2016 Undergraduate Awards

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The term ‘honour’ is surrounded by ample amounts of cultural anxiety. First appearing in mainstream news media in the early 2000’s, ‘honour’ is a term that has come to be associated with the ‘other’, the ‘third world’, the ‘backwards’ and ‘barbaric’ societies. Perhaps the most important thing about the term ‘honour’ is that it automatically places any honour-related incident in the context of culture. In this paper, I will draw attention to the way in which the West hypocritically cries ‘honour’, pointing a finger at the ‘Third World’, while claiming to have absolved itself of any conceptual form of honour. I examine the ways in which patriarchy is still a problem in the West, but is not often perceived as such. By examining two prominent Canadian tragedies – the suicide of Amanda Todd and the Shafia family murders – I will argue that the West does have an honour code that disproportionately affects the lives of women. I have specifically chosen these cases for the following reasons: they both featured prominently in Canadian news media, they both became ‘hot topics’ of discussion around the same time (Shafia in early 2012 and Todd in the fall of the same year), and lastly because both cases involved young women who were seen to be incongruous with ideals of womanhood and femininity. In comparing the two cases, I will tease out a Western concept of honour. The last sections of this paper will consider what the implications of a Western concept of ‘honour’ would mean when trying to understand whether or not transnational feminism is possible, considering theoretical approaches such as cultural relativism and ethnocentrism.


Regional Winner in the Social Sciences: Anthropology & Cultural Studies category.

Image: "patriarchy" by Charlotte Cooper. Licensed under CC BY 2.0.