Night Soil, Cesspools, and Smelly Hogs on the Streets: Sanitation, Race, and Governance in Early British Columbia

  • Megan J. Davies


Looking at three communities — Nelson, Vernon, and Prince Rupert — this study traces the early history of urban sanitation in British Columbia. “Health” is interpreted here not just as a medical condition, but as a cultural, social, and moral force that helped shape the character of these new towns. The battle against dirt and disease was linked to civic boosterism and good citizenship. Euro-Canadian medical and engineering professionals created public health hierarchies, established ritualized systems of sanitary practice, and “mapped” sanitary zones within the emerging civic communities. The public health discourse articulated by these men was profoundly racist, constructing Asian residents as the unclean, unhealthy “Other” whose existence threatened good health and social order.