Successful SSHRC CGS-Masters Proposal
This is my successful proposal for a SSHRC CGS-M back in 2018. I hope it may be useful for anyone preparing their own applications!
Program of Study
In 2015, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission called for post-secondary institutions to re-center the study of history around Indigenous contributions to society. Canadian universities have begun to prioritize the Indigenization of academia, which can be summed up as the process of “re-centering Indigenous world views [sic] as a starting point for institutional decolonization” (MacDonald 2016, para. 5). However, historical research into the Aborigines Protection Society (APS), a British political organization that “advocated for” Indigenous rights during the 19th century, has largely ignored the contributions and significance of Indigenous political actors. The APS was founded upon a network of Indigenous contributors from whom the Society’s intelligence was gathered, yet no research has gone into exploring Indigenous agency in relation to the activities of the APS. This is a glaring research gap, and my Master’s thesis will address this neglect in the historiography of British colonialism. I seek to answer this question: How, on a continuum between the integration and the alteration of British culture, did Indigenous actors in South Africa engage in participation with the APS in the period 1871-1910?
By examining the records of correspondence between the APS and its Indigenous contributors, my thesis will deepen our understanding of the APS as a key agency of nineteenth-century British humanitarianism, and as a colonial institution that simultaneously oppressed and yet provided space for resistance. The first chapter will examine the broad historiography of British imperialism and Indigenous resistance. This chapter will engage with theoretical approaches set out by historian Tony Ballantyne and political scientist James Scott. Ballantyne’s framework of “webs of empire” enables me to examine the APS as a “vertical connection” between colony and metropole as well as a “horizontal connection” between Indigenous South Africans and other Indigenous groups (Ballantyne 2001, section 5 para. 2); Scott’s framework of “everyday-resistance” is suggestive for analyzing Indigenous contributions to the APS as “hidden transcripts” that worked to contravene the “public transcript” of the dominant group (Scott 1990, 14-15). The second chapter will provide a qualitative analysis of the correspondence of the APS’s Indigenous contributors in South Africa, held at the Bodleian Libraries at Oxford. Though the correspondence contains over 7,000 files, my thesis will focus on the 822 records of Henry Fox Bourne, secretary of the APS (1889-1909) and a specialist on Southern African issues. The third chapter will explore the tension that exists between the APS as a paternalist and colonial institution, and the APS as a space for Indigenous resistance, by assessing how the Indigenous correspondence interacted with or resisted British culture and influence.
This research question arose while writing my honours thesis, a comparison of British Indigenous reserve policies in South Africa, Canada, and Australia. I found that there is a continuum of those histories that focus on the oppression of Indigenous peoples and those that focus on their agency (Johnson 2003, 113-114). My thesis will impact our understanding of how colonialism functions by exploring this continuum of oppression and agency. It will contribute to the inclusion of Indigenous perspectives in world history without abandoning the context of colonial oppression.
 While a very liberal organization for the time, the APS has been implicated in oppressive activities including supporting the South African Natives’ Land Act of 1913. See Willan, 1979.
 I have chosen to focus on South Africa because my Honours thesis has given me an expertise in South African Indigenous policies, and because the supervisors I have been in contact with are specialists in South African history. The period 1871-1910 covers span of primary records that will be used.
Ballantyne, Tony. 2001. “Race and the Webs of Empire: Aryanism from India to the Pacific.” Journal of Colonialism and Colonial History 2, no. 3 (Winter). 10.1353/cch.2001.0045.
Johnson, Walter. 2003. “On Agency.” Journal of Social History 37, no. 1 (Autumn): 113-124. http://www.jstor.org/stable/3790316.
MacDonald, Moira. 2016. “Indigenizing the Academy.” University Affairs/Affaires Universitaires, April 6, 2016. http://www.universityaffairs.ca/features/feature-article/indigenizing-the-academy/.
Scott, James. 1990. Domination and the Arts of Resistance: Hidden Transcripts. New Haven: Yale University Press.
Willan, Brian. 1979. “The Anti-Slavery and Aborigines’ Protection Society and the South African Natives’ Act of 1913.” Journal of African History 20 (1): 83-102. 10.1017/S002185370001673X
Ballantyne, Tony. “Race and the Webs of Empire: Aryanism from India to the Pacific.” Journal of Colonialism and Colonial History 2, no. 3 (2001). 10.1353/cch.2001.0045.
Comaroff, Jean, and John Comaroff. Of Revelation and Revolution, Volume 1: Christianity, Colonialism, and Consciousness in South Africa. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1991.
Elbourne, Elizabeth. Blood Ground: Colonialism, Missions, and the Contest for Christianity in the Cape Colony and Britain, 1799-1853. Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2002.
Heartfield, James. The Aborigines’ Protection Society: Humanitarian Imperialism in Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, Canada, South Africa and the Congo, 1839-1909. New York: Columbia University Press, 2011.
Laidlaw, Zoe. “Indigenous Interlocutors: Networks of Imperial Protest and Humanitarianism in the Mid-Nineteenth Century.” In Indigenous Networks: Mobility, Connections and Exchange, edited by Jane Carey and Jane Lydon. London: Routledge, 2014.
Keegan, Timothy. Colonial South Africa and the Origins of the Racial Order. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 1996.
Nworah, Kenneth. “The Aborigines Protection Society, 1889-1909: A Pressure-Group in Colonial Policy.” Canadian Journal of African Studies 5, no. 1 (1971): 79-92. 10.2307/484052.
Porter, Bernard. Critics of Empire: British Radicals and the Imperial Challenge. London: I.B. Tauris, 2007.
Rainger, Ronald. “Philanthropy and Science in the 1830’s: The British and Foreign Aborigines’ Protection Society.” Man (N.S.) 15, no. 4 (1980): 702-717. 10.2307/2801541.
Scott, James. Domination and the Arts of Resistance: Hidden Transcripts. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1990.
Swaisland, Charles. “The Aborigines Protection Society, 1837-1909.” Slavery and Abolition: A Journal of Slave and Post-Slave Studies 21, no. 2 (2000): 265-280. 10.1080/01440390008575315
Willan, Brian. “The Anti-Slavery and Aborigines’ Protection Society and the South African Natives’ Act of 1913.” Journal of African History 20, no. 1 (1979): 83-102. 10.1017/S002185370001673X