Kyle Willmott, PhD Sociology

July 20, 2019

The Defence will take place on Wednesday, June 19, 2019 from 1:00 p.m. - 5:00 p.m. in the Library Thesis Defence Room (LIB 2020, Burnaby Campus).

The members on Kyle's examining committee are:

Examining Committee

Chair:  Dr. Pamela Stern, Assistant Professor, Sociology & Anthropology, SFU
Senior Supervisor:  Dr. Jane Pulkingham, Professor, Sociology & Anthropology, SFU
Committee Member:  Dr. Wendy Chan, Professor, Sociology & Anthropology, SFU
Committee Member:  Dr. Dany Lacombe, Professor, Sociology & Anthropology, SFU
Internal Examiner:  Dr. Nicholas Blomley, Professor, Geography, SFU
External Examiner:  Dr. Dale Spencer, Associate Professor, Department of Law and Legal Studies, Carleton University

All are welcome to attend.


Taxpayer Governmentality


This dissertation traces how ‘the taxpayer’ is assembled as a subject for political action on the state and First Nations governments. Theoretically, the dissertation draws on analytics of governmentality which focuses on the multiplicity of non-state elements of governing. I propose the concept taxpayer governmentality to show how ‘taxpayers’ are responsibilized to govern their own political conducts, delimit the scope of the state, and morally scrutineer Others imagined as burdens. The dissertation attends to two key questions: (1) what is the political spirit of the ubiquitous taxpayer? And (2) how is the taxpayer made up as a subject? I argue that while the taxpayer is a mobile political subject, it is animated by liberal critique of state action, and settler colonial entitlement to possession and control of Indigeneity. Further, I argue that technologies of government and surveillance produce putatively objective data about various ‘objects’, which are then packaged by taxpayer groups and rendered intelligible to the imperatives of taxpayers; this includes knowledge derived from public numbers, accounting, auditing, and transparency. In order to show the mobility and range of the taxpayer, the dissertation analyzes two cases, the Metro Vancouver tax plebiscite, and the First Nations Financial Transparency Act. I draw upon analysis of texts, ethnographic data, and a small set of interviews with bureaucrats and taxpayer group activists. In both empirical chapters I show how the taxpayer is differentially constructed as an actor in relation to convergent problematizations. The Metro Vancouver case shows how the taxpayer was mobilized as political adjudicant of the region’s transit corporation through a strategic permanent critique of government and addressed through what I call an economy of evidence. The First Nations Financial Transparency Act chapter examines how two forms of taxpayer subjectivity emerged: First, the settler-taxpayer positioned Indigenous nations as objects to be surveilled, scrutinized, and rendered public property. Second, the Act fostered Indigenous-taxpayer subjectivity, envisioned by Indian Affairs bureaucrats as a method to foster a calculating mentality amongst band members that would redirect political critique to bands, rather than the federal government.

Keywords: governmentality; settler-colonialism; liberalism; state critique; First Nations; taxation