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Melting Snow: The changing roles of Iqaluit women in family, work and society.

MATTHIJSSE, MATHILDE (2010) Melting Snow: The changing roles of Iqaluit women in family, work and society. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.



My thesis is a detailed anthropological study of the experiences of women as a result of their changing gender roles in Inuit families, in the labour market and in Inuit society more broadly. Although McElroy reported as early as 1975 that ‘a higher percentage of the total population of women than of men are employed [in Frobisher Bay and Pangnirtung]’ (McElroy 1975:679) the effects of this have never been systematically researched. This thesis is the first to use theoretical constructs from Bourdieu’s toolkit, including the capitals (social, cultural, symbolic), the habitus and the cultural arbitrary as well as theories of empowerment, to analyse how women have constructed and negotiated meaning in their new roles as financial provider for their families. It draws on data collected during ten months of fieldwork in Iqaluit, Canada, using a mix of qualitative methods including in-depth interviews, group discussions and participant observation.

My findings show that different ideologies, values, ways of life and habitus shape and are shaped by life experiences of women in contemporary Iqaluit. These differences find their basis in women’s upbringing, ranging from traditional, to transitional, to contemporary; women’s experiences with education; and their interactions with incoming institutions with different cultural origins. Social negotiations characterise the process in which women create roles and identities for themselves, combining these different influences. Women’s access to financial and cultural capital in some cases impacts on and is a consequence of women’s empowerment, and their ability to challenge the cultural arbitrary. However, whilst empowerment is generally seen as a positive development, it can upset the balance between partners or other family members, who may struggle to appropriate economic, cultural and social change to the same extent. For that reason, it is important that the people of Nunavut, both men and women, work together to create for themselves a place in their family, community and society in which they can provide a meaningful contribution.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:women, gender, employment, Inuit, family, empowerment, identity
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Social Sciences and Health > Anthropology, Department of
Thesis Date:2010
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:24 May 2010 13:36

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