We caught up with MSC alumna Jennifer Braun (IDS '08) and asked her about her research and work as a PhD candidate at the University of Alberta. Her PhD thesis is entitled, "Unearthing a New Agrarian Feminism: Investigating the role of women in Canadian Prairie Agriculture."
Tell us about your research. How did you get where you are?
I grew up on a farm in rural Manitoba and saw firsthand the effects of big agribusiness on small family farms. And I noticed how women seemed to work hard keeping the family farm together but were seldom acknowledged for their efforts. There is a conspicuous and unexamined lack of women in powerful leadership positions within agriculture. This, coupled with a deep concern for the future of the world's food production system, and the injustices embedded within, led me want to better understanding the problem, and imagine a way forward. The future of food involves innovative, collaborative, and socially just solutions. This requires the voices of women, and other marginalized, but equally affected, groups.
Who does it matter to and why?
My research is important to policymakers, small-hold farmers and Big Agra alike. It's an important and legitimizing voice in the growing movement of farmwomen who are speaking out against an outdated, patriarchal model of agriculture. In light of #MeToo and #TimesUp, this research incorporates and illuminates women's voices from a sector that is often overlooked.
Women are, and always have been, essential to agriculture's environmental sustainability, economic prosperity, and civic life. The quagmire that plagues our food systems needs innovation that comes from these diverse voices.
How is your research part of your teaching?
Judith Butler said, "For me, there is more hope in the world when we can question what is taken for granted, especially about what it is to be human" Here, Butler's words, embody two integral contributions of sociological inquiry: first, the desire to critically expose what is assumed to be 'true' or 'taken for granted' in the social world, and second, sociology's ability to create hope and inspire social change. Similarly, my own positioning as an academic requires me to undertake teaching as an always evolving, emancipatory and social justice project. As such, I strive to create a safe and inclusive environment for students to express their opinions, try out new ideas, and grapple with difficult concepts, particularly to encourage multiple and complex stories.
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