Author: Willmott, Kyle
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.
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Thesis advisor: Pulkingham, Jane
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