James Francis Glassman


Relevant Degree Programs


Graduate Student Supervision

Doctoral Student Supervision (Jan 2008 - May 2021)
Becoming experts: Japanese grassroots NGOs and LGBT communities in post-disaster Tohoku (2021)

On March 11, 2011 a powerful earthquake in the northeastern region of Japan, known as Tohoku, triggered a devastating tsunami and nuclear power plant meltdown. While Japanese earthquake technology and tsunami preparation guidelines are known as some of the best in the world, criticism has surfaced about the lack of consideration for the needs of diverse people, including inadequate privacy in emergency shelters, and lack of gender-appropriate appropriate supplies. This project investigates this issue by exploring problems faced by LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) people in Tohoku communities in response to the 2011 disasters. In the period following the earthquake and tsunami a small number of LGBT survivors in the region began distributing supplies and information to other LGBT people. Some of their activities crystallized into more permanent non-governmental organizations (NGOs), contributing to a growing movement for awareness of such diversity in the region. In 2018 I spent one year in Japan conducting original qualitative research to explore the emergence and features of the NGOs serving local LGBT communities in post-disaster Tohoku. A series of open-ended interviews with organizers and members of 17 NGOs is the primary source of data for this project. The study shows that some LGBT people’s experiences of the disaster environment were tied to a hetero-masculinist approach to disaster planning and response. The ensuing meltdown at the nuclear power plant also underscored a deeply androcentric epistemological base for expertise, informing various components of the recovery and cleanup activities. NGOs profiled in this study presented an alternative view of disaster response expertise, which takes local knowledge and lived experience of marginalized people as its starting point. My analysis indicated that these groups were successful at identifying shortcomings that were not anticipated by standard disaster planning processes in Japan. The study shows that the needs of LGBT people facing disasters are diverse and complex, requiring expertise beyond standard disaster response mechanisms. This dissertation argues that alternative forms of expertise can be effective at meeting the needs of diverse people facing disasters, as demonstrated by marginalized individuals and NGO groups that served them in contemporary post-disaster Tohoku.

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Agrarian repair: agriculture, race and accumulation in contemporary Canada and South Africa (2019)

This dissertation explores certain agricultural investment projects emerging early in the new millennium which I term ‘agrarian repair’ projects. Proponents of these projects present them as binding together two distinct ‘fixes’. First, they seek to repair processes of capital accumulation and value preservation, always uncertain but freshly destabilized by the 2007/8 financial crisis. Second, they attempt to repair histories of colonial and racial injustice, often codified as resulting in and from a particular group’s historical ‘exclusion’ from agriculture and consequently larger national economies. I examine ‘agrarian repair’ projects at two sites, one in Canada and one in South Africa, where financial investors partnered with racialized, marginalized communities to establish large scale agricultural investment ventures. In Canada, One Earth Farms established a massive corporate grain, oilseeds and cattle farm engaging First Nations in the prairie provinces. In South Africa, the Futuregrowth Agri-Fund implemented investment models involving African communities in the commercial fruit sector across the country. I trace the historical origins of the projects, situating them in two concurrent transitions unfolding in their respective national settings: one in the organization of the agrarian economy, the other in the orientation of the nation-state towards a liberal democratic ‘reconciliatory’ dispensation. I detail the specific logics, modalities, and mechanics employed by the ‘agrarian repair’ projects, reflecting on how they can advance understandings of financialized racial capitalism and its operations at the settler colonial agrarian interface. I assess the projects’ capacity to deliver on their purported fixes, showing that agriculture neither proves to be the stable financial provider that investors expect, nor do the projects deliver their anticipated social results. Benefits for the racialized communities engaged are uneven at best, while the projects actively exploit not only settler colonial and racial legacies but also contemporary redress efforts, generating new advantages and valuation channels for investors. The research lends insights into how colonial and racialized histories and reparative movements are mobilized and monetized in contemporary agricultural projects. This allows me to begin outlining a larger schema of reparative capitalism, whereby capitalism incorporates its critiques – here about its colonial and racial past – as new sites of accumulation.

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The Production of the World City: Extractive Industries in a Global Urban Economy (2012)

This dissertation argues for a re-grounding of world city research in world-systems and dependency theory. It proposes to conduct 'vertical world city research', which explicitly investigates the spatial interconnectedness between world cities and peripheral locations of production, rather than focus on the relationships between different world cities. The idea of vertical world city research is partly a response to recent post-colonial critiques of world city research. Advanced Producer Services (APS) have long been considered command and control functions over global capital. Constructions of world city networks have largely relied on data based on large APS firms. While this research has made important contributions to our understanding of the interconnectedness of world cities, the argument of this dissertation is that it may not adequately capture the role of other essential sectors in the global economy. It is proposed that world city research needs to investigate the global control networks over monopolistically (or more correctly oligopolistically) organised processes. The focus of this dissertation is therefore the urban control network of the monopoly over natural resources. The dissertation investigates the locations of ownership control over the world's ten largest non-fuel mineral producers. These ten firms account for more than one third of the world's non-fuel mineral production by value. It also investigates specifically the platinum industry, which is controlled by a very small number of firms. While cities that are often identified as world cities, including New York and London, feature in the lists of cities that host the owners of the global mining industry and the platinum industry in particular, a number of cities in middle income economies are at the top of the list. The last part of the dissertation focuses on the role of nation states in the formation of global cities and how corporate decisions are administered through a network of cities. The effect of these decisions on mining communities is explicitly studied. This part focuses on Johannesburg and South Africa. The research suggests that the spatial organisation of the world economy and the concentration of power is more dispersed than previously suggested.

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Workers of the mill: local labour market change and restructuring of the sugar industry in Northern Negros Occidental, Philippines 1946-2008 (2012)

This dissertation is about the restructuring of a local labour market in the Global South. The central research question asks: how are local labour market processes and their various social outcomes reconfigured by industrial restructuring? On the ground, this meant asking: what are the ongoing labour market consequences for workers and the geographies they make? Employing concepts from the theoretical areas of the labour market, labour control, and labour geography, the dissertation pursues these questions by examining the development of the Philippine sugar industry and the evolution of an industrial labour market located in Victorias City in the central province of Negros Occidental. Drawing on analyses of historical documents, interviews, and 10 months of ethnographic research conducted during 2007, the study’s discussion focuses largely on the changing conditions, experiences and activities of the primary workers of the Victorias sugar mill. After identifying the broader regulatory social tendencies related to the economy and labour in Negros over the roughly 150 year history of the industry, I demonstrate how places like Victorias helped drive the wider institutional arrangements of Philippine export dependency and American imperialism during the early and mid twentieth century. As a distinct institutional environment that evolved on the ground, the industrial locality was a place-particular social context inherent to Philippine sugar production during the time of American neo-colonial capital accumulation. With the industry in decline since the mid-1970s, the increasing disintegration of the Victorias labour market during the 1990s and 2000s further signaled major shifts in the structure and distribution of power over sugar as Chinese-Filipino traders and industrialists continued to partially consolidate various areas of the industry. Enduring the retrenchments and the reorganization of their workplace, workers and their families struggled with the new employment conditions. Their efforts to sustain and improve their lives through new livelihood strategies have reshaped the economic landscape in important ways. Besides providing additional contextual variability with which to view the application of theoretical concepts oriented to labour, this study further supplements understandings of capitalism’s uneven development from the post World War II period to the current era of neoliberal globalization.

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Reproducing class In the global labour force : the case of Singapore's division of labour (2011)

This thesis analyzes the reproduction of inequalities within the realm of production within Singapore’s division of labour that relies strategically on migrants for different tasks in the global city. I examine the mechanisms that reproduce class differences within and across labour divisions to illustrate the politics of cosmopolitanism in Singapore. Specifically, I look at workers from different positions within the hierarchical labour force: Bangladeshi migrants who had been working in either construction or marine industries until employment disputes rendered them effectively jobless and homeless; Johorean commuters who cross the international border between Singapore and Malaysia daily to work in low-paid service sector work; and finally, middle-class financial workers who are often seen as the skilled, cosmopolitan faces of Singapore’s economy. I use the extended case method to integrate Marx and Bourdieu’s notions of class to illustrate how inequality is reproduced through social reproduction vis-à-vis people’s access to economic resources. It is about how class is also lived through other constructions– in particular, “the self” and how certain constructions of personhood intersect with and constitute class. Rooted in the division of labour, class is reproduced through processes by which some individuals are denied access to economic and cultural resources because they are not recognized as being worthy recipients. These processes are constituted through both material and symbolic struggles and violence. I aim to unpack the ambiguities and precarities produced through this struggle of classed bodies – desires, hopes, choices alongside hyper-exploitative work conditions and symbolic violence – and through which, identities are formed in the larger social world. I would argue that no matter how ambivalent it appears, class and its reproduction are never free from power-laden processes. I argue that it is through theoretically-informed empirical analyses of processes of class formation that the notion of cosmopolitanism can retain its purchase of understanding work lives in a diverse division of labour.

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The Postdevelopmental State: The Reconfiguration of Political Space and the Politics of Economic Reform in South Korea (2010)

In this dissertation I examine the restructuring of the South Korean developmental state from a strategic-relational perspective sensitive to how the intersection between democratization and neoliberalization has influenced economic reform. In contrast to conventional approaches to developmental states that stress the autonomy of state from society and limit the contingency of social forces seen as affecting developmental strategies, I argue that it is within the reconfigured political space created by democratization, and shaped by the demands of the reform bloc of liberal and progressive forces that effected the democratic transition, that developmental state reform must be situated. This historic bloc has constituted a key support base for reform-oriented governments of Kim Dae Jung and Roh Moo Hyun and supplied these governments with key advisors and politicians. However, under these governments, neoliberal policies have expanded, undermining the hegemony of reform governments and leading to debates within the reform bloc over the character of Korean democratization, and the assertion that substantive, egalitarian demands have been neglected. I examine this assertion through an exploration of relations of coordination and conflict within the integral state (of political society and civil society) around efforts to reform the financial policies of the developmental state, to create institutions of social cooperation, to regulate foreign migrant labour, and to promote economic engagement with North Korea. In each of these case studies I outline areas where demands for economic and social justice have been subordinated to demands for national reunification and neoliberal reform and point to some of the wider implications this process holds for the reform movements and for the politics of democratization. To conclude, I survey some of the more recent transformations of the reform bloc under the conservative government of Lee Myung Bak and point to areas of continued tension that reveal that many of the dilemmas of developmental state reform described in this dissertation continue to persist. These dilemmas constitute a strategic political space that democratic reform projects will have to continue to work through if a substantive alternative to the predicaments of the postdevelopmental state is to be found.

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Relations of power, networks of water : governing urban waters, spaces, and populations in (post)colonial Jakarta (2008)

This thesis documents the genealogy of the development of Jakarta’s urban water supply infrastructure from 1873 (the inception of the first colonial water supply network) to the present. Using an analytical framework of governmentality, supplemented by insights from postcolonial studies and political ecology, the thesis explains the highly unequal patterns of water access in Jakarta as the product of (post)colonial governmentalities, whose relations of power are expressed not only through discursive categories and socio-economic relations, but also through material infrastructures and urban spaces. The thesis presents material from the colonial archives, Jakarta’s municipal archives, and the publications of international development agencies and engineering consultancy firms. This is combined with primary data derived from interviews, questionnaires, and participant observation of the implementation of current pro-poor water supply projects in Jakarta. This data is used to document how water supply is implicated in the discursive and material production of the city and its citizens, and to challenge conventional developmentalist and academic analyses of water supply access. Specifically, a conceptual triad of water, space, and populations – produced through, but also productive of government rationalities – is used to explain two apparent paradoxes: (1) the fragmentation of access in Jakarta despite a century of concerted attempts to develop a centralized system; and (2) the preferences of lower-income households for non-networked water supply, despite its higher cost per unit volume. This analysis hinges on an elucidation of the relationships between urban governance and urban infrastructure, which documents the interrelated process of differentiation of types of water supply, water use practices, populations, and urban spaces from the colonial period to the present. This, in turn, is used to explain the barriers being encountered in current pro-poor water supply development projects in Jakarta. The thesis thus makes a contribution to current academic debates over the ‘colonial present’. The contribution is both theoretical – in the emphasis placed upon the materiality of governmentality – and empirical. Finally, the thesis also makes a contribution to the urban and development studies literatures through its reinterpretation of the urban ‘water crisis’.

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Master's Student Supervision (2010 - 2020)
After the Altepetl: Indigenous struggle and the colonial origins of the modern state in sixteenth century central Mexico (2020)

This thesis examines the contested character of early colonial domination in central Mexico, more specifically, the Valley of Mexico or Anahuac. Informed by critical Marxist and postcolonial state theory, critical race theories, and Nahua epistemology and historiography, I examine the traces left behind by Indigenous politicians, elders, and community leaders by looking at testaments and primordial titles to reconstruct their actions and some of their policies vis-á-vis colonial encroachment. From this perspective, I interrogate approaches to the modern state and colonialism that exclude Indigenous epistemologies and fail to consider racial formations as a crucial aspect of the modern constitution of power relations. I conclude by assessing the impact that this approach to the modern state can have in the understanding of hemispheric and global processes of state formation and the centrality of Indigenous and ‘subaltern’ geographies as embodied, relational, and productive frameworks for the decolonization of state theory.

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Reframing reform: positioning the Chinese economy in the World Bank (2020)

The rise of China as an economic power is one of the defining economic trends of last forty years. There has been considerable academic and policy controversy over the extent to which China’s political economy can be classified as capitalist, resulting, in many instances, in a problematic apriori distinction and separation between state and market. This thesis explores how development economists have managed this distinction through an extended case study of the World Bank. Through a critical discourse analysis of the Bank’s corpus of reports on China, along with a historical analysis of archival material, speeches, and academic journals, this thesis traces the Bank’s policy diagnoses, prognostications, and prescriptions since the late 1970s. Chapter 1 introduces the thesis by situating the role of the World Bank in the international development sector in general, and in China, in particular. Chapter 2 examines the first decade of the World Bank-China relationship. I argue that the Bank deployed the discursive technology of ‘transition’ to reduce the complexities of managing economic policy formulation within a state-socialist framework. Through an examination of industrial, labor, and financial policy discourses, I claim this ‘transition imaginary’ was predicated upon an ascendant hegemony of a neoliberal policy nexus within the Bank, coupled with the use of market-based policy instruments in Chinese economic statecraft. In the 1990s, however, the posited teleology from ‘central planning’ to ‘market economy’ grew unsustainable in the face of post-Soviet collapse and the continuation of state-backed credit provisioning to state-owned enterprises, weakening the dominance of the transition imaginary. Chapter 3 examines the introduction of the ‘gradualist model’ of economic reform in the World Bank in the uncertain geopolitical-economic context of the late 1980s. I argue the contested acceptance of ‘gradualism’ as a distinctive reform model challenged the Bank’s extant ‘shock therapy’ model, but was subsequently articulated into a unified post-Washington Consensus paradigm. Chapter 4 concludes by highlighting the significance of shifting discursive and institutional boundaries between market and plan in the global political economy.

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Current Students & Alumni

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