Margaret Dechman

PhD (2008)

Dissertation title

The Narrowing Path:  A Multi-dimensional Life Course Analysis of Process of Exclusion

Why Dal?

Dalhousie University’s doctoral program in the Department of Sociology and Social Anthropology (SOSA) offers the combined benefits of being a small program within a large institution. Because only a small number of applicants are accepted into the SOSA PhD each year, students receive dedicated attention and support from their advisors. At the institutional level, Dalhousie offers PhD students across all departments the opportunity to pursue a Certificate in University Teaching and Learning while obtaining their degree.   This exceptional program cultivates critical thinking about teaching pedagogies, goals and strategies within an intellectually stimulating environment of interdisciplinary dialogue. At the same time, the SOSA Department makes every effort to engage their PhD students in instructional opportunities.

Since graduating

After completing my PhD at Dalhousie, I was hired into a tenure-track position in Cape Breton University’s (CBU) Department of Anthropology and Sociology. CBU is an ideal fit for me because of the institution’s articulated commitment to community collaboration, knowledge exchange and capacity building. 

What inspires me

I believe sociologists have an important role to play in countering the dominance of individualistic discourse that perpetuates and magnifies the suffering experienced by those who find themselves cast as the “other” and therefore undeserving of the compassion accorded to “responsible” citizens. In keeping with my doctoral work examining processes of social exclusion over the life course, I continue to be dedicated to working on community-based research aimed at improving the life circumstances of marginalized populations.

Although I am involved in projects on community policing and homelessness, my most extensive work is with people who inject drugs. I am currently a principal investigator for two research projects related to injection drug use, the first sponsored by the Cape Breton District Health Authority and the second sponsored by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. Drug-related deaths have become so prevalent in Cape Breton that one healthcare professional we interviewed referred to a local community as “God’s waiting room”. Members of the natural helper network, who distribute clean syringes to users, are working diligently with representatives from the AIDS Coalition of Cape Breton, Addictions Services, and CBU in an effort to address the structural constraints and stigma that underlie the tragic trajectories of addiction, exclusion, disease, and death.