illustrated ‘educational’ booklets that were distributed as part of the Adult Education initiative that accompanied the building of the houses, this thesis demonstrates that the ERHP primarily meant to modify behaviour and control the Inuit population by reforming their way of life.

Divisions:Concordia University > Faculty of Fine Arts > Art History
Item Type:Thesis (Masters)
Authors:Couto, Erika Ashley
Institution:Concordia University
Degree Name:M.A.
Program:Art History
Date:2 September 2015
Thesis Supervisor(s):Igloliorte, Heather
Keywords:Inuit, Authoritarian High Modernism, Cold War, Arctic, Art History, Colonization, Visual Culture, Canada
ID Code:980384
Deposited By: Erika Ashley Couto
Deposited On:26 Oct 2015 18:56
Last Modified:18 Jan 2018 17:51
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