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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The (un)making of home, entitlement, and nation : an intersectional organizational study of power relations in Vancouver Status of Women, 1971-2008 Bunjun, Benita


Women's organizing and organizations in North America emerge at historical moments within the larger women's movement across geographies, political climates, and nation formations. Within all movements, the workings of power relations are active, demanding constant negotiations and contestations. This is a case study of one feminist organization, Vancouver Status of Women (VSW). I illustrate the ways VSW challenged, contested, reproduced and reinforced power relations and specifically nation-building discourses. Drawing on both extensive historical archival data and in-depth expert interviews, I engaged in a qualitative case study of VSW's workings of power relations from its inception in 1971 to 2008. I interviewed thirty-one women who worked in some capacity as staff or board members. Archival research involved locating primary documents such as organizational meeting minutes, policies, annual reports, bylaws, newsletters, publications, organizational correspondence, and other relevant documentation. By engaging in an intersectional critical race feminist discourse analysis, I explicate the construction of VSW as home, and demonstrate how nation-building discourses of belonging and entitlement are embedded within this organizational site. Organizational processes and policies indicate the historical trajectory of how, when and who challenged, responded, and reproduced power relations. This study provides several theoretical, methodological, and substantive implications. My research challenges dominant organizational theory's notion that organizations are neutral sites. I argue that organizations are constituted as sites of colonial encounters by demonstrating how power as relational and archival are invoked and deployed in VSW, and some of its effects. I illustrate how VSW is embedded in the colonial archive of the Royal Commission on the Status of Women which reproduced nation-building discourses of essentialism, racialization, and exclusion. The research also offers a conceptualization of power present in organizations while applying Foucault's understanding of power as a network of relations and discourses that circulates as productive. I also present a theoretical framework of the modalities of entitlement embedded in national belonging and accumulated national capital across multiple sites producing the exalted feminist of the nation. Lastly, I propose a more nuanced ethical Affirmative Action Policy based on participants' lessons learnt that shifts beyond tokenism and representation.

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