Hitchhiking and Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women: A Critical Discourse Analysis of Billboards on the Highway of Tears
Keywords:Hitchhiking, colonization, intersectionality, billboards, missing and murdered Indigenous women, violence, gender, Highway of Tears
AbstractWhether too much or the wrong kind, constraining Indigenous mobility is a preoccupation of the province of British Columbia. The province remains focused on controlling Indigenous mobility and constructing forms of contentious mobility, such as hitchhiking, as bad or risky. In Northwestern British Columbia hitchhiking is particularly common among Indigenous women. Hitchhiking as a mode of contentious mobility is categorically named as “bad mobility” and is frequently explained away as risky behaviour. Mobility of Indigenous women, including hitchhiking is deeply gendered and racialized. The frequent description of missing and murdered Indigenous women as hitchhikers or drifters fosters a sense that “choosing” a bad mode of mobility alone is the reason that these women disappear. This paper will identify how hitchhiking, framed as contentious mobility supports the construction of missing and murdered Indigenous women as willing, available and blame-worthy victims. Morality is tangled up with mobility in the province’s responses to Indigenous women who hitchhike. This paper engages in a critical discourse analysis of billboards posted by the province of British Columbia along the Highway of Tears that attempt to prevent women from hitchhiking. This paper will identify the point of convergence between contentious mobility, violence against Indigenous women and larger questions of colonialism and the negotiation of racialized and gendered power imbalances through the province’s constraining of Indigenous mobility. Résumé Excessives ou mal ciblées, les tentatives visant à restreindre la mobilité des Autochtones dans la province de Colombie-Britannique sont une source de préoccupation. La province s’efforce à contrôler la mobilité des Autochtones et à présenter les formes de mobilité controversées, tel l’auto-stop, comme des pratiques indésirables ou risquées. Au Nord-Ouest de la Colombie-Britannique, l’auto-stop est une pratique tout particulièrement courante chez les femmes autochtones. L’auto-stop en tant que mode de mobilité controversé est désigné comme « mobilité indésirable » et est fréquemment considéré comme un comportement à risque. La mobilité des femmes autochtones, incluant la pratique de l’auto-stop, a une dimension profondément sexuée et ethnique. La description fréquente de femmes autochtones enlevées ou assassinées comme étant des auto-stoppeuses ou des fugueuses alimente une perception selon laquelle le « choix » d’un mode de transport risqué est l’unique raison pour laquelle ces femmes ont disparu. Cet article discute de comment le fait de présenter la pratique de l’auto-stop comme un moyen de transport à haut risque encourage la perception des femmes autochtones enlevées ou assassinées comme des victimes consentantes et responsables de leur sort. La réponse de la province aux femmes autochtones pratiquant l’auto-stop est un discours sur la mobilité présenté sur un ton moralisateur. Cet article présente une analyse critique du discours des panneaux affichés par la province de la Colombie-Britannique le long de la route des pleurs qui tentent de dissuader les femmes de faire de l’auto-stop. Cet article détermine le point de convergence entre la mobilité controversée, la violence faite aux femmes autochtones et des questions plus vastes sur le colonialisme et la négociation du déséquilibre des pouvoirs liés à l’ethnie et au sexe par le biais de la contrainte de la province sur la mobilité des autochtones.
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