Claudia Ruitenberg

Prospective Graduate Students / Postdocs

This faculty member is currently not actively recruiting graduate students or Postdoctoral Fellows, but might consider co-supervision together with another faculty member.


Research Classification

Philosophical Traditions in Education
Educational Approaches
Social Impact of Artistic Education
Professional Ethics

Research Interests

Political education; discourse and translation

Relevant Degree Programs


Research Methodology

Philosophy and qualitative research

Graduate Student Supervision

Doctoral Student Supervision (Jan 2008 - Mar 2019)
Q'eqchi' Mayas and defense of territory : learning through the contentious politics of land in “post-conflict” Guatemala (2017)

My study explores how indigenous Q’eqchi’ Mayas in Guatemala draw political cohesion from their cultural relationship to their ancestral territories when responding to violent dispossession by extractive mining corporations and mono-crop agriculture. Drawing upon participant observation and 39 interviews conducted in the municipalities of Panzós and El Estor in 2013 and 2014, my research considers Q’eqchi’s’ defense of territory (defensa del territorio) as a salient, culturally specific collective action that draws continuity from centuries of conflicts over control of land and natural resources in Guatemala. Throughout Spanish colonization, independence, entry into the world capitalist market, and 20th century political upheavals, conflicts over land have featured consistently. In more recent history, the 36-year internal armed conflict (1960-1996) was a focal point of Q’eqchi’ research contributors’ testimony on their longstanding and interminable suffering for their lands. As a result of favorable conditions for international investors since the signing of the 1996 Peace Accords, the Guatemalan government has opened up the country, and indigenous lands in particular, to large-scale investment and development. Based on my findings, and building on Liza Grandia’s (2012) framing of three “conquests” of Q’eqchi’ lands, my study offers the term “fourth conquest” (Knowlton, 2016), a conquest by corporation, to explain the unique conjuncture of forces Q’eqchi’s face today when defending their lands. Their current tactical focus on land titling and juridical certainty is a response to the renewed invasion of extractive corporations into their ancestral territories. Through applying informal and social movement learning theories, this study considers Q’eqchi’s’ political encounters in defense of land as moments of learning which shape them as political actors and subjects. For Q’eqchi’s, land represents the confluence of cultural and spiritual bonds, material sustenance, and struggles to end political marginalization. A study of the labors involved in defense of territory provides valuable insights into the culturally specific learning processes that both structure and result from myriad political interventions into community, municipal, national, and international politics. Q’eqchi’s are strategically forming short and long-term alliances, and adopting identity claims based on indigenous rights, human rights, Guatemalan citizenship, and their cultural ties to their ancestral territory.

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From experienced teachers to newcomers to the profession : the capital conversion of internationally educated teachers in Canada (2016)

My doctoral thesis, titled, “From Experienced Teachers to Newcomers to the Profession: The Capital Conversion of Internationally Educated Teachers in Canada,” examines the recertification process of internationally educated teachers (IETs). My main research question is: What conceptions of the “good teacher” are evident in the recertification trajectory of IET participants in this study, and how do these open up or close down spaces for IETs to bring their experiences and voices to bear on reconstructing their professional identity in Canada? I argue that assumptions about good teaching intersect with factors such as race, ethnicity, gender, language, and immigration status. Building on Bourdieu’s concept of symbolic capital and its sub-category of professional capital, I explore the conception of the “good teacher” in a recertification program for IETs at the University of British Columbia, and I do so as a way of illustrating the dominant professional capital circulating in teacher education in British Columbia. I argue that, in the field of teacher education, the “good teacher” is a manifestation of a specific form of professional capital, which serves as “local currency” for the field. However, whereas IETs are required to convert their professional capital to the local “currency,” successful conversion does not guarantee successful integration into the teaching profession in Canada. One of the concerns that emerged from my dissertation is that teacher education in Canada, in spite of its claim to foster diversity, often becomes a site for social reproduction. Holding unexamined conceptions of the “good teacher” can lead teacher educators to favour and create teachers who are “like us,” and to discourage different forms and models of teaching.

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The relation of education for autonomy and education for morality : implications for debates over educational aims (2015)

In this dissertation I analyze the relationship between education for autonomy and education for morality, and assess the implications of this analysis for debates between liberal, communitarian, and fundamentalist philosophies of education. A conceptual analysis of education based on R. S. Peters’ later work posits education as the expansion and deepening of awareness of those aspects of the human condition that are of particular relevance for a given socio-historical situation. In this sense, education can be conceptualized as the development of excellent perceivers of the human condition. I then posit nine fundamental awareness-promoting capacities whose development will be a necessary part of education: the five senses, critical thinking, empathy, imagination, memory, self-awareness, concentration, intuition, and language. Drawing upon an expanded account of Eamonn Callan’s conception of autonomy, I propose an integrative account of education for autonomy that includes social conditions, and educational and caregiving practices that facilitate autonomy. Drawing upon work in moral psychology, I conduct an analysis of the degree to which these elements of education for autonomy contribute to or hinder moral development. I conclude that education for autonomy and education for morality are mutually interdependent, and any overemphasis of one to the detriment of the other will be self-defeating. Finally, I argue that this analysis reveals the feasibility of liberal and communitarian philosophies of education that are balanced in their advocating of both morality and autonomy as educational aims, but reveals fundamentalist philosophies of education to be problematic insofar their stated educational aims are incompatible, and their methods partially self-defeating. Conceptual limitations of this study and areas in need of further research are discussed.

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Writing/righting truths across borders : learning from transnational peoples' journalism and politics (2014)

My dissertation explores how journalists who self-identify as “transnational” shape their journalism to make human rights claims that trouble, open up and go beyond the nation-state. The project is a multi-sited, ethnographic, comparative case study of journalism education among two different transnational peoples: Romani/Gypsy and Saami (the Indigenous peoples in the current states of Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia). Drawing upon 45 interviews with journalists and journalism educators, my research suggests there are two distinct strategies in how transnational peoples’ journalism is conceived, taught and assessed. These strategies influence and are influenced by larger socio-political contexts: the Saami media work within an Indigenous rights framework; their goal is to engage with journalism as a form of self-determination. This differs from Romani media programs, which are funded by non-state donors who aim to use Romani media as a form of claiming citizenship. These citizenship claims are both within a specific state as well as within Europe. In short, the political, economic and cultural contexts shape the journalism, and the journalism in turn shapes the politics.Although the differences are significant, both transnational groups recognized the power of journalism in agenda setting within, between and across borders. Through the framing of information in particular ways, journalists, editors and the media outlets, as well as the funding sources for this journalism, were all engaged in a form of agenda setting (Carpenter, 2007; 2009) and productive power (Barnett & Duvall, 2005). My findings indicate that a unique feature of transnational peoples’ journalism is recognizing and operationalizing power beyond that of the state; another contribution is a more robust understanding of objectivity in journalism – one that demonstrates how journalists can be credible, without pretending to be neutral. These are all important contributions to reimagining human rights advocacy beyond current discussions of transnational advocacy which still often privilege the state and tends to pay scant attention to journalists themselves. Learning from transnational peoples who are creating, teaching, and participating in journalism education in its many places, forms, and media allows us to make more sound connections between human rights and journalism.

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Just like everyone else : the knowledge/ignorance binary in censorship and lesbian and gay picturebooks (2012)

In this dissertation I analyse lesbian and gay picturebooks and the discourse of a censorship challenge to these books. I take a deconstructive approach to the material, using queer theory, children’s literature criticism and children’s culture theory to analyse the ways in which the knowledge/ignorance and adult/child binaries are reinscribed and undone in these discourses. I focus on absences of LGBT-specific language, physical bodies, difference and non-normative gender identities in the picturebooks, and analyse a wide range of media in a challenge in Lexington, Massachusetts which began in 2005. I argue that both the books and the discourse of the challenge have the effect of reinscribing a construction of the ideal child as ignorant and asexual. This conceptualisation of childhood dismisses actual children’s ability to absorb, challenge or disseminate knowledge, and refuses to offer them possibilities of non-normative genders and sexualities for their lives. I argue that, due to the focus on sexuality and the unavoidably pedagogical nature of children’s literature, the picturebooks inherently trouble the knowledge/ignorance binary. Due to this disruptive condition the normalising politics of the picturebooks are inadequate to prevent the books from becoming controversial. Queer picturebooks that resisted normalisation and represented real difference would better respect the intellectual and emotional needs of child readers.

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Master's Student Supervision (2010-2017)
Canadian civic education, deliberative democracy, and dissent (2016)

This thesis develops two normative standards for the evaluation of secondary-level Canadian civic education curricula, and evaluates British Columbia (B.C.)’s Civic Studies 11 and Ontario’s Civics (Politics) curricula accordingly. Both standards are concerned with the models of democracy that inform each curriculum and, more specifically, how these models open or close curricular spaces to prepare students to dissent in civic and political life. These standards are also sensitive to policymakers’ desire to increase Canadian youths’ civic engagement. Chapter One outlines the author’s agonist and semi-archic theoretical framework, positionality, research questions, and literature review. Chapter Two employs qualitative thematic analysis and determines that deliberative models of democracy inform both curricula. Chapters Three and Four use philosophical inquiry to develop normative evaluative standards based on critiques of deliberative democracy. Chapter Three makes the case that civics curricula should teach dissent as a positive right. Chapter Four argues that curricula should give critical attention to the passionate demands of civic life, especially as civic and political passions prepare students to exercise dissent. Chapter Five applies these standards to B.C.’s and Ontario’s civics curricula, and offers concluding thoughts.

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Singing queer : archiving and constructing a lineage through song. (2016)

Using an arts-based approach, this research examines how songs written by queer and lesbian musicians can account for and archive queer lived existence while constructing a musical genealogy for listeners and artists alike. By examining my own experience of listening to and attending performances of certain queer and lesbian identified musicians, and then composing and performing my own songs in public spaces, I make a case for the corporeal mobility of songs, and a process I have termed “queer musical lineaging.” Much of the research around music to date has centred on how it impacts and influences brain activity, and how it brings together subcultures and publics. The significance of this project lies in the research around musical processes and practices (listening, composing, performing) as corporeal acts that connect bodies to one another, and build kinships. This research draws mainly upon primary sources of autoethnographic, written accounts in the form of journal entries, stories, poems and song lyrics, and conducts an interpretive analysis of six “queer” songs, five composed by the author of this thesis, and one composed in collaboration with a trans* youth. This project will contribute to research on arts-based practices as archival work, as well as the impact that songs have on people’s lives by broadening our understanding of music’s corporeal effects and genealogical role in lived experience.

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Playing with history : settlement narratives in performance at three history museums of the Lower Mainland (2014)

This is a qualitative study of the settlement narratives that are performed at three Lower Mainland historic sites and museums. Employing costumed interpreters to animate and interpret staged historic environments and texts, museum sites are understood as performance spaces. Using this lens, combined with postmodern sensibilities of narrative and ethics, and a critical eye toward racist and colonial worldviews, I observe and analyze narratives of settlement at Fort Langley National Historic Site, Irving House Museum, and Burnaby Village Museum. With careful attention to the material signifiers of theatre, and the uses of staging environments, I also analyze how narratives at each site open or close themselves to contestation. I advance an argument that certain theatrical devices may hold narratives temporally, spatially, aesthetically captive in performative museum spaces. In resisting these captivating devices, performers and audiences alike can confront and contemplate narratives that complicate the status quo, and ultimately come closer to the expression of radical intellectual equality.

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On being a “sama7” teacher : reflecting on colonization, white identity, relationships, and responsibility in Indigenous contexts (2012)

Since the majority of teachers of Indigenous students in Canada are non-Indigenous, thecurrent efforts to decolonize Canadian schools are largely dependent on these teachers’understandings of Indigenous education, as well as their approaches and accountability todecolonization. As a white teacher of Indigenous students, this thesis represents critical self-studyof a teacher’s role in decolonization in particular educational contexts. The researchconsiders being a dominant-culture teacher with Indigenous students in terms of the teacher’srelationships, professional identity, and pedagogy. Further, this body of work inquires into theeffects of (neo-)colonialism on the above, as well as on educational policy and curriculum inIndigenous contexts.Inasmuch as it is manuscript-based, the thesis reads differently from those written assingle studies. Chapters Three and Four are essays based on my first and third-year teachingexperiences in two distinct Indigenous communities, and each focus on different aspects of thoselocations and circumstances. For example, the third chapter is an analysis of the multi-levelledpolicy setting of a northern Québec school, and the fourth chapter employs a hermeneutical lensto examine my pilot of a culturally responsive curriculum in rural British Columbia. Theintroduction and literature review (Chapter Two) provide the context for both of these analyses,while the concluding chapter connects the two manuscripts with reference to current literatureand my present teaching position.As a whole, my study offers an understanding of the challenges and responsibilities fordominant-culture teachers in decolonizing their classrooms and schools through policies,pedagogies, and relationships. While it does not address the entirety of the experience of being a dominant-culture educator and ally working with Indigenous students, it confronts and inquiresinto several pivotal and interrelated areas in teaching for social justice. In considering differentaspects of my experiences, this study speaks to broader themes of (neo-)colonialism anddecolonization, culturally responsive curricula and pedagogies, educational policy, and crossculturalrelationships. Individually, these critical reflections on my practice have yielded intimate,yet significant portraits of teacher identity, and as a whole, they offer rich insights and multipleperspectives on some of the most pressing issues in educational politics today.

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Unsettling Japanese Canadianness in Vancouver : negotiated and hybridized identity (2011)

This research examines the identity construction processes and negotiations of members of the Japanese Canadian community in the Greater Vancouver area. In particular, it attempts to answer the following research questions: How do members of the Japanese Canadian community in the Greater Vancouver area construct, negotiate, and hybridize their identity in relation to their respective situations, such as people around them, their community, and the wider society? In particular, how do membership of the community and activities help construct their identity? This research looks at the concept of identity as relational, an on-going internal and external negotiation process, and hybrid based on the arguments of Bhabha (1990, 1994), Fuss (1995), Hall (1990), Nagel (1994) and Weeks (1990). This study also seeks to understand the informants’ relationships with their environment, employing the argument of Lowe (2004) and Spivak (1987) as well as the concept of the “third space” proposed by Bhabha (1990). Based on these perspectives, this research collected the identity construction stories from several Japanese Canadian community members through interviews. With a purposeful sampling strategy, the informants were selected based on their interests and engagement in the cultural and social side of the Japanese Canadian community in Greater Vancouver, and the variety of their ethnic background—in other words, the different ways of being to some extent Japanese. Based on the informants’ stories, this research argues that 1) the informants’ identities are hybrid and constructed through diverse processes and negotiations, including what they call themselves; 2) the informants and communities put efforts toward the deconstruction of “dominant” and “minority” dichotomous positioning with the combination of a sharing-oriented process and strategic essentialism; 3) community space plays a role as a third space for its members. From these arguments, this research also questions the concept of ethnicity and Canada’s multicultural policy based on ethnicity since there are many people and phenomena that cannot be explained with this concept.

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