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"We used to be kings of the road": Negotiations of ethics, embodiment, and subjectivity in the BC-based long haul trucking industry

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Thesis type
(Thesis) Ph.D.
Date created
Author: McLean, Amie
This dissertation provides a locally specific exploration of how normative gender dynamics and local occupational cultures interact with neoliberal regimes to (re)produce industrial hierarchies of inequality, exploitation, and blame. I extend research linking the neoliberalisation of the trucking industry to declining wages and working conditions to consider how these changes interact with the historically and culturally specific ethical formations, subjectivity negotiations, and everyday work practices of British Columbia-based long haul truckers. I argue that a locally and historically specific manifestation of normative masculinity – and the racialising processes it presupposes and (re)produces – plays a crucial role in these interactions. This ‘old school’ white working class masculinity is complexly articulated in relation to the neoliberalisation of the industry, and especially in regards to gendered and racialised politics of skills, stigma, and blame. I found that these articulations bolster white supremacist tendencies, particularly with regard to South Asian truckers, and have complex implications for gender inequality. I further contend that these dynamics emerge out of and are imbricated in the power dynamics of Canadian (neo)colonial automobility. The differential politics of skills, stigma, and blame evident in my research encounters contribute to the denial and invisibilisation of road carnage and industrial risk that has been entrenched through neoliberal shifts in automobility and the trucking industry. This research is based on my ethnography of the British Columbia-based long haul trucking industry. Data were generated through qualitative interviews with current and former truck drivers; participant observation and observant participation at truck stops, weigh scales, and industry-associated sites; recording VHF radio communications; and ride-alongs with truckers. Truckers in my study placed especial moral weight on practices of skilled and safe driving, on maintaining civilised practices of cleanliness and excretion, and on stopping to assist other truckers and motorists in need of help – which often meant engaging in collision and carnage labour at crash scenes. In this study, I examine how deregulation and the neoliberalisation of the industry have impacted truckers’ capacities to engage in each of these work practices, and the implications of those shifts for truckers’ gendered, classed, and racialised ethical alignments and subjectivity negotiations.
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Scholarly level
Supervisor or Senior Supervisor
Thesis advisor: Pulkingham, Jane
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