Sociology and Anthropology - Theses, Dissertations, and other Required Graduate Degree Essays

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The puzzle of personhood

Author: 
Date created: 
2020-10-07
Abstract: 

In a marketplace society, we believe we confront each other as human beings. The following argument will demonstrate this assumption to be incorrect. To understand why the person and the human are not coextensive terms, we must demonstrate their mutually contradictory relationship in market society and the estrangement of the latter by the former. What is a person, then, if not a human being? In demonstrating this distinction, we will show how the constitution of the person stands in contradiction to our social and collective nature as human beings. This contradiction is already an expression of there being no essential basis for being human in personhood itself. From the legal standpoint, not all humans are persons and not all persons are human. Only on the basis that being a human is neither necessary nor sufficient for being a person is our market behaviour as persons inessential and contrary to our existence as humans. The exclusion of some humans from personhood, and hence their loss of rights, equality, freedom, and hence dehumanization, is the net result of this contradiction. Following a definition of the human being, this thesis offers a critique of three social categories of thought and behaviour constitutive of personhood for market society: the legal, the egoistic, and the moral. It will be shown that these categories are reflections of various aspects of market relations alone and not human relations. The argument tackles yet another problem at the core of personhood: the historical appearance of these constitutive moments of personhood, and hence private property ownership, are taken to be the transhistorical essence of the human being. It is in this confusion between appearance and essence that our existence as persons becomes an ideological existence. The novel approach to the problem of the person presented here, is to demonstrate that the person and the human are two social existences that stand in contradiction with one another.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Supervisor(s): 
Gary Teeple
Department: 
Arts & Social Sciences: Department of Sociology and Anthropology
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) M.A.

Skilled Japanese immigrants in Vancouver: Employment hardships and settlement experiences

Author: 
Date created: 
2020-11-10
Abstract: 

Skilled immigrants in Canada face barriers in finding jobs, despite having high educational background and professional experiences from their home countries. They suffer deskilling and unemployment due to gendered and racialized institutional processes embedded in state policies and employment practices. Skilled Japanese immigrants in Vancouver are no exception, but there is hardly any research focusing on the settlement experiences of skilled Japanese immigrants in Vancouver. This qualitative research explores the ‘push and pull’ factors that influence their migration and investigate the employment issues that affect their settlement experiences through in-depth semi-structured interviews. My findings reveal that Japanese skilled people immigrate to Canada for lifestyle reasons. They left Japan to escape harsh working conditions and gender marginalization and seek work-life balance and a more relaxed lifestyle in Vancouver.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Supervisor(s): 
Wendy Chan
Department: 
Arts & Social Sciences: Department of Sociology and Anthropology
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) M.A.

Zones of violence: Serb women inside the siege of Sarajevo

Author: 
Date created: 
2020-09-02
Abstract: 

This dissertation explores a silenced history of violence that took place inside the 1992 to 1995 siege of Sarajevo, when the city was held under attack by Bosnian Serb forces (the Army of Republika Srpska, or VRS, Vojska Republike Srpske). Inside the siege, Serbs came to be associated with the ethnic aggressor, and faced violent retribution. I conceptualize the retributive violence inside the siege as an internal “zone of violence” that was made possible by the much larger external zone of VRS aggression. Today, the siege’s internal zone of violence remains a well-kept public secret, too contentious to commemorate. This research is based on one year of fieldwork in Sarajevo and over 60 interviews with 23 Bosnian Serb women who lived through the siege. It is divided into two parts. Part one offers an oral history of the siege’s internal zone of violence from the perspective of Bosnian Serb women. I describe their social decline from “neighbours” to “aggressors” inside the siege, a moral shift that made retributive violence thinkable, and permissible. Part two offers an ethnographic account of the afterlife of this silenced history of violence, as Bosnian Serb women navigate a fraught post-war ethno-moral landscape. This research makes two interventions. First, it unsettles the victim-perpetrator dichotomy, focusing attention onto a segment of post-war society about whom we know very little: victims on the side of the perpetrator. Second, it provides empirical data about an often overlooked dimension of war: the complicity of civilian women, describing how a minority of Bosnian Serb women supported the besieging army, even as they suffered its violence. I make a case for “opening up” the victim-perpetrator dichotomy in order to recognize complex subject positions that blur the line between “pure” victims or “pure” perpetrators. Asking what is at stake for post-conflict societies when recognition is withheld from such “impure victims,” I argue for the importance of recognizing suffering on the side of the perpetrator.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Supervisor(s): 
Parin Dossa
Department: 
Arts & Social Sciences: Department of Sociology and Anthropology
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) Ph.D.

Organizing Canadian theatre designers: The intersection of creative and precarious labour

Author: 
Date created: 
2020-08-18
Abstract: 

Canadian theatre designers share many similarities with other freelance, creative workers in Canada. The conditions of precarity that define their working relationships are similar to those that affect workers in other sectors, such as film, music, television, and visual arts. This thesis begins by examining the existing literatures and research concerning creative and precarious work, primarily in Canada, but also internationally. Drawing on in-depth interviews of 55 designers from within the relatively small community of Canadian theatre designers, approximately 500-700 workers, I examine the working conditions that designers find challenging and seek suggestions for how they can be improved. Additionally, I explore the different models that designers have used to organize in Canada, Quebec, and the United States. By comparing these models with the interviews from designers, I conclude that the best way for Canadian designers to improve their working conditions is to build a closer relationship with IATSE, the union that represents stagehands and technicians. Finally, I identify some questions for further exploration, including the tension between artistic and worker identities, while also touching on the present circumstances of the Covid-19 crisis and the current conversations concerning racism and white supremacy within Canadian society.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Supervisor(s): 
Kendra Strauss
Department: 
Arts & Social Sciences: Department of Sociology and Anthropology
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) M.A.

Panic! In the suburbs: Investigating moral configurations of risk, neoliberal rationality, and middle-class anxiety in Maple Ridge B.C.

Author: 
Date created: 
2020-07-27
Abstract: 

In this thesis, I examine how the emergence of a homeless encampment in Maple Ridge, British Columbia in 2017 produced a reaction that I argue was the result of a moral panic. I seek to understand how a homeless encampment, as a hyper visible, centralized, and politically active hub for a marginalized community contributed to the sense of urgency around homelessness. I draw upon moral panic scholarship including theories around risk, neoliberal rationality, and the attending hybrid moral configurations produced by both to account for the hyper emotional reaction to homelessness in Maple Ridge. I situate this panic within the development of neoliberal disciplinary mechanisms that compel individuals to internalize ways of being that reimagine their relationship to the state and implore them to manage the conduct of others accordingly. Finally, I argue that this event was produced by a latent anxiety around economic precarity within middle class suburban communities.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Supervisor(s): 
Dany Lacombe
Department: 
Arts & Social Sciences: Department of Sociology and Anthropology
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) M.A.

Navigating the femininity-vulnerability nexus: A reconsideration of the protective function of gendered “safety work”

Author: 
Date created: 
2019-08-06
Abstract: 

Based on Critical Discourse Analysis of 17 interviews with women aged 19-26, this thesis explores the ways women negotiate positionalities as subjects of a gendered fear discourse that, while exaggerating gendered risks in public spaces, paradoxically places the onus on women to ensure their own safety. Findings suggest that, while fear of violent crime (FoVC) contours nearly every aspect of women’s lives and engenders taxing “safety work”, gendered “risk-management” is naturalized by participants as a sensical response to “immutable” gendered vulnerability. Although ostensibly engaged to ensure physical security, safety work only exacerbates women’s FoVC and unreliably mitigates their exposure to violence. I thus suggest that, in the present research, safety work is engaged because it affords women the ontological security associated with evading the subjectivity of the “Imprudent Woman”: the failed female subject whose inadequate “risk-management” justifiably denies her care, trust, and even access to the resources required for living.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Supervisor(s): 
Wendy Chan
Department: 
Arts & Social Sciences: Department of Sociology and Anthropology
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) M.A.

Taxpayer governmentality

Author: 
Date created: 
2019-06-19
Abstract: 

This dissertation traces how ‘the taxpayer’ is assembled as a subject for political action on the state and First Nations governments. Theoretically, the dissertation draws on an analytics of governmentality which focuses on the multiplicity of non-state elements of governing. I propose the concept taxpayer governmentality to show how ‘taxpayers’ are responsibilized to govern their own political conducts, delimit the scope of the state, and morally scrutineer Others imagined as burdens. The dissertation attends to two key questions: (1) what is the political spirit of the ubiquitous taxpayer? And (2) how is the taxpayer made up as a subject? I argue that while the taxpayer is a mobile political subject, it is animated by liberal critique of state action, and settler colonial entitlement to possession and control of Indigeneity. Further, I argue that technologies of government and surveillance produce putatively objective data about various ‘objects’, which are then packaged by taxpayer groups and rendered intelligible to the imperatives of taxpayers; this includes knowledge derived from public numbers, accounting, auditing, and transparency. In order to show the mobility and range of the taxpayer, the dissertation analyzes two cases, the Metro Vancouver tax plebiscite, and the First Nations Financial Transparency Act. I draw upon analysis of texts, ethnographic data, and a small set of interviews. In both empirical chapters I show how the taxpayer is differentially constructed as an actor in relation to convergent problematizations. The Metro Vancouver case shows how the taxpayer was mobilized as political adjudicant of the region’s transit corporation through a strategic permanent critique of government and addressed through what I call an economy of evidence. The First Nations Financial Transparency Act chapter examines how two forms of taxpayer subjectivity emerged: First, the settler-taxpayer positioned Indigenous nations as objects to be surveilled, scrutinized, and rendered public property. Second, the Act fostered Indigenous-taxpayer subjectivity, envisioned by Indian Affairs bureaucrats as a method to foster a calculating mentality amongst band members that would redirect political critique to bands, rather than the federal government.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Supervisor(s): 
Jane Pulkingham
Department: 
Arts & Social Sciences: Department of Sociology and Anthropology
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) Ph.D.

The making of consurbia: Conservation, urbanization, and socio-environmental change in Turkey's Gediz Delta

Date created: 
2020-04-27
Abstract: 

This dissertation examines the processes of socio-environmental change in Turkey’s Gediz Delta—an internationally protected coastal wetland, a traditionally agricultural area, and increasingly an urban development hotspot. Its theoretical insights are drawn from environmental sociology, urban political ecology as well as the studies on the neoliberalization of nature and environmental gentrification. It aims to contribute to the critical understanding of how nature is produced through historically varied and entangled socio-ecological processes. The dissertation explores how social-environmental imaginaries regarding a landscape are produced, contested, and expressed in concrete projects; how social actors interpret, navigate, and participate in socio-environmental transformations; and how conservation policies contribute to a particular form of urbanization in the urban-rural interface. Utilizing the methodological strategies of “incorporated comparison” (McMichael, 1990) and the “extended case method” (Burawoy, 1998), and based on a contextual analysis of texts, ethnographic data, and semi-structured interviews, I discuss the making of delta socionatures in relation to broader historical processes and within the context of the interplay of local and global developments since the 1860s. I particularly focus on the current conjuncture of the neoliberalization of the economy and socio-ecological relations in the post-1980 period. This conjuncture is experienced in the delta through the application of market-oriented wetland conservation policies, the mushrooming of gated communities, and the emergence of a novel peri-urbanity. I introduce and employ the concept of “consurbia” to refer to a peri-urban area which, although demonstrating a heterogonous co-existence of rural, urban, and natural ecosystems, is centred on conservation zones. Demonstrating the switch from a strict preservation model to a market-friendly one in the 2000s, I argue that conservation policies have become the dominant mode of production of space and the driver of urban developments in the delta, including luxury houses, recreational areas, and emerging socio-ecological relationships that privilege the preferences of new-comers at the expense of traditional relationships and practices. I call this process “conservation-led gentrification,” a form of environmental gentrification which describes a social and physical “upgrading” process in line with neoliberal conservation policies. My analysis demonstrates the centrality of socionature-making for capital accumulation processes and urban development models.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Supervisor(s): 
Yildiz Atasoy
Department: 
Arts & Social Sciences: Department of Sociology and Anthropology
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) Ph.D.

Living health and wellness: A story of the conversational interview

Author: 
Date created: 
2019-09-12
Abstract: 

This thesis is an experiment in trying to get to know the conversational interview that follows one researcher’s practice of talking to six women about health and wellness. In “sitting” (Pigg 2013) with this experience I problematize what separates friend from research participant, interview from casual conversation, and theory from everyday knowledge, to show what might be lost when we as ethnographers conscribe to industrial styles of qualitative interviews and research. By sharing my process and the voices of my conversation partners I argue for a renewed awareness of what we as ethnographers might discover when we make space for the people that we interview. I locate this work in conversation with anthropologists in the field who also grapple with questions of positionality and potentiality, including Kathleen Stewart, Sarah Pink, Andrew Irving, João Biehl, and others who focus on affect and the acknowledgement of everyday experiences in ethnographic research and representation.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Supervisor(s): 
Dara Culhane
Department: 
Arts & Social Sciences: Department of Sociology and Anthropology
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) M.A.

Pursuing equity: How women academics are challenging gender norms and (re)shaping university culture in Ghana

Author: 
Date created: 
2019-12-06
Abstract: 

This research focuses on the experiences of women faculty, PhD candidates and administrators, and the courses of action they employ to raise consciousness about systemic gender bias and pursue gender equity. I discuss the methodologies that participants use to overcome barriers and sensitize their social and professional environments to the experiences of women. Using nego-feminist theory and methods, participants initiate critical discourse with family, peers and institutional power holders, encouraging their respective families, colleagues, departments and universities to be gender-sensitive, reshaping their social and professional environments. Moving beyond their own departments, participants circumvent gender labour barriers and engage in collaborative co-development; building formal and informal networks, they effectively (re)create disrupted systems of support, furthering women's professional development. Women academics co-create anti-harassment policies and gender and advocacy centres, changing the institutional structures of their universities as part of their on-going pursuit of equity.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Supervisor(s): 
Ann Travers
Department: 
Arts & Social Sciences: Department of Sociology and Anthropology
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) M.A.