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‘MAN’aging Nature: A Historical Feminist Political Ecology of Eastern Ontario’s Forests, 1849 - 2013

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Title: ‘MAN’aging Nature: A Historical Feminist Political Ecology of Eastern Ontario’s Forests, 1849 - 2013
Author: Dietrich, Dawn
Department: Department of Geography
Program: Geography
Advisor: Hovorka, AliceRoth, Robin
Abstract: Forests have long been important to understandings of Canadian identity. While transformations in forest policy, industry and forested landscape dynamics are fairly well documented, little attention has been given to how shifts in nature’s discursive and material co-construction (socionature) shape gendered relations of power, particularly when analysed across time and space. To fill this gap, I employ a multiscalar conceptual framework that combines tenets of environmental history with feminist political ecology, as together these subfields provide the tools necessary to explore how and why gendered socionature is important to understandings of forest landscapes and livelihoods in rural eastern Ontario. In particular, I focus on small-scale forestry operations occurring in the Mazinaw-Lanark Forest Management Unit and the rural communities within and surrounding this region, analysing men and women’s circumstances and experiences as they relate to shifts in forest policy, industry and forest landscape dynamics. Using a mixed-methods approach, I assess qualitative and quantitative data to reveal how forest actors maintain social, ecological and material power, which in turn define gendered opportunities and constraints. My research reveals a number of key insights. First, capitalist and patriarchal constructions of forests shape continuity and change in terms of gendered opportunities and constraints. While forest industry, community and household conditions maintain men’s socioeconomic advantage and political power, these dynamics also negatively impact men. Forest sector restructuring, coupled with declines in work availability, have unsettled traditional notions of manliness tied to men as brawny breadwinners, resulting in a crisis of masculinity that differentially impacts all rural residents. Second, while growing opportunities exist in terms of women’s ability to contest traditional roles and responsibilities, they continue to suffer socioeconomic disadvantage relative to men. Third, trees and other components of nature relationally define gendered forests by generating wealth (via forestry, nature-based tourism) and setting limits on production (the decline of large-scale forestry, species at risk). In this way, material nature is understood as an important actor, relationally co-constructing forest use and the differential, gendered impacts of environmental change. The thesis concludes by identifying ways to diversify analyses of forest relations in the interest of promoting socio-ecological health.
Date: 2018-05
Rights: Attribution 2.5 Canada
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Attribution 2.5 Canada Except where otherwise noted, this item's license is described as Attribution 2.5 Canada