Picturing Halifax: Young Immigrant Women and the Social Construction of Urban Space

Sarah England


This study explores the social construction of space in the lives of young immigrant women. Drawing upon data from photo-elicitation interviews, I analyze how young women who recently immigrated to Canada interpret and transform the meanings of spaces in their everyday lives. Using the social construction of space as a conceptual framework, I demonstrate how the social positions of young immigrant women are reflected in and negotiated through their use of urban space. While participants share perceptions of risk and experiences of gendered safety issues, all negotiate these issues by gaining spatial knowledge through exploration. They all also experience Otherness in various spaces. However, they construct belonging by developing diverse social networks, claiming space, and getting involved in the international community. It is evident that the city affects how, and whether, young immigrant women mobilize their identities as immigrants. New spaces bring new understandings of their identities as women, young people, and immigrants. This study illuminates how young immigrant women transform cities, and how, in turn, the city transforms them.

Editor's note: This article won the 2017 Best Undergraduate Student Paper Prize of the Society for Urban, National, and Transnational / Global Anthropology (SUNTA).


immigrant women; urban space; gender; youth; photo-elicitation; participatory research

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.15273/jue.v8i1.8620


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The JUE is a peer-reviewed online journal that publishes original ethnographic research by undergraduates working in a variety of disciplines. Submissions are welcomed. Contact the Editor, Karen McGarry.

ISSN 2369-8721