UBC Theses and Dissertations

UBC Theses Logo

UBC Theses and Dissertations

Race states of concern : juridical publics and the localization of race in Vancouver and Chicago Buffam, Hamish Victor Bonar


In post-industrial cities, race mediates the administration of law, shaping how certain behaviors, places, and populations are regulated by state and public actors. Yet, race does not have a single juridical guise across these cities, having acquired multiple forms across urban spaces in different regional and national contexts. This dissertation examines how racial relations of power are recreated through localized discourses of crime that govern minority groups in two urban centres: African American populations in Chicago and South Asian populations in Vancouver. Through a comparative analysis of legal and media texts published on each of these populations, I illuminate the disparate racial logics, sentiments and practices that mutate through these cities’ divergent histories of urbanization, industrialization, and empire. The historical, social and political differences between Chicago and Vancouver pose methodological problems for comparisons intent on causal explanation. To consider the mutability of race across geography and population, I formulate an “awkward” mode of comparison that offers new insights into how race is materialized through the unique socio-historical conditions of urban centres. This awkward comparison reveals how racial knowledges of blackness travel across regional and national contexts, shaping how African American and South Asian populations are intelligible to legal and public actors. By examining how the homes of these populations are subject to racial practices of scrutiny and surveillance, this dissertation also highlights the gendered configurations of the family that warrant the racial exercise of law. Finally, this dissertation considers the public inquiries into police torture in Chicago and the Air India Bombing in Vancouver to illustrate how the inaction of state officials can manifest racial conditions of violence. Through each aspect of this comparison, this dissertation demonstrates how public concerns about crime can extend and intensify the racial force of law.

Item Media

Item Citations and Data


Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International