Nov 14 Qs

Pre-meeting Qs from students for the Nov 14 class meeting

Overarching question
Participants attending a 2008 international conference on collaborative inquiry claim that “[s]ome of the toughest [questions] relate to issues of power and community definition” (High, 2009, p. 14). In a collaborative exchange, who are the insiders? Who are the outsiders? Can history innovate change and work to draw community together? Or, vice versa, can it work to alienate community members? Similar to democratic discourse, the process of collaborative inquiry is painful and messy. Does the freedom of digital access which “endlessly celebrate[s] the open-endedness of process, the multiplicity of sources, and the unlimited questions these can support” (Frisch, as cited in High, 2009) serve to help collaborative inquiry?

On Biss, No Man’s Land
After reading the piece by Biss, I found myself reflecting upon ‘fear’ quite a bit, and thinking about the different ways in which fear has been enacted throughout the years via certain laws or policies – i.e. racial segregation (which is something that Biss also discusses), and/or through wars (both ideological and physical warfare) – i.e. the cold war, and now, as I’m sure we are all familiar with, and as the author also mentions on page 157: the “War on Terror” (which has resulted in a drastic rise in Islamophobia and fear of/animosity toward Brown folks – especially those who look and are Arab). As history has shown us, “[f]ear is promoted by the government as a kind of policy” (p. 157), and because we are constantly being told which places and people we should supposedly avoid, is it then safe to assume that fear is something that will always exist in our society?

In Biss’ article we see how residents of a Chicago neighbourhood deal with their fear of ‘the other’ through the creation of a ‘hostile fantasy’. The overarching narrative of Rogers Park romanticizes the historic role of pioneers, and ‘how things used to be’, in effect ignoring the tragedy of Native American displacement, and excluding residents who do not conform to white, middle class standards. Simultaneously, as we saw in Kern, the threat of ‘the other’ is calmed through commodification and purification, as developers boast the ‘diversity’ of the neighbourhood as a selling point. While both work to exclude the often racialized ‘other’ they are not the same story. Can a community celebrate the pioneers (while ignoring the history of Native American inhabitants) and at the same time promote ‘diversity’? What types of tensions might emerge among residents or community planners who hold conflicting visions for Rogers Park? For example, Biss and her husband clearly were uncomfortable with the interactions they had with other residents who would say things to them such as ‘ we need more people like us here’. As we can see for Biss, there is also internal tension as she navigates her day to day encounters in the neigbourhood as a white woman.

Biss explores the many ways in which her neighbourhood is both experienced and imagined, and how notions of  “community” are cultivated and/or complicated. At one point, she describes how gangs are experienced as both “real” and “conceptual” (p.149). What are the implications of this statement in relation to fear and segregation? How does Biss’ community of Rogers Park operationalize, justify and codify fear into their landscapes?

Eula Biss’ short essay is intriguing. At first I hesitated reading Bliss’ writing style but I have grown to like it reading the second time around. An overarching theme in her writing is how fear is portrayed. In this chapter Bliss’ describes the fear of the unknown and how that is disseminated in society. For example she describes how she was warned about moving to Rogers Park because according to other people around the author Rogers Park seemed as dangerous. Bliss also gives the example of her friend traveling to South Africa and how sheltered she must remain to stay “safe” and the fear they cultivated in her in the name of safety (p 150). Bliss’ experience in New York City as the only female riding the metro late one night doesn’t fear her but rather fury’s her. What do you think of Bliss’ idea that government policies promote of fear and that fear is some sort of “accepted” intelligence?? Or is it some sort of act of violence??

On High, Sharing Authority
“When taken for granted, community becomes a static category that exaggerates differences with the world without and erases the differences within” (Steven High). This is a very powerful and important statement that can be applied to our classroom and the communities we address and research. The Sharing Authority article comes off very positively and I completely endorse it’s anti-oppressive and empowering characteristics however, I think that it is also essential very to note that when doing community based research it is vital to acknowledge that not all members are homogenous and may not agree with next. What challenges may this pose in research that wishes to share the authority, are there any examples you can think of from our readings? On the other hand what are some ways that these internal differences can be accommodated for in a shared authority research process?

In High’s article, the shift of authority from university researcher to the greater community being researched is said to serve multiple purposes, one of which is described as “Engaged Scholarship”. It is shown that through this process, both researchers and community members can have higher levels of satisfaction with the process and results of the research. However, as mentioned in the article, researchers may also run into more problems with ethics using these alternative methods (pg. 23). Being in a research methods class at the moment, I can think of a whole multitude of issues that would arise in this method of research that would not match up with the scientific method that is considered the holy grail of all methodology. I suppose my question is, what sort of controls can be put in place to protect the validity and reliability of results that stem from a shared authority of knowledge? Are there specific ways we can lessen the “distance” between researchers and the community without running the risk of biased, unethical, or irrelevant results?

How effective is collaborative community based research, what are some examples?  How do we measure the success of the research?

High stated “that community is more of an “evocative symbol” than an “analytical tool.” What does this exactly mean?

Oct 31 Qs

Pre-meeting Qs from students for 10/31:

On O’Donnell’s: Children, Youth and the Culture Plans of Canadian Cites
In addition to economic imperatives, such as cultivating future audiences for art, cities and foundations make claims that engaging youth in artistic activities fosters sociability and well-being. Do you think that it’s really possible to separate these desired economic and social outcomes? As well, the strong emphasis on social cohesion and economic feasibility seems to be prioritized at the expense of the subversive potential of creating and disseminating art and culture, with civic engagement accounting for only 10% of city imperatives. Does creating ‘healthy and cohesive’ communities through children’s participation in art simply mean socializing them into their proper roles as producers and consumers in the neoliberal city?
I enjoyed reading this assigned reading however I feel kind of disappointed in which the way the report findings were reported. For example Canadian Heritage in the purpose of this report had a negative connotation that “Canada’s most promising young artists” (p20) will benefit from Canada Heritage whereas other youth without promise disregarded. O’Donnell is “suggesting that those without promise should contemplate work in other fields” (p20). I am familiar with Canadian Heritage and I specifically looked at the bibliography as to what O’Donnell is referencing. I scanned The Canadian Heritage 2010–2011 Report on Plans and Priorities and couldn’t find the statement regard “Canada’s most promising young artists”. But what I did find in this report how Canada Heritage is a major funder and contributes to Katimavik the National Volunteer Youth Service Program that I had participated in promoting a Canadian identity through volunteerism with arts and cultural component. I feel the O’Donnell jumped to conclusion on a term that really means Canada’s most promising young artists is really about young talented Canadian artists whether they developed their talent or were born with their “gift” doesn’t necessarily mean to find employment in other fields. In Katimavik, this program allows youth between the ages of 17-21 years to explore, create, develop a identity Canadian youth nation building investing in cultural diversity.

On Kern, Intro and Chapters 1 & 2 of Sex and the Revitalized City

After reading chapter 1, I began to think about other cities in the world. The need to bring a higher quality to life by reforming cities, introducing new concepts for tourist attraction or reconstruction of the infrastructure is a tactic and motif cities in reformation take. In Toronto the building of condominiums brings benefits to the city but also neglects some of the population. As it attracts single women to provide independence it excludes others. The reformation of most cities excludes the lone mothers, low income families and welfare earners who also strive for aid. The question is how can a city include all aspects of its population rather than focusing on one at a time?

Kern discusses how neoliberal assumptions of subjectivity work with certain co-opted feminist ideologies to reinforce female condominium ownership in “revitalized” urban environments. Specifically, concepts of private property ownership tied to deeply-rooted assumptions about North American citizenship are merged with liberal feminist ideals of economic independence and female autonomy outside of (heterosexual) marriage. Why does Kern say these ideological connections are profoundly ironic and problematic? How do the female respondents complicate notions of home ownership as establishing the “perfect” responsible citizen? Who is left out in the “hierarchy of tenure”? And where is state responsibility in all of this?

Kern (2010) invokes the Foucauldian concept of ‘governmentality’ to illustrate how neoliberalism translates to new modes of governance in which the individual self-regulates and self-disciplines according to normalizing ‘truths’ (see p. 9). In this modern reconfiguration of power relations, the individual assumes responsibility for self-governance through acts of ‘choice’ and self-discipline.  In this way, how does the condo ‘lifestyle,’ (i.e., the amenities, recreational services, courtyards, communities, the organization of space and time) engender selves and bodies that self-regulate according to commonsense notions about personal fulfillment and ‘quality of life?’

The author notes that “the ability of some women to participate in gentrification… rests on the displacement of other women”(p.29). Does the idea of gentrification represent how individualistic society is today and how do we overcome this process? Will changing policy be sufficient or will the transfer of policy into action/reality be a problem once again?

On Boyd, “Producing Vancouver’s (hetero)normative nightscape”

How does the dance scene in Vancouver reinforce sexed, gendered and class-based norms?

Boyd discusses in her article the experience that many people have when venturing downtown to the Granville Strip – the hypermasculinity that causes bar fights and sexual harrassment alike (par. 29). The pumped-up, alcohol-fueled “macho“ behaviour is so bad that the participants of the research, so-called “indie kids“, often choose to avoid the area completely. Instead, they choose to hang out at “less mainstream“ venues – ones where they apparently feel safer, despite often being located in the frequently avoided East Van (par.30). The “aggressive masculinity“ described in the article is definitely a phenomenon that I have experienced in downtown clubs on the Granville Strip and in other major cities, and I had also personally noticed the difference of heterosexuality expressed in “mainstream“ vs. alternative locations. Upon also reading the O’Donnell article on youth and culture plans in cities, I began to wonder if arts and creativity as both an economic and social focus, as O’Donnell recommended cities should have (p.3), were also responsible for the different feelings of safety and sexuality created in these alternative venues. As Boyd notes, nightlife is often frequented by youth, and the focus of most “club culture“ is purely on compulsive heterosexuality and performative gender roles (par.6). Alternatively, the “indie kids“ equally identify as heterosexual, but express their gender in ways that go against the norm, and unify themselves “over common interest in particular aesthetics of music, art, dress and dance“ (par.9). Do you think that the fact that most alternative events or venues are created around some sort of music or art directly contributes to less aggressive expressions of masculinity, or higher feelings of security or safety in the youth that experience them?

Though I would not refer to myself as an ‘indie kid’ (I really dislike labels/categorizations), I do agree with some of the concerns that both Boyd and the indie kids raise about hetero-normative spaces in this article (i.e. issues around safety, surveillance, etc.). However, I was both troubled and concerned with the ways in which the indie kids described ‘hyperfemininity’.  For example, Boyd has included excerpts from interviews she conducted with women from the ‘non-mainstream’ scene, and I noticed that an individual referred to some female “mainstream patrons” as “Barbies”, and when commenting on “the performance of gendered roles”, one person mentioned that: “[…] You know, like the big guys, with the baseball cap who’s loud with his beers yelling, being all loud and having possession over his woman who’s always wearing tight revealing clothes or hairspray” (p. 182). The use of the term “Barbie”, and the comments directed toward some women’s exterior appearance – i.e. “tight revealing clothes” (p. 182) are extremely problematic, because in my opinion, the indie kids  are not only engaging in a form of body policing, but they are also slut-shaming women who dress in a manner that they may not approve of. Ironically, even though indie kids criticize mainstream discourses, through their negative comments, they are reinforcing misogynistic perceptions of women, as well as participating in a form of ‘female-on-female’ hate themselves. Perhaps, this is an example of the “reversed elitism” that Boyd refers to on page 185?

Boyd accurately identifies the heteronormative gender construction of the Granville strip and Gastown, but I would be interested to learn more about gender construction in the ‘alternative’ nightlife scene.  The short section in the paper dedicated to the alternative scene does prove sound but I think that it could do with some more analysis as to how this scene is constructed, and how it thrives and continues.  The discussion of Vancouver as a ‘no fun city’ has just recently resurfaced this past week in the Huffington Post and in our school’s newspaper, The Peak, providing some more insight into the current Vancouver nightlife scene.  (ed: here’s a similar story from The Peak written in 2008. Can you send me the more recent article?) So I ask the class, how is gender constructed in the alternative scene?

Through the reading, the issue of space and place is discussed in regards to the entertainment establishments along the Granville strip. How does the placement of the nightclubs along the Granville strip affect the use and functionality of the space of Granville Street? Taking into account the fact that is a public space and looking at individuals who wouldn’t necessarily be frequenting these clubs.

With the constant change in mainstream society, [ed: and how “mainstream” is defined?] what kind of changes do you see in regards to the nightlife in Vancouver?

Boyd’s (2010) study went from 2005 to 2006, and suggests that Vancouver, as a neoliberal city, “produces, maintains and reiterates the moral contours of heterosexuality” as the defined hegemony found in the nightlife of Granville street entertainment district (2010, p. 169). Do you believe this is true? Why or why not?

In the Boyd article we see how Vancouver’s nightlife is seen to be segregated into mainstream and non-mainstream entertainment venues. Do you feel that since the interviews in 2008 that this has changed? And do you feel that Boyd describes indie kids in an appropriate manner? And do you think it is fair to state that all indie kids are the same? Or do you feel that is creating another divide and social stigma?

In Boyd’s article, many of the participants who belong to the ‘indie’ community are involved in the cultural industries. From their responses it would seem that they view the art/ indie dance community as antithetical to commercial or mainstream ‘entertainment’ and mainstream people. So then how can the same government that privileges the entertainment district through enacting more lenient policies on businesses on the Granville strip also be supportive of the arts? Is this simply ‘reversed elitism’ on the part of indie dancers? Is there a way for the city to support alternative spaces/ subcultures and mainstream spaces/ culture simultaneously or is there a fundamental difference between the people who occupy these spaces and their respective political ideologies?