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Hauntings: Representations of Vancouver's disappeared women Open Access


Other title
Public Mourning
Missing Women
Downtown Eastside
Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
Dean, Amber R
Supervisor and department
Read, Daphne (English and Film Studies)
Rosenberg, Sharon (Sociology)
Examining committee member and department
Read, Daphne (English and Film Studies)
O'Driscoll, Michael (English and Film Studies)
Heyes, Cressida (Philosophy)
Rak, Julie (English and Film Studies)
Zackodnik, Teresa (English and Film Studies)
Gunew, Sneja (English and Women's Studies, University of British Columbia)
Department of English and Film Studies

Date accepted
Graduation date
Doctor of Philosophy
Degree level
In this dissertation I examine representations of the events surrounding the disappearance and murder of women from Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, in the interests of animating a sense of implication in these events among a wider public. To do so, I build on theoretical concepts developed in the work of Avery Gordon, Judith Butler, and Wendy Brown, namely the notions of hauntings, grievability, and inheritance. My approach to knowledge production builds upon Avery Gordon’s theorizing about the significance of hauntings in particular. Following Gordon, I argue that while the women disappeared from Vancouver are no longer physically “there” in the Downtown Eastside, they do indeed maintain what Gordon describes as a “seething presence” in Vancouver (and beyond), one that suggests matters of some urgency for contemporary social and political life, and so my research traces those presences as they have arisen through my engagement with a variety of cultural productions (including documentary film, photography, journalism, art, and poetry). Building on insights from each of the three theorists listed above, I argue that ethical encounters with the ghosts of the women who have been disappeared require rethinking conventional ways of understanding the relationships between self/other and past/present/future. Because the women disappeared from the Downtown Eastside are disproportionately Indigenous, I begin by investigating how histories of colonization, and in particular the frontier mythology so commonplace in western Canada, are implicated in these contemporary acts of violence. I argue that conventional understandings of space, temporality, and history are inadequate for understanding these events in all of their complexity. From there, I investigate how and why the women were initially cast, in a variety of representations, as living lives that many assumed could not be widely recognized through the framework of what Judith Butler has coined a “grievable life.” And finally, I ask after what kind of memorial practices might be most capable of hailing an “us” into relations of inheritance with the women who have been disappeared - such relations, I argue, are a necessary part of reckoning with our individual and collective implication in the disappearances of women from the Downtown Eastside.
License granted by Amber Dean ( on 2009-08-18T15:00:52Z (GMT): Permission is hereby granted to the University of Alberta Libraries to reproduce single copies of this thesis and to lend or sell such copies for private, scholarly or scientific research purposes only. Where the thesis is converted to, or otherwise made available in digital form, the University of Alberta will advise potential users of the thesis of the above terms. The author reserves all other publication and other rights in association with the copyright in the thesis, and except as herein provided, neither the thesis nor any substantial portion thereof may be printed or otherwise reproduced in any material form whatsoever without the author's prior written permission.
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