Photo of Sara Spike

Sara Spike

Doctoral Candidate

Degrees:BA, Hons (Ottawa); MA (Concordia)

Current Program



James Opp

Academic Interests

Visual Culture, Rural History, Atlantic Canada, Historical Theory

Select Publications

“Phenology and Local Knowledge in Early Twentieth-Century Rural Nova Scotia,” NiCHE blog, April 8, 2015

“Cranberry Capers: Wild Harvesting in Nova Scotia, 1880s and 1950s,” NiCHE blog, December 10, 2014

Review of Jonathan Crary, 24/7: Late Capitalism and the Ends of Sleep, in Labour/Le travail, no. 75 (Spring 2015): 342–344.

Review of Constance Classen, The Deepest Sense: A Cultural History of Touch, in Histoire sociale/Social History 46, no. 91 (2013): 229–231.

“Picturing Rural Education: School Photographs and Contested Reform in Early Twentieth-Century Rural Nova Scotia,” Historical Studies in Education 24, no. 1 (2012): 49–71.

“The Afterlives of ‘Home Sweet Home,’” with photographs by Katherine Knight, Visual Communication 10, no. 3 (2011): 257–286.

Teaching Experience

HIST 3810 – Historical Theory Fall 2012, Winter 2013, Winter 2015

Description of Research

My dissertation explores a series of interconnected histories of vision and modernity in rural Nova Scotia in the late nineteenth century as an opportunity to think about the ways that rural people navigated and negotiated processes of modernization and reform in their communities. From the perspectives of sensory history and visual culture studies, this project investigates a variety of rural practices of observation and discourses about sight, illuminating a persistent anxiety about normative vision tied to broader concerns about the transformations taking place in both rural and urban places. By using “vision” as an analytical lens, my project reveals convergences and overlap across disparate sites and cultural forms. Chapters include discussions of nature-study and sensory training in rural elementary schools, practices of skilled vision at agricultural exhibitions, rural outreach from the Halifax School for the Blind, the professionalization of optometry in rural communities, and the vision of sailors in relation to new maritime navigation infrastructure. The result is a cultural history that places rural communities in Nova Scotia at the centre in of a conversation about modernity in Canada in the years bracketing the turn of the twentieth century.