Weaving Our Stories of Displacement: Gender, Place, and Identity in Newfoundland

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Manning, Susan M.
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Mount Saint Vincent University
The objective of my research is to explore how colonization, resettlement and ‘living away’ are related stories of displacement for Newfoundland women, which have been shaped by similar political, social, and economic forces. These forces include, but are not limited to, colonization, imperialism, capitalism, neoliberalism, economic restructuring, and globalization. I have gathered the stories of individual women who have been affected by one or more of these displacements and explored how these forces have played a role in their stories, through their particular gendered and social positionality. My research focuses on four interrelated questions: How have Newfoundland women formed connection to the island as place? What has caused our displacement? How has this displacement affected our sense of identity and overall wellbeing? How can these understandings inform and enrich future government policy that has the potential to affect displacement? I see connection to the island as place as something that can be broadly defined. It is highly dependent on individual women’s and histories in relation to this place. It is not my aim to create sweeping generalizations about displacement in the context of Newfoundland or assume that all women’s displacements are the same. I want to illustrate the full(er) story of the multiple interconnected causes of a woman’s displacement, believing that there is great possibility for comparable threads of experience among diverse women and collective experiences of displacement. In reviewing the literature, and based on my own experience, I believe that displacement does have an effect on a woman’s sense of identity, and this can have implications for the overall wellbeing of both individuals and communities. I also contend that if these women’s stories are heard, the provincial and federal government can be compelled to take these considerations into account when making policy decisions on issues such as job creation, resource development and resettlement, which will ideally result in more equitable policies and less displacement. As a feminist researcher, I have a commitment to creating academic work that has the potential to lead to social change (Pillow & Mayo, 2012). I hope that my research will broaden conversations around Newfoundland identity, and work towards facilitating our collective decolonization. As a settler academic, I consider a commitment to decolonization to be a prerequisite of doing research that is accountable to the presence and experiences of Indigenous peoples. I am very aware that discussions of Newfoundland identity often rely on essentialized and stereotyped notions6 of what it means to be a Newfoundlander and of the island as place, which exclude many members of our communities. I hope that by including the perspectives of Indigenous women, women who have experienced resettlement, and women who are ‘living away’ that we can move beyond this essentialism and challenge the boundaries that have been erected around our ‘identity.’ By including these marginalized voices, and making visible the connections between these stories of displacement, we can create much more vibrant and inclusive notions of Newfoundland identities, which will hopefully be a starting place for healing from our losses of sense of place and continuing strengthening our connections as Newfoundlanders across these differences.
women , gender studies , Newfoundland and Labrador , Atlantic Canada , identity