Dr. Heather Castleden

Dr Heather Castleden is a (white) settler guest and scholar on traditional Anishinaabe and Haudenosaunee territory at Queen’s University where she is a Canada Research Chair in Reconciling Relations for Health, Environments and Communities.

She is grateful to be able to live and work here, raise her family, and appreciate the beauty of the land and water around her. She acknowledges that this has only been made possible by the earlier settler colonization of her European ancestors, and the ongoing settler colonial state currently known as Canada.

In light of this acknowledgement, she has spent her academic career as a geographer working at the theoretical, methodological, and empirical nexus of power and resistance, relationships to place, and moral/ethical accountability. Her research is community-based and participatory, in partnerships with Indigenous peoples, communities, organizations, and governments on topics important to them, focusing on the politics of knowledge production in environment and health justice.

At Queen’s University, where she holds her Canada Research Chair, she is also an Associate Professor in the Department of Geography and Planning, the Graduate Chair for the Department of Gender Studies, as well as the Director of the Health, Environments, and Communities Research Lab.

Heather also holds the Fulbright Canada Research Chair in Social Sciences, which will be hosted at the University of Hawai’i at Manoa in 2021

My Research Program

My program of community-based social, health and environment research is primarily unified through: 1) participatory research with Indigenous partners concerning issues that are important to them; 2) shared development and testing of innovative qualitative research tools that adhere to Indigenous principles for decolonizing methodologies; and 3) engagement in studies concerning the ethical tensions and institutional barriers associated with community-based participatory research processes and outcomes.

(1) Social, Environmental, and Health Equity: I am particularly interested in understanding, comparing, and contrasting Indigenous and non-Indigenous risk perspectives regarding social, environmental, and health impacts and adaptations in resource-dependent communities associated with environmental change. Particularly, I am concerned with how these perspectives are expressed and differentiated among and between stakeholders and decision-makers, and the implications these perspectives bring to bear on social-ecological communities.

(2) Methodological Innovation: My research stream on methodology takes, as its point of departure, the contributions of my doctoral research, in which I modified and subsequently evaluated the cultural applicability of using Photovoice, an innovative visual/oral research tool, to identify, document, and understand Indigenous environment and health perspectives. My postdoctoral program of study has involved training in and exploration of additional digital/visual methods. As an emerging methodologist, I am now testing digital storytelling as a method and dissemination tool in community-based research regarding the cultural, social, economic, and political implications of environmental change.

(3) Ethics: Through my stream of research on ethics I am continuing to build on my postdoctoral studies through inquiry into the distinctive nature of ethics associated with community-based and participatory research. Key principles of both include shared decision-making power and ownership in all phases of the research, community capacity, mutual trust and learning between team members, and integrated knowledge disseminated for the mutual benefit of all partners. The tensions associated with these principles, particularly the ‘ethically significant moments’ that occur after an ethics review board gives its approval, are ever present and require constant attention through rigorous and reflexive research.

To summarize: My career trajectory is to build a program of integrated, methodologically- and ethically-sound community-based participatory research that combines these four streams in the context of coastal communities in Canada. My research is geared towards developing a response to these and other issues in a way that maintains my record of engaging in innovative scholarship that plans for and creates social and environmental change. I would describe my work as the product of a balancing act between academic engagement and advocacy.

Photo credit: Jon Aarssen

Graduate Student Supervision

I am currently seeking graduate students with research interests that focus on:

» Community-based participatory research
» Indigenous renewable energy in Canada
» Environmental racism and social justice
» Critical, participatory, and Indigenous methodologies
» Two-Eyed Seeing
» Indigenous health equity
» Treaty rights
» Modern treaty implementation
» Relational ethics

If you are interested in applying to work with me in the HEC Lab at Queen’s University, I encourage you to contact me with a statement of interest, an up to date copy of your CV, a copy of your unofficial transcripts, as well as an exceptional piece of writing you would like to share.

If research interests align, I would be happy to chat with you about graduate supervision prospects, supporting you in your own work, or discuss the potential to work on funded graduate projects to support travel and expenses.

» Contact Heather
» Read more about Queen’s Grad admissions process