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Controlling Contagion: Policing and Prescribing Sexual and Political Normalcy in Cold War Canada



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This dissertation examines the Cold War fear of infiltration and the ‘enemy within.’ While several Cold War histories examine the culture of anxiety, few consider how the larger fears of nuclear weaponry and radiation influenced Canada’s perception of the enemy as contagion during the 1950s and 1960s. This study of Cold War political and sexual policing addresses the various ways in which disaster and destruction of social and sexual norms were anticipated in the atomic age. The efforts to control the enemy, whether domestic communism or sexual ‘deviancy,’ were indicative of how the contemporary threat was likened to disease. Divided into two case studies, Operation Profunc and Cold War sexual psychiatry, this dissertation examines fear and efforts to control fears of potential destruction through containment and surveillance. This is the first historical study of Operation Profunc, a Canadian plan to intern domestic communists in the event of war or communist attack. Between 1948 and 1983, the RCMP, with support from the Department of National Defence and the Ministry of Justice, monitored hundreds of Canadian leftists. Plans for reception centres and internment camps persisted over three decades in anticipation of a potential national emergency. The fear of contagion and culture of anxiety was also evident in psychiatry, a field that was becoming more standardized in classifying mental disorder through the 1950s. At this time, homosexuality was equated to character weakness, social destruction, and anxiety. Indicative of the era’s efforts to control disorder was the 1956 establishment of the forensic clinic for so-called “sexual deviates” at the Toronto Psychiatric Hospital. As with the American Psychiatric Association’s DSM, the forensic clinic worked to codify and control ‘deviant’ sexuality in an effort to maintain safety in a period of insecurity. Combining these separate histories of national defence and psychiatric nomenclature, this dissertation examines how the two fears of contamination reflected the broader anxieties of the era. In the atomic age the homefront was the battlefield. The Cold War was a conflict that saw the transference of the global divide between superpowers to the individual. Fear of contagion was one that united self with society.



Cold War, Canada



Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)






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