Centre for Security, Armed Forces and Society

Rebecca Thiessen

I am a Canada Research Chair in Global Studies and Leadership. I am Adjunct Professor in Global Development Studies at Queen’s University and a Research Fellow at Dalhousie University. At RMC, I am cross-appointed to the Department of Politics and Economics and to the War Studies Program. I supervise graduate students in several graduate programs at RMC and in Global Development Studies at Queens.


My teaching interests cover a range of development themes, including courses on gender, conflict, global citizenship, human security and civil-military relations in complex humanitarian crises.


My research interests include two major areas of inquiry: 1. gender inequality in the developing world (especially sub-Saharan Africa, Indonesia and Sri Lanka) and 2. the role and (perceived) impact of Canadians in the developing world.

1. My research on gender inequality and development includes the study of a) gender and environmental issues in Africa (Ghana, Kenya, Zimbabwe and Malawi), b) gender and development in disasters (Indonesia and Sri Lanka), c) challenges of gender mainstreaming in development work (Malawi, Sri Lanka and Indonesia), and d) gender, HIV/AIDS and human security in Africa (Uganda and Malawi).

2. My second major area of research addresses social, cultural and identity-related issues pertaining to the role and impact of Canadians (volunteers, military personnel, NGO workers and government employees) working in the “developing world”1. The research objectives are to answer two inter-related questions: 1. What do Canadians believe to be their impact in the developing world in terms of the promotion of peace, security and development? This research involves comparative data about Canadian military personnel and civilians working in developing countries and what the people living in the developing world see as the impact of Canada’s actions abroad. Specifically, this research involves data collection with community members in countries where Canada offers humanitarian assistance and development. To understand how Canadians (civilian and military) understand their impacts abroad, I am currently involved in an International Development Research Centre (IDRC) funded research project titled: “Creating Global Citizens? The Impact of Learning/Volunteer Abroad Programs” which runs from 2007-2011. It is a collaborative project with co-Principal Investigator – Dr. Barbara Heron – at York University. I am interested in the motivations, expectations and perceptions of self and “other”, experiences with culture shock, reintegration challenges, and their understanding of contributions made while abroad.

The second part of this research concerns Canada’s impact abroad from the perspective of the people living in the developing world. IDRC funding for the project “Creating Global Citizens” has enabled Barbara Heron and I to collect data from members of host communities in the developing world (Peru, Guatemala, Malawi, South Africa, India and Jamaica). In other research, I examine the impact of Canadian military and development activities in post-conflict communities by carrying out ethnographic research with local organizational staff to better understand Canada’s impact abroad.

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