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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Recomposing their lives : resettlement and women’s participation in leisure Suto, Melinda Jane


The conceptual models that dominate occupational therapy typically take a pragmatic, uncritical view of leisure that encourages practitioners to focus primarily on individual factors. Increasingly occupational therapy clients are 'immigrant women' engaged in resettlement processes that are outside of the occupational therapist's experience. Little empirical research exists to illustrate how recursive features of the resettlement process shape women's leisure. A qualitative study was undertaken to answer the question: How does the process of resettlement in Canada influence the ways women understand and participate in leisure activities? The research sample comprised 14 well-educated women from nine countries all of whom are married and have children. In-depth interviews, conducted in English, were the main data collection method. Descriptions of women's everyday activities and critical theory concepts were used to explicate the social relations that shaped their lives. Four themes arose related to leisure and resettlement. The themes orchestrating the day and connected yet apart highlight the time women spend in resettlement programs, and fulfilling child rearing and household responsibilities with diminished social support. The theme compromised careers reflects the downward occupational mobility women experience related to credentialing challenges. The theme socializing is the key to leisure captures how leisure participation is linked to language issues, family, and diminished time and money for leisure resulting from underemployment. Bourdieu's (1991) concept of capital was used to analyze the themes which showed how linguistic, economic and cultural capital function together to influence leisure activities. The ability to negotiate linguistic capital through the use of English was found to be most influential. Language skills, unemployment and family responsibilities intersected with policies that govern women's lives to create barriers to leisure participation. The intersection of time constraints, language abilities, diminished social support, career changes and gendered domestic activities contribute to how women understand and participate in leisure. The research findings show that leisure definitions, meanings and women's participation are strongly influenced by aspects of the environment, which women must negotiate to reconstruct their lives. Occupational therapy conceptual models should incorporate critical theories to better understand how these intersecting environmental forces help shape leisure participation for 'immigrant women.'

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