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The Rock Where We Stand

The Rock Where We Stand: An Ethnography of Women's Activism in Newfoundland

  • Book Info
    The Rock Where We Stand
    Book Description:

    This important study continues the work of feminist ethnographies by such scholars as:Abu-Lughod, Behar, Cole, DiLeonardo, Ginsburg, and Lowenhaupt-Tsing. Avoiding the all too common pitfall of folkorization in rural studies,The Rock Where We Standrepresents an innovative and experimental contribution to the field.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-7944-3
    Subjects: Anthropology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-2)
  4. CHAPTER ONE Between Home and Field: Feminist Activism at the Grass Roots
    (pp. 3-22)

    When I arrived in Stephenville, a town on Newfoundland’s west coast, in 1992, I lived in the women’s shelter, an apartment in the Bay St George Women’s Centre. Also resident there were two women who, for different reasons, had no other place to live. Like Jenny, quoted above, I was impressed by the centre’s comforting atmosphere and the integration of activism with lunchtime conversation and the everyday management of a household. Yet, for my roommates, whose stories conveyed family conflict and parental addiction, this was not a home away fromtheirhome. It was a place to imagine what a...

  5. CHAPTER TWO Gender, Ethnicity, and Labour before and after the ‘Carefree Years’
    (pp. 23-58)

    By the summer of 1992, I had been living in Stephenville for two months and was, by then, accustomed to joining members of the Women’s Council in the kitchen at the centre, for lunch, to talk, or, at that time, to design signs for their upcoming walk-a-thon to raise awareness around ‘family violence.’

    One morning in early July the hum of everyday activity at the centre was disrupted by the deafening arrival of some forty fighter planes, bombers, and freight carriers as they swept, one after another, across town. The planes and the Canadian and American soldiers who flew them...

  6. CHAPTER THREE Re–creating Home: The Local Construction of Feminist Practice
    (pp. 59-93)

    By the time the Women’s Council was formed in 1985, women’s participation in the paid workforce was on the rise, particularly in the public sector as nurses, social workers, teachers, and white-collar staff. And by this time Stephenville had emerged as a commercial and service sector for the entire southwest coast, having benefited from the extensive infrastructure which the American military had left behind. The uneven character of the local economy was manifested in high rates of unemployment, particularly in rural communities, and a recognition of economic and social differences between women informed the character of the Women’s Council and...

  7. CHAPTER FOUR Contextualizing Dependency: Single Mothers and Feminist Politics
    (pp. 94-130)

    While living in Bay St George, I was fortunate to accompany Estasy, three members of the Women’s Council, as they entertained and educated audiences in community centres and schools throughout the region. ‘Unemployment Nightmares’ was particularly popular because of the way it satirized local lifestyles and at the same time cast blame and responsibility onto broad cultural forces. Although I was an outsider, I understood the keywords in this song, which referred to the dependency of residents on government schemes and financial support. Yet it took several months for me to appreciate how this reflected the way some residents made...

  8. CHAPTER FIVE Sexual Abuse and Violence: Contested Meanings and the Politics of Narrative
    (pp. 131-162)

    On 11 June 1992, CBC¹ Newfoundland presented a documentary on the dinner-time news which was later shown across the country. The documentary, which recounted the sexual abuse of children in the Bay St George region, stemmed from the recent conviction of a man who had sexually abused twenty children from his neighbourhood. The program characterized the region as one of high unemployment and poverty and included numerous personal and professional accounts along with those of a Catholic school board official. One of the women recounted a personal experience of incest as a child and the sexual abuse of her son...

  9. CHAPTER SIX Grass-roots Activism and Feminist Politics
    (pp. 163-197)

    Once a month council members would assemble around the kitchen table at the Women’s Centre and map with coloured markers a multipronged set of initiatives on a large chart. They would assess the strategies that were already in place to address a range of issues - a policy change in social assistance, for example. Or they would consider their media response to a politician’s sexist statement, or contemplate the most appropriate venue for an upcoming meeting with a priest, a minister, or members of an economic-development organization. This was a time for board members to air their views and frustrations,...

  10. CHAPTER SEVEN Rethinking Community: Feminist Activism and Sustained Settlement
    (pp. 198-218)

    Many of the songs that Estasy members write and perform are not devoted to serious social issues. Some are playful satires on everyday life. Others, like ‘The Rock Where We Stand,’ are more sentimental odes that show how important settlement in the region is to council members and residents of Bay St George, in spite of the realities of migration and the social problems that people experience. Such nostalgic yearnings, scholars argue, feed into a ‘sense of place’ and are engendered by modernizing forces.‘Place-based identity’ (Harvey, 1993:3) has intensified, argues David Harvey, in spite of the dissolution of spatial barriers...

  11. 8 Conclusion
    (pp. 219-236)

    When I returned to Stephenville one year after having left, I was greeted at the Women’s Centre with a chorus or two of the ‘Ode to Newfoundland.’ Standing at attention around the kitchen table, council members bellowed this tune as I entered the living room, then shouted at me for once again failing to remove my shoes. This was typical of the attention I sometimes received, and although it was somewhat embarrassing, I interpreted it as a contradictory expression of respect and irreverence, for me and that which I represented. The ‘Ode to Newfoundland’ distinguishes Council members and signifies their...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 237-242)
  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 243-252)
  14. Index
    (pp. 253-256)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 257-258)