Students, Awards, Anthropology

Anthropology PhD student Jenny Shaw Awarded Vanier Scholarship

September 26, 2013

After graduating from the University of Victoria with her BA (in 2007) and MA (in 2010) in anthropology, Jenny Shaw began her PhD in Anthropology at SFU in 2012, planning to study the experiences of immigrant and refugee youths in BC. Shaw worked for several years in Victoria and Vancouver with families in their settlement processes. She witnessed the tremendous barriers faced by newcomer youths in gaining employment and accessing education in BC. Shaw notes, “I also became increasingly aware of the challenges they face at home, often having to reestablish their relationships with their parent(s) after long periods of separation.”

Shaw is intrigued by immigrant parents’ drive to try to provide their children with a better life, and witnessed the ambivalence of some youths regarding their migration and family relationships. She is also concerned with how Canada’s immigration policies impact transnational families at individual, familial, and structural levels. Her PhD research project is titled “Interrupted Lives: Youths’ Experiences of Transnational Migration and Prolonged Family Separation.”

The project will focus on how newcomer youths create, negotiate, and maintain their relationships with family members transnationally and locally, as well as how these youth understand the reasons for their parents’ migration. Shaw explains, “my plan is to conduct a qualitative, ethnographic study that will employ participatory and visual methods to meaningfully engage participants, and to create a forum for community engagement around the experiences of immigrant and refugee youths.”

Receiving the Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship is for Shaw “a tremendous honour, as it signifies that many other people consider this research to be important”. She is concerned about how difficult it often is to have youths’ voices recognized, adding that “receiving this scholarship means that I will be better able to bring their perspectives to the forefront.” Indeed, Shaw is planning an innovative, participatory project for which she will hire youth research assistants and use digital technology to co-create a visual research component aimed at community-based audiences. Shaw concludes, “my hope is that this project will enable young people’s perspectives to be amplified and to reach those around them, including peers, family, educators, settlement workers, and policy-makers.”

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