UBC Theses and Dissertations

UBC Theses Logo

UBC Theses and Dissertations

South Asians in ‘the great outdoors’ : navigating racialized experiences rock climbing in so-called Canada Ali, Shabana


The underrepresentation of South Asians in climbing (Wigfield, 2021) is a significant indicator of the racial inequity in the sport and culture. This underrepresentation is all the more significant when we consider that South Asians are Canada’s largest visible minority group (Statistics Canada, 2017). While there is a small body of sociocultural scholarship around outdoor rock climbing, there are no studies focused on the experiences of South Asian Canadians specifically, or even racialized climbers more broadly. In response, this study examined the condition of a group of South Asian Canadian climbers, through the design of three data construction methods. These methods include:(1) observations from a day of outdoor rock climbing; (2) an on-site focus group discussion; and (3) an online questionnaire related to a photo creation from the day of outdoor rock climbing. While the focus group prioritized hearing the voices of South Asian climbers affected by the sociocultural conditions of climbing in Canada, the questionnaire focused on understanding the conditions themselves, which are in part created through the attitudes of other climbers. Both data sets were analyzed using a critical race theory lens, to consider how and to what extent the climbers’ racialized identities impacted their climbing experiences. The findings of this study were categorized into three main themes. The first theme looked at the experiences of South Asian climbers more generally, revealing experiences of disconnect and alienation from climbing communities, experiences which were perpetuated by Whiteness. The second theme outlined how the study participants negotiated their racial identities in pervasively White climbing culture, through adopting White supremacist ideologies, forming hybrid identities, and seeking connection and support. The third theme presented the ways in which the racialized bodies of South Asian climbers disrupted current Whitestream climbing culture, such as through creating a desire for solidarity among the marginalized and reinterpreting the ideals of Canadian multiculturalism. Findings from this study suggest that Whiteness must be interrogated, as well as all sites of privilege—such as gender, sexuality, ‘race,’ class and ability—by all climbers, in order to foster culturally safe and relevant climbing experiences for South Asian Canadian climbers.​​

Item Media

Item Citations and Data


Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International