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  • Voices from a Buried Past:

    Recovering Dis/ability Histories Through the Woodlands

    Memorial Garden

    by

    Patricia Feindel

    M.A. (Anthropology), Simon Fraser University, 2008

    B.A., Simon Fraser University, 1995

    Thesis Submitted in Partial Fulfillment of the

    Requirements for the Degree of

    Doctor of Philosophy

    in the

    Department of Sociology and Anthropology

    Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences

    © Patricia Feindel, 2019

    SIMON FRASER UNIVERSITY

    Fall 2019

    Copyright in this work rests with the author. Please ensure that any reproduction

    or re-use is done in accordance with the relevant national copyright legislation.

  • ii

    Approval

    Name: Patricia Feindel

    Degree: Doctor of Philosophy (Anthropology)

    Title: Voices from a Buried Past: Recovering

    Dis/ability Histories Through the Woodlands

    Memorial Garden

    Examining Committee: Chair: Simone Rapisarda Assistant Professor

    School for the Contemporary Arts

    Dara Culhane Senior Supervisor

    Professor

    Robert Menzies Supervisor

    Professor Emeritus

    Tim Stainton Supervisor

    Professor

    School of Social Work

    University of British Columbia

    Kirsten McAllister Internal Examiner

    Associate Professor

    School of Communication

    Pilar Riaño-Alcalá External Examiner

    Professor

    Institute for Gender, Race, Sexuality and Social

    Justice

    University of British Columbia

    Date Defended/Approved: October 22, 2019

  • iii

    Ethics Statement

  • iv

    Abstract

    In 2007, the Woodlands Memorial Garden (WMG) was installed in New Westminster,

    British Columbia, on the site of a long-forgotten cemetery, active between 1920 and

    1958, for people diagnosed as mentally “unfit” who were institutionalized at the Public

    Hospital for the Insane and/or at Essondale Hospital for the Mind (later known as

    Woodlands and Riverview). Unique in Canada, the WMG recognizes 3200 individuals

    whose burial places were erased by the provincial government’s removal of gravestones

    from the Woodlands cemetery in 1976 to transform the site into a “park.” The 2007

    installation of a public memorial created not just a material, geographic space for

    collective recognition and remembrance, but a symbolic, discursive space that prompted

    individuals to enquire about relatives buried at the site and to explore suppressed family

    histories related to the history of dis/ability and ableism in BC.

    Interpreting the WMG as a hybrid counter-memorial, I conducted a collaborative

    ethnographic study with relatives of people buried at the Woodlands cemetery, engaging

    in and tracking their research of “lost” family members, inviting responses to the WMG,

    and co-creating stories, while examining the entanglements between personal, familial,

    and public remembrance and forgetting. Emerging participant stories addressed the

    affective, ethical, and sociopolitical dimensions of researching a stigmatized and

    suppressed family past, while presenting a range of creative strategies for reinstating and

    including institutionalized relatives in family narratives and the public record. Through

    storytelling, participants extended the meaning of family advocacy by “rewriting kinship”

    (Rapp & Ginsberg 2001) across generations of the living and the dead: intervening in

    family silences, addressing historical erasure, and challenging persistent ableist

    exclusions in contemporary society. This study offers insights into collaborative

    ethnographic practice and demonstrates how anthropology can contribute valuable

    knowledge to disability studies. It contributes to an under-explored area of disability

    studies – the advocacy and caring role of families in the lives of people with dis/abilities,

    and their social and political potential. It highlights intersections between colonialism and

    ableism in dis/ability history and expands historical memory work and commemorative

    studies by drawing attention to ableism and dis/ability as social justice issues.

  • v

    Keywords: collaborative ethnography; commemoration and memorials; storytelling;

    intergenerational family advocacy; disability studies; institutionalization

  • vi

    Dedication

    To the memory of my parents, Faith Lyman Feindel, RN, 1920-2016,

    and William H. Feindel, MDCM, 1918-2014,

    whose love, support, and keen interest made this study possible.

  • vii

    Acknowledgements

    First and foremost, I am grateful beyond words to the participants in this research

    who agreed to share their stories, their time, and often their homes with me. They ignited

    and fed the fire that kept this study alive.

    I am forever indebted to my Senior Supervisor, Dr. Dara Culhane, for steadfast

    guidance, support, advocacy, and humour during more years of graduate study than either

    of us ever anticipated; and to my PhD Supervisory Committee members Dr. Robert

    Menzies and Dr. Tim Stainton for their guidance, encouragement, and extensive

    knowledge. I am also indebted and grateful to the Department of Sociology and

    Anthropology, where numerous faculty members have extended their enthusiastic support

    for my work.

    I gratefully acknowledge the financial assistance provided by a Social Sciences

    and Humanities Research Council Doctoral Fellowship (2011-13), Simon Fraser

    University Graduate Fellowships, the Community Trust Endowment Fund Doctoral

    Graduate Fellowship in Humanities, and the SFU President’s PhD Research Stipend.

    Without this financial support, I would not have been able to complete my studies.

    I also extend my gratitude to graduate student colleagues who encouraged and

    assisted me at various stages: Lesley Cerny, Rima Noureddine, Ayaka Yoshimizu, Emma

    Kivisild, Sylvia Parusel, and Mary Morgan. I am particularly indebted to readers who

    offered feedback on chapters that helped sharpen and clarify my writing: Penny

    Goldsmith, Sylvia Parusel, Mary Morgan, and Katherine Doyle. For ongoing support and

    helping me maintain some semblance of life balance, I am eternally grateful to my circle

    of dear friends and family beyond academia, my book club (East Side Story), and my

    choir (Solidarity Notes). Their love, humour, home cooking, engaging discussions, and

    activist singing have nourished me in countless ways.

    I thank my siblings, and particularly, my brothers Chris and Michael, whose

    generosity, wisdom, and playfulness have been enormously comforting during the years

    of research which also, sadly, were the last for our vibrant parents.

  • viii

    Finally, I respectfully acknowledge that this research was conducted on the

    unceded territories of the Squamish, Tsleil-Waututh, Musqueam, Kwikwetlam, Qayqayt,

    and Saanich First Nations.

  • ix

    Table of Contents

    Approval ............................................................................................................................. ii

    Ethics Statement................................................................................................................. iii

    Abstract .............................................................................................................................. iv

    Dedication .......................................................................................................................... vi

    Acknowledgements ........................................................................................................... vii

    Table of Contents ............................................................................................................... ix

    List of Figures .................................................................................................................. xiii

    List of Acronyms and Names .......................................................................................... xiv

    Chapter 1. Prologue – Setting the Stage....................................................................... 1

    1.1. A geographic starting place ...................................................................................... 2

    1.2. The search ................................................................................................................. 4

    1.3. What happened here? ................................................................................................ 8

    1.4. Community reaction - 1998 .................................................................................... 12

    1.5. Responses to the memorial garden project – a research project emerges ............... 18

    Chapter 2. Introduction to the study and its context ................................................ 21

    2.1. The research study .................................................................................................. 21

    2.2. The Woodlands Memorial Garden ........................................

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