Feeding the Wrong Wolf: Work, Gender, and Generosity in a Northern Alberta Oil and Gas Community

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Houser, Dan




This thesis is an ethnography of Grande Prairie, an oil and gas community in the Peace Region of north-western Alberta. Drawing on 21 months of fieldwork, the cultural values of workers in the oil and gas industry are explored, along with how they navigate and understand their roles within that industry. It is found that the views held by such workers are heavily influenced by the nature of the exchange relationships that peripheral communities enter into with oil and gas companies, relationships that simultaneously support the community and embolden the scale and scope of industry activity. As such, notions of masculinity, gender, work, place, economics, and history co-mingle and contribute to the assembling of a series of masculine cultural value systems, including those that: encourage residents who profit from working in the industry to reinvest their time and money into the community; validate and maintain belief in the value, necessity, and enduring need for the goods, services, and jobs that result from oil and gas exploration in Alberta and Canada; imagine and summon peripheral and frontier communities as masculine spaces of economic, metaphoric, and social opportunity; and support and perpetuate traditional understandings of sexuality, manhood, gender, and femininity in working and community life. While those in Grande Prairie who resist normative gender and masculinity find support in a localized arts scene, other groups in the Peace Region, such as First Nations peoples and religious communities concerned with the social and environmental impacts of industry activity, lack similar support. Ultimately, these groups express their dissatisfaction with the industry through protest and subversion, but as with those who work within oil and gas, are largely powerless to avoid its impacts.


Cultural Anthropology




Carleton University

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