Commuters and community on Bell Island: an ethnography of ferry mobilities and social reproduction

Royal, Diane (2024) Commuters and community on Bell Island: an ethnography of ferry mobilities and social reproduction. Masters thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland.

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This thesis draws on ethnographic fieldwork with commuting workers residing on Bell Island—a ferry-reliant community located in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador. At the time of fieldwork in 2015, registered work commuters traveling daily from and to Bell Island comprised approximately one-fourth of the island’s population. The commute itself is multimodal, involving a five-kilometre ferry trip across a short stretch of ocean, as well as travel by road at either end of the ferry. This thesis was undertaken as part of a large team project called On the Move Partnership, researching employment-related geographical mobility in the Canadian context. In studying the work-related mobilities of Bell Island ferry commuters, this research engages with literature on social reproduction and considers individual, household, and community-level patterns of unpaid labour. This thesis used ethnographic fieldwork methods of participant observation, unstructured interviews, and semi-structured interviews with Bell Island residents. It analyses the ways commuters form ‘support networks’ with other ferry passengers, contribute meaningfully to their own households, as well as ‘help out’ across households and participate in island-wide volunteer work. As such, this research highlights the many ways in which Bell Island commuters support one another, reinforcing their island community and cementing a commitment to people and place amidst demanding off-island commuting practices. It is through these everyday activities of social reproduction that Bell Islanders are shaping and re-shaping their island community. By considering the unwaged labour patterns that are part of the daily work commute itself, this thesis ultimately asserts that commuting in the Bell Island context is also a form of work.

Item Type: Thesis (Masters)
Item ID: 16375
Additional Information: Includes bibliographical references (pages 168-177)
Keywords: ferries, commuting, social reproduction, mobilities, place
Department(s): Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of > Anthropology
Date: January 2024
Date Type: Submission
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
Library of Congress Subject Heading: Ferries--Newfoundland and Labrador--Bell Island; Commuting--Newfoundland and Labrador--Bell Island; Ethnology--Newfoundland and Labrador--Bell Island;

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