Ugliness as Colonial Violence: Mediations of Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women

  • Katherine Morton


The discourse of murdered and missing Indigenous women (MMIW) from Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside is shaped by ugliness. From the frequent invocation of the colonial stereotype of the licentious and sexually deviant “Indian squaw” to the fetishization of the violence committed against these women, ugliness shapes all aspects of the mediation of Indigenous women’s disappearances. Settler colonial labels of “degeneracy” and “prostitute” are the most common shared ugly identities placed on MMIW in public discourse. There is a common conflation of a missing or murdered Indigenous woman with sex work, drug addiction, criminality and homelessness. All of these conflations hinge on the notion of “high risk” and ugly behaviours. Ugliness is essential to the symbolic and discursive violence found in the mediation of MMIW as amoral, criminal, animalistic, volatile and deviant others. Ugliness allows for a subordination of MMIW by placing them far outside the borders of dominant society. This chapter illustrates how the politics of ugliness have long aided and abetted the settler colonial project in Canada and how ugliness continues to shape the mediation of Indigenous missing and murdered women in mainstream media. By invoking a visual critical discourse analysis, it examines how missing and murdered Indigenous women are framed in missing posters published by the police.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Katherine Morton
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of SociologyMemorial University of NewfoundlandSt John’sCanada

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