Re-Tooling the Sisterhood: Conceptualizing 'Meaningful Making' through Maker Culture, Makerspace Politics, and Feminist 'little m' making-as-activism

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Ring, Jessica




Hacktivism! Craftivism! DIY Feminism! The Maker Movement! In this dissertation, I unpack how certain Do-It-Yourself (DIY) practices have transformed from simple personal pastimes to meaningful sites for activism. To do so, I analyze three overlapping discursive terrains that I contend imbue DIY practices with a sense of 'meaningfulness'—which I term embodied materialism, critical making, and making as communication. I contend that all three of these terrains co-constitute making-as-activism identities, 'real-world' maker activist communities (makerspaces), and the wider making-as-activism network (Maker Culture). However, this blending of 'meaningful making' discourses is not evenly distributed, nor is it without contradictory logics and practices. Therefore, in this dissertation I analyze both mainstream (hegemonic) and counter-cultural (non-hegemonic) narratives of Maker Culture, makerspaces, maker identities, and making-as-activism. Through this multi-sided and multi-sited approach, I discovered that both hegemonic and non-hegemonic discourses co-produce the definitional boundary-work around 'what counts' as making-as-activism. Furthermore, I also contend that in using 'success narratives' and 'passionate work', the work/labour involved in producing Maker Culture are entangled in neoliberal logics—like empowerment and entrepreneurialism—which reproduces invisible structures of privilege within makerspaces. I also analyze how DIY politics and makerspace community-building have been adapted by Canadian feminist makers. Using interview data and my own experiences, I argue that feminist makers are building a non-hegemonic representation of Maker Culture by broadening what making-as-activism looks like, who does it, and how it intersects with holistic critical pedagogies. However, despite using a more reflective critical maker approach, I also discovered that feminist making and makerspaces can also re-produce many of the same contradictory logics that are found in mainstream, hegemonic Maker Culture. In concluding this work, I re-evaluate making-as-activism practices, identities, and communities within the context of the ongoing COVID-19 global pandemic. I conclude that collective care approaches are vital for building healthy communities—including makerspaces—and that joint responsibility can untangle some of the contradictory messiness that comes with leading an activist life in this contemporary moment.


Mass Communications
Gender Studies
Women's Studies




Carleton University

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Theses and Dissertations

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