Memorializing Colonial Power: The Death of Frank Paul

Authors

  • Sherene H. Razack

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Sociology and Equity Studies in Education at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education of the University of Toronto
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Sherene H. Razack is a Professor, Department of Sociology and Equity Studies in Education at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education of the University of Toronto and can be reached at sherene.razack@utoronto.ca. The author thanks the family of Frank Paul, Peggy Clement, and Leslie Thielen-Wilson for extraordinary research assistance.

Abstract

Through an analysis of an inquiry into the death of an Aboriginal man in custody, I argue that the contemporary colonial relationship between white settlers and those whom they have dispossessed is spatially and racially organized as one between modern subjects and those who must be assisted into modernity. Law, in the form of an inquiry, serves to confirm these arrangements. In Part One, Redemption, I begin with the inquiry's conclusion that Frank Paul was intrinsically vulnerable. In Part Two, Memorializing, I unravel Frank Paul's story, showing the imprinting of colonial power on his body. In Part Three, Cleansing, I show that the Aboriginal body must be repeatedly evicted from the civilized spaces of the settler. In Part Four, Abandonment, when the cleansing ritual proves lethal, death is declared comprehensible, given the body's incompatibility with modern life. In Part Five, Death Worlds, I suggest that the Downtown East Side of Vancouver, Canada where Frank Paul lived is maintained as a death world where humans are reduced to the status of the living dead. Throughout, I argue that Frank Paul must be understood and remembered as an Aboriginal man whose body bore the imprint of an ongoing colonialism.

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