PhD Oral Exam - Laurence Parent, Humanities
When studying for a doctoral degree (PhD), candidates submit a thesis that provides a critical review of the current state of knowledge of the thesis subject as well as the student’s own contributions to the subject. The distinguishing criterion of doctoral graduate research is a significant and original contribution to knowledge.
Once accepted, the candidate presents the thesis orally. This oral exam is open to the public.
Despite the growing literature on walking practices, mobile methods, differential mobilities and mobility justice, little is known about what it means to move through cities using a wheelchair. While other mobilities researchers engage with wheeling – for example, those studying cycling – I offer a new perspective on a type of wheeling that has been historically ignored and devalued.
At a time when cities are taking actions to build more walkable environments, understanding the experiences of disabled people is critical. As a researcher using a motorized wheelchair, I explore what it means to conduct wheeling interviews, instead of “traditional” walking interviews, with fifteen disabled Montrealers. The interviews are recorded on a GoPro camera, mounted on my wheelchair and theirs – for interviewees who had one. One participant walks with the assistance of a dog and another uses a white cane. The mobile methodology developed in this research builds on Arseli Dokumaci’s (2013; 2014a; 2014b; 2018) research on disability as a method and the affordances of the everyday as well as on my own activist research on ableism at the Mobile Media Lab at Concordia University. Through the wheeling interviews in different Montréal’s boroughs, I examine participants’ everyday mobilities and two different dimensions of participants’ sense of belonging: their belonging in Montréal disability communities and their belonging in the city. I analyze participant’s experiences mainly through critical disability studies, mobility studies and oral history. Participants’ stories show that their right to the city and their capacity to move through it are severely compromised because ableism is embedded in Montréal’s built environment and culture. Yet few participants question their belonging in the city or proudly declare their attachment to the city. The lack of vocabulary in French for talking about ableism makes it difficult to discuss sense of belonging from a critical perspective. Furthermore, disabled Montrealers are not all equal in the face of the ableist city’s barriers. Those who experience several types of discrimination – for example racism and ableism – are more likely to face obstacles and to question their sense of belonging. I conclude the thesis by proposing 51 actions to build an anti-ableist city.