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Graduate Student Supervision
Doctoral Student Supervision
Dissertations completed in 2010 or later are listed below. Please note that there is a 6-12 month delay to add the latest dissertations.
In this dissertation I address the question of how social-structural network processes (such as the structural position of network actors, social influence, and social selection) are related to political discourses, perceived political influence, and policy positions of network actors, with respect to global climate change in the context of Canadian climate change policy making. Based on data collected from representatives of organizations, I conduct a series of analyses focused on aspects of this broader theoretical question. I begin by structurally analyzing five different types of network relations amongst climate change policy actors in Canada focusing on subgroup membership and core-periphery structures. The network relations are collaboration, communication, sharing of scientific information (these three are types of interaction networks), perceived influence in domestic climate change policy, and perceived influence on the respondent’s own organization (these two are types of influence networks). I find that subgroups comprised mainly of research and environmental actors are central within interaction networks, but less central in influence networks. Conversely, groups comprised mainly of business and government actors are less central in interaction networks and highly central in influence networks. I then build on this finding by analyzing how media coverage for environmental actors is associated with their perceived policy influence. I find a negative association between media coverage and perceived policy influence for individual activists, but not for environmental movement organizations. This finding challenges established literature that suggests environmental actors who garner more media coverage should be perceived as more influential in policy networks. Then I build on extant research on policy networks that focuses on explaining policy successes and/or failures that often rely on the Advocacy Coalition Framework (ACF). I argue this ACF approach leads to an incomplete understanding of the social dynamics of climate change policy making. I incorporate a policy network analytic approach to show the role that micro-structural network processes related to reciprocity, structural equivalence and transitive closure play in giving rise to informal policy networks, along with policy beliefs.
My dissertation compares two social movements opposed to water privatization in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada and Stockton, California, United States. While these movements emerged in response to similar global forces and institutions, they developed differently and had divergent outcomes. While the movement in Vancouver successfully prevented the privatization of local water services, the movement in Stockton failed to prevent water services from being privatized, although as a result of a legal challenge the private contract was eventually overturned. Through a qualitative comparative analysis of data from 70 in-depth digitally recorded interviews with movement actors, I identify the specific underlying pathways that explain how cognitive, structural and relational mechanisms combine to shape mobilization, including how activists frame grievances, respond to opportunities, and utilize social networks to achieve their goals. My analysis also illuminates how each of these mechanisms is altered by the interplay between global and local processes, including international institutions and economic opportunity structures.I identify four factors that explain mobilization emergence, trajectories and outcomes in the Vancouver and Stockton cases: 1) context-dependent socially constructed meanings of water, 2) differences in the use of frames, 3) differences in the nature of and responses to political opportunities 4) differences in the strength and cohesion of environmental-labour coalitions. The findings contribute to the sociological understanding of social change in a global era. By revealing how global processes are constituted and reconstituted by local social movements – as well as how they interact with frames, opportunities and networks – my research adds a more nuanced and complete understanding of the specific ways globalization is shaping social movement mobilization on the ground. The creation of local solidarity – achieved through the presence of global connectors and the synthesizing of transnational and situated frames – demonstrates the potential for social movements to move beyond identity or class-based politics to a more broad-based and inclusive counter-hegemonic movement. The findings demonstrate that successful challenges and alternatives to neoliberal globalization will not necessarily come from movements operating at the transnational level, but rather from locally-situated movements that are connected globally but rooted in local communities.
No abstract available.
This research provides a sociological analysis of skiing as a form of outdoor recreation and nature tourism in British Columbia, Canada. A qualitative multi-method approach is used, combining discourse analysis, interviews with skiers, and unobtrusive field observation at Whistler Blackcomb and Whitewater ski resorts. Through a focus on discourse, embodied interactions among humans and non-humans, and flows of power, this research describes an environmental ambiguity at the centre of skiing. There is a tension between interpretations of skiing as an environmentally-sustainable practice and notions of skiing as an environmental and social problem. Skiing is based on the symbolic consumption of nature and is understood by many participants as a way of entering into a meaningful relationship with the non-human environment. However, interpretations of skiing as a non-consumptive use of non-human nature are too simple. Social movement groups disrupt pro-environmental discourses of skiing by challenging the sport’s ecological and social legitimacy. Many skiers also articulate a self-reflexive environmental critique of their sport. In these instances, skiing is brought into the realm of politics. Recreational forms of interaction with the non-human environment tend to be at the periphery of environmental sociology. At the same time, sport sociologists tend to focus on the social dimensions of outdoor recreation, while bracketing out non-human nature. This research brings these two fields of inquiry into dialogue with each other, thereby addressing this double lacuna.
Master's Student Supervision
Theses completed in 2010 or later are listed below. Please note that there is a 6-12 month delay to add the latest theses.
Research shows how appeals to save charismatic megafauna have been used effectively as tools in campaigns for larger conservation-oriented projects. However, analysis over parallel efforts with ‘charismatic megaflora’ – specifically giant trees – has largely been neglected. During the contentious period of land use debates in British Columbia of the late 1980s and early 1990s, Wilderness Preservation Movement (WPM) activists mobilized for collective action against monolithic forestry corporations. A rallying point for activists was spurred in part by the discovery of the largest Sitka Spruce trees in Canada, which were slated for clear-cut logging. In a concerted effort to prevent this harvest and mobilize public support for broader preservation efforts, WPM actors engaged in media outlets to shape the debate – often through giant tree frames. This research evaluates the framing of this land use debate around giant trees as an effective media outreach strategy for expanding support for preservation efforts, as well as exploring their underlying supportive frameworks. Content and network analyses of sample news media articles spanning the period 1986-92 assess the construction, salience, and relationships of giant tree frames in coverage of WPM. Analyses of a singular framing strategy reveal the efficacy of striking imagery as well as the repertoire of discursive tools underpinning efforts to communicate social movement ideals to larger audiences. Results suggest that the construction of environmental problems is largely reliant upon scientific rationale, whereas economic and emotional appeals either contest or reinforce scientific claims. Even with the ambivalent nature of science in constructing environmentalist claims, scientific framing successfully communicates environmental problem salience, potentially of import for contemporary collective action strategies.
This study examines public support for climate justice and climate policies, based on results from an online survey given to 971 respondents in British Columbia, Canada in July 2010. The concept of climate justice is rooted in the recognition that segments of the population may be more or less vulnerable to the negative impacts of climate change, and that it is often the most vulnerable that are the least responsible for contributing to climate change. Climate justice is a growing area of research and the impetus for a burgeoning social movement worldwide; this study examines public perception of social aspects of climate change issues in British Columbia, providing insight into how individuals in a first world setting conceptualize vulnerability and responsibility to climate change on a provincial, national, and international level. The survey instrument for this study focused on climate change risk perception; fairness and responsibility in terms of climate action and climate impacts; levels of support for specific climate policy options; views on civic engagement and equality; and environmental attitudes. Findings show age to be the only socioeconomic demographic variable with significant effects on support for climate justice and climate policies, with older respondents more likely to show support. Respondents exhibiting greater support for civic engagement, greater support for equality, more proenvironmental attitudes, greater belief in climate action, and a belief in anthropogenic climate change are also more supportive. Recommendations for climate change decision-makers and communicators, as well as areas for future research, are also discussed.