‘A troublesome girl is pushed through’: Morality, biological determinism, resistance, resilience, and the Canadian child migration schemes, 1883–1939

A new open-access article in History of the Human Sciences may interest AHP readers: “‘A troublesome girl is pushed through’: Morality, biological determinism, resistance, resilience, and the Canadian child migration schemes, 1883–1939,” by Wendy Sims-Schouten. Abstract:

This article critically analyses correspondence and decisions regarding children/young people who were included in the Canadian child migration schemes that ran between 1883 and 1939, and those who were deemed ‘undeserving’ and outside the scope of the schemes. Drawing on critical realist ontology, a metatheory that centralises the causal non-linear dynamics and generative mechanisms in the individual, the cultural sphere, and wider society, the research starts from the premise that the principle of ‘less or more eligibility’ lies at the heart of the British welfare system, both now and historically. Through analysing case files and correspondence relating to children sent to Canada via the Waifs and Strays Society and Fegan Homes, I shed light on the complex interplay between morality, biological determinism, resistance, and resilience in decisions around which children should be included or excluded. I argue that it was the complex interplay and nuance between the moral/immoral, desirable/undesirable, degenerate, and capable/incapable child that guided practice with vulnerable children in the late 1800s. In judgements around ‘deservedness’, related stigmas around poverty and ‘bad’ behaviour were rife. Within this, the child was punished for his/her ‘immoral tendencies’ and ‘inherited traits’, with little regard for the underlying reasons (e.g. abuse and neglect) for their (abnormal) behaviour and ‘mental deficiencies’.

About Jacy Young

Jacy Young is a professor at Quest University Canada. A critical feminist psychologist and historian of psychology, she is committed to critical pedagogy and public engagement with feminist psychology and the history of the discipline.

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