Date of Award


Author's School

Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

Author's Department

Liberal Arts

Additional Affiliations

University College

Degree Name

Doctor of Liberal Arts (DLA)

Degree Type



Abstract of the Thesis

“White Skin by Color, French Canadian by Métissage: Heredity knows no color”

Beta thalassemia (β-thalassemia) is one of the hereditary disorders unique to French Canadians (Braekeleer). This thesis argues for any correlations that may exist between the social and identity structures. These social and identity structures correspond with the close relationship between the French Canadians and β-thalassemia. The study reveals the specific cultural and linguistic isolation of these people and the principal cause of the distinguishing traits of this disorder as obscure amongst this ethnic group. French Canadians slowly but surely migrated from the French-speaking Providence of Québec in Canada and Toulouse, France during the 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries. Their migration led to their dispersal in the Midwest, Northeast and Louisiana, as well as throughout the vast Louisiana Purchase territory inclusive of Alabama area within colonial Louisiana.

Through further research into the oral and written histories found in the relevant literature and art, a better understanding of the construction of their societies as well as identities is revealed. Their migration led to the dispersal of the hereditary disorder β-thalassemia specifically in the territory known as Alabama. There is a lack of research in medical genetics in the United States on French Canadians (French Canadians outside of Quebec), inclusive of black Americans (Laberge, Michaud and Richter 289). Blacks were largely overlooked. The literature review also revealed this to be true where there are limitations in written historical literature whether through art, literature or medical artifacts. Scholars reveal from the literature review and theoretical framework that most research seems to agree that β-thalassemia occurs in Blacks as well as Caucasians. However, there continues to be a debate about the frequency of the occurrence in the United States due to the continuance of racialized medicine. The significance of the disease in this ethnicity is important for further research.

The lack of accurate population count for French Canadians inclusive of blacks has been less than satisfactory. Researchers agree the French Canadian ethnicity is significant to add to the list of population in addition to the Mediterranean people, those already identified as carriers of the β-thalassemia hereditary disorder of today. Defining people’s boundary through cultural, economic, and political strategies expresses the importance of self-definition in “dealing with questions of who is and who is not a member of a particular people” (Ens and Sawchuk 16). Beyond the concept of race, the theoretical framework is viewed as a theoretical question, “… from brothers – who is presumed entitled or disposed, person or slave, autonomous or alien, citizen or enemy?” (Krimsky and Sloan 242) Krimsky and Sloan tried to argue against racialized medicine, that the theoretical framework for medicine should not be based on racism and Darwinism. The concept of racism and Darwinism combined biologizes the two theories in order to substantiate an illusionary ideology. Current studies appear to support the notion that “racialist superstitions” are still interwoven into genetic medicine of the future (242). Scholars reveal the challenges associated with identifying French Canadians as an ethnicity inclusive of blacks and unknown to the migration of β-thalassemia in the United States. This ambiguity is recognized in addition to the current acknowledgment of this disease’s changing pattern of ethnicity.


English (en)

Chair and Committee

Stamos Metzidakis

Committee Members

Shanti Parikh, Tabea Linhard