• Defining Freedom: An Ethnographic Study with American Vanlifers

      Murray, Stephanie; Department of Geography
      Moving alongside the “snowbirds” and grey nomads that have been discussed in the academic literature, there is a group of nomads that appears to have escaped scholarly attention. United under the “vanlife” and “buslife” hashtags, these individuals belong to a community of nomads who convert ordinary (and sometimes, extraordinary) vehicles into living spaces, and travel North America’s backroads in search of freedom and adventure. Using Cresswell’s definition of mobility as the combination of movement, representation, and practice, this thesis explores the meanings that American vanlifers assign to their mobility. Relying on participant observation and ethnographic interview data collected on the road during the summer of 2017, this thesis argues that when we deconstruct vehicle nomads’ use of the word “freedom,” it reveals important information about how they understand their mobility. By using a relational ontology and employing an epistemology of mobility rather than place, this thesis also attempts to expand the ways in which mobility can be understood by geographers. Through a detailed exploration of participants’ representations and practices, this study finds that when vanlifers used the word “freedom,” they were referring to their mobility in three specific senses: as freedom from social norms, freedom from routines and schedules, and freedom to pick up and go whenever they liked. As existing studies on RVers and British traditional nomads have already captured similar uses of the word “freedom” among their participants, this finding draws the existing research on vehicle nomadism into conversation in a productive way.
    • Rural Youths’ Perspectives on the Significance and Impacts of New Roads: The Case of Kaasa - Zogsa Road, Builsa North District, Ghana

      Adeetuk, Lina; Department of Geography
      This thesis investigates the uneven and differential implications of a newly constructed road for residents of Kaasa, a rural community in northern Ghana, with an emphasis on youth, a group whose experiences and practices in relation to road-based mobility have been largely overlooked. It also examines the labour-intensive model used to construct the road, and the relationship between this construction model and the completed road’s uneven implications for community members. Primary data was collected using in-depth qualitative phone interviews with a sample of 15 youth from Kaasa, the road-building project supervisor, and the local assemblyman. Analysis of this material, which employs a motility capital – or motility – framework, yielded three main typologies: (a) six implications of involving locals in the road-building process, (b) six themes that describe youths’ lived experiences of the new road, and (c) five additional themes that summarise youths’ perspectives on the implications of the new road for the community as a whole. Findings reveal that these three sets of implications overlap significantly, and that locals’ ability to experience the benefits of the newly constructed road depend mainly on their motility, including the assets and opportunities they possess as well as the ambition to act on available opportunities. By contributing to knowledge on the multifaceted material and social implications of rural road construction for differently positioned individuals in a small rural community, this thesis also adds to knowledge on rural development research and practice, and the new mobilities scholarship in the social sciences.
    • Understanding Post-secondary Student Mobility and its Impact on Wellbeing

      Gervais, Jacqueline; Department of Geography
      There are approximately 30,000 Brock University and Niagara College students making their way around Niagara region to attend school, engage in social activities, and contribute to the local economy through their employment and shopping, among many other activities. Unfortunately, however, transportation barriers discourage or prevent many of these students from fully participating in community life. While numerous studies have examined the linkages between transportation and public health, few have been focused specifically on the post-secondary student demographic, including Niagara’s university and college students. Through the application of a mobilities lens, along with The Five Ways to Wellbeing and Determinants of Health frameworks, this study examines the ways in which students’ levels of transportation accessibility impact their levels of mobility and subjective wellbeing. By applying a mixed methods approach, including an online survey and a photovoice project, this study has found that there are geographic-type and person-type barriers that create inequities and, in some cases, exclusions. Geographically, students living in certain Niagara municipalities, or attending certain campuses, have longer and more convoluted trips leading to a lower sense of satisfaction and subjective sense of wellbeing. Person-type barriers are characteristics that are unique to populations of people such as being domestic or international students, gender and having hidden disabilities. Building on Cresswell’s relational moments of mobility and Flamm & Kaufman’s motility, this study exposes the ‘hidden’ power relations that are fundamental to being mobile subjects and, ultimately, students’ subjective wellbeing.