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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The biopolitics of normative monogamy : a critical discourse analysis of the polygamy debate and Bountiful, British Columbia Carmichael, Adam Burke


The issue of polygamy has become a political problem in the last twenty years in Canada, and in British Columbia specifically, because of legal ambiguity regarding the constitutionality of Canada's anti-polygamy law. This problem has been approached by academics primarily through a legal negotiation of women's rights versus religious minority rights. Popular polygamy discourse, however, is largely informed by a debate within the print media over core Canadian values regarding sexuality. This thesis examines the unequal power dynamics that serve as the preconditions for this debate and that are reinforced through the discourse. These dynamics form a complex web between various groups such as GLBTQ communities, social conservatives, secular feminists and those practising polygamy. I rely on a genealogical discourse analysis that traces the development of polygamy discourse in the mid-to-late nineteenth century, and the continuity of this discourse in the contemporary debate in Canada. Drawing on a critical analysis of Canadian print media, I argue that the contemporary polygamy debate reinforces a biopolitics of normalization in which a hetero-normative, monogamous and economically productive family unit is privileged at the expense of marginalized sexual-family structures that are characterized as a threat to the national population. I conclude that feminists concerned with equality within polygamous communities should take into account this exclusionary normalization while working against patriarchal forms of polygamy.

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