Fort McMurray is a place where the usual laws of the universe just don’t apply sometimes. In this case I am referring to the Penhorwood Condo’s. On January 15, 2015 these contentious masses of timber, concrete, steel, glass and siding began to be torn down using machines with claws. Lots of writings and news stories have been dedicated to these condo’s, their development, their condemnation, the way that residents were alerted by fire fighters that they needed to evacuate immediately, and the fact that owners have had to continue to pay taxes, fees, mortgages and so forth, even whilst no access has been allowed since 2011.
Since I am living and working right across the street from these buildings that are coming down, I have decided to spend some time photographing their take down.
For more information and background simply look up The Penhorwood Condos in Fort McMurray.
“Where is Fort McMurray” is a webspace for thinking about spatial questions in regards to Fort McMurray, Alberta, Canada.
Spatial questions, and in particular Spatialization refers to the inter-relationships between people and places. Spatialization is a term developed and theorized by Dr. Rob Shields, Henry Marshall Tory Chair at the University of Alberta.
As a student of Dr. Shields, I have been a student of Spatialization for the better part of the last decade. Of great influence has been the Journal Space and Culture as well as the compendium blog site spaceandculture.com.
When I first established this particular webspace my intention was to use it as a way to show-off some of the work I did while working on a PhD in Sociology at the University of Alberta. In particular Where is Fort McMurray emerged as a focusing question for field work with youth.
Now, in 2015 I have found myself in Fort McMurray once again, this time teaching Sociology at Keyano College.
At this point I want to work to establish this site as a kind of case study, or working geography for the Photographer-Researcher.
The Photographer-Researcher is that which I call my own method.
I plan to write more in detail about this method, so for now I will close this post.
Now that you are here you probably want to know what this is all about?
Simply put, this website is a dedicated space for disseminating images, writings and discussions about a University of Alberta led collaborative research project.
Over the course of my own dissertation work in the Dept. of SociologyWhere is Fort McMurray emerged as the central research question.
From a co-authored paper about to be submitted for review,
“To get at the questions of community, we pursued a course of research that focused on youth. High school aged youth evolved through a trajectory that saw their role as; subjects, participants, collaborators, researchers, and advocates. Multi-level collaboration, meant that we could ebb and flow with one another and the various connected individuals and groups to help illustrate a rich and broad temporary representation of social flows. Along with community we settled on the just-abstract-enough question of “Where is Fort McMurray?” taken colloquially, the question asks with a deceptively broad yet deep stroke, taken literally, the questions seems to ask at geography, and taken metaphorically – we found that responses developed as deeply introspective reflections on what it means to be, in relation to a place, in this case, Fort McMurray. Depending on respondents’ age, maturity, and cultural background, “Where is Fort McMurray?” offered us a starting point to any conversation, as well ensuring that we would not be getting a singular response.” – (Dorow, S., Shields, R., Lozowy, A. 2012)
As the research arm of this multi-year project evolves into writing and dissemination we will be sharing the work internationally as a way to enter into discussions around energy, oil, flows, cameras, pictures, images, youth, multi-level collaborative research, affect, and topologies.
Where is Fort McMurray was born out of both SSHRC and Killam grants awarded to Sara Dorow. Her larger project goes by the working title: Social Landscapes of Neoliberal Growth: the case of Fort McMurray, Alberta. Sara Dorow along with Sarah O’Shaughnessy are guest editors on the upcoming special issue titled – Community Between State and Market: thinking Through Fort McMurray, slated for August 2012 through CJS.