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Responding to evil as a fragmenting force through an ethic of love and boundaries: Inspiration from a healing prison

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Thesis type
(Thesis) Ph.D.
Date created
This dissertation investigates what is a healthy or integrative response to evil, with the proviso that the attribution of evil is subjective. Without a framework, most internal and external responses to what we consider evil are reactive, for example, collapsing, trying to eradicate or appease, or demonizing. My inquiry is partly motivated by the murder of my brother. In my inquiry, I first conduct an arts-based exploration which leads to a conceptualization of evil as a subjectively experienced fragmenting force. Following this conceptualization, the response is clear: a whole-making force is needed. A kaleidoscope is a type of whole-making container—turning it creates a felt sense of wholeness by changing the relationships between the fragments within it. I use the kaleidoscope as a metaphor for the Kaleidoscoping methodology I develop in this dissertation. A Kaleidoscoping methodology integrates different forms of writing and ways of knowing. To investigate my question, I draw from Indigenous justice, restorative justice, psychotherapeutic approaches, and healing education, which all prioritize relational values, aim to enhance well-being, and consider the wider context. Another whole-making container is Kwìkwèxwelhp Healing Village (KHV), an Indigenous minimum-security correctional facility run through a partnership between Correctional Services Canada and Sts'ailes First Nation. KHV supports offenders committed to changing their lives to integrate parts of themselves and reintegrate into society. Offenders, called residents, have both harmed and been harmed, particularly by the devastating effects of colonization. In a qualitative research study at KHV, I explore how the staff create healing relationships with the residents. The findings reveal that the staff's attitudes, values, behaviours, and worldviews derive from their core attitude of viewing and relating to the residents as human beings despite their commission of sometimes heinous crimes. This core attitude emanates from a worldview that respects the interconnection between human beings and between humans and the rest of the natural world. The staff help residents connect with themselves, others, and spiritual life. In the literature, correctional staff are seen as navigating the contradictory roles of helper and enforcer. At KHV, the staff create healing relationships by integrating love and boundaries. Love, in this sense, is not an emotion but a worldview and ultimate transformational whole-making force that connects and integrates, and thus is the opposite of evil. I propose an ethic of love and boundaries to help inform internal and external responses to the fragmenting force of evil and transform its effects.
203 pages.
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Thesis advisor: Bai, Heesoon
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