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


Other title
oil sands
resource extraction
frontier masculinity
Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
O'Shaughnessy, Sara
Supervisor and department
Krogman, Naomi (Rural Economy)
Examining committee member and department
Reed, Maureen (School of Environment and Sustainability, University of Saskatchewan)
Dorow, Sara (Sociology)
Kaler, Amy (Sociology)
Parkins, John (Rural Economy)
Rural Economy

Date accepted
Graduation date
Rural Sociology
Degree level
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.
License granted by Sara O'Shaughnessy ( on 2011-06-10T19:48:44Z (GMT): Permission is hereby granted to the University of Alberta Libraries to reproduce single copies of this thesis and to lend or sell such copies for private, scholarly or scientific research purposes only. Where the thesis is converted to, or otherwise made available in digital form, the University of Alberta will advise potential users of the thesis of the above terms. The author reserves all other publication and other rights in association with the copyright in the thesis, and except as herein provided, neither the thesis nor any substantial portion thereof may be printed or otherwise reproduced in any material form whatsoever without the author's prior written permission.
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File title: O'Shaughnessy Dissertation Final Draft - May 11, 2011 - Changes accepted
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