So, at this moment in time, I have completed my first year of coursework in Geography and Political Economy, conducted my preliminary field season in Nunavut in November of 2013, and am studying for my comprehensive exams.
During the summer, I attended the International Congress on Arctic Social Sciences at the University of Northern British Columbia. At this conference I presented in a topical session on labour mobility and community sustainability and discussed my working conceptual framework for understanding the impacts of fly-in/fly-out work arrangements in the Canadian north.
The response I received was really positive. In addition, I have been working closely with my research assistant in Nunavut and an organization called the Kivalliq Mine Training Society to get a better idea of relevant research questions and areas of focus.
My doctoral work focuses on fly-in/fly-out work arrangements in Nunavut. And at the conference an expert in my field, Dr. Keith Storey, asked me to summarize my research in one sentence: I decided on “Surviving Mine work.” My research objective is to explore coping strategies, motivation for, and objection to long-distance commuting, across the multiple spaces of the workplace, travel time and spaces, and the home and community. I’m attempting to bring together literature on northern development, political economy, and multi-sited ethnography to examine the dynamics of labour migration between Northern (so above sixty degrees latitude) and Southern regions of Canada.
While engaging with literature on fly-in/fly-out work arrangements in Canada, Russia, and Australian contexts I began to realize that there is a persistent focus on the workplace as the key site of analysis. This narrow focus leaves the relationships between mining work and families and communities largely undeveloped. This is where I hope my research can make significant insights.
My emerging research questions are: What are the implications of the predominantly temporary and flexible needs of FIFO work organizations, for workers, their families, and communities? And How have various actors taken up the work of social reproduction of workers, families, and communities?
I want to use multi-sited ethnography as both a method and as a way of seeing and asking questions. I don’t want my research to simply examine northern communities and the impact of mineral development activities, as that is what I covered in my master’s research, but rather I want to look at how mining towns came to be transformed to fly-in/fly-out work camps, how neoliberalism and the neoliberalization of Canadian economies has impacted mine workers and the companies, and how ideas about Canada and the Canadian north are being constructed and brought into being through mobile and flexible work in arctic areas.
My comprehensive exam focused broadly on geographies of work. My goal is to situate this this topic within the discipline of Geography and within broader theoretical and methodological literatures. I also want to take my passion for ethnographies and cultural geography and ground myself into political economy literature.
My sub-themes are Feminist economic Geography and geographies of social reproduction and Cultural Geographies of Work/ Ethnographies of Work. As of now, the deadline I have set is that I will get my question in mid-November and will write until mid- December, then defend in early January.
Currently I have worked my way through the list on cultural geographies of work and am just getting into the Feminist economic geography. Happy Reading!