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Encountering silence(s) : mitigating the negative social impacts of construction camps with Lake Babine Nation Quinn, Hannah Elizabeth

Abstract

Lake Babine Nation is currently in negotiations with the Prince Rupert Gas Transmission Pipeline Project regarding the construction of a 950km liquid natural gas pipeline through their traditional territory. While the project has been approved, Nation members continue to express their concerns regarding construction camps, facilities designed to accommodate up to 1000 temporary workers. Increased rates of sexual violence, sexually transmitted infections, and domestic abuse are some of the impacts they are most concerned about. While the initial goal of my research was to voice the concerns of Babine women, I was frequently confronted by prolonged silences, long pauses, refusals, and hesitations in my research encounters. This thesis reflects my critical engagement with silence as it emerged in interviews, negotiations, public discourse, and in the lived experience of Indigenous women in Lake Babine Nation. The questions that motivated this analysis attend to silence as a concept, experience, and method. What follows is the genealogy of the silences encountered: the silences incited by colonialism, the silences mobilized by marginalized people to negotiate institutions that seek to silence them, and the embodied silences of those who live with the embodied consequences of sexual violence. The purpose of my focus on silence has not been to impose a grand theory of silence on my research participants. Rather, the goal has been to attend to the pauses and gaps as they emerged in the research process, in a non-binary way. By extending silence, Babine women invited me to reflect on my positionality, the structures of domination in which we are implicated, and on their embodied and affective realities. What I find myself left with is silence as invitation—an invitation to learn, to unsettle colonial and racial relationships, to refuse, to resist, and to listen. Through a concerted focus on silences that surround sexual violence against Indigenous women, we may begin to see how anti-violence work can contribute to processes of decolonization and self-determination. This research establishes silence as a legitimate focus of investigation in qualitative research that may be approached with the same rigor with which we approach that which is spoken.

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