Maureen Ryan

Associate Professor

Relevant Degree Programs


Graduate Student Supervision

Doctoral Student Supervision (Jan 2008 - May 2019)
Prophecy, power and change: meetings between the Skwxwu7mesh and Tsimshian in the early 20th century (2017)

No abstract available.

Pistils and stamens : botanophilia, sex, and nationhood in eighteenth-century Georgian Britain (2010)

Botanical spaces and their visual representations fascinated British viewing publics, particularly in the years 1760 to 1810 during the reign of King George III. This broad public interest in natural history’s new knowledge was fueled by the appeal of Carolus Linnaeus’s sexual system of classification, a taxonomy that held the promise of providing universal accessibility and rational order in the exploration of the natural world. The impetus that Linnaean taxonomies gave to botanical enterprise, however, was also unsettling. Natural history’s laws that claimed a taxonomic rationale capable of consistently regulating previous unknowns, in fact, raised ambiguities in relation to the artificiality of the Linnaean system and crucially, the concepts of affinity, hybridity, and variability. As a result, particularly in the last half of the eighteenth century and the beginning of the nineteenth century, these Linnaean tenets threatened to destabilize status quos by mobilizing new anxieties around gender, sexuality, class, and race. In addition, Linnaean notions of oeconomia, that is, botanical resource utility, posed challenges to Britain’s cultural conventions and beliefs. At the broadest level, then, my dissertation explores the interchanges and attendant tensions between natural history’s new knowledge and emerging social anxieties in a period that was especially marked out by Britain’s significant loss of the American colonies and the threat of the French Revolution. More specifically, through examination of visual imagery, my thesis explores a conflicted ‘botanoscape’—one that reveals the ways in which visual representations and display of the botanical were central to the mediation and diffusion of anxieties opened up by Linnaeus’s new systematics and by ongoing transformations within the nation.

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Master's Student Supervision (2010 - 2018)
Negotiating vernacular community : the photographic archive of Métis activist James P. Brady (2015)

The Glenbow Museum in Calgary, Alberta houses an archive containing over one thousand photographs and over four thousand paper documents from the estate of Métis activist James Patrick Brady. The photographs remain separate from the rest of the documents in the Brady fonds, and are thus prevented from participating in the same kind of work that the thousands of other documents are thought to do. This thesis examines a series of photographs Brady took between 1949 and 1951 of individuals living and working in Cumberland House, Saskatchewan as a case study for considering the potential for vernacular photography to negotiate a type of unofficial citizenship to community on the social and political periphery.In The Inoperative Community, theorist Jean-Luc Nancy points to an inherent contradiction in the prevailing definition of communities as enclosed entities to the exclusion of what is outside; he argues there always remain social and political interactions at the limits of communities. Métis communities have historically been denied inclusion in official political and constitutional legislation by way of their exclusion from officially recognized First Nations and non-Aboriginal groups. But here is where Nancy notes a contradiction: is not an official un- recognition in effect an unofficial recognition? I suggest that the portraits at Cumberland House thus represent and negotiate this unofficial recognition, and constitute an unofficial or vernacular community.Art historian Geoffrey Batchen argues in Each Wild Idea that a vernacular photograph’s “idiosyncratic morphologies refuse to comply with the coherent progression of styles and technical innovations demanded by masters and transcendent aesthetic achievements, and disrupt its smooth Euro-American prejudice.” It is this disruption that Batchen identifies in the nature of vernacular photographs that coincides with the disruption of the “smooth Euro-American” prescription and negation of the identities and rights of Aboriginal and specifically Métis communities that is reflected, negotiated and enacted in and by Brady’s photographs.

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Visualizing the imperial mission of the Salvation Army : the frontispiece of 'In darkest England and the way out' (2011)

In 1890 William Booth, the founder and “General” of the Salvation Army, a working class evangelical missionary organization, published In Darkest England and the Way Out. Booth’s book proposed an elaborate tripartite scheme to address the desperate situation of unemployment and poverty in East London and other urban centres in Britain in the late nineteenth-century. The publication outlined three successive stages in this project for social reform. A “City Colony” and a “Farm Colony” would provide food, shelter, training and work for the destitute and unemployed. Ultimately emigration to a “Colony Across the Sea” would offer new futures and new lives for those rehabilitated by the Salvation Army scheme. Two components of the book played key roles in the marketing of this project. One was a fold-out colour lithograph that featured a compelling image of the book’s reformative scheme and its slogan of ‘Work for All.’ The second was the book’s opening chapter that constructed an extended analogy between England’s urban centres and the recently published best-seller, Henry Morton Stanley’s In Darkest Africa (1890). Both this chapter and the book’s fold-out chromolithograph frontispiece drew on imperial and Christian tropes to attract the reader and to sell the Salvation Army’s project of social rehabilitation and colonial settlement. This thesis examines the imperial and Christian rhetoric at work in Darkest England, and in particular explores the persuasive role of the visual in the book’s frontispiece in articulating Booth’s complex and problematic scheme. To this end I explore the tensions inherent in Booth’s proposal in light of other philanthropic and social reform projects in late nineteenth-century Britain that targeted urban poverty, unemployment and emigration to the colonies. Set within this context, I argue that the representational strategies at work in the frontispiece image encouraged a powerful and performative enactment of the spiritual and social salvation that was a central goal of In Darkest England and the Way Out. I also argue that the visual modes employed in the colour illustration work to both mediate and contain the contradictory agendas that are revealed in Booth’s text.

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