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Thesis defences

PhD Oral Exam - Ardath J. Whynacht, Humanities

Citizens of Nowhere: Diffractive Engagements with Borderline Personality Disorder

Friday, April 7, 2017
1:30 p.m. – 4:30 p.m.

This event is free


School of Graduate Studies


Sharon Carey
514-848-2424, ext. 3802


Henry F. Hall Building
1455 De Maisonneuve W.
Room H 1120



When studying for a doctoral degree (PhD), candidates submit a thesis that provides a critical review of the current state of knowledge of the thesis subject as well as the student’s own contributions to the subject. The distinguishing criterion of doctoral graduate research is a significant and original contribution to knowledge.

Once accepted, the candidate presents the thesis orally. This oral exam is open to the public.


This thesis examines lived experiences with Borderline Personality Disorder through arts-based qualitative research and 'friendship as method'. Rather than treat social experience as distinct from material, or biological realities, the thesis builds on a feminist, new materialist position that resists a division between matter and meaning. A diffractive approach is used to work through problems of representation that divide vision into self/other and to facilitate the emergence of stories along different patterns of relating. Intra-action implies the emergence of experience through and within our entanglements, rather than inter-action, which presupposes the object prior to its relations. Given that women with the diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder (or those with the same grouping of symptoms) are incarcerated at a disproportionately higher rate than those who do not, the thesis also works to move beyond some of the limitations of prison abolitionism and mad studies scholarship, whose social constructionist frame marginalizes emotional experience and fails to reflect the needs or lived experiences of women with the diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder. By diffractively working through the lived experiences of collaborators, the author presents three 'friendship' stories with fictional characters that represent contributions from all participants in the project. These stories help us to imagine ways in which prison abolitionism and mental health advocacy movements can dismantle harmful institutions without relying on discursive structures that marginalize those who are most vulnerable. This thesis seeks to expand abolitionist theorizing, by holding space for critical attention to suffering that emerges intra-actively between and within us.

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