Spaces to call home: Exploring affinity spaces, settlement experiences and a participatory photography project with refugees and immigrants in Halifax, NS

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Neilson, David
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Mount Saint Vincent University
David Neilsen’s graduate research project is an extension of Dr. Susan Brigham’s(MSVU) research project in which Newcomers use photography and storytelling to express their unique settlement experiences to a broader audience. Neilsen is investigating the qualities of Dr. Brigham’s research project as well as the qualities of the spaces that helped Newcomers settle using the concept of “affinity spaces” as analytic lens. Feminist standpoint theory is also employed as a means to foreground participants’ opinions, perspectives and experiences as valid truth claims. The purpose of Neilsen’s research is to better understand the pedagogical potential of an “affinity space” realized through other learning spaces, such as Dr. Brigham’s research project and participants’ settlement spaces. Participants produce photographs about the spaces that helped in their settlement and qualitative, auto-driven photo-elicitation interviews are conducted to investigate these spaces. Previously collected data from Dr. Brigham’s project is also employed to investigate the qualities of Dr. Brigham’s research project. While using the concept of affinity spaces, as analytic lens was effective, it revealed the idyllic and privileged nature this space currently occupies for many participants in this study, and for the current capitalist society they inhabit. Major themes emerging from the data include: agencies, purposefulness, accessibility and connectivity. Feminist standpoint theory was effective in highlighting the struggles and difficulties participants have had during their settlement process. A socio economic, have/have not dynamic and experiencing barriers to accessing local resources to attain better career opportunities were major concerns expressed by participants.
Refugees , Settlement experiences , Feminist standpoint theory