Professor and Graduate Program Director
Department of Geography
phone: 905-688-5550, ext. 3205
Seeking MA Students
I am seeking serious students who are interested in completing an MA degree in social or cultural geography to work with me in the following areas:
* Road construction and social change in rural areas of the global South. In my own current work this interest involves investigating the implications of a newly constructed road for the daily lives, identities, and spatialities of residents in a small agricultural village in northern Pakistan. Funded opportunities exist for qualified and interested students to work with interviews, testimonial information, archives and photographic evidence relevant to this particular road-building project. I would also be interested in supervising students who would like to work on this general topic in relation to other geographical contexts.
* Geographies of music. My interests are in (a) sound as a resource for understanding and representing spatiality, (b) music's role in constituting specific spaces, (c) the concept of acoustic space, and (d) relationships among music, identity and place. I have thought about these issues most carefully in relation to reggae music, but my supervisory interests are not constrained by genre preferences. I am currently supervising a student who is studying how the use of i-pods is shaping the constitution and experience of public transit environments.
* Qualitative research methods, especially ethnography and autoethnography in their various forms. I am eager to work with students who wish either to use or interrogate the use of these approaches in geographical research. Students entering graduate school seldom realize that methodology itself is a dynamic area of research. Ethnography, and especially the place of the self-reflexive researcher-self in ethnographic research, is an especially dynamic area of research on methodology, that I would be interested to help interested students explore.
- social and cultural geography
- qualitative research design
- geographies of everyday resistance
- community level social organisation in northern Pakistan
- transport labour in the Karakoram/Hindu-Kush/Himalaya
- reggae music and spatiality
Portering Relations and Transcultural Interaction in Northern Pakistan
All but the last of these interests coalesce in an ongoing research project entitled Portering Relations and Transcultural Interaction in Northern Pakistan. Pakistan's Karakoram mountains are often described as among the world's highest and least accessible. Yet most Karakoram societies are located close to ancient trade routes, including the famed Silk Road. And since the mid 19th century (between 1835 and 1876), Karakoram communities have had regular visits from European soldiers and adventurers, many of whom sought to explore those territories that were removed from well-travelled trade routes. To this day many foreign visitors to the Karakoram (from adventure tourists to rural development workers) seek experiences that cannot be found in the main towns. To a large extent, these visitors to and through the Karakoram relied (and often still do) on local porters (coolies, "sherpas") to transport them and their possessions through rugged and roadless terrain, and to the tops of mountains. For much of the history of European and pre-European contact portering arrangements were mainly subsidiary to traditional corvée obligations to local chiefs. Throughout the 20th century a more autonomous economy of portering emerged, which nevertheless retains elements of its origins in corvée labour.
The research project is motivated by a conviction that, given the above, portering relations have significantly shaped - perhaps dominated - transcultural (insider/outsider) interaction in the Karakoram region. This is especially true of the British period, but also of times before and since. Our main goal, therefore, is to demonstrate how contact structured by portering relations has shaped transcultural interactions in the Karakoram region, historically and presently, and to describe the geographical constitution of those interactions. By transcultural interactions we mean the material relations of contact, and the ideological representations, or discursive formations, that each group takes away from an interaction and brings to subsequent interactions. Four explicit objectives inform the overall goal: (a) to describe the instrumental political economy of portering in two settings within the Karakoram region, from European contact to the present (e.g., porter regulation, recruitment, remuneration, working conditions, modes of resistance); (b) to delineate the historical development of specific discursive configurations, indigenous and external, as they provide instrumental portering relations with an ideological context (e.g., communalism, honour, hospitality, masculinity, femininity, clan solidarity, racial superiority, imperialism, civilisation, capitalism, science); (c) to explain how new discourses (e.g., adventure tourism, sustainable development, indigenous self-determination) recreate portering as a critical site for shaping relations of contact; and (d) to delineate, at a micro-scale, the spatial distribution and geographical constitution of transcultural relations - both material and ideological - in two Karakoram villages (e.g., spatial sites of interaction, contestation, domination and resistance).
The work my co-investigators (Ken MacDonald and Kathryn Besio) and I have been undertaking since 1995 to achieve these objectives contributes a theoretically informed and empirically based geography of contemporary transcultural relations and transcultural discourses in the contact zone. While studies outside of the discipline are frequently implicitly geographical, our study makes explicit the geographical constitution of these relations and discourses. To the extent that an analysis of portering provides a microcosm from which to gain insight into other areas of North/South discursive interaction, it informs geographical understanding of North/South struggles more generally. In addition, the research comprises the only detailed comparative and regional-scale examination of transcultural relations in the Karakoram region, and one of the few studies of portering. Far from purely academic, the knowledge we create is useful for those Pakistani and international organisations, and indigenous communities, who seek to manage adventure tourism to the advantage of Karakoram societies.
Shimshal Nature Trust:
I am also involved with the community of Shimshal, northern Pakistan, in their attempts to sustain themselves as an autonomous agricultural and herding village during a period of increasing adventure tourism, and intervention into community affairs by government and international environmental and development organisations. The community's main efforts so far, and the rationale behind these efforts, are articulated in a document entitled Shimshal Nature Trust (SNT).
A Critical Ethnography of the Shimshal Road:
Shimshal is a farming and herding community of about 110 households, located at 3,000m in the Karakoram Mountain Range, in Pakistan’s Northern Areas (Butz 1996). For most of the community’s 400 year history, travel between the village and its nearest neighbour required a walk of at least a week along a difficult footpath that was impassable even for donkeys and yaks. It was several more days’ travel by pony track to Baltit, the capital of the fiefdom of Hunza, and an additional week or so beyond Baltit to Gilgit, the largest centre in what is now northern Pakistan and historically a staging point along the fabled Silk Route (Butz 1998). While these difficulties of travel did not wholly prevent interaction between Shimshal and the rest of the region, they did have a strong limiting and mediating effect. Throughout the 20th century Shimshal’s relative inaccessibility increased, as jeep tracks and metalled roads were constructed throughout the region, but not to Shimshal. By the late 1970s Shimshal was one of the least accessible permanent settlement in Pakistan’s Northern Areas; it was still a week’s walk from the nearest road (the Karakoram Highway, which establishes a road link, through northern Pakistan, from the Punjab to Western China). In 1983 the community began to construct a road from Passu (their nearest neighbour, on the Karakoram Highway) to the village of Shimshal, initially with the assistance of the Aga Khan Rural Support Program, an NGO operating out of Gilgit, and later with funding and engineering support from the Government of Pakistan (Ali & Butz 2005). As road construction proceeded, the time required to travel between Shimshal and Passu decreased, with a commensurate increase in traffic. When I first visited and conducted research in Shimshal in 1987, it was a long four-day walk, which included fording several streams and crossing a glacier. By 1995 the trek was down to three days, and then two days in 2000. When I visited the community most recently in 2007, I traveled the whole way by jeep in three hours; the 40 kilometre road was completed in November 2003, twenty years after construction began. The trip from Shimshal to the regional centre of Gilgit, which would have taken at least two weeks as recently as the mid 1960s, now takes less than ten hours.
The potential implications of this increase in accessibility for Shimshal are great, in terms of the movement of people and goods, the introduction of ideas and technology, the infiltration of government bureaucracy and commerce, the incorporation of the community into a regional economy and political structure, and so on (Butz 1993). One of the advantages Shimshalis identify in ‘getting’ a road so late, and taking so long to construct it, is that it has given them time to think about how to manage these potential effects with reference to the community’s observations about what happened in other communities that went through a similar period of drastically increased accessibility a decade or two earlier. Indeed, the community set up its Shimshal Nature Trust in 1987 largely in anticipation of stresses associated with the completion of the road, and I have been involved in many discussions in the community, at various levels of formality, which focused on how to manage the effects of the road (Ali & Butz 2005, Butz 1995, 2006).
After two decades of informal observations and conversations with Shimshalis about the road, Nancy Cook (Brock, Sociology) and I have recently begun a more comprehensive, historically-grounded ethnography of social change in Shimshal in the context of increases in accessibility facilitated by the road’s construction. To the extent that our study will rely heavily on community-members’ own perspectives and experiences, it will also be an autoethnography of social change (Besio & Butz 2004, Butz & Besio 2004).
The results of this research – currently in its very early stages – will be important for several reasons. First, road building is a significant aspect of NGO development work and government infrastructure initiatives in northern Pakistan and throughout the developing world, but with little attention to micro-level implications for community members and with the assumption that effects will be generally positive. When implications are studied, they tend to focus strictly on economic benefits without considering social implications, and they seldom attempt to understand the perspectives of the people whose lives have been most directly affected by drastically increased accessibility. Second, while mountainous northern Pakistan is nearing the end of a period of rapid and intense road infrastructure development, little effort has been devoted to assessing whether the predictions of the meso-level models upon which this development was based are borne out on the ground. This study, while not aspiring to provide a regional-level evaluation of the social effects of infrastructural development, will develop a detailed case study that contributes to the early stages of that process of assessment. Third, because we have interview transcripts from a couple of years before the road was finished, which we will complement by conducting interviews a few years after the completion of the road, we will be able to describe shifts in villagers’ perspectives and concerns across a crucial transitional period. This is not a systematically longitudinal research project, but it does have a valuable longitudinal dimension that is rare in studies of this sort. Fourth, most studies of accessibility in rural parts of the developing world treat communities super-organically, and thus fail to tease out the variable implications of increasing accessibility for different group within a community. Our study will do that because we will have in-depth qualitative information, and because we already have a strong sense of social (economic, political, gender, household, etc.) organization in the community. Fifth, while Shimshalis have struggled long and hard to construct a road to their village, they are clearly also concerned about its implications for their lives. The results of this study will provide the community with an analysis that will allow community members to plan more carefully and knowledgeably for their future. Sixth, the study will provide a detailed analysis of an indigenous community in a rapid phase of transition. As such it will be a valuable contribution to ethnographic scholarship on the Karakoram region of Pakistan, and also to larger bodies of critical scholarship on development and modernization in rural parts of the developing world.
Publications related to work in Pakistan:
(2007) (Dagleish, M.P., Qurban Ali, R. K. Powell, D. Butz, M.H. Woodford) Fatal Sarcoptes scabiei infection of blue sheep (Pseudois nayaur) in Pakistan Journal of Wildlife Diseases 43(3): 512-517.
(2006) Tourism and portering labour relations in Shimshal, Gojal Hunza, in H. Kreutzmann (ed) Karakoram in Transition - The Hunza Valley Oxford: Oxford and Karachi (pp. 394-403).
(2005) (Ali, I. And D. Butz) Report on Shimshal Nature Trust (SNT), Ghojal, Northern Areas, Pakistan, in D. Pansky (ed) Governance Stream of the Fifth World Parks Congress. Ottawa: Parks Canada and IUCN/WCPA. (17pp).
(2003) (I. Ali and D. Butz) The Shimshal governance model – A community conserved area, a sense of cultural identity, a way of life Policy Matters 12: 111-120.
(2002) Sustainable tourism and everyday life in Shimshal, Pakistan. Tourism Recreation Research 27(3): 53-65.
(2002) Resistance, representation and third space in Shimshal Village, Northern Pakistan ACME: An International Journal of Critical Geographies 1: 15-34.
(2001) (Butz, D. and K. MacDonald) Serving sahibs with pony and pen: the discursive uses of native authenticity Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 19(2): 179-201.
(2001) Autobiography, autoethnography and intersubjectivity: analyzing communication in northern Pakistan, in P. Moss (ed) Placing Autobiography in Geography: History, Method and Analysis Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 149-166.
(1999) (Butz D. and M. Ripmeester) Finding space for resistant subcultures InVisible Culture: An Electronic Journal for Visual Studies (2, Winter 1999) 16pp.
(1998) Orientalist representations of resource use in Shimshal, Pakistan, and their extra-discursive effects, in I. Stellrecht (ed) Karakorum - Hindukush - Himalaya: Dynamics of Change (Part 1) Köln: Rüdiger Köppe Verlag, 357-386.
(1998) (MacDonald, K. and D. Butz) Investigating portering relations as a locus for transcultural interaction in the Karakoram region of northern Pakistan. Mountain Research and Development 18(4):333-343
(1997) (Butz, D. and J. Eyles) Reconceptualising senses of place: social relations, ideology and ecology Geografiska Annaler: Series B: 79(1) 1-25.
(1996) Sustaining indigenous communities: symbolic and instrumental dimensions of pastoral resource use in Shimshal, northern Pakistan The Canadian Geographer 40(1): 36-53.
(1995) Legitimating porter regulation in an indigenous mountain community in northern Pakistan, Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 13(4): 381-414.
(1994) A note on crop distribution and micro-environmental conditions in Holshal and Ghoshushal Villages, Pakistan Mountain Research and Development 14(1): 89-97.
(1993) Developing Sustainable Communities: Community Development and Modernity in Shimshal, Pakistan, Unpublished PhD Dissertation, McMaster University, Hamilton.
(1989) The agricultural use of meltwater in Hopar Settlement, Pakistan Annals of Glaciology 13: 35-9.
(1987) Irrigation Agriculture in HighMountain Communities: The Example of Hopar Villages, Pakistan, Unpublished MA Thesis, Wilfrid Laurier University, Waterloo.
(1987) Adapting meltwater supply to meet irrigation demand in high mountain agricultural communities: the example of Hopar Villages, Pakistan Proceedings of the 44th Annual Eastern Snow Conference, Fredericton, 34-47.
The Constitution of Spatiality in Reggae Music
Several of my research interests also coalesce in a project, that investigates how spatiality is theorised, communicated, and used as a tool of expression, in Jamaican reggae music. The term “spatiality” here refers to the socially-produced character of space, and the spatially-constituted nature of society and subjectivity. My intent is to examine reggae music as a way to learn about how poor Black Jamaicans conceptualise and articulate their socio-spatial circumstances, and indeed how they construct particular spatialities through music.
The research focuses on this group of people because of the global significance of their general spatial circumstances, especially their history of forced migration and diaspora, and their current subordinate position in a range of national and transnational economic, social and cultural flows. The group of whom, and to whom, reggae music speaks are exemplary of more general - if less extreme - conditions of diaspora, cultural hybridity, displacement, and “double consciousness,” which according to many scholars characterise the current period of globalisation. A detailed study of how this group understands, expresses and actively creates spatiality will contribute significantly to the geographical understanding of globalisation’s effects on how people understand the world, themselves, and their place in the world. This has the potential to inform policy debates regarding globalisation’s cultural implications.
Reggae is an especially appropriate resource for studying these issues, for four main reasons:
- first, there is much evidence that music in general has been an especially potent site of cultural expression among diasporic Black cultures;
- second, reggae music has consistently and explicitly articulated themes of subordination, suffering, diaspora, migration, displacement and double consciousness. Thus, it offers a rich storehouse of material on the experience of globalisation under conditions of subordination;
- third, reggae has developed sophisticated techniques for using sound to evoke spatial associations and disjunctures;
- fourth, due to its status as a local music with a global audience, reggae has had to develop ways of speaking simultaneously (but not identically) to cultural insiders and outsiders. This is a characteristic feature of transcultural representation, which prompts me to conceptualise reggae music as “autoethnographic” representation: i.e., as a way members of subordinate groups represent themselves to their own group, while simultaneously representing themselves to members of dominant groups.
As the first detailed geographical examination of reggae music, this study contributes to music scholarship, and to the branch of geography concerned with the spatial attributes of music. It also contributes to current efforts within geography to develop a less visual - and more aural - means of conceiving spatiality. More generally, in tracing the contours of a specific mode of autoethnographic expression, this study will also contribute to the conceptualisation of identity under conditions of transcultural subordination.
Publications Related to the Reggae Research
I have not yet published any results from my reggae research. The following are conference presentations and invited lectures related to this research:
(2007) “Burnin’ and Lootin’ across the Black Atlantic (Leeds, 1973): Trans-local associations of identity and experience” paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the Canadian Association of Geographers, Saskatoon, 29 May – 2 June 2007.
(2005) (D. Butz & S. Sabra) “Musical and Diasporic Networks: Understanding Space in the Music of the Fugees” paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the Canadian Association of Geographers Annual Meetings, London, June 2005.
(2005) (S. Sabra & D. Butz) “Epistemologies of Diaspora: Affiliations of Space and Identity in the Music of the Fugees” paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the Association of American Geographers, Denver, CO, 5-9 April 2005.
(2004) “Trod On: Spatial Ontology, Diaspora and Reggae Music” Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the Canadian Association of Geographers, Moncton, 25-29 May 2004.
(2004) “Starting from Scratch: The Evocation of Spatiality in Lee Perry’s Reggae Sounds” Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Cultural Studies Association, Boston, 5-9 May 2004.
(2004) “Sufferers’ Dub: The Articulation of Spatiality in Lee Perry’s Reggae Music” Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the Association of American Geographers, Philadelphia, 15-19 March 2004.
(2003) “My Roots/Routes I’ll Never Forget: The Constitution of Spatiality in Reggae Music” Invited lecture for the Waikato University Cultural Studies Seminar Series, Hamilton, New Zealand, 4 June 2003.
(2002) “Every Word, Every Second and Every Third: Listening for Geography in the Sounds of Music” Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the Association of American Geographers, Los Angeles, 19-23 March 2002.
(2001) “Preliminary Reflections in Favour of Musical Metaphors of Socio-Spatial Relations” Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the Canadian Association of Geographers, Montreal, 29 May - 3 June 2001.
(2010) (Bauder, H., Belina, B., Butz, D., Gedalof, Z., Lagendijk, A., Mudu, P., Paasi, A., Schuurman, N., Wilson, D.) Critical Practice of Grant Application and Administration: An Intervention. ACME: An International E-Journal for Critical Geographies 9(1), 102-112 .
(2009) Autoethnography as sensibility. In Handbook of Qualitative Geography. Eds. D. DeLyser, S. Aitken, S. Herbert, M. Crang & L. McDowell. 295-335. London: Sage.
(2009) (D. Butz and K. Besio) Autoethnography Geography Compass 3(5), 1660-1674.
(2008) Sidelined by the guidelines: Reflections on the limitations of standard informed consent procedures for the conduct of ethical research. ACME: An International E-Journal for Critical Geographies 7(2): 239-259.
(2007) (Pain, R., H. Bauder, L. Berg, D. Butz, C. Desbiens, S. Engel-Di Mauro, and S. González) The Politics of Indexing and Ranking Academic Journals. ACME: An International E-Journal for Critical Geographies 6(2), 131-34.
(2004) (D. Butz and K. Besio) The value of autoethnography for field research in transcultural settings The Professional Geographer 56(3): 350-360.
(2004) (K. Besio and D. Butz) Commentary - Autoethnography: A Limited Endorsement The Professional Geographer 56(3): 432-438.
(2002) (Butz, D. and L. Berg) Paradoxical space: geography, men and duppy feminism, in P. Moss (ed) Feminist Geography in Practice: Research and Methods Oxford: Blackwell (pp. 87-102).
(2001) (Butz, D. and D. Leslie) Risky subjects: changing geographies of employment in the automobile industry Area 33(2): 212-219.
(1998) (Leslie, D. and D. Butz) "GM Suicide": Flexibility, space and the injured body. Economic Geography 74: 360-78
(1995) Revisiting Edward Said's 'Orientalism' The Brock Review 4(1/2): 54-80.
(1991) (Butz, D., S. Lonergan and B. Smit) Why international development neglects indigenous social reality Canadian Journal of Development Studies 12(1): 143-58.