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

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Matters of the womb: Muslim women's narratives of fertility, family, and the Indian State

Author: 
Date created: 
2020-12-23
Abstract: 

India’s population control policy has long narrowly focused on curtailing reproduction, even after it was rebranded in the late 1990s as family planning. It continues to prioritize a target-oriented approach limiting birth rates instead of promoting the well-being of families. In particular, deep-seated class prejudices against the low-income Muslim community have led to academic debates and policy interventions to curtail what is considered to be the high fertility rate of Muslims across the nation. Against this backdrop, my dissertation examines the ways that low-income Muslim women imagine, embody, and negotiate family planning in the context of their everyday lives. Drawing on fourteen months of ethnographic fieldwork in Delhi, I explore how women limit fertility and build families. Their narratives provide a critique of the neoliberal framework of choice that celebrates freedom, autonomy, and individual rights in the pursuit of reproductive goals. In contrast, women’s decision making reveals how reproductive choice is embedded within the context of social, familial, and kinship relations, gendered dynamics inside and outside the household, neighborhood and migration histories, and state-imposed programs. Through a feminist analysis, I foreground the relational and contextual aspects of family building practices. I argue that women challenge the state’s classed, gendered, and prejudiced discourses through their pragmatic family building rationales, which they commonly refer to as samajhdari ki yojana, or wise planning, especially within the context of scarce resources and infrastructural constraints. Women cultivate an ethos of judiciousness and responsibility; they understand their own physiological and mental health to be intrinsically connected to the well-being of their families. Thus, women navigate state and familial institutions while negotiating the use of both invasive and non-invasive contraceptive technologies such as sterilization, intrauterine devices, and oral pills. In this regard, I illustrate how their willingness to use IUDs is intertwined with their hopes for the safe delivery and immunization of their infants; how familial, medical, and social anxieties compel them to seek different contraceptive pathways to avoid failures and side effects; and how contingent circumstances and relations with community health volunteers motivate them to adopt or evade sterilization. This dissertation contributes to an understanding of women’s challenges and contradictory and ambivalent negotiations with care arrangements within both familial and institutional settings. It also contributes to an understanding of how social ties and the dynamics of neighborhood building shape the parameters of intergenerational family building.

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

In Lulije's shoes: Doing gender and family in rural Kosovo

Date created: 
2021-04-21
Abstract: 

My thesis describes the practices associated with being a rural Kosovo nuse, an Albanian word referring to both brides and young married women. These practices, which Kosovo people regard as prescribed by tradition, include but are not limited to wearing distinctive outfits and jewelry and performing specific tasks such as serving refreshments to in-laws and visitors. I frame these practices as doing gender and family and explore how they facilitate the creation and maintenance of affinal relationships in the context of the still widespread patrilocality of rural Kosovo. I pay special attention to the rich material culture, which accompanies nuse performances, and briefly engage with their embodied nature. A fictional account is woven into the text with the aim to bring closer the complexity and minutiae of the wedding rituals and the patrilocal life afterwards.

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

Vintage (of) identities: Creation of immigrant identity in the third-generation immigrants from Gorno Vranovci to Izmir

Author: 
Date created: 
2021-05-13
Abstract: 

This thesis investigates the identity building within the third-generation members of an immigrant community in Turkey, a group whose grandparents immigrated from the former Yugoslavia to Turkey following the Free Migrant Agreement of 1953. The focus community immigrated to Turkey without knowing the language; however, they lost their mother tongue, a dialect of Macedonian, within two generations and blended into the wider Turkish society. Nevertheless, the discourse of being immigrants is still prevalent even in the third generation. The existing literature on this topic concentrates on the reasons for Balkan immigration to Turkey and its effects on the lives of first-generation immigrants. Little is known about the impact of immigration on subsequent generations. With the analysis of the data I have collected through field research including in-depth interviews and participant observation; I have come to the conclusion that three main factors were visible on the narratives of immigrant identity younger generations have; the political environment during the time of immigration, exclusion, and discrimination that the first-generation faced when they immigrated to Turkey, and the current political atmosphere in Turkey.

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

Changing voices: A study of transfeminine vocality

Author: 
Date created: 
2021-04-22
Abstract: 

This thesis examines how the voices of trans women are produced and experienced. I explore the various social forces that affect the production of voice, how voice affects trans women’s ability to move through the world, and the steps that many trans women take to change their voices. I also examine how some trans women feel about their voices, the social systems that influence those feelings, and how that in turn affects the ways in which they speak. I argue that the social nature of voice and vocal practice can advance an understanding of trans body modification that is less concerned with medical intervention or the choices of individual trans women to pursue or reject normative standards. To do this, I use voice as an example of an adaptive and dynamic process that has high stakes for trans women and is always inseparable from its social context.

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

Technologies of the natural: ‘Male enhancement’, gender confirmation surgery, and the ‘monster cock’

Author: 
Date created: 
2020-12-04
Abstract: 

Responding to Susan Stryker’s (2006) call to identify the “seams and sutures” of the ‘natural body’, this dissertation analyzes the social incarnation of the ‘natural male body’ through ‘male enhancement’ discourse in Canada and the United States (247). As one of the few sociological investigations into the medical practice of male enhancement, this research reorients our analytical gaze away from the somatic transformations of historically-oppressed people’s sexed bodies, towards bringing the male body, cis masculinity, and whiteness into the spotlight of critique. This investigation is grounded in fifty hours of online observations of a male enhancement forum for cis men interested in augmenting their genitals; and twenty in-depth, qualitative interviews with medical practitioners who specialize in male enhancement procedures. Drawing on the theoretical and analytical tradition of somatechnics, I juxtapose bodies and somatic transformations in relation to each other to reveal the underlying assumptions, justifications, and prohibitions for particular forms of bodily being. I first compare how male enhancement for cis men and gender confirming genital procedures for trans people are discursively produced in contrasting ways, despite how both sets of these procedures use overlapping medical knowledges to intervene on genitals, aiming to produce similar aesthetic results and to reduce patient suffering. Yet male enhancement is discursively framed as ‘restorative’ or ‘augmentative’ of the natural male body, whereas gender confirmation surgeries are rendered ‘constructive’ of an unnatural body. In the second half of my analysis, I demonstrate how male enhancements that result in ‘monster cocks’, by definition, make penetrative sexual practices impossible or cause sexual partners pain, thereby creating a tension between sexual practices that male the body, and dominance practices that accomplish masculinity. Reading the monster cock in relation to discourses about the ‘female reproductive body’, dyspareunia, and racialized bodies, I trace how male enhancement discourse works to shore up the contours of whiteness, cis masculinity, and the male body. This project aims to disrupt the naturalized white male body against which all others are measured, and attempts to make an intervention into how bodies come to matter.

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

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.