Associate Professor

Laura Janara (Ph.D. Minnesota) is a political theorist who works through historical texts of Western political thought, especially early modern and modern, and through contemporary critical social and political theory. Her work is historically grounded, and attends to: language and symbolism as terrains of politics; gender and other axes of identity-based power and the constitution of subjectivity; nonhuman life and questions about nonhuman animals, plants and seeds against the backdrop of capitalism, democracy and colonialism; Tocqueville and nineteenth-century French and American political discourse; Machiavelli and the Renaissance in Italy and England; John Locke and England’s seventeenth-century revolution.

Her interest in language and symbolism, and specifically in gendered and familial thinking, is captured in her first book, Democracy Growing Up: Authority, Autonomy and Passion in Tocqueville’s Democracy in America, which received the American Political Science Association’s Foundations of Political Thought Best First Book Award, 2002-03.

Professor Janara is interested in supporting graduate research that pertains to (early) modern and contemporary Western and critical political thought. Her approach to political theory is critical and historicist/genealogical. Particular areas of expertise include language, metaphor and symbolism in political discourse; gender; Tocqueville, Machiavelli and Locke; questions of (human and nonhuman animal) subjectivity; posthumanism and the governance and colonization of animals, plants and seeds; nonhuman animals in democracy.

Recent and current doctoral supervision:

• Katrina Chapelas (supervisor): the formation of identities through strategic political action; Vancouver historical cases

• Derek Kornelsen (committee member): postcolonial citizenship

• Sean Gray (committee member): silence and democratic citizenship

• Jonathan Tomm (committee member):

• Sarah Pemberton (PhD 2011) (co-supervisor): a comparative historical/theoretical study of prisons in England, Wales and the US concerned with racialization, gendering and Foucault

• Francois de Soete (PhD 2010) (committee member): a comparative historical/theoretical study of conceptualizations of animals

• Laura Montanaro (PhD 2010) (committee member): self-authorizing representatives, legitimacy and accountability

• Fiona Macdonald (PhD 2007) (committee member): the welfare state, privatization and First Nations autonomy

• Rita Dhamoon (PhD 2005) (committee member): critical analysis of “multiculturalism” and the historical processes of identity formation

Recent and current MA thesis supervision:

• Andrew Peng (2008): Hobbes on the ancients and speech

• Kyla Reid (2007): indigenous scholarship and democratic theory on self-government

• Menaka Philips (2006): Rawls’s political and metaphysical self

• Mark Willson (2005): Speech and the body in contemporary democratic theory

• Francois de Soete (2004): Police power, Althusser, Fanon, Foucault

• Ashleigh de Soto (2004): Foucault, bodies and branding in late capitalism

Killam Teaching Prize recipient, University of British Columbia, 2011.

Professor Janara’s book Democracy Growing Up: Authority, Autonomy and Passion in Tocqueville’s “Democracy in America”:

• received the American Political Science Association’s Foundations of Political Thought prize for Best First Book, 2002-03

• was a finalist for the Canadian Political Science Association’s C.B. Macpherson Prize, Best Book in Political Philosophy, 2002-04

Professor Janara’s article “Democracy’s Family Values” won the John McMenemy Prize for the best article published in the Canadian Journal of Political Science in 2002.


Democracy Growing Up: Authority, Autonomy and Passion in Tocqueville’s ‘Democracy in America’, Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 2002.


“John Locke’s Kindred Politics: Phantom Fatherhood, Vicious Brothers and Friendly Equal Brethren,” History of Political Thought XXXIII:3 (Autumn 2012): 455-89.

“Tocqueville, Alexis de,” The Encyclopedia of Political Thought,eds. Michael Gibbons, Diana Coole, William E. Connolly, Elisabeth Ellis (Oxford: Wiley Blackwell, 2012).

“Alexis de Tocqueville,” The Wiley-Blackwell Companion to Major Social Theorists, eds. George Ritzer, Jeffrey Stepnisky (Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2011).

Review of Jon Elster’s Alexis de Tocqueville: The First Social Scientist, in Political Theory (2011).

“Machiavelli: Existential, Aesthetic, Enamored,” Political Theory 36:1 (February 2008): 161-67.

“Machiavelli, Elizabeth I and the Innovative Historical Self: A Politics of Action, not Identity,” History of Political Thought XXVII:3 (Autumn 2006): 455-85.

“Brothers and Others: Tocqueville and Beaumont on U.S. Genealogy, Democracy and Racism,” Political Theory 32:6 (December 2004): 773-800.

Reprinted in modified form in Racially Writing the Republic, eds. Bruce Baum and Duchess Harris (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2009).

“Democracy’s Family Values: Tocqueville on Anxiety, Fear and Desire,” Canadian Journal of Political Science, XXXIV:3 (Sept 2001): 551-78.

Reprinted in modified form in Feminist Interpretations of Alexis de Tocqueville, ed. Jill Locke (University Park, Penn: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2009).

“Commercial Capitalism and the Democratic Psyche: Desire, Anxiety and Tocquevillean Citizenship Under Siege,” History of Political Thought, XXII:2 (Summer 2001): 317-50.