PhD Oral Exam - Katharine Dunbar Winsor, Social and Cultural Analysis
"Wading against a tide": Emotions, ethics and the interstitial space of community service provision for criminalized mothers.
This event is free
School of Graduate Studies
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.
In this dissertation, I examine how community-based service providers support criminalized women navigating motherhood, substance use and desistance. To date, researchers have focused on the experiences of incarcerated people with lesser attention paid to post-release realities. There is a dearth of research focusing on community-based organizations and the service providers that work within them to support criminalized people.
In criminological work, emotions have been ignored or interpreted to pathologize (e.g., appearing unfeeling, overly emotional). Emotions are culturally and socially shaped experiences and entangled in the precarity, structural and systemic conditions experienced by criminalized people.
Service providers support their clients and witness emotions experienced by their clientele as they navigate child protection systems, substance use recovery and desistance processes. Simultaneously, service providers engage in emotion management while encountering the intimate details of their clients' lives and advocating for them against the realities and gaps of criminal legal, child protection, and welfare systems.
In this interstitial space of service provision, I ask how service providers engage in this emotion management work in supporting criminalized women. I examine the role of service providers in the context of structural and systemic gaps experienced by their clients.
Through interviews with 23 community-based service providers working with criminalized women in Atlantic Canada and reflexive journaling, I argue that service providers engage in the emotional terrain of supporting their clients. I mobilize the concept of emotional-ethical dilemmas, which I argue forms the backdrop of service providers’ work and highlights the constraints in their capacity related to organizational mandates, limited funding, and compassion fatigue.
Key findings underline the importance of trauma-informed and harm reduction practice and services as supports for criminalized women and to ease the emotional-ethical dilemmas experienced by service providers. I argue that substance use recovery and desistance processes are intertwined and supported by service providers. The findings draw attention to the persistent complex unmet needs of criminalized women in Atlantic Canada, such as housing and poverty. These unmet needs highlight how we must understand criminalized women’s lived realities in the context of systemic and structural gaps, not individual failures.