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Subject visions: Ex-Residents' perspectives on life in an institution for "mental defectives"
Claudia Malacrida, University of Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada
This talk is based on 21 narrative interviews with individuals who were residents during the period from 1960-1990 at The Michener Centre in Red Deer, Alberta. Michener Center was a total institution which officially was mandated to provide 'care and training' for individuals deemed to be 'mental defectives' in Alberta, Canada. In Alberta, the Provincial Eugenics Board operated well into the 1970's to approve and carry out the sterilization of over 4,000 individuals, many of whom were held in the Michener Center.
The narratives of these ex-residents contrast with the official mandate of the Center, indicating that daily life at Michener comprised little education or care, and showing that life inside was a nightmare of surveillance, exploitation and dehumanization. This presentation focuses particularly on the notion of visibility and the gaze as ways of exercising power, of destabilizing alliances amongst inmates, and of dehumanizing residents.
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