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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Alternative visions of "Harmony" : exploring gender and participation in the Malcolm Island Community Resource Cooperative Pullen, Mary MacLaren

Abstract

The cooperative enterprise has seemed, to many contemporary 'green' theorists, to be a socially sustainable economic alternative to conventional corporate capitalism, based on the ideas of grassroots participation, democracy, egalitarianism, community, social equity and empowerment. I argue, however, that there has been no attempt in 'green' thought to analyze gender relations within the cooperative enterprise. Instead, 'green' theorists view the cooperative as a homogeneous social entity with a shared subjectivity; and assume that the cooperative's 'sustainable' attributes - decentralized, democratic, and equitable principles - will ensure gender equity and empowerment through social sustainability. Reviewing 'green' theories of cooperatives and social sustainability, this thesis challenges 'green' interpretations of participation and social sustainability that ignore members' gendered identities, relations, and interests, particularly in resource-dependent communities. 'Green' definitions of participation have tended to narrowly focus on access to the cooperative without paying attention to cooperative member dynamics. By focusing attention on the nuances of participation and the implications for equity and empowerment, this thesis explores the complexities and contradictions of gender and participation as they apply to a mixed-gender community resource cooperative on Malcolm Island, British Columbia. Using a labour-knowledge-authority framework, the case study of the Malcolm Island Community Resource Cooperative (MICRC) illustrates that while the cooperative may be socially sustainable according to 'green' community and social economic ideals, actual participation in the cooperative enterprise is more complex, contradictory, and gendered than 'green' thought has typically assumed.

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