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UBC Theses and Dissertations

From Reena to Beti : a counterstory considering structural racism and limitations in feminist nonprofit organizations Birk, Manjeet


Adding to a growing field of literature in critical race studies in education, and gender studies, this project looks to understand cracks in feminist nonprofit organizations, specifically as they relate to services offered for racialized and Indigenous girls and women. Using data from 15 interviews with racialized and Indigenous activists with experience in mainstream nonprofit feminist organizations on unceded Coast Salish territory in the Greater Vancouver area, I compile the activists’ experiences in a composite counterstory drawing upon critical race theory methodologies (Solorzano & Yosso, 2001, Solarzano & Yosso, 2002, Duncan, 2002, Cook & Dixson, 2012). Beti, the protagonist of the counterstory, reveals the many structural barriers that exist within these organizations. This includes: tokenized use of racialized and Indigenous bodies to hold strategic positions maintaining “diversity” projects or fulfilling well-intentioned organizational policies only to come up against longstanding institutional barriers committed to racist and colonial white settler structures. This research indicates that these organizations had and continue to have a longstanding history of maintaining the nonprofit industrial complex. Beti, as a racialized settler, centers Indigenous ways of knowing, such as critical place inquiry, to better understand her position on stolen territories and how activism on this land might impact her ability to effect change because of the very nature of racialized and gendered violence that persists within the changing landscape of the city of Vancouver. Finally, I look at the ways this research project is incomplete. Additional research is required to further understand the experiences of activists in organizations, barriers to access and systemic exclusion for racialized and Indigenous girls and women within institutions.

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