Hauntings: Representations of Vancouver's disappeared women

  • Author / Creator
    Dean, Amber R
  • 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.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Fall 2009
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Doctor of Philosophy
  • DOI
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.
  • Language
  • Institution
    University of Alberta
  • Degree level
  • Department
  • Supervisor / co-supervisor and their department(s)
  • Examining committee members and their departments
    • Heyes, Cressida (Philosophy)
    • Zackodnik, Teresa (English and Film Studies)
    • Read, Daphne (English and Film Studies)
    • Gunew, Sneja (English and Women's Studies, University of British Columbia)
    • Rak, Julie (English and Film Studies)
    • O'Driscoll, Michael (English and Film Studies)