The current study explores the ambiguity of accounting technique in the context of a historical study of the Canadian Indian Department under the direction of Deputy Superintendent D.C. Scott at the beginning of the 20th century. Starting from the work of Bauman and his commentators, we argue that modernity viewed as a set of practices and thought patterns, facilitates bureaucratic constructions of the “Indian problem” In turn, this cultural milieu and bureaucratic construction operated as an ideological circle, encouraging the use of accounting techniques of governance that permitted both the distancing of bureaucrats from indigenous peoples and the downplaying of other vantage points. However, as our analysis highlights, numerical re‐presentations also provided the tools and rhetorical spaces for challenges to government policy.
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