Narrative Inquiry and Ethnographic Research
I earned a doctorate in anthropology from the University of Alberta (2014), specialising in narrative inquiry and ethnographic research. For most of my career, I have been advocating for community-based approaches that are practical, relevant, and geared towards social justice.
Since 2012, I’ve been doing documentary work in Woodlane Village – a squatter camp in Pretoria. The informal settlement is home to 3000 people living in 846 shacks. The camp is located in the wealthy suburb of Moreleta Park and is surrounded by mansions and shopping malls.
My research explores the narrative accounts of participants living in this temporary and transient community [See THESIS]. These stories convey the nuanced and complex ways in which people make sense of home and belonging in a context shaped by dislocation, dispossession, violence and racial divides, and more recently by widening socio-economic disparities and mass migration.
While the stories are situated within Woodlane Village they speak to the larger experience of being human and the ways in which we create and recreate home and belonging. They speak of love and loss, of adaptation and resilience, and of the yearning to live in community with others despite the forces pulling us apart.
The result is a meditation on place, history, and identity — and the way our understandings of ourselves are constructed and refashioned through the stories we tell about our lives and our homes.
In 2002, I completed a MSc in public health, after a period of intensive fieldwork in Edmonton's inner city, focusing on how socio-cultural factors affect adherence to tuberculosis treatment among homeless people [See THESIS]. During this period, I worked for Our Voice, a street newspaper written and sold by people experiencing poverty and marginalisation, providing them with opportunities for both income and self-expression.
In 2006, I completed a major project for Panos Canada (now defunct) comparing and contrasting the community response to HIV/AIDS in Port-au-Prince, Haiti and Vancouver, Canada. AIDS in Two Cities pioneered an innovative bifocal approach of: A) Using “cities” as the analytical lens for looking at programmatic and policy responses to HIV/AIDS; and B) Using a commonalities approach to challenge the paternalistic assumptions that have formed the basis for the north-south development model [See A2C].