Sociology and Anthropology - Theses, Dissertations, and other Required Graduate Degree Essays

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The making of consurbia: Conservation, urbanization, and socio-environmental change in Turkey's Gediz Delta

Date created: 
2020-04-27
Abstract: 

This dissertation examines the processes of socio-environmental change in Turkey’s Gediz Delta—an internationally protected coastal wetland, a traditionally agricultural area, and increasingly an urban development hotspot. Its theoretical insights are drawn from environmental sociology, urban political ecology as well as the studies on the neoliberalization of nature and environmental gentrification. It aims to contribute to the critical understanding of how nature is produced through historically varied and entangled socio-ecological processes. The dissertation explores how social-environmental imaginaries regarding a landscape are produced, contested, and expressed in concrete projects; how social actors interpret, navigate, and participate in socio-environmental transformations; and how conservation policies contribute to a particular form of urbanization in the urban-rural interface. Utilizing the methodological strategies of “incorporated comparison” (McMichael, 1990) and the “extended case method” (Burawoy, 1998), and based on a contextual analysis of texts, ethnographic data, and semi-structured interviews, I discuss the making of delta socionatures in relation to broader historical processes and within the context of the interplay of local and global developments since the 1860s. I particularly focus on the current conjuncture of the neoliberalization of the economy and socio-ecological relations in the post-1980 period. This conjuncture is experienced in the delta through the application of market-oriented wetland conservation policies, the mushrooming of gated communities, and the emergence of a novel peri-urbanity. I introduce and employ the concept of “consurbia” to refer to a peri-urban area which, although demonstrating a heterogonous co-existence of rural, urban, and natural ecosystems, is centred on conservation zones. Demonstrating the switch from a strict preservation model to a market-friendly one in the 2000s, I argue that conservation policies have become the dominant mode of production of space and the driver of urban developments in the delta, including luxury houses, recreational areas, and emerging socio-ecological relationships that privilege the preferences of new-comers at the expense of traditional relationships and practices. I call this process “conservation-led gentrification,” a form of environmental gentrification which describes a social and physical “upgrading” process in line with neoliberal conservation policies. My analysis demonstrates the centrality of socionature-making for capital accumulation processes and urban development models.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Senior supervisor: 
Yildiz Atasoy
Department: 
Arts & Social Sciences: Department of Sociology and Anthropology
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) Ph.D.

Living health and wellness: A story of the conversational interview

Author: 
Date created: 
2019-09-12
Abstract: 

This thesis is an experiment in trying to get to know the conversational interview that follows one researcher’s practice of talking to six women about health and wellness. In “sitting” (Pigg 2013) with this experience I problematize what separates friend from research participant, interview from casual conversation, and theory from everyday knowledge, to show what might be lost when we as ethnographers conscribe to industrial styles of qualitative interviews and research. By sharing my process and the voices of my conversation partners I argue for a renewed awareness of what we as ethnographers might discover when we make space for the people that we interview. I locate this work in conversation with anthropologists in the field who also grapple with questions of positionality and potentiality, including Kathleen Stewart, Sarah Pink, Andrew Irving, João Biehl, and others who focus on affect and the acknowledgement of everyday experiences in ethnographic research and representation.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Senior supervisor: 
Dara Culhane
Department: 
Arts & Social Sciences: Department of Sociology and Anthropology
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) M.A.

Pursuing equity: How women academics are challenging gender norms and (re)shaping university culture in Ghana

Author: 
Date created: 
2019-12-06
Abstract: 

This research focuses on the experiences of women faculty, PhD candidates and administrators, and the courses of action they employ to raise consciousness about systemic gender bias and pursue gender equity. I discuss the methodologies that participants use to overcome barriers and sensitize their social and professional environments to the experiences of women. Using nego-feminist theory and methods, participants initiate critical discourse with family, peers and institutional power holders, encouraging their respective families, colleagues, departments and universities to be gender-sensitive, reshaping their social and professional environments. Moving beyond their own departments, participants circumvent gender labour barriers and engage in collaborative co-development; building formal and informal networks, they effectively (re)create disrupted systems of support, furthering women's professional development. Women academics co-create anti-harassment policies and gender and advocacy centres, changing the institutional structures of their universities as part of their on-going pursuit of equity.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Senior supervisor: 
Ann Travers
Department: 
Arts & Social Sciences: Department of Sociology and Anthropology
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) M.A.

Voices from a buried past: Recovering dis/ability histories through the Woodlands Memorial Garden

Author: 
Date created: 
2019-10-22
Abstract: 

In 2007, the Woodlands Memorial Garden (WMG) was installed in New Westminster, British Columbia, on the site of a long-forgotten cemetery, active between 1920 and 1958, for people diagnosed as mentally “unfit” who were institutionalized at the Public Hospital for the Insane and/or at Essondale Hospital for the Mind (later known as Woodlands and Riverview). Unique in Canada, the WMG recognizes 3200 individuals whose burial places were erased by the provincial government’s removal of gravestones from the Woodlands cemetery in 1976 to transform the site into a “park.” The 2007 installation of a public memorial created not just a material, geographic space for collective recognition and remembrance, but a symbolic, discursive space that prompted individuals to enquire about relatives buried at the site and to explore suppressed family histories related to the history of dis/ability and ableism in BC. Interpreting the WMG as a hybrid counter-memorial, I conducted a collaborative ethnographic study with relatives of people buried at the Woodlands cemetery, engaging in and tracking their research of “lost” family members, inviting responses to the WMG, and co-creating stories, while examining the entanglements between personal, familial, and public remembrance and forgetting. Emerging participant stories addressed the affective, ethical, and sociopolitical dimensions of researching a stigmatized and suppressed family past, while presenting a range of creative strategies for reinstating and including institutionalized relatives in family narratives and the public record. Through storytelling, participants extended the meaning of family advocacy by “rewriting kinship” (Rapp & Ginsberg 2001) across generations of the living and the dead: intervening in family silences, addressing historical erasure, and challenging persistent ableist exclusions in contemporary society. This study offers insights into collaborative ethnographic practice and demonstrates how anthropology can contribute valuable knowledge to disability studies. It contributes to an under-explored area of disability studies – the advocacy and caring role of families in the lives of people with dis/abilities, and their social and political potential. It highlights intersections between colonialism and ableism in dis/ability history and expands historical memory work and commemorative studies by drawing attention to ableism and dis/ability as social justice issues.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Senior supervisor: 
Dara Culhane
Department: 
Arts & Social Sciences: Department of Sociology and Anthropology
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) Ph.D.

"The People's Republic of Mirkwood": Economic subjectivity, utopian practice, and play in an intentional community

Author: 
Date created: 
2019-08-16
Abstract: 

What kinds of spaces do intentional communities create? How do everyday practices and interactions shape the lives of intentional community members? What can their participation in diverse economic practices tell us about contemporary avenues for resisting or subverting capitalist norms? What kinds of subjectivities are formed in such communities? These questions are inspired by theoretical works from scholars such as Ernst Bloch, J.K. Gibson-Graham, Kathi Weeks, and Donna Haraway, but also the everyday practices of becoming in which activists and community builders engage. In this thesis, I explore Mirkwood House members’ experiences “becoming-with” as a community, engaging in diverse economic practices, and building utopian projects. I argue that these experiences reflect those of seriously playful subjects capable of long-term, enduring, dynamic experimentation and creation of other worlds, ones that make utopian projects not only possible, but pleasurable.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Senior supervisor: 
Parin Dossa
Department: 
Arts & Social Sciences: Department of Sociology and Anthropology
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) M.A.

Canadian housing policy as “passive revolution"

Author: 
Date created: 
2019-08-19
Abstract: 

This thesis argues that national housing policy has evolved as a crisis management strategy designed for capital rather than to address the housing needs of the working class. I employ Gramsci’s ‘passive revolution’ in an attempt to show that state intervention in housing mediates the contradictions of capital by restoring the balance of class forces and transforming housing from a ‘public good’ into an ‘investment’ in order to ensure the conditions of accumulation in the housing sector. By analyzing the historical development of the federal government’s housing policy through three phases – the interwar and the postwar regime from 1919-1975, the neoliberal regime from 1975-2008, and the global regime from 2008-2019 – I argue that the chief characteristics of each policy regime were shaped by the instances of passive revolution through which the state reorganizes the regime of accumulation and submerges class conflict. The findings conclude that globalization has rendered national level policies ineffective for managing the global contradictions that define the current housing crisis.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Senior supervisor: 
Gary Teeple
Department: 
Arts & Social Sciences: Department of Sociology and Anthropology
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) M.A.

Negotiating borders: The ‘everyday’ encounters of Black African immigrant caregivers in Vancouver, British Columbia

Author: 
Date created: 
2019-05-22
Abstract: 

Organized around the central question of how transnational migration in a global neoliberal era has left unchallenged the gendered and racialized nature of caregiving work, my dissertation focuses on the experiences of racialized Black African immigrant caregivers in lower mainland Vancouver. In this context, my dissertation evaluates how power relations that are entrenched in social and political constructs of race, ethnicity, class, gender, immigration status etc., - as intersecting networks - administer and reinforce distinctive social inequalities, reproducing hierarchies upon which material and symbolic powers are based. Based on a life-work framework interrogating caregivers’ sense of belonging, my project identifies and discusses border encounters, as described by Black immigrant caregivers. Largely through discursive covert processes and practices, caregivers described being often singled out, and or assigned less desirable or more dangerous work. Caregivers demonstrated these border encounters through stories and narratives that epitomized their “not quite fitting in” and hence, their contradictory sense of belonging and exclusion. Indicative of the liminal experiences that often pervades the lives of racialized immigrants; these border testimonies belied the principles of a pluralistic multicultural Canada. Centered on the lives and material realities of eight respondents, this feminist ethnography was formulated through anti-racist, Black and feminist intersectional theoretical perspectives. Inspired by these theoretical foundations, the study applies the witness accounts of caregivers to explicate how they navigated isolating encounters. Through a critical re-examination of their own history, which caregivers engaged in by re-formulating social and political factors that determined their lives, my dissertation holds that this group of immigrants sought to transform their sense of selves as empowered and active agents in the work spaces they occupied. Although the caregivers employed critical approaches in negotiating contradictory encounters and resisting isolating experiences, this project finds that racialized and ethnicized social identities remained a salient theme in how the respondents interpreted and made sense of their work-related encounters. Thus, my discussion grapples with understanding how sources of, and shifts in, social identities such as race, class, ethnicity, gender etc. – as sites of (dis) empowerment – influence ‘everyday’ lived experience, and how this is negotiated and contested.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Senior supervisor: 
Cynthia Patton
Department: 
Arts & Social Sciences: Department of Sociology and Anthropology
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) Ph.D.

"Institutional childhood: Negotiating identities post-orphanage in Kazakhstan"

Author: 
Date created: 
2019-04-08
Abstract: 

This ethnography is based on 28 interviews with orphanage graduates, orphanage staff, volunteers, NGOs and adoptive parents conducted in February, 2018 in Almaty and Taraz, Kazakhstan. Former President Nazarbayev’s call for deinstitutionalization of orphanages following a similar program in Russia, put orphans and orphanages under the spotlight. However, the increasing number of discussions and public activism around deinstitutionalization of orphanages in Kazakhstan does not adequately address the issues faced by orphanage graduates. Specifically, public discourse still stigmatizes orphans and orphanage graduates as indicated by low adoption rates, and high adoptee return rates. I employ Michel Foucault’s (1975) productivity of power, and Erving Goffman’s (1963) stigma to discuss the effects of institutional childhood and the ways orphanage graduates make sense of their experiences during and post-institutionalization. I argue against criminalizing and victimizing narratives of orphanhood in Kazakhstan, and instead suggest that orphanage graduates can employ strategies to negotiate their identities, and exercise agency in navigating their institutional and post-institutional lives.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Senior supervisor: 
Sonja Luehrmann
Department: 
Arts & Social Sciences: Department of Sociology and Anthropology
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) M.A.

"No somos maquinas" (We aren't machines): Emotional dimensions of precarious labour in the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program

Author: 
Date created: 
2019-04-10
Abstract: 

This study concerns the social and emotional dimensions of Mexican migrant workers’ temporary labour migration experience as they relate to precarity and unfreedom within the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program (SAWP). My principle inquiry centers around understanding migrant workers’ subjective and emotional experiences of being away from home and family. This study makes the case that migration and family separation, as requirements of SAWP employment, are precarious labour conditions that result overwhelmingly in distressing emotional experiences that go unseen in workers’ daily lives. I draw on a deeply qualitative methodological approach and theories of precarity, emotion and practice to explore the ways that SAWP workers navigate their labour migration experience through a series of practices in their daily lives. I conclude by sharing my participants’ recommendations for a more dignified and humanized labour experience and with their insistence that they are not maquinas (machines).

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Senior supervisor: 
Kendra Strauss
Department: 
Arts & Social Sciences: Department of Sociology and Anthropology
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) M.A.

What if there is a cure somewhere in the jungle? Seeking and plant medicine becomings

Author: 
Date created: 
2018-12-10
Abstract: 

This thesis is a critical ethnographic exploration of meanings emerging at the plant-health nexus and the in-between spaces when seekers and healers meet in efforts to heal across epistemological borderlands. In both British Columbia, Canada and Talamanca, Costa Rica I investigated the motivations underpinning seeking trajectories structured around plant medicine and the experiences and critical reflections on these encounters made by healers and people who work with plant medicines. In this dissertation, I expose the contested space around understandings of efficacy and highlight the epistemological politics emphasized by participants who seek to de-center plants in popular therapeutic imaginaries, to bring out these tensions and the way they interpolate ideas about sustainability and traditional knowledge conservation. Field research was carried out in 2013 during a period of one year with the support of an SSHRC Doctoral Fellowship. Over fifty participants who work with plant medicines were consulted for this research, including healers, apprentices, herbalists, ethnobotanists, forestry specialists, and anthropologists of varying backgrounds- Afro-Caribbean, Bribri, Cabécar, Tican, American, Canadian, Hawaiian, and Anishinaabe. Their concerns around the sustainability of traditional healing practices are juxtaposed to the various ways plant medicinal identities are being constituted and instrumentalized, as subjective beings, actants, causal agents, material objects, alkaloids, teachers, relatives, or parts of “nature on the move” (Igoe, 2014). I discuss the way the burgeoning popularity of plant medicine today in some ways challenges the mainstream biomedical paradigm for thinking about medicine, as plants are re-animated with identities adopted from their cultural origins, exemplified with the popularity of ayahuasca in British Columbia. However, there is a proviso in that emerging anthropomorphisms in some instances repeat colonizing gestures even as they reflect agency and counter-hegemonic challenges, by upholding dualisms in understandings of efficacy that separate plants and healing practices from their local contexts. I argue the impactful ways thinking about plant medicine as becoming, as a verb rather than a noun, can support the sustainability of traditional healing practices and economic opportunities for the cottage industry production of plant medicine by de-centering plants in constructions of medicine.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Senior supervisor: 
Marianne Ignace
Dara Culhane
Department: 
Arts & Social Sciences: Department of Sociology and Anthropology
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) Ph.D.