Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Degree

Doctor of Philosophy

Program

Health and Rehabilitation Sciences

Supervisor

Dr. Debbie Laliberte Rudman

Abstract

Risk and risk-management have become increasingly pervasive features of modern society and governmentality scholars have highlighted various ways risk discourses are taken up to govern citizens and their everyday conduct. Thus, attending to risk is imperative to advance an understanding of how everyday occupation is shaped and governed within contemporary society. Within this study, the example of driving in later life is drawn upon to address two objectives: 1. to advance the understanding of how risk is taken up to govern everyday occupation, and 2. to explicate how risk is taken up in discourses to constitute particular subjectivities and their occupational possibilities.

In North-America, alarmist discourses predict a ‘grey Tsunami’ that will have devastating impacts on social and individual security if governments and individuals do not proactively prepare. Within this context, driving in later life has been problematized as a risky occupation. Consequently, the so-called ‘older driver problem’ provides an example to examine how risk is discursively employed to govern a specific occupation (‘driving’) and to shape a specific occupational subjectivity (‘the aging driver’). A critical discourse analysis (CDA) of information brochures targeting aging drivers and their families in Canada was conducted. Drawing upon governmentality as an analytical lens, the analysis focused on how risk as a rationality and technology was employed to construct the occupation of driving in later life and the subjectivities of aging drivers.

Brochures incorporated a particular rhetorical structure and risk logic that served to construct the occupation of driving in later as a site of governing. The risks of driving in later life were located in the aging body which is constructed as a mis-fit with safe driving, and three knowledge assemblages were employed to forefront a particular ideal aging driver subjectivity, that is a risk-averse ‘activated’ driver. The texts also promoted an array of self-practices as a means to work towards this subjectivity and avoid becoming a risk to self and others. The study raises concerns regarding how risk is employed in neoliberal modes of governing in ways that individualize responsibility for occupation and obscure the social and political shaping of occupation.