Women's gendered experiences of rapid resource development in the Canadian North: new opportunities or old challenges?

  • Author / Creator
    O'Shaughnessy, Sara
  • Rapid resource development in northern and rural Canada is leading to unprecedented social, political, economic and environmental changes in a number of communities. In particular, gendered identities and divisions of labour in northern Canadian communities are poised to be dramatically altered by increasing labour demands, shifting time-use patterns, and intensifying income inequalities. Through a feminist poststructuralist discourse analysis of print media coverage of gendered issues in Fort McMurray, and semi-structured interviews with thirty-two women working in either the male-dominated oil sector or the female-dominated social services sector, this dissertation examines how women in Fort McMurray, Alberta—the host community for the Athabasca oil sands—negotiate their identities and make sense of the opportunities and challenges associated with the recent oil boom. Drawing on materialist feminist and feminist poststructuralist theory, this dissertation first elaborates a comprehensive analytical framework for investigating gender in the context of natural resource extraction. This framework contends that gendered identities are inherently multiple, and divisions of labour are embedded in particular temporal and spatial contexts. Furthermore, this framework examines discursive and material contradictions in diverse gendered experiences of resource extraction in order to move beyond universalizing gendered interests and identities. Second, this dissertation examines how discursively constructed female subject positions in local and global print media over the past decade adopt a frame of frontier masculinity. I demonstrate that these subject positions become resources upon which women in Fort McMurray draw on to negotiate their identities in ways that perpetuate a sense of dependency and anomalousness. Finally, I explore how neoliberal discourses of individualism and meritocracy provide a potential site of resistance to hegemonic frontier masculinity in women’s narratives of their opportunities and challenges. However, I ultimately argue that neoliberal discourses and practices do not prove transformative of gendered identities and divisions of labour because women are only able to partially engage with neoliberal subjectivity, which neglects collective interests and wellbeing.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Fall 2011
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Rural Sociology
  • DOI
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.
  • Language
  • Institution
    University of Alberta
  • Degree level
  • Department
  • Supervisor / co-supervisor and their department(s)
  • Examining committee members and their departments
    • Reed, Maureen (School of Environment and Sustainability, University of Saskatchewan)
    • Parkins, John (Rural Economy)
    • Kaler, Amy (Sociology)
    • Dorow, Sara (Sociology)