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Abstract

Contemporary studies that track the new racialization of poverty in Canada require an historical account. The history we invoke in North America is often borrowed from the British poor laws, a literature that is severed from its counterpart: the histories of racial slavery, racial thinking, White bourgeois power and the making of White settler societies. The effects of severing the history of poor relief from racial classifications and racism(s) are far reaching. Systems of oppression come to be seen as separate structures in which the New Poor Law appears as a domestic policy in Britain unrelated to racial thinking and racial slavery. This paper argues that attempts at managing and civilizing the poor in Britain and Upper Canada were racial projects suited to colonial ambitions and enterprises. Our histories of social welfare are deeply tied to the creation of White bourgeois subjects enlisted into the management and extension of empire. This history continues to organize contemporary social policy debates, and views on globalization and the racialization of poverty.

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