Origins of Difference: Professionalization, Power, and Mental Hygiene in Canada and the United States

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This study examines the emergence and development of mental hygiene professional organizations in Canada and the US by analyzing discursive differences in the publications of two sister committees: the National Committee for Mental Hygiene and the Canadian National Committee for Mental Hygiene. The analysis finds that while mental hygiene in North America initially emerged as a single, shared continental professional discourse, the two movements diverged in critical ways for reasons directly related to their institutional contexts and donor bases. Even as US popular and political discourse veered towards eugenic policies, the US mental hygiene discourse shifted sharply away from eugenics. In contrast, in Canada, mental hygiene publications focused increasingly on the moral dangers of Canadas immigrant population and played a role in producing scientific legitimacy for eugenic policies. This analysis suggests that the different trajectories of the two professional communities have their origins in organizations membership and donor bases, not broader differences in national character.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)208-225
Number of pages18
JournalAmerican Review of Canadian Studies
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 3 2015


  • Canada
  • eugenics
  • mental hygiene
  • professional communities
  • professionalization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Earth-Surface Processes


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