Laura Ishiguro

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Associate Professor

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Theses completed in 2010 or later are listed below. Please note that there is a 6-12 month delay to add the latest theses.

Daffodils as property: settler colonial renewal and the dispossession of Nikkei farmers in the 1940s (2019)

This thesis focuses on the forced sales of property, namely daffodils, daffodil bulbs, and bulb farms, owned by Nikkei farmers before 1943 in the small rural community of Bradner in British Columbia’s Fraser Valley. It draws on fields commonly treated as distinct, settler colonial studies and Japanese Canadian (Nikkei) history, by focusing on the workings of property and property dispossession in local perspective. Tracing how the state, specifically the federal Office of the Custodian of Enemy Property and the Veterans’ Land Act Administration, dispossessed four Nikkei families, this thesis analyzes the uneven rationales of settler state policy and practice. Using three property characteristics – definition, value, and boundaries – as they applied to daffodil farms, it examines how the state manipulated the parameters of reasonable governance to reconfigure Nikkei property for white ownership in the 1940s. In doing so, it argues that the dispossession was not an isolated moment of state racism, but a project that renewed a private property regime in settler colonial Bradner (and British Columbia more broadly). This was a regime predicated on the erasure of Indigenous sovereignty and the privileging of whiteness. By highlighting the microhistorical mechanisms of dispossession, this thesis reveals further how ordinary white settlers, predominantly British and Dutch bulb-growers, were entangled in the forced sales and, importantly, how Nikkei people contested the state’s inconsistent logics and practices. Nikkei farmers in the Fraser Valley recognized the contradictions of the dispossession process and testified to the state’s betrayals throughout the decade. At these sites of contestation, the experiences of four relatively unknown Nikkei families mired in state violence suggest that their commitment to the settler colonial property regime was not an inevitability.

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Race, labour, and the architecture of white jobs: Chinese labour in British Columbia's salmon canning industry, 1871-1941 (2017)

Chinese migrant workers in North America have typically been regarded in two ways by historians: either as competitive threats to white workers, or as workers isolated within ethnic niches. Few scholars have examined cases where Chinese workers complemented or supported the labour of others. This thesis looks at Chinese labour in British Columbia’s salmon canning industry between 1871 and 1941, arguing that Chinese workers were foundational to white fishing jobs in the province. Drawing on company records, Government reports, newspapers, and oral interviews, I examine Chinese manual labour, labour politics, and wages as three areas where Chinese workers upheld the labour of fishers in a nominally “white” industry. As such, this thesis offers a different outlook on the structural entanglement of race and labour in British Columbia in the seventy years after the province joined the Canadian Confederation.

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