Articles tagged with: David Butz

  • New paper by David Butz: “‘The road changes everything’: Shifting gendered mobilities, spaces and subjectivities in Shimshal, Pakistan”

    A new paper titled, “‘The road changes everything’: Shifting gendered mobilities, spaces and subjectivities in Shimshal, Pakistan” by Dr. David Butz and Dr. Nancy Cook (Department of Sociology) was recently published in Gender, Place and Culture.

    Abstract:
    Shimshal is the most recent village in the Gojal region of northern Pakistan to gain road access to the Karakoram Highway. This paper analyzes relational reconfigurations of gendered mobilities, spaces and subjectivities in the community that are contoured by the ensuing shift in local mobility system, in which vehicular mobility replaces walking as the means to access the highway. Drawing on longitudinal ethnographic data, we describe pedestrian-era gendered movement patterns and spaces, and the ways in which modernizing road infrastructure has reorganized mobilities and regendered village spaces. We then analyze changes in gender performances and self-representations that are commensurate to the modernized spaces in which they are enacted. We conclude by assessing the uneven and unanticipated consequences of these mobility-inflected processes for gendered futures in the community.

    Reference:  
    Cook, N. & Butz, D. (2021) ‘The road changes everything’: Shifting gendered mobilities, spaces and subjectivities in Shimshal, Pakistan. Gender, Place & Culture, 28(10), 800-822. DOI: 10.1080/0966369X.2020.1811643. Read the full paper here.

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  • Symposium to highlight social justice research partnerships

    FROM THE BROCK NEWS | by 

    Researchers from Brock’s Social Justice Research Institute (SJRI), who have teamed up with community partners on funded projects, will have their work showcased at an upcoming free, public event.

    The virtual symposium, Social Justice and Community Collaboration, takes place online Tuesday, Sept. 28 from noon to 2 p.m. as part of the ongoing Faculty of Social Sciences Symposium Series. Everyone is welcome to take part, but advance registration is required.

    “Our affiliates have been doing innovative and compelling social justice-oriented projects in collaboration with community groups, both locally and internationally,” says Rebecca Raby, Director of SJRI and a Professor in the Department of Child and Youth Studies. “At this symposium, we want to share these projects, and to inspire other faculty and community members to think about the exciting range of collaborative projects that can be pursued.”

    The symposium will feature the following presentations:

    • “Reflections on the Key Principles of a Successful ‘Community-University’ Research Partnership,” presented by Andrea Doucet of the Department of Sociology, Canada Research Chair in Gender, Work and Care, with Evan Jewell of X University and Master of Arts Sociology Research Assistant Jessica Falk.
    • “Body/Land/Sovereignty through Photography: Reflecting on a workshop with young Haudenosaunee women,” presented by Sherri Vansickle of the Tecumseh Centre for Aboriginal Research and Education, with Margot Francis of the Centre for Women’s and Gender Studies and Department of Sociology.
    • “Road Construction, Mobility and Social Change in a Wakhi Village: Shimshali Perspectives in Words and Pictures,” presented by David Butz of the Department of Geography and Tourism Studies, with Nancy Cook of the Department of Sociology.
    • “Collaborating with community to explore social exclusion and inclusion experiences of immigrant women in Niagara,” presented by Joanne Crawford of the Department of Nursing.
    • “Children Reading and Writing Photographs — Critical Literacies and Collaborations,” presented by Diane Collier of the Department of Educational Studies, with Melissa McKinney-Leep of the District School Board of Niagara and graduate students Simranjeet Kaur and Zachary Rondinelli.

    Raby says that as public health restrictions have eased, greater opportunities for collaboration have begun to open up, so she is eager to introduce new Brock faculty members and SJRI affiliates to the research that is already taking place.

    “Community partnerships provide an opportunity to meet community needs, to inform decision-making, to connect with local participants, to try something new and to build relationships,” says Raby. “They encourage us to tackle social issues in a collaborative way that can transcend a specific disciplinary focus and to work with faculty from outside of our own disciplines in order to have comprehensive engagements with community needs. They can invite us to see our scholarly work a little differently.”

    SJRI funding grants have been part of the Institute from its creation and are designed to “include social justice and transdisciplinary components, creating a shared focus on positive community-oriented social change,” according to Raby. The grants provide opportunities for both junior and established researchers to develop community-based research programs, facilitate relationship-building and lay the groundwork for larger funding applications.

    There are currently 80 researchers affiliated with SJRI, and new researchers are always welcome to get involved

    “SJRI offers opportunities for faculty members who are concerned about social justice and interested in transdisciplinary scholarship to connect with each other across the university,” says Raby. “We also post regular information about projects that community organizations are interested in pursuing in collaboration with Brock.”

    Anyone interested in learning more about SJRI or the process for becoming an SJRI affiliate should contact Project Facilitator Julie Gregory via email, and attend next week’s symposium to explore possibilities.

    To register for the event or for more information, visit the symposium web page.

    STORY FROM THE BROCK NEWS

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  • Flight PK404: 32 years after the disappearance of the plane a Canadian researcher relives his narrow escape

    FROM THE HIGH ASIA HERALD | By: Dr. David Butz

    Flight PK404

    On the morning of August 25, 1989, I was walking from the Park Hotel to the Gilgit Airport, feeling happy, excited and satisfied. I had successfully completed a three-month research season in Shimshal village of Gojal, upper Hunza followed by a few days’ relaxations at Karimabad and Gilgit, and was now beginning my journey back home to Canada. Moreover, through a stroke of good fortune (and the influence of well-positioned friends in Gilgit) I had managed to secure a confirmed seat on Flight PK404, travelling from Gilgit to Islamabad (never an easy feat). This was my first chance to make this journey by plane, after nine previous long and uncomfortable trips on the Karakoram Highway by bus, public van, or private vehicle. I was in high spirits.

    As I was walking to the airport with my heavy backpack and other luggage a Danish friend (Micael Junkov) who was working in Gilgit pulled up in a Toyota Hilux pickup truck to enquire where I was going. I told him I was headed for the airport to catch a flight to Islamabad. Micael said I’m driving to Islamabad today. Why not come with me? I replied, “because I have a confirmed booking on this morning’s flight”. Micael looked at the sky and observed, “I don’t think the flight will operate today, because the weather is cloudy. Either come with me now or take your chances”.

    Flights from Gilgit only fly in fair weather, even today, and the road journey takes a full day, so he wasn’t willing to wait to see if the plane would depart with me onboard. Micael was more familiar with flying from Gilgit than I was, so I accepted his invitation and hopped in the truck, thereby unknowingly saving my life. As it turned out, Flight PK404 departed from the airport, lost radio contact nine minutes later, and subsequently disappeared along with its 49 passengers and five crew members. Thirty-two years on, no trace of the plane has since been discovered.

    When I arrived in Islamabad I took a taxi to a cheap hotel in Rawalpindi to relax for a few days before catching my international flight to Canada. I didn’t have access to a radio or TV and didn’t happen to buy an English-language newspaper, so I remained unaware of the plane’s tragic and mysterious disappearance and my own narrow escape. In those days using a PCO (Public Call Office) to make international telephone calls from Pakistan was complicated and time-consuming, so it was fully two days later that I managed to place a call to Canada to confirm my arrival date and time with my partner Nancy. That’s when I learned of the tragedy. Nancy had heard of the plane’s disappearance the day it happened and spent two anxious days wondering if I had been on the flight.

    Ghulam Muhammad Baig, popularly known as G.M. Baig. Photo credit: Dr Inam Baig

    Several people we knew were on board, including Ghulam Muhammad Baig, popularly known as G.M. Baig, owner of a bookstore in Gilgit that served as a hub for local intellectuals and a haven for many foreigners travelling through Gilgit in those days.

    I offer my continuing condolences to the families of the passengers and crew, who have still to learn any details of their loved ones’ fate. I often wonder who among the standby passengers was given my seat (no doubt to their delight), thereby inadvertently trading their life for mine. I later learned that several other Pakistani friends also had confirmed seats, but made the same decision as I did to make the trip by road given the cloudy weather and the likelihood that the flight would be cancelled.

    For many years subsequently, Nancy and I avoided flying between Gilgit and Islamabad, preferring the discomfort of public transport by road. In the past decade or so we have flown this route numerous times (it is breathtaking), but always with a heavy dose of trepidation. To date, I have made the journey between Gilgit and Islamabad 40 times, eight times by air and 32 times by road. One of those eight flights was in summer 2010 when much of Pakistan was under water, and the Karakoram Highway was impassable in many places because of torrential rains and flash floods. I was among an assortment of foreigners, VIPs and military personnel who were airlifted from Gilgit in C-130 military cargo planes. Although the stakes were not high for me (it was just a matter of catching my scheduled international flight), this was another exciting flight.

    Heartfelt thanks to Micael Junkov and the hand of fate. Together they allowed me to trade an early death at the age of 28 for a pleasant 14-hour drive down the Karakoram Highway in a private (and air-conditioned) vehicle. Without their intervention, I would have missed a lot.

    Dr David Butz is a Professor of Geography and Tourism Studies at Brock University, St. Catharines, Canada. He is also Editor-in-Chief of the journal, Studies in Social Justice.

    STORY FROM THE HIGH ASIA HERALD

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  • Julia Hamill successfully defends MA Geography thesis

    The Department of Geography and Tourism Studies would like to congratulate Master of Arts in Geography student, Julia Hamill, on the successful defence of her thesis titled “‘Molida’, That’s Shimshali Food: Modernization, Mobility, Food Talk, and the Constitution of Identity in Shimshal, Pakistan” as well as on the successful completion of all requirements for the MA in Geography.

    Congratulations and thanks to Julia’s supervisory committee: Dr. David Butz (Supervisor), Dr. Mike Ripmeester (Committee Member) and Dr. Nancy Cook (Committee Member).

    Many thanks as well to Julia’s External Examiner, Dr. Hasan Karrar (Lahore University of Management Sciences, Pakistan) and Defence Chair, Dr. Rosemary Condillac.

    Wishing you all the best with your future endeavours, Julia!

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  • Book celebrates work of late Brock cartographer

    Alun Hughes, a longtime member of Brock’s Department of Geography, had an enormous appetite for local history.

    Between 2003 and his untimely death in 2013, the trained cartographer wrote extensively about the geography and history of the Niagara region.

    Hoping to honour his passion, Hughes’ former colleagues have come together to release a book of his essays, History Made in Niagara, and will host a launch for the publication on Wednesday, May 29.

    The book was compiled by Hughes’ former colleagues from the Department of Geography and Tourism Studies, Professors Mike Ripmeester and David Butz and retired cartographer Loris Gasparotto.

    Everyone is welcome to attend the free event, to be held from 7 to 9 p.m. at Brock’s Pond Inlet.

    History Made in Niagara can be purchased at the launch for $35 (cash only).

    More information about the event can be found on ExperienceBU or by calling 905-688-5550 x3484.

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  • New book builds bridge between mobility and social justice

    Having choices about when, where and how to move — and when to stay put — is at the core of mobility justice, a new concept that is developing at the nexus of mobility studies and social justice scholarship.

    A recently published book, Mobilities, Mobility Justice and Social Justice, edited by Nancy Cook, Associate Professor of Sociology, and David Butz, Professor of Geography, explores “the ways social inequities are constituted in relation to mobility,” says Cook.

    The newly established field of mobility studies looks at the differential flows of people, ideas, food and animals, and the related infrastructures that facilitate such uneven mobilities, such as roads, trains, airplanes, fibre optic cables and the internet.

    “Mobility justice is a concept developing in the mobilities literature that examines how differences in mobility capabilities can contribute to social inequalities,” says Cook.

    Mobilities, Mobility Justice and Social Justice, edited by Nancy Cook, Associate Professor of Sociology, and David Butz, Professor of Geography, explores how social inequities are constituted in relation to mobility.

    The topics and regions represented in the book exemplify the “deeply transdisciplinary nature” of mobility studies, she says. “It has put us in contact with a whole different set of scholars from all over the world who we didn’t have access to before.”

    Contributing authors, who come from philosophy, gender studies, communications studies, architecture, transport planning, public administration, geography and sociology, were asked to think about and analyze particular mobility-related injustices using specific social justice concepts.

    “This was to strengthen the justice focus of mobility analyses, and to bring thinking about the mobility-based aspects of injustice to social justice theorising,” says Cook.

    The result is a diverse collection of empirical case studies that illustrate how “different scales, types and facets of mobility interact with particular kinds of social relations to (re)produce inequalities,” she says. Chapters explore issues such as LGBTQ communities’ access to public space, global air travel, ferry service, urban cycling, forced migration, food waste and even tick migration.

    “Most chapters in the book are interested in access or impediments to movement, the way certain sorts of movement are imagined ideologically, and how that shapes people’s access to social justice or shapes inequitable social relations,” says Butz.

    Butz and Cook saw first-hand the social justice implications of mobility infrastructure in their SSHRC-funded research project on the Shimshal Road in Pakistan. During the road’s construction, locals looked forward to a time when they would not have to carry everything on their backs through the mountains. However, the effects of switching from a pedestrian to a vehicular mobility regime have been complicated.

    “We actually see a deepening of particular kinds of inequalities by age and gender,” says Cook. Men and students are “differentially benefitting” from access to this new mobility platform in relation to women and older adults.

    According to Butz, mobility justice is more than simple efficiency of movement.

    “We see social class and social advantage manifested in the way people travel. The trip from St. Catharines to Toronto is different for the person on the bus, in a car or on the Go train,” he says. “These experiences work into people’s identities and understandings of themselves in relation to the world.”

    Mobility justice is as much about staying in one place as it is about access to movement. It’s about the ability to make choices in relation to mobility. “Many commuters would prefer to work near where they live and not feel compelled to move,” says Cook. Infrastructure enables people to live far away from their jobs but relegates them to cheaper suburbs and long commutes.

    Like social justice, mobility justice is most often noticed in its absence.

    “We get at justice by looking at injustice,” he says. But there are movements towards mobility justice, at least for some people. “An accessibility regime at a university is a positive example of achieving social justice for a group through a focus on enabling their mobility.”

    The two say their interest in mobility justice emerged from and is supported by their work with the Social Justice and Equity Studies program and the Social Justice Research Institute.

    “Mobility justice has taken our research in a really new direction which has been very exciting,” says Cook.

    STORY REPOSTED FROM THE BROCK NEWS

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  • Geography student studies why some people live on the road

    STORY FROM THE TORONTO STAR | DEC 6, 2018

    Graduate student in the driver's seat of a van she bought for research

    Brock University graduate student Stephanie Murray studied movible communities in a van she bought on Kijiji. Photo by Stephanie Murray.

    When Stephanie Murray, a Geography master’s student at Brock University, set out on a two-month long journey across North America to study nomads and vanlife culture, she didn’t expect to find herself learning to surf, contributing to a documentary film, or being surrounded by a pack of angry stray dogs. But she quickly learned that life on the road is full of unexpected twists and turns.

    An avid traveller, Murray stumbled onto vanlife culture. She was fascinated by the people she met, and quickly realized that although nomads living in vans had been around for years, no one had studied them yet.

    “I knew there was a gap in academia that I could fill,” Murray says. “But if I wanted to truly study this culture, I needed to be able to live and move like they did.”

    “Lola” in the field during her two-month research journey across North America. Photo by Stephanie Murray.

    Using funding from Brock and a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) grant, she purchased a used van on Kijiji. Naming it Lola, she converted the vehicle into 66 square feet of living space. Then, over the summer of 2017, she drove to the west coast of the United States to attend “van gatherings,” events where people who live and travel in their vans get together to socialize and support one another. It’s a diverse group, says Murray. “One of the couples I spoke to worked remotely in IT, another couple ran a blog, and one of the other vanlifers was making money from a book he’d written. They’re a pretty talented bunch.”

    She was out to discover their motivation for giving up conventional lives and instead choosing a highly mobile lifestyle. “Our society is oriented towards people who stay in one place, and van nomads help to call that way of thinking into question.”

    “I have encountered so much kindness on the road,” Murray added. “People have welcomed me into their homes and helped me with my van, with no expectation of anything in return. And while the vanlifers I interviewed took up this lifestyle for a variety of reasons, they were united by a desire to choose their own path, rather than the one that’s handed down to them.”

    Murray was thankful that she received the full backing of the University during her time on the road.

    “Brock supported me fully from day one. And that support meant that I was able to do this research in the way it needed to be done — in person, on the road. I lived and moved alongside the people I was studying, and never once did I have to make any compromises that would have hurt the quality of my research. The University made sure I had the resources to do it right.”

    Master's student in the field during trip across north america. Standing in the foggy mountains.

    Research doesn’t have to happen in the lab. Photo by Stephanie Murray.

    Murray’s faculty supervisor and the Graduate Program Director of Geography at Brock,  Dr. David Butz, believed her research was novel and important, given today’s mobile society. Becoming a van nomad herself was pivotal.

    “This research strategy — and life choice — gives her research an unusually strong experiential and autobiographical component, which is rare in ‘mobilities’ research, and which adds to the distinctiveness and potential significance of her research,” says Butz. “We also felt Stephanie’s unusual research project, while logistically complicated, was worth supporting. We were confident about her capabilities based on her history with the University. At Brock, we encourage applications from good students and we’re willing to put funding behind that — and provide them with mentoring to apply for external funding.  Brock can offer lots of personalized attention to students.”

    Research doesn’t have to happen in a lab. There are interesting and exciting things going on around us everywhere, and at Brock University, unique postgraduate research projects in the community are encouraged.

    For her part, Murray is grateful for the support she received from Brock. “This research changed the course of my life, and it showed me that it’s possible to turn your passion into a ground-breaking research project,” she said. “If you have a clear vision of what you want to discover, Brock can help you on that pursuit.”

    Interested in studying in the Master of Arts in Geography program at Brock? Apply by February 15 to start next September.


    Story reposted from The Toronto Star

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  • New book by David Butz explores mobilities, mobility justice and social justice

    Drs. Nancy Cook (Associate Professor, Department of Sociology) and David Butz (Professor, Geography and Tourism Studies), recently published a book titled Mobilities, Mobility Justice and Social JusticeLearn more about the book below.

    Mobilities, Mobility Justice and Social Justice cover. By Drs. Nancy Cook and David Butz.

    Description:This collection investigates the relationship between mobilities and social justice to develop the concept of mobility justice.

    Two introductory chapters outline how social justice concepts can strengthen analyses of mobility as socially structured movement in particular fields of power, what new justice-related questions arise by considering uneven mobilities through a social justice frame, and what a ‘mobile ontology’ contributes to understandings of justice in relation to 21st-century social relations. In 15 subsequent chapters, authors analyze the material infrastructures that configure mobilities and co-constitute injustice, the justice implications of ‘more-than-human’ movements of food and animals, and mobility-related injustices produced in relation to institutional acts of governance and through micro-scale embodied relations of race, gender, class and sexuality that shape the uneven freedom of human bodily movements.

    The volume brings numerous scales, types and facets of mobility into conversation with multiple approaches to social justice in order to theorize mobility justice and reimagine social justice as a mobile concept appropriate for analyzing the effects and ethics of contemporary life. It is aimed at scholars and upper-level students in the interdisciplinary fields of critical mobilities and social justice, especially from disciplinary locations in geography, sociology, philosophy, transport planning, anthropology, and design and urban studies.

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  • Congratulations to Adam Fischer on the successful completion of his MA in Geography thesis

    Adam Fischer successfully defended his MA in Geography thesis. Pictured here (L to R): David Butz (GPD); Phillip Mackintsoh (sumervisor); Adam Fischer; Chris Fullerton (committee member); and Alan Walks (external examiner)

    Pictured from left to right: Dr. David Butz (Graduate Program Director); Dr. Phillip Mackintosh (supervisor); Adam Fischer; Dr. Chris Fullerton (committee member); and Dr. Alan Walks (external examiner, University of Toronto).

    The Department of Geography and Tourism Studies would like to extend congratulations to Adam Fischer and his committee for the successful defense of his Master of Arts in Geography thesis entitled ‘A Domestic Geography of Money: How Mortgage Debt, Home Prices and Toronto’s Condominiums “Prop Up” the Canadian Economy’.

    Adam’s research was supervised by Dr. Phillip Mackintosh, and committee members, Dr. Jeffrey Boggs and Dr. Christopher Fullerton. Many thanks to External Examiner, Dr. Alan Walks (Department of Geography and Planning, University of Toronto).

    We wish Adam all the best for his future endeavours!

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  • Students and faculty travel to New Orleans for AAG 2018

    On April 10-14, our graduate students and professors travelled to New Orleans for the 2018 American Association of Geographers (AAG) Annual Meeting. At this AAG Annual Meeting, Master of Arts in Geography student Jennica Giesbrecht was awarded the Glenda Laws Paper Award for her paper “Posthuman and Material-Discursive Examinations of the Geographies of the Dead Body”. Congratulations Jennica!

    Read more about the papers and sessions by Geography and Tourism Studies professors and students:

    Mobilities Research, Epistemic Justice, and Mobility Justice

    By: Drs. Nancy Cook and David Butz (Geography and Tourism Studies)

    Over the past decade numerous authors have called for the development of “mobile methods” (Büscher, Urry & Witchger, 2011) and the identification of suitable “methods for mobilities research” (Sheller & Urry, 2006), and a number of innovative approaches to studying mobilities have emerged. These often involve some form of embodied or kinaesthetic researcher involvement in the mobile practices and contexts of the social groups or in the spaces under investigation. More recently, mobilities and transport scholars have begun to trouble some of the claims and assumptions underpinning the turn to mobile methods on epistemological (e.g., Merriman, 2014) and ethical (e.g., Warren, 2017) grounds. Our presentation contributes to this methodological discussion by suggesting the notion of epistemic justice as a basis for assessing the adequacy of particular methods for conducting mobilities research. We argue that epistemic justice is a significant aspect of mobility justice itself, and should be an important consideration in the conduct of mobilities research. We develop our argument with reference to a self-directed photography project we conducted with members of a small community in the mountains of northern Pakistan in the wake of a locally-important road construction project.

    The skills-mismatch: the weak evidentiary basis of a fuzzy concept and the implications for public universities.

    By: Drs. Emmanuel Kyeremeh and Jeffrey Boggs (Geography and Tourism Studies)

    The English-language press promotes a thesis of an incompatibility between workers’ ‘skills’ and employers’ needs, a condition variously called skill(s) gap(s), horizontal (and vertical) mismatch, or over- (and under-) education. However, no single unambiguous definition exists which encompasses these terms in a unified framework. Furthermore, these concepts frequently conflate credentials, skill-level, skillset and habit. Given the implications of these claims for labour force policies in English-speaking countries, this ambiguity is problematic. Furthermore, scholarly literature finds claims of skills-mismatch to be inconsistent with existing data in Anglophone countries. With that said, what we collectively term a ‘skills-mismatch’ exemplifies Markusen’s (2003) ‘fuzzy concept.’ While our re-conceptualization of the skills-mismatch as a concept consisting of three analytically-distinct components (credential-mismatch, skill-level-mismatch, and skillset-mismatch, all as distinct from habits) provides a starting-point for investigating the existence and extent of a skills-mismatch in a given context, a larger popular discourse already frames the contemporary discussion about an alleged skills-mismatch. Regardless of its problematic empirical foundations, this larger popular discourse frames universities as the cause of a ‘skills-mismatch.’ Irritatingly, this discourse downplays or ignores the role of employers in training workers, especially given declines in-house training budgets. In term of public wealth, advocates of the skills-mismatch thesis call for the restructuring of public universities to provide “workforce-ready” workers at the expense of turning out well-rounded students, and ignore the repercussions of this putative solution which further externalizes firms’ training costs onto society at large.

    Not Quite A Free Space: The Role of Geography in Critiquing Liberatory Discourse on LGBT Life Online

    By: Dean Mizzi, MA in Geography candidate, Brock University

    LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) enclaves, also known as “gay villages” or “gayborhoods”, have been a subject of study by geographers for decades. Advancements in information and communications technology since the 1990s, particularly access to the Internet and later to mobile telecommunications, have changed the nature of LGBT communities. More interaction is taking place via online services, such as social networks or online discussion boards, in contrast to the traditional physical spaces associated with gay villages. Most current scholarship describes these new interactions in the context of their benefits such as increased accessibility of information, community-building for activism, or as a means of social support. In this study I present a review and analysis of literature both within and outside geography which contests the current liberatory discourse surrounding LGBT life online including reproduction of exclusions from physical spaces in online environments, the creation of “virtual closets” in the constant sharing environment of social media, and increases in mass surveillance and content restrictions. In addition, I examine several current conceptual frameworks used in virtual geographies: hybrid spaces, augmented reality, and mediated spatiality. The remainder of the paper is devoted to examining which conceptual framework(s) is/are most effective for geographers in articulating the critiques to the liberatory discourse of LGBT life online.

    Mobile ‘Homes’: An Ethnographic Study with American Vandwellers

    By: Stephanie Murray, MA in Geography candidate, Brock University

    At present, numerous studies exist which focus on the practices and mobility of “snowbirds” and other RV nomads travelling within North America. And yet, moving alongside these nomads is another group of highly mobile vehicle-dwellers who seem to have gone unnoticed by scholars. United under the “vanlife” hashtag, these individuals refer to themselves as “vanlifers,” “vandwellers,” and “van nomads.” In order to learn about the meanings that these vandwellers assign to their mobility, and the ways in which that mobility might change the way that geographers conceptualize the scale of the home, I moved into my van and attended a number of van gatherings in Colorado and Washington State between July 1st and August 20th, 2017. This paper presents the findings from 9 weeks of participatory ethnographic research, during which 10 face-to-face semi-structured interviews were conducted with 7 couples and 3 single “vanlifers.” By employing a “mobile metaphysics” in my analysis of the resulting participatory and interview data, I hope to contribute to recent efforts to expand geography’s focus beyond an ontology of fixity and place, and draw attention to the practices and meanings embedded in the movements of American vandwellers.

    Do-It-Yourself (DIY) Engagement: Teach-Ins – Panel Discussion

    Chair: Hilda Kurtz
    Discussants: Jenna Loyd (University of Wisconsin-Madison), Punam Khosla (York University), Ebru Ustundag (Geography and Tourism Studies, Brock University), Hilda Kurtz University of Georgia)

    This session is one of several organized for the purpose of providing grounded but critical discussion of public engagement and outreach opportunities, strategies, and challenges. Sessions build upon the experiences of panelists/facilitators and the sharing of perspectives from the audience to create a space where geographers can train each other, trade innovations and ideas, and negotiate practical and even political obstacles to public engagement in geography.
    This panel approaches public engagement in terms of process pragmatism and public pedagogy, and frame our session around both the nitty gritty of teach-ins as a mode of public engagement and thoughts on why this work is important in 21st century higher education. Jenna Loyd (University of Wisconsin) will share her experiences with co-organizing a series of community workshops on policing in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, called Transforming Justice. She will focus on creating shared knowledge and working with social movement organizers. Punam Khosla (York University) will speak to her experience doing workshops with women in low-income neighbourhoods in Toronto as well as a number of other public engagement/ outreach/ education workshops over the years in labour unions, anti criminalization gender based violence campaigns, and community radio. Ebru Ustundag (Brock University) will problematize what we understand as ‘public/community engagement’, inviting expanded institutional consideration of what community building and partnership might look like. Hilda Kurtz (University of Georgia) will consider public engagement in relation to public intellectualism as assemblage, and reflect on her work co-organizing a teach-in series on civic engagement called Solidarity Sundays.

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