Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Degree

Doctor of Philosophy

Program

Women's Studies and Feminist Research

Supervisor

Wayne Martino

2nd Supervisor

Goli Rezai-Rashti

Joint Supervisor

Abstract

I seek to contribute knowledge about girls’ embodied sense of agency, as well as to provide empirical insights into anti-violence community programming. Rather than a focus on girls as victims, I want to illuminate the conditions of possibility for girls’ exercise of agency. Working with a feminist post-structuralist framework, and drawing heavily on Judith Butler (1990; 1997), I ask: How does anti-violence programming impact girls’ sense of themselves as agential subjects rather than victims, and, hence, as capable of exercising agency in their subjectivization? Which conceptions of agency do girls mobilize, and how do certain identity categories come to bear on how they understand their agency? I understand that existing literature offers little opportunity for “girls to be a part of the production of knowledge regarding their own lives” (Hussain et al. 2006). As such, my methodology centers on girls’ voices, using focus groups to engage 13 girls aged 16-21, who took part in an anti-violence program offered through a community centre located in a mid-sized city in South Western Ontario. While I did not set out to specifically study the experiences of teen mothers, it became an important focus of the data analysis as 5 of the girls were teen mothers.

One significant finding from this research is that the girls tended to experience agency or made sense of their agential capacities in terms that are best understood as negotiations between discourses; engaging in certain relations of power in order to frame their own narrative accounts as embodied, gendered and agential subjects. My research contributes to an understanding of how girls experience subjectivizing power within the context of a community anti-violence programming initiative, and has created space for locating ways in which girls are doing ‘girl’, how they are thinking about and engaging with the discourses on girl, and how this feels agential.