Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Doctor of Philosophy




Dr. Rebecca Coulter


In order to explore the forming subjectivities of rural young women, the material and discursive conditions of girls’ lives are examined with a focus on how rural adolescent girls come to understand themselves within their worlds, how their consciousness of limitations and possibilities develops, and how this translates into agency and self-direction. The analysis draws on data collected during five months of ethnographic research with seven grade ten, eleven, and twelve female students in a rural community in Ontario’s near north. It starts from their experiences in order to look at their lives and options from their standpoint.

Using Bourdieu’s social theory, feminist standpoint theory, and scholarship on place, this study builds on and contributes to the critical scholarship on girlhood and rurality, and the infrequently considered intersection of these two social constructs. Also considered are the ways in which social media redefines these social constructs and has significant impacts on how these rural girls’ understand themselves, understand and relate to others, and construct visions for their futures.

Through data collected from four individual interviews with each participant, including one interview using photo-voice methods, and four focus group sessions in which the girls had considerable control over the topics, the young women reveal temporal understandings of themselves as they discuss who they “were,” who they “are,” and who they “want to be.” As the girls interpreted their material conditions and negotiated the discourses available to them, a consciousness of life’s possibilities and limitations emerged. These young women envisioned their future selves, largely in opposition to the place-based discourses they felt were stigmatizing. Revealing ambivalence toward their rural locality, the young women celebrated the nurturing power of nature and the rural but felt the pull of the alluring urban where they envisioned escaping the stigmas of rural life to become “successful.” Apparent, too, is their expanding knowledge of a hierarchy of place, which they both accept and resist. The analysis also reveals how providing the participants with a safe space where their individual and collective voices were heard and privileged, fostered consciousness-raising and learning.

Included in

Education Commons