“If You Don't Have Community, You Fucking Drown In It:” The Governing Logics of Sex Work and Community in Northeastern Ontario

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Van Vliet, Lindy




In this dissertation I explore the complex relationship between the symbols and practices of community and sex work in Northeastern Ontario (NEO). Moving beyond a dichotomous understanding of communities as entirely sites of repression or resistance I instead focus on how two governing logics, settler colonialism and late liberalism, frame sex workers' relationship with, labour within, and struggles against the rationalities of community in NEO. Drawing on the work of settler colonial theorists (Rifkin 2013; Simpson 2016), community studies (Joseph 2002; Defillipis et al 2006), feminist literature (Federici 2010; McKee 2011; Roy 2017; Nunn 2019), and sex work studies (Hunt 2016; Kaye 2017; Mac and Smith 2018; Pratt 2015) I examine the complex web that sex working subjects are produced within, resist, and mediate for their own survival in NEO. While at its face, this dissertation explores the relationship between communities and sex working subjects in Northeastern Ontario, a series of broader questions underlie the study: How are the logics and practices of settler colonialism and late liberalism produced and reproduced in the everyday interactions of subjects in colonial spaces? What are the tensions around community "inclusion" and "exclusion," and what dangers do both control strategies create for oppressed subjects? What does resistance look like if subjects are 'governed through, not in spite of," their freedom (Rose 2000)? How can we understand resistance, and the symbols and practices of community, outside of the dichotomy of cooptation or liberation? Through an exploration of these underlying questions, I argue against theories of governmentality and settler colonialism that adopt "totalizing views of power." Instead I work to make visible how sex working participants in NEO perform alternatives through the performance of responsibilization, acts of space reclamation, and informal community networks (McKee 2011, 1; see also Nunn 2019; Rifkin 2013; Roy 2017). In doing so, I aim to show the "disorderliness of governing" by exploring how sex workers in NEO experience their subjection and the processes of governance (Love, Wilton, and DeVerteiul 2012) and attend to the counter-hegemonic ways through which sex working participants are able to "think and act otherwise" (McKee 2011, 1).


Canadian Studies
Gender Studies
Sociology - Theory and Methods




Carleton University

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Canadian Studies

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Theses and Dissertations

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