Doctor of Philosophy in Interdisciplinary Studies (PhD)
Ritual as Praxis: The Responsibility of the Activist in the Face of Genocide
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Dissertations completed in 2010 or later are listed below. Please note that there is a 6-12 month delay to add the latest dissertations.
No abstract available.
The most urgent ethical task in the face of genocide is the demand to stop it. But how can the seeming moral clarity of opposition to genocide be reconciled with the failure of adequate political responses? I begin by problematizing the demand and response through the lens of the Save Darfur movement that mobilized millions of people against genocide in the 2000s, and which I suggest articulates the ethical and political challenges at the core of genocide research and its goal of prevention. Within current models of anti-genocide activism, the response remains problematically restricted to the execution of international legal principles and attempts to persuade politicians in powerful countries to “do the right thing” and intervene. In this dissertation, I argue that the ethical demand to stop genocide calls us to imagine anti-genocide activism otherwise.To this end, I retrace the activist call of “never again” to its roots in the Shoah (Holocaust) through theories of witnessing that disturb the positionality of activists in the face of total destruction. The position of the witness clarifies the initial ethical and political challenges of anti-genocide activism as problems of responsibility or the possibility of response. I then conceptualize the gap between the demand and the response as the fault-line of responsibility, which splits open along the faces of ethics and politics. The phenomenological approaches of Emmanuel Levinas and Hannah Arendt make sensible the ethical and political dimensions of responsibility in the full depth of the fault. The tension I stress in the faultline thus resists totalizing narratives of salvation on the one hand, and dehumanizing instrumentalization of restrictive concepts on the other. In the gap of the faultline, questions of judgement and justice open up as situated, contingent, and pluralistic. Attending to the irreducible gap maintains the possibility of response without yielding answers; instead, the separation of the ethical call to respond from political action opens the space and time for a ritualized, collective movement that can take us from thinking to action and back again: praxis. The task at hand is to prepare anti-genocide activists for the restlessness of the questions.
Theses completed in 2010 or later are listed below. Please note that there is a 6-12 month delay to add the latest theses.
Consent and the communication of consent, particularly in intimate person-to-person contexts, has come to the forefront of mainstream cultural discussions since the emergence of the #MeToo movement in 2017. Contact improvisation (CI) communities have also seen a rise in discussions around consent. Across Canada, these discussions have resulted in guidelines, practices, and further discussions, with the intention of clarifying the inherently messy boundaries around embodied negotiations of consent. Despite the conversations, no studies have directly inquired into the practices of nonverbal consent within a CI dance.To better understand individuals' lived experiences of communicating and embodying consent nonverbally in CI, I employ a phenomenological lens. The works of phenomenologists James Mensch (2009), Max van Manen (1989; 1999; 2006; 2014), and Maurice Merleau-Ponty (1968; 2013) guide my theoretical lens and methodology. A video-recorded dance jam, one-on-one interviews, and personal reflections inform a descriptive exploration of the nuances in signification and negotiation of nonverbal consent on the dance floor. By comparing participants' experiences of a jam and exploring moments of consent negotiation through video clips and interviews, participants’ experiences and perceptions illuminate how consent is understood and communicated nonverbally in the moment-to-moment negotiations of each co-created dance. Instances of negotiation brought to the forefront were those involving initiating, exiting, risk, play, stillness, and intimacy. Sensuous and descriptive moments of the dance bring to life the complexities, challenges, and joys of the participants’ lived experiences of consent. Findings from this study could be used to inform further research on the nonverbal communication of consent, both in CI and other relevant fields.
Learning disabilities (LD) constitute the most diagnosed disability in Canada with estimated rates greater than 3% of all students. LDs vary in severity and impact individuals differently across areas depending on the person’s experiences, personality and given supports inside and outside of the classroom. Self-concept is a multidimensional construct defined as a combination of one’s social and academic selves. Self-concept develops and changes across the lifespan and is influenced by positive and negative experiences in one’s life. In individuals with LD, self-concept development is at risk due to the increased difficulties associated with having LD. The middle years are a critical developmental period between the ages of 11-14 years. This time coinciding with adolescence brings about a series of affective, cognitive and behavioural changes. Individuals in the middle years experience extreme physical and hormonal changes, as well as changes in their social support systems. This instability is linked to increased vulnerabilities in LD populations including the development of mental health issues like anxiety and depression. Self-concept development during the middle years in individuals with LD is highly variable and is associated with a multitude of increased risks compared to non-LD populations. Due to the individuality of self-concept development, and the highly personal and varying experiences of individuals with LD during the middle years, this study aims to increase the available knowledge of self-concept development in this population. The use of an Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis framework allowed this study to explore themes relating to self-concept development in middle years students with LDs. Findings suggest that middle year students perceive self-concept and identity development to be directly influenced by their mental health and well-being; community and support services; and experiences surrounding their LD diagnosis. Research findings and their relevance are discussed from both a social and educational perspective.
This thesis will address the difficulties children of newcomer families face as they transition to life in a multicultural country like Canada. As immigrant families represented about 39 percent of total immigrant landings in British Columbia in 2013, there is an increasing need to accumulate knowledge about the development and adjustment of the children from this population. The lives of First Generation immigrant children are marked by dramatic adjustments due to difficulties with language, family dislocation and culture shock. The following will examine the current approach of the BC Ministry of Education in its aim to make newcomer students feel at home- and thus, adjusted. The underlying question of this research investigates whether adjustment should, in fact, be the end goal of newcomers? And what critical aspects of the lifeworld of newcomers are neglected when the aim is to cultivate acculturated individuals? In answering this question, this thesis will first analyze how adjustment is defined in the domains of dominating theories, current research, as well as pedagogical practices geared towards newcomers. It will be illustrated that the majority of studies dedicated to immigrant children has overlooked the emotional experiences in navigating the education system, and has instead opted to measure proficiency in the English language as a marker of adjustment. Yet the struggles of newcomer children run much deeper. In a phenomenological exploration of adjustment and critiquing its necessity as an aim for both policymakers and newcomers, the ideas of three authors, Søren Kierkegaard, Mikhail Bakhtin and Homi Bhabha will shed light on the lifeworld of immigrant children in order to propose a new approach to the recognition of this group. This thesis can enhance the understanding of educational leaders when it comes to addressing diversity in education, for they are in a favorable position to acknowledge the struggles children must face in bridging their past and present experiences, and to incorporate them into strategies to counteract the many negative experiences they may be receiving in education.