Re: Reading Ashley Smith: Critically Unpacking Government by Discursive Figures of Ashley as Girl Produced in the Smith Case

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Bromwich, Rebecca Jaremko




In this dissertation, I explore how Ashley Smith has become socially understood as a “case.” I perform a critical discourse analysis of figures of Ashley Smith as technologies of governance. I argue that the Smith case ought not to be read as a case of anomalous system failure but as an extreme, but foreseeable, result of the routine and everyday brutality of a society and bureaucracies’ necropolitical security apparatus. I map a chronological trajectory in which the “official story” of Inmate Smith gives way through the process of celebritization and sacralization of “Child Ashley” to a widely accepted understanding of Ashley Smith as a mislocated mental health subject: “Patient Smith.” This analysis reveals that seeming progressive turn to understanding her as a victim of a failed system of mental health leaves intact, and even reinforces, logics and systems of gender, security, risk, race thinking and exclusion that make her death and the death of other prisoners predictable. I demonstrate how the logics of risk, mental health and legal discourses in the juridical field intersected with discourses of the girl in ways that made alternative readings and Ashley Smith’s own narration of her story illegible and unwritable. Further, I argue that certain operating logics predetermine the labeling of properly constituted adolescent girls’ noncompliance as madness and adolescent boys’ noncompliance as criminality. This analysis further calls into question the foundations of the statistical discrepancy between criminal charge rates for adolescent boys and girls. This dissertation seeks to intervene in these intersecting governmental logics that write “girls in trouble with the law” in particularly damaging ways.


Gender Studies
Criminology and Penology




Carleton University

Thesis Degree Name: 

Doctor of Philosophy: 

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Thesis Degree Discipline: 

Legal Studies

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Theses and Dissertations

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