Exploring Karen Experiences of Urban Agriculture in Ottawa: The Importance of Place-making, Agriculture and Cultural Identity

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Kenny, Meaghan Ashley




Situated within the field of political ecology broadly, theorizing about social nature more specifically, and drawing on qualitative methods including PhotoVoice and participant observation, this thesis is an extended case study exploring the complex issues and processes pertaining to urban agriculture as practiced by Karen refugees in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. The Karen – many of whom are skilled farmers – first came to Canada (from the Thai/Burmese border) under refugee status in 2006, after enduring decades of persecution and ongoing acts of ethnic cleansing. More specifically, this paper
will address the following question: What socio-cultural, economic, political and ecological benefits do practices of urban agriculture foster amongst Karen refugees in Ottawa? The results describe the transformative power of people-place relationships and highlight the need for more inclusive, just and democratic land-use management policies that are cognizant of the diverse skills and (in some cases) agrarian roots of immigrant sub-populations.






Carleton University

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