A Politics of Dwelling: Local Knowledge and Linked Communities on the Lake Superior North Shore
Steiner, Edith Maria
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This dissertation explores how stakeholders of working-class communities and First Nations in Northwestern Ontario along the Lake Superior north shore express a politics of dwelling and their own sense of place in regard to their social and natural environments. The work stresses the importance of local knowledge as a means of community building and knowledge production, and strives to map how the land and landscapes are valued by those who live and work in this region. My methodological approach combines visual methods with autoethnography, since as the researcher, I have a formative and long-term family history in the locations of my study, as well as an ongoing practice of producing personal creative projects and artworks in and about the north shore region. The dissertation’s material structure is presented as a dual construction: this written thesis and a 44 minute documentary film, Conversations on the Lake. My prior history as an independent filmmaker and lens-based visual artist has shaped my scholarly practice, so that my research findings are best expressed using a combination of textual and audio/visual methods. My primary research tool in undertaking the qualitative research interviews that support this dissertation is the camera. Following transcription and analysis, the filmed interview material was organized into the following themes: the role of class in rural northern resource-based communities, the dualisms and tensions between conservation and extraction of natural resources, the intersections of local, regional, and global politics affecting environmental themes in the area of my study, and the local landscape as a unique and relevant character in the culture of Northwestern Ontario. What my research and filmed interviews in the communities of the Lake Superior north shore region have unveiled are an evolving sense of place and belonging, as experienced by actors living and working there. Since beginning this work, new ecological and social themes have continually emerged as stories for investigation and exploration. The shifting progression of my narrative enquiry is a web of interconnected stories along a mobile, transformative geography.