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Beyond the Body Count

Field Notes as First Responder Witness Accounts

Patricia Krueger-Henney

I position critical ethnographic researcher field notes as an opportunity to document the physical and ideological violence that white settler states and institutions on the school-prison nexus inflict on the lives of girls of color generally and Black girls specifically. By drawing on my own field notes, I argue that critical social science researchers have an ethical duty to move their inquiries beyond conventions of settler colonial empirical science when they are wanting to create knowledges that transcend traditions of body counts and classification systems of human lives. As first responders to the social emergencies in girls’ lives, researchers can make palpable spatialization of institutionalized forms of settler epistemologies to convey more girl-centered ways of speaking against quantifiable hierarchies of human life.

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Sandrina de Finney, Patricia Krueger-Henney and Lena Palacios

We are deeply honored to have been given the opportunity to edit this special issue of Girlhood Studies, given that it is dedicated to rethinking girlhood in the context of the adaptive, always-evolving conditions of white settler regimes. The contributions to this issue address the need to theorize girlhood—and critiques of girlhood—across the shifting forces of subjecthood, community, land, nation, and borders in the Western settler states of North America. As white settler states, Canada and the United States are predicated on the ongoing spatial colonial occupation of Indigenous homelands. In settler states, as Eve Tuck and K. Wayne Yang remind us, “the settler never left” (2012: 20) and colonial domination is reasserted every day of active occupation. White settler colonialism functions through the continued control of land, resources, and racialized bodies, and is amalgamated through a historical commitment to slavery, genocide, and the extermination of Indigenous nationhood and worldviews. Under settler colonial regimes, criminal justice, education, immigration, and child welfare systems represent overlapping sites of transcarceral power that amplify intersecting racialized, gendered, sexualized, and what Tanja Aho and colleagues call “carceral ableist” violence (2017: 291). This transcarceral power is enacted through institutional and bureaucratic warfare such as, for example, the Indian Act, the school-to-prison pipeline, and the child welfare system to deny, strategically, Indigenous claims to land and the citizenship of racial others.