• Constructed Ignorance and Inevitable Resistance: Our Knowledge of the Clitoris

      Rath, Karly; Department of Sociology
      Drawing on Nancy Tuana’s epistemologies of ignorance, this thesis explores the ways in which ignorance surrounding the clitoris is socially and systemically constructed, and how people with clitorises resist this gendered ignorance. The researcher conducted interviews with nine women and trans people about their sexual body, knowledge of the clitoris and their relationship with their own clitoris. During the in-depth follow-ups, participants were shown an anatomical model of the clitoris and a Cliteracy art mural by Conceptual Artist Sophia Wallace. After all the interviews were transcribed, a thematic analysis was conducted. The findings suggest that ignorance—in the forms of erasure, misrepresentation and dismissiveness—is prevalent in society and participants’ lived experiences. Few knew about the full size and anatomy of the clitoris and those who did learned this information from feminist, sexual education sources online. Participants demonstrated that what they know is primarily from active, self-initiated learning. Most participants indicated that learning about the clitoris is important for experiencing sexual pleasure, which is evident when examining the ways they sought to overcome barriers to learning. While the relationship between pleasure and the clitoris is complex, most participants stated that the organ was central to their experience of pleasure, especially orgasm. Notably, most participants were queer, and many participants expressed the belief that queer people are likely to be more knowledgeable than others about the clitoris. The data is contextualized with explorations of predominant discourses within social spaces such as schools, media and the healthcare system, focusing on aspects like language, school curricula and visual diagrams. The power dynamics and gendered processes behind what is known, and, importantly, what is not known, are explored.
    • Whistleblowing and Moral Dilemmas in Policing: An Analysis of Police Culture and the 'Blue Code of Silence'

      Marshall, Sarah; Department of Sociology
      This thesis explores police officers’ moral experience with the ‘blue code of silence’ and whistleblowing relating to corruption, misconduct and abuses of civilians. The interview responses of five (5) Canadian police officers is presented and examined using a meta-analytical approach of symbolic interactionism and critical discourse analysis to explain the perspectives, experiences and decisions of the officers interviewed. The thesis seeks to understand the tension between proactive policing which contributes to abuses, misconduct and moral conflicts with respect to the right of the civilians to effect democratic control of police. The thesis examines the narratives of interviewees sustained by the assumptions that: a) the state monopolizes the legitimate use of force; b) bureaucracies thrive on secrecy, the protection of their members and the exclusion of ‘outsiders’; and c) discretionary authority and power tends to corrupt. Sustained by the assertion that all organizations are hierarchical, the thesis draws on Howard Becker (1967), Alvin Gouldner (1968) and Alexander Liazos (1972) to critically assess how the administrative, disciplinary and policy-makers (the “top dogs”) reflect on factors involved in abuse, misconduct, the ‘blue code of silence’ and whistleblowing. The major findings from the interviews with current and former police officers range from tactics of dissociation and denial, ‘neutralization’ techniques, rejection of policing, moral objection to covert and overt abuses and corruption in policing and enforcement of minor drug laws. Of requests for interviews with nine (9) “top dogs” (political, administrative and investigative bodies) that set policy and hold police organizations accountable, only Mr. Gerry McNeilly, director of the Office of the Independent Police Review Board (OIPRD), agreed to be interviewed. In general, “top dogs” deflected, avoided scrutiny and visibility or were contradictory and evasive about the realities of the ‘blue code of silence’. This thesis aspires to increase public understanding of policing and to facilitate strengthening accountability and democratic restraints on the institution of policing.
    • Doing what ‘Works Best’: Exploring the Narratives of Mothers who Work as Strippers

      Annett, Michelle Lesley; Department of Sociology
      Despite a large body of research exploring the experiences of working mothers today, there is little literature focusing on mothers who take part in stigmatized and unconventional forms of paid labour. Taking up this line of inquiry, my MA thesis project explores both micro and macro-level understandings of the narrated experiences of four women in Canada, who are both mothers and exotic dancers, with the overarching question: ‘how do these women navigate and negotiate their socially constructed identities and practices as both mothers and sex workers?’. This thesis is informed by feminist methodologies and a broad array of literatures on social reproduction, social surveillance of mothering practices, the intensification of mothering, women working in the sex industry, and occupational stigma of exotic dancing. My research consisted of four semi-structured phone interviews with women in Canada (all in the province of Ontario) who have (either currently or in the past) navigated both roles of mothering and stripping simultaneously. Through my interviews, I explored how the women in my study negotiated the work of social reproduction, the forms of support they had access to, and the barriers they have faced. My findings illuminate that due to limited access to affordable services in Canada, the mothers I interviewed rely on informal assistance from their key supports to provide necessary care work that the mothers could not fulfill due to the responsibilities of their paid work. Mothers also stress the necessity of managing their occupational stigma to comply with dominant ideologies of maternal caregiving by constructing personal communities and adopting techniques of secrecy and trust in order to enhance their ability to combine paid work and unpaid care. Overall my MA thesis offers insight into experiences, supports, and constraints that women face as they navigate the demands of paid labour, domestic work and unpaid caregiving in stigmatized and precarious conditions.
    • Ecotourism and Human-Bear Relations in Ontario: Working for Multispecies Respect and Economic Sustainability

      Readings, Victoria; Department of Sociology
      Relations between northern Ontario’s human communities and black bears have often been violent, and hunting is promoted for economic and “safety” reasons. The Ontario spring bear hunt was previously banned but was recently reinstated, compounding concerns about human-bear conflict and bear management. Today, both human-bear conflict and the stagnation of the northern economy continue, despite increased killing of black bears in the spring hunting season. This thesis considers alternatives to the hunting of bears. Specifically, it assesses bear viewing programs and the added benefits of collaborative environmental agreements and accreditation programs. I explore the potential of these alternative programs to address human-bear conflict, to benefit local settler and indigenous communities, and to reduce resource exploitation in northern Ontario. The thesis is driven by two research questions: (i) what ecotourism policies, strategies, and programs are the most viable for Ontario? (ii) Which policies or programs offer the most potential for fostering solidarity within and across species, as well as economic, social, political, and environmental benefits for northern Ontario communities? I consider these questions by utilizing a combination of targeted, semi-structured interviews and a multispecies reimagining of an Intersectionality-Based Policy Analysis (IBPA) framework. Three industry specialists were interviewed in order to interrogate the policy benefits and limitations of the Great Bear Rainforest Agreement, as well as bear viewing programs within the McNeil River State Game Sanctuary, Khutzeymateen Grizzly Bear Sanctuary, and the Great Bear Rainforest. I argue that these programs offer important lessons and models that should be utilized and imitated in northern Ontario in order to transform interspecies relations and mitigate ongoing conflict. The results confirm the educational, cultural, and economic value and importance of guided bear viewing and accompanying habitat protection. This study also reveals areas of possibility and incentive for locales seeking to transition into ecotourism.
    • "It's a Privilege": A Critical Examination of University Students' Perspectives of Animal Experimentation Pedagogy in Canada

      Interisano, Alaina; Department of Sociology
      Animal experimentation is a controversial practice that persists in university education, despite the many available alternatives to effectively replace animal models. This thesis examines Brock University students' perspectives and educational experiences of animal experimentation, to understand how students make sense of this practice as a part of their education. This research consists of six in-depth interviews with Brock University undergraduate students who engaged in animal experimentation. The results show that students' experiences of animal experimentation pedagogy have greatly influenced their attitudes and perceptions of this practice, and have instilled in them an acceptance and perceived necessity of animal models. Most notably, students explicitly highlight their instructors as highly influential in shaping their acceptance and engagement in animal experimentation. The thesis concludes with an exploration of non-animal alternative methods to emphasize how principles of humane education can be used to foster more compassionate human-animal relations.
    • Control by Proxy: The Regulation of Indigenous Peoples and Settler Labour via Canadian Anti-Sex Work Laws, 1865-2016

      Kobryn-Dietrich, Tierney; Department of Sociology
      This study examines Canada’s history of anti-sex legislation from 1865 to 2016 and demonstrates that these laws exist primarily to maintain the ideological boundaries between whiteness and indigeneity. The study forwards a theory that accounts for the ways in which anti- sex work legislation assists in a) the appropriation of land through the removal and/or isolation of indigenous peoples and b) maintaining hegemonic control over settler labour. To this end, three time periods are identified in which violent settlement and the production of white, middle- class personhood were features of the regularization of capitalist-colonial rule, and where anti- sex work laws played a vital role in the management of instabilities manifested by indigenous activism and labour discontent: the consummation of the Canadian colonial system (1850 - 1900), industrialization (1900 - 1920) and neoliberalism (1970s - current). By examining the cur- rent and historical legislative framework regulating sex work, this study aims to demonstrate how both the legal framework and its enforcement act as proxies for controlling land and labour.
    • A Preventative Intervention: Staff Experiences Providing Harm Reduction in the Niagara Region

      Omiecinski, Mark; Department of Sociology
      Harm reduction is a pragmatic philosophy and practice within health care which emphasizes disease reduction and social accessibility of health services over law enforcement and judicial punishment for drug use. There is a breadth of literature studying the impact of harm reduction practices on clients, but little on the people who facilitate these services. This project uses a political economy of health theoretical approach to examine the role of harm reduction and harm reduction workers within neoliberal state frameworks. Using an interpretive-critical analysis of qualitative interviews, this project highlights an NEP servicing the Niagara Region as a site of resistance to neoliberal restructuring which is also constrained by its policies. By providing public health care and referral to external resources such as housing, the site acts as a form of retrenchment from the neoliberal state while still being hindered by precarious labour and austerity policies in relation to funding. A key finding is that workers engage in emotional labour, boundary negotiation, and debriefing to offset burnout to better perform their labour, which is an unspoken but necessary part of the job. The findings of this research lay the foundation for future research in harm reduction labour and operation as well as emphasizing the blend between service and health care work that is necessary for effective harm reduction practice.
    • With Care and Deliberation: Prairie Teachers go to Work

      Ensslen, Christine; Department of Sociology
      At the turn of the 20th century, people from select European countries were invited to homestead in the province of Saskatchewan, Canada. The provincial Department of Education had two goals: assimilating the children of these immigrants into Anglo-Saxon cultural traditions and sourcing teachers with the appropriate values to do so, however, they had very few ways of measuring how and if teachers were fulfilling their goals. This thesis examines a group of Saskatchewan women teachers who utilized the opportunity to write their life stories to establish themselves as dedicated, hardworking professionals. I explore how these women characterized their teaching practices as part of a larger enterprise of creating solid citizens. The thesis is centered around two research questions: (i) how did a particular group of Saskatchewan women teachers utilize their personal histories and supplementary documents to counter the ideal of male teacher? (ii) how did these women’s classroom practices and goals facilitate the process of “Canadianizing” rural immigrant students? I explore these questions through a combination of feminist historiography and narrative analysis as ways of studying women’s stories and ‘documents of life’ (Plummer, 2002, Stanley, 2013) and the socio-cultural contexts within which they were embedded, I argue that these teachers chose examples from their own lives to illustrate women as legitimate, serious, hardworking teachers. These women consciously participated in the Saskatchewan Department of Education’s project of Canadianizing immigrant children. Furthermore, as they were aware that they were responsible for imparting more than reading, writing and arithmetic they also sought to inculcate values and moral characteristics that they personal felt were important for these children to learn.
    • “By talking about it we can make it a positive thing”: Autistic people negotiating identity and understanding in discursive contexts

      Monroe, Hannah; Department of Sociology
      Broderick and Ne’eman write that in the early 2000s autism took hold of “the public imagination internationally” becoming a “popular cultural obsession” (2008:462). Autistic people are discursively constituted within this cultural context. My goal in this research has been to better understand the dominant and counter discourses constituting autism, how young autistic people themselves embody discursive locations throughout their lives, and how they negotiate the intelligibility of their subject positions. Previous research has looked at how autistic people negotiate diagnoses, whether they feel understood, the discursive positions they embody, and how discourse constitutes their subjectivities. Using a qualitative exploratory research design, I conducted semi-structured interviews with four individuals, ages 22, 23, 23, and 26, who identified as having been labelled as autistic at some point in their life, either by themselves through a self-diagnosis or by a medical professional. I employed thematic analysis and emerging themes were: Diagnosis, Intelligibility, Terminology, Medicalization, Identity, Life Course, and Internalizing Responsibility. This research is significant in its contribution to representations of autistic people’s perspectives. It focuses on people in their 20s and people who do not have formal diagnoses, who have been underrepresented in research. The present research also builds on previous literature by addressing when autistic people lack language to talk about oppression, how they internalize responsibility for social interactions, and their reflections on their futures.
    • Experiences of YMCA Day Camp Counsellors and their Perceptions of Youth

      Webster, Amy; Department of Sociology
      A large body of research examines the benefits of youth programming for children and their families, yet there is limited research that specifically focuses on day camps and the experiences of camp counsellors. My MA thesis explores the experiences of YMCA day camp counsellors and their perceptions of the children with whom they work. More specifically, I explore how camp counsellors perceive campers’ strengths, assets, and home life, the extent to which camp counsellors impose neoliberal values onto youth, and the social and developmental benefits of the camp experience for both campers and counsellors. Drawing on social capital theory (e.g., Putnam, 2000), Tara Yosso’s (2005) concept of community cultural wealth, and the “multiple worlds” model of Phelan et al. (1991), this thesis was undertaken with two broad objectives: (1) to understand the broader ideological forces that inform youth programming and the implications for creating an inclusive and equitable camping experience for diverse populations of young people; and (2), to illuminate the ways in which campers and counsellors benefit from participation in camp from a social and psychological standpoint. The study is informed by qualitative interviews with eight study participants who were previously employed as YMCA day camp counsellors for a minimum of one full summer. Semi- structured interviews were utilized to elicit camp counsellors’ experiences along with their perceptions of youth and youth programming. These interview data are triangulated with my personal experience as a YMCA day camp counsellor. My findings highlight the drive and dedication that camp counsellors have to bettering the lives of the children they worked with. In addition, the study spotlights the ways in which youth programming is informed by the dominant neoliberal ideology. Despite the noble intentions of camp counsellors, this can result in a camping experience where neoliberal values are imposed on diverse populations of youth with i little consideration of the unique challenges that might inform resistant attitudes, or the strengths and assets that marginalized youth produce within their families and communities. In spite of these limitations and concerns, camp functions as a space where campers and counsellors have the opportunity to build constructive forms of bridging and bonding social capital. Lastly, I argue that camp has a vital role to play in an age of helicopter parenting where interaction by way of electronic devices has largely supplanted face-to-face interaction. In short, this thesis reveals both the shortcomings and benefits of the day camp experience, and unveils the complexities and challenges associated with youth programming in an increasingly diverse and unequal society.
    • Environmental Justice Activism in Context: A Case Study of the Center on Race, Poverty, and the Environment in Kern County, California

      Constantine, Moe; Department of Sociology
      Kern County, California is home to some of the worst environmental health conditions in the United States and to one of the oldest and most active chapters of the environmental justice movement (EJM) in the country, known as the Center on Race, Poverty, and the Environment (CRPE). The region, which is characterized by conservative politics, oil and agricultural production, and a long history of farm labor organizing, constitutes a challenging context for CRPE activism that attempts to address the many environmental injustices residents face. Drawing from semi-structured interviews with nine CRPE members, this thesis analyzes how CRPE navigates the historical, social, and political context in which it operates. Its strategies and goals, which center relationship-building and procedural justice, are influenced by and respond to Kern County’s particular social and political dynamics. Analyzing the contours of CRPE’s activism contributes to a greater understanding of how the organization conceptualizes and enacts 'environmental justice' (EJ) (in relation to how it is understood and deployed in different contexts), and how its EJ activists instigate change through their ability to successfully navigate the complexities of the context within which they are situated. How EJ activists negotiate politically conservative contexts to achieve some measure of environmental justice is not well understood in the EJ literature, so I pay particular attention to how Kern County’s conservatism shapes CRPE’s work.
    • Dialectical Naturalism: Studies in Marxist Social Ontology

      Hayslip, Tim; Department of Sociology
      This thesis develops the thought of Marxist philosopher Evald Ilyenkov. Ilyenkov is notable for his efforts to challenge Soviet orthodoxy by locating ‘ideality’ within a classically Marxist, materialist ontology. The main argument presented here is Ilyenkov’s interpretation of Marx is one that can be constructively employed in debates within contemporary sociology and social theory. Ilyenkov’s framework is developed over the first three chapters. The second half of the introduction critiques the orthodox interpretation of the famous base – superstructure metaphor, arguing that it should be understood as referring to both the natural processes through which the human species develops its understanding of the world and how these understandings evolve as humans transform the world. The second chapter concerns Ilyenkov’s description of the philosophical development that led from Kant’s ontological dualism which recognized the importance of an ‘intellectual war’ to the advancement of science through Fichte’s individualistic but dialectical ontology to Hegel’s dialectical-idealist monism. The third chapter locates Ilyenkov’s ‘ideality’ within the Marxist social ontology of Murray Smith. This framework is then used to explore and critique the methodological development of a social scientist who moved from a ‘radical social constructionist’ position to a project of synthesizing discrete ‘social’ and ‘natural’ factors over the course of his career. The fourth chapter locates and describes the role of Ilyenkov’s ‘ideality’ within the history of global economic development and argues that a form of class warfare from above will persist into the future. The fifth chapter compares and contrasts Ilyenkov’s ‘ideality’ and Durkheim’s ‘conscience collective’. As both concepts represent attempts to describe similar but often misunderstood phenomena, they evince definite parallels but Ilyenkov’s ‘ideality’ seems more comprehensive and its location within a Marxist framework offers much greater explanatory potential than Durkheim’s system. In particular, Marxism better explains the limitations of the postwar effort to construct a more humane capitalism. The concluding chapter reviews the preceding chapters and ends not with a prediction of a utopia to come but with an optimistic call for the development of a revolutionary leadership capable of leading humanity’s creation of a socialist society.
    • Beyond Drugs and Crime: Services Needed for Formerly Incarcerated Men in Cape Breton

      Morrison, Kirk; Department of Sociology
      This research is an institutional ethnographic exploration of the reentry of formerly incarcerated men who use illicit drugs in the Regional Municipality of Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. Formerly incarcerated drug users in Cape Breton have few resources available to them as they attempt to adjust to life outside prison. Facing many obstacles, they often find themselves vulnerable to denial of services, homelessness or substandard housing, social isolation and stigmatization, and, ultimately, reincarceration. Beginning with experiences as reported in interviews of previously incarcerated male drug users, as well as staff members of a local harm reduction organization, I identify the range of challenges men experience post-incarceration and how best to meet their needs. Drawing on the men’s vision for effective service provision and safer drug use policies, I make policy recommendations that will facilitate inclusion and effective reentry into society. My guiding questions are: What challenges and obstacles do men face after release? How effectively do men access welfare state services, employment, and housing and what are the specific barriers to access? What broad changes are required to avoid reincarceration and truly support the needs of illicit drug using men?
    • Breaking the silence: Exploring women's experiences of the #MeToo movement

      O'Halloran, Olivia; Department of Sociology
      The #MeToo movement encourages breaking the social silence about sexual violence online; survivors share their experiences of sexual violence under the hashtag #MeToo across social media platforms, joining with other survivors in a network of empowerment, resistance, and empathy. This thesis focuses on women’s participation in #MeToo through their video blog (vlog) postings on YouTube. I analyze 12 of the most viewed vlogs posted on YouTube under #MeToo between September 19th, 2019, and September 19th, 2020, addressing how women in this online forum represent their experiences of sexual violence, silencing, and participation in the #MeToo movement. Particularly, I investigate the affordances of participation that these women identify, as well as how they represent the #MeToo movement’s goals, what drawbacks they experience in relation to breaking the silence, and how they imagine their experiential narratives may affect other survivors of sexual violence. Through their detailed testimony on YouTube, vloggers voice and resist the structures that silenced them while encouraging other survivors to recognize and resist these structures in their own experiences. Analyzing these vlogs contributes to a greater understanding of how individual women think and feel about the #MeToo movement as they interact under the hashtag on YouTube, an online domain that is currently under-represented in research on digital feminist social movements.