Zoë Gross

PhD Candidate

Email: zoe.gross@mail.utoronto.ca
Office: NC WI 2022

Areas of Interest

  • Critical Whiteness and Race Studies
  • Critical International Development Studies and the White-Saviour Industrial Complex
  • Critical Canadian Studies
  • Gender and Violence 

Biography

Zoë Gross is a Ph.D. Candidate in the Women and Gender Studies Institute at the University of Toronto, where she held a SSHRC Joseph-Armand Bombardier CGS Doctoral Scholarship (2013-2016). Her research program brings together critical discussions of race, whiteness, privilege, and complicity; altruism, ‘goodness,’ ethics, humanitarianism, and the white-saviour industrial complex; international development in East Africa and Canada, and Canadian Studies; transnational feminism and (post)colonial studies; and critical sexuality and queer studies. Zoë’s dissertation, “The Ambivalence of Altruism: White Canadian Women in International Development in East Africa,” draws from four months of fieldwork in Nairobi, Kenya and Kampala, Uganda, including in-depth interviews with 21 white Canadian women working in international development in the region. This project examines the ways in which morality, altruism, and ‘goodness’ are structured as essential transnational performances of this group of development workers as they struggle to uphold, fulfill, embody – and sometimes challenge – normative standards of race, class, gender, and sexuality. 

Program: PhD, 2013

Education

Master of Arts, Carleton University (2011-2013)

Bachelor of Arts (Honours), University of Winnipeg (2007-2011)

Bachelor of Arts, Brandon University (2003-2007)

Dissertation

Title: The Ambivalence of Altruism: White Canadian Women in International Development in East Africa

Supervisor: Marieme Lo

“The Ambivalence of Altruism: White Canadian Women in International Development in East Africa,” examines the experiences of these development workers living and working in Kampala, Uganda and Nairobi, Kenya. Using empirical ethnographic field research conducted in 2015-2016, this project examines the ways in which investments in altruism and ‘doing good’ are structured as essential qualities of these particular development workers as they struggle to uphold, fulfill, and, increasingly, begin to challenge hegemonic understandings of white ‘goodness’ in the development industry. While these development workers are enmeshed within the language and ideology of development work as a colonial continuity, many may also consciously attempt to operate outside of or against these parameters. Indeed, Barbara Applebaum (2010) asks: “What can it mean for white people ‘to be good’ when they can reproduce and maintain a racist system even when, and especially when, they believe themselves to be good?” (p. 5). Indeed, many white development workers believe themselves to be ‘doing good’ despite considerable information to the contrary. I thus approach this inquiry through three primary research questions: (1) How are the subjectivities and lived encounters of white female Canadian development workers structured through (neo)colonial and racialized conceptions of ‘doing good’? (2) How do these development workers simultaneously reinforce and seek to contest hegemonic development narratives?; and (3) How are the subjectivities of these development workers potentially (re)produced and (re)configured through the development encounter in East Africa? 

Presentations

‘Look, a mzungu!’: Exploring White Hypervisibility for White Canadian Women in International Development in Eat Africa. The Women’s & Gender Studies et Recherches Féministes Conference at the Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences 2019, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, June 2019.

(Neo)Colonial Moral Panics in Female Sex Tourism: Teaching ‘Romance’ to Kenyan Beach Boys in Paradise: Love.” The Sex Salon, University of Toronto, March 2017.

Selected Publications

Gross, Z. “Unpacking the Landscape of Female Sex Tourism in Kenya: A Film Analysis of Paradise: Love.” Gender, Place and Culture: A Journal of Feminist Geography. 25(4): March 2018. 

Gross, Z. “(De)Constructing Whiteness and Power in Transnational Interracial Intimacies: International Development and ‘Others’ with Access in East Africa.” Critical Race and Whiteness Studies Journal, Special Issue: White Man’s Burden After ‘Race.’ March 2015. 

Honours and Awards

2014

WGSI Margrit Eichler Student Leadership Award

2013 - 2016

SSHRC Joseph-Armand Bombardier CGS Doctoral Scholarship

2012

SSHRC CGS Michael Smith Foreign Study Supplement

2011-2012

SSHRC Joseph-Armand Bombardier CGS Master’s Scholarship