Brock University

Contentious mobilities: Exploring contested human and non-human movement

This session will explore the contentious politics of mobilities in the context of ecological change. Mobilities become contentious when they involve the exclusion of others, advance unconventional practices, or challenge existing power relations. Increasingly, mobilities are becoming contentious in relation to a rapidly changing global environment. We invite abstracts that explore the theme of contentious mobilities in the context of environmental issues, such as climate change, energy use, and urban sprawl. Construed broadly, this includes human mobilities, mobile elements of the non-human environment, and intersections of human mobilities and the non-human environment. We welcome papers that explore contentious mobilities from diverse theoretical and methodological perspectives.

Session Organizer: Nick Scott, University of Windsor, ; Stephanie Sodero, Memorial University,


Flooding discourse: Perceptions and practices of the 2013 flood management in High River, Alberta

Eva Bogdan, University of Alberta,

Alberta’s 2013 floods - one of the most devastating and expensive natural disasters in Canada’s history - revealed the vulnerability of the Province to such events, which are predicted to intensify with climate change. A barrier to innovative responses is an over-emphasis on top-down governance and technical strategies whereas highly effective approaches include public engagement, value-deliberation and systems-thinking. As national and international debates about climate change and links to oil sands development in Alberta heat up, will the 2013 floods serve as an opportunity to re-examine approaches to flood prevention and mitigation, and result in change? What are the implications of the provincial land use and watershed management plans currently being developed for determining the pace and direction of industrial development on surfaces crucial for capturing precipitation and draining waters, and subsequently for the occurrence and severity of flooding? Most of the scholarly literature on flooding in the Prairie Region focuses on the chronic flooding in Manitoba, while flooding in Alberta has not been well examined. My research goal is to examine how perceptions of, and responses to, flooding are shaped in the context of climate change.


Whither the State? Globalization, Citizenship Regimes, and Canadian Mining as Nation-Building

Max Chewinski, Carleton University,

Utilizing Jenson’s (2001) notion of citizenship regimes, this paper will account for how nation building and national identity are worked out through state discourses (namely Speeches from the Throne and official CSR policy) in support for an ideal citizenship type that is corporate in nature. In examining mining as a historically consistent practice of nation building, it appears that Canadian political economy has expanded its terrain from internal developments to increasingly globalized practices. This expansion of scale is significant for two reasons: it generates conflicts in host country communities and consequently allows for the articulation of citizenship regimes that are in contradistinction to its current manifestations. By examining the alternative discourses and practices of MiningWatch Canada (MWC), it becomes evident that there is a movement from below that not only contests, but also seeks to redefine the substance of citizenship regimes. The citizenship regimes loosely articulated by MWC include a sustainability citizenship that is rooted in “resistance work” (Barry, 2006). The argument made throughout the paper is that the state does not recede to the shadows of entrepreneurial citizenship, but actively constructs (and engages in) economic formations, practices, and “legitimate” forms of citizenship through its policies and governance documents.


“Just Follow the Code”: Violence and Altered Mobility in a Toronto Public Housing Development

Luca Berardi, Department of Sociology, University of Alberta,

Based on two years of ethnographic research in a Toronto social housing development, this paper examines the tactics that residents use to remain mobile in their community and to avoid falling victim to gun-related violence at the hands of outsiders.  A combination of deep-rooted neighbourhood rivalries and poor urban design have created a perilous environment for young Black men, who – irrespective of criminal involvement – constantly find themselves at risk of violent victimization as they navigate their neighbourhood.  Despite this precarious situation, all residents (including the most vulnerable) must traverse and interact with this physical space on a daily basis.  Findings suggest that, to remain mobile, the most streetwise residents have adopted an unwritten and informal “street code”, which governs every facet of interaction with their built environment.  Interestingly, this code not only provides the young men with techniques to avoid getting shot as they navigate their spatial world, but also provides some semblance of emotional stability and control where the threat of gun-violence is both random and ever-looming.


"I’m an advocate, not an activist": Distinguishing between movements and communities of practice in a case study of alternative food networks

Cathryn Sprague, University of Alberta, , Emily Huddart Kennedy, Royal Roads University,

Positive accounts of local food initiatives position them as a diverse networks that has developed into a cohesive movement (Koc & Macrae, 2008; Wakefield, 2007) that is “one of the most important social movements of the twenty first century in the global north” (Morgan, 2009, p. 343). Others are more cautious, questioning the effectiveness of a collection of special interest groups that do not directly challenge existing power relations (Lynch & Giles, 2013) and rely heavily on consumers to create change through shopping (Johnston, Rodney, and Szabo 2010; McIntyre & Rondeau, 2011). Taking up this debate, we consider whether local food initiatives fit existing definitions of a social movement. To do so, we draw upon interviews, and participant observation from Edmonton, Alberta, in concert with an extensive literature review. Our empirical findings indicate that while many members of local food initiatives in Edmonton have taken on the roles of developing networks and relationships (weavers), and presenting alternatives to current systems (builders), few have taken on the role of engaging the state or protesting (warriors) (Stevenson, Ruhf, Lezberg, and Clancy, 2007). Building upon examples from other North American food initiatives (Allen, FitzSimmons, Goodman, & Warner, 2003; Gibb and Wittman, 2013) as well as global food and agricultural movements (Latta & Wittman, 2010; Wittman, 2009), we question whether the North American food movement could be considered a community of practice instead of a movement. Building on this debate we explore the implications for food system change and for other environmental social issues.




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