Nov 28 Qs

Pre-meeting Qs from students for the Nov 28 class meeting

On Modlich, Women Plan Toronto (1985 – 2000) and Toronto Women’s City Alliance (2004 – and struggling on)

In the Modlich article we touch on the disconnect between urban planning practices and the needs of women. Does this apply to Vancouver?  Who is favoured during urban planning practices? What are some actions that can be made to avoid this issue?

In Modlich’s article, a woman who had recently immigrated to Canada gave this quote: “I do like to be asked about what we are looking for. Who would ever ask us any other time in our life? It is difficult to get into that frame of mind to be able to speak freely. And after this I have to go back into that other world again and I have to go back and forget about all I have dreamed today.” How does this reflect the current immigrant status in our country?

Based on any intersectionalities or conflicts (perhaps already discussed in class) that you, or anyone you know faces as a woman living in Greater Vancouver, what would your “wouldn’t it be nice” be, if you were asked to take part in a similar participatory research project like the immigrant women in Toronto participated in?

After reading Modlich, I correlated much of what we have learnt this past semester regarding women in geographies, accessibility and sense of place. For instance, while reading Modlich, I got a hint of the semester’s topic on “An Embodied Sense of Place”. The misfits between women in transportation, housing design etc are brought up in this course numerous times, but when does the equality of genders come forth?

On Houston, et al, Still methodologically becoming: collaboration, feminist politics and ‘Team Ismaili’
To what extent is epistemological and ontological unity among researchers engaged in collaborative research necessary? How might tensions affect the outcomes of the research? Should more research be transparent in regards to the power dynamics among the researchers involved in the process?

In the still methodologically becoming article we learn about a collaboration of feminist politics.  What are some examples of feminist politic collaborations in Vancouver? Are there examples in which challenge and reconfirm assumed hierarchies?

On Browne, Power and Privilege

Browne takes a risk by criticizing feminist geography’s heteronormativity; however, she states that she also does “not seek to… point to a right way of doing feminist geographies”, for fear of producing a hegemony of her own. In this postmodern context, how can we present anything as a “feminist” way of doing things, without running the risk of creating power structures that dictate inclusion? Is there a way of doing feminist geography, for example, that we could point to as the best choice, or will we always run into the issue that Browne wanted to avoid?

I enjoyed reading the analysis and “[…] critical examination of the relations of privilege and power […]” that Kath Browne provides in this chapter (p. 140).  I appreciated the fact that Browne presents us with a very optimistic/hopeful outlook on the conflicts and problems she raises, for on page 146 she states that: “[…] we could seek to understand diversity and difference sensitively and positively engage with this in our writings and our interactions with each other.” I really liked this statement because it appears that Browne genuinely supports, and is advocating for individuals to utilize an intersectional lens when dealing with (and dismantling) “[…] power relations between feminist geographers” (p. 140).  I think that this reading serves as a great source for the conclusion of this course/semester, because it addresses and reinforces some important issues that we have also been learning about over the last three months.

Looking at Browne’s critique of power and privilege in institutions and the academy, how does this apply to other careers, or even other aspects of life? What are some ways we can then account for this problem and attempt to correct it, or create more equality here?

Kath Browne’s chapter makes me stop and think about what happens when feminism gains acceptance: when we make progress and establish space, how do we practice our politics? Feminism focuses such a great deal on the process and the fight sometimes it’s easy to lose sight of what happens when you get there. Browne forces the reader to analyze feminist politics, power dynamics, privilege and behavior based on assumptions. [break] In the context of Feminist Geography, Browne notes that feminism as an academic and social movement has a long history of working for recognition within traditional disciplines, in this case geography. Browne notes that feminism can offer much need insight and dynamic perspective to this field but there are steps that need to be taken in order to do that. Feminists must critique their own political dynamics and structure of knowledge recognition and disrupt normative discourses and privileged assumptions in order to add authenticity, value and justice to academia. [break]  This made me question our own academic practices: do we sometimes get so caught up in the process of acquiring knowledge and privileged validity on an individual basis that we lose sight of our own power dynamics and hierarchies within feminism? How does this affect the way we see our environment and subsequently contribute to it? In regard to feminism and feminist geography do we experience sociopolitical trends within the movement that grant value and legitimacy to certain knowledge and individuals over others? Does the concept of post feminism encourage greater knowledge inclusivity versus wave feminism?

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Nov 21 Qs

Pre-meeting Qs from students for the Nov 21 class meeting

Overarching questions

From our readings this week, specifically on Vienna and Inclusive Cities, it is my understanding that gender mainstreaming cities and creating inclusive cities center around the fact that all people experience their city differently because of differing class, ethnicity, age, and other factors but especially gender. Vienna has become a model city for gender mainstreaming by including men and women equally in the decision making and planning processes of the city and its services. These physical and structural changes to urban planning are essential strategies to making cities inclusive and equally accessible to all genders. However, women’s feelings of insecurity and danger in cities, which make cities inaccessible to her, are largely the result of patriarchal societal norms that make violence against women ok. I believe that both elements of urban planning and challenging societal norms must be addressed simultaneously so as to achieve greater social change. So my question is how do you incorporate both? And how do you demonstrate success in changing societal attitudes which perpetuate violence?

In the Khosla & Dhars and Inclusive Cities website reading, they discuss how neo-liberalism reshapes our urban spatial planning by zoning residential areas based off of wealth and class, therefore displacing poorer neighbourhoods and communities. How has/hasn’t the young city of Vancouver experienced and been affected by this? How does our experience differ from those in older cities such as Toronto or Halifax?

On Khosla, “Vienna, Austria: A model city for gender mainstreaming”

In Kholsa’s article we read about gender mainstreaming, the benefits of gender mainstreaming are presented, however are there any disadvantages that can come with gender mainstreaming? It may provide a pluralistic approach, however can addressing women’s safety issues separate from men’s lead to gender inequality?

After reviewing and reading A Model City for Gender Mainstreaming, I recognized the many things we have learnt this past semester regarding gender. Vienna’s step in regards to gender mainstreaming further illustrates the development a city is taking to ensure safety and daily needs of women. For example lighting in areas that were previously poorly lit, reconstruction of parks and pedestrian friendly designs. Another strong and surprising factor that caught my attention was the inclusion of male figures in the initiatives and objectives Vienna considered to be implemented in their city. I wonder why don’t more countries and cities across the world take into consideration the initiatives Vienna has set forth targeting gender mainstreaming? The organization and important aspects are more than looked upon and provide assistance to both the male and female population.

On InclusiveCities.org

In regards to the gender inclusive project we learn about how urban poverty is addressed by supporting and building the capacity of membership-based organizations of the working poor. What projects do we see in Vancouver in regards to supporting individuals who face poverty? Specifically, what is happening in regards to poverty in the downtown eastside? What projects can be implemented?

On Shaw, “How do we evaluate the safety of women?”

Last week, with the LOVE group presentation, we quickly discussed issues around funding. Shaw (2012) argues that for many organizations, funding is dependent on them meeting the expectations of donors. How does this pose a problem to the ways in which an organization operates? Why are these expectations problematic? What does Shaw (2012) propose in order to evaluate policies and change?

On Khosla and Dhar, “Safe access to basic infrastructure”

This was the first time that I have learned about “the World Social Forums” and about “United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG) (p. 118).  With regard to the UCLG and “the Global Charter-Agenda for Human Rights to the City”, Khosla and Dhar make it clear that “[i]t remains to be seen how the implementation of the rights framework by local governments can bridge the divided city, especially in terms of the rights of the urban poor to a healthy living environment” (p. 118). Thus, I’d be really interested in learning more about this specific Charter and organization in the future, because right now, in addition to the issues the authors also raise “about […] the rights framework” on page 119, I too am worried that it has the potential to be very one-sided (i.e. representative of just the governments) and not fully inclusive of the individuals who are actually being affected by poverty;  essentially, I am worried that this organization may be too hierarchical. It would be great if those of you who know more about the UCLG and the way it functions can share your insights with the rest of us!

In this research project, entitled Action Research Project on Women’s Rights and Access to Water and Sanitation in Asia Cities, the main problem in the rural area and urban area was access to water and gentrification. What can be done to protect women from being evicted and maintain their right to live in the city with dignity? What water supply system could be used to eliminate water crisis in these area.

In the text it states; “Globally, urbanization under neo-liberalism has created divided cities, in geographical terms as well as socially, politically, culturally and economically, with greater inequalities between richer and poorer residents. Cities have become polarized, with wealthy neighbourhoods of exclusive and gated communities, shopping malls and entertainment complexes on the one hand, and, on the other, the exclusion by eviction and displacement of poorer residents and their communities to the periphery of the city. Under these conditions, ideals of urban identity, citizenship and belonging become much harder to sustain (Harvey, 2008, p. 32).” When taking this into consideration, do you think that we live in a similar predicament (to a certain extent obviously)?

On Bauriedl, “Still Gender Trouble…”

Bauriedl’s essay on the development of German feminist geography within the academy highlights a question that we have addressed throughout the course, namely, how useful is ‘gender’ as an analytical category? On the one hand, feminists have defended gender categories on the basis of political and emancipatory considerations. Yet others have argued that “feminist geography is no longer just an emancipatory project; it is also a project of understanding social and cultural diversity and diverse realities” (Bauriedl, p.137). As Bauriedl points out, there is still resistance to complicating gendered categories in empirical research to date. What are the implications of a) using gender as an analytical category and/or b) deconstructing gendered categories in feminist research?

Looking at the three strategies Bauriedl discusses as ways that facilitate the establishment of feminisms in geography, how do these intersect and impact one another? Specifically how do the first two impact the third one, which discusses positioning feminist geography within mainstream geography?

Nov 7 Qs

Pre-meeting Qs from students for the Nov 7 class meeting

Overarching question

Is it possible to create inclusion policies that are responsive to specific challenges faced by specific groups without reproducing essentialist and stigmatizing ideas about ‘the other’, which paradoxically defeats the initial purpose?

On Kern, Sex and the Revitalized City Chapters 3-5

In Kern’s Chapter 3, “Under Construction,” we see a discussion about condominiums and how community is constructed. We see how many new condominiums offer community spaces which some people see as an attempt to make up for small apartment sizes whereas others see it as an outlet for people to get to know each other within the building. We have spoken a lot in class about the idea of community and how it is created within different neighbourhoods. How do you see the public-private community spaces in condominiums? Do you think they are beneficial to residential bonding or just purely a sales point?

Throughout the text, access to suitable transit is brought up as a key factor in why many women were living in the downtown core and as a resource that contributed to their feelings of independent and control. The author acknowledges that choosing to not have a car and use these resources is a privilege for many of these women. I thought this was interesting as the concept of building condos around accessible transit is something that I don’t recognize as being a priority in Vancouver, and that relying on buses and trains as a main form of transportation is in fact not a privilege but a lower-status symbol. In a newer city such as Vancouver, do you think this will shift, that Vancouver’s transit in the main city and suburbs will grow into being an ideal/priorty for high-income/independent condo/home owners? Do you think it already is? Or will we as a city continue to acknowledge driving a vehicle as a main source of mobility?

In her study, Kern (2010) discusses how developers in Toronto market condominiums to women as their key demographic by creating a sense of ‘community.’ Jillian, a woman from Kern’s study, expresses how living in a condominium “is an amazing opportunity to meet the man of your dreams or whatever. Just meeting new people, our entire building is open to that”(Kern, 2010, p. 112). However, despite the former positive response, Kern believes that social networks built through condominium ownership reflect a very narrow conception of what truly is a ‘community.’ Do you agree with Kern’s argument that developers target specifically women when they are building condominiums? Do you think living in a condominium increases your likelihood to meet friends/ partners that you share common interests compared to living in a suburban single family home? Or do you believe the concept of ‘community’ within condominiums is simply a façade created by marketing teams?

On van Eijk, “Exclusionary policies are not just about the ‘neoliberal city’: A critique of theories of urban revanchism and the case of Rotterdam”

In Van Eijk’s article, the idea of Urban Revanchism is discussed and critiqued. Specifically, the author argues that urban policies aimed at goals of “integration” such as mixed communities and citizenship actually inherently exclude people (par.8). I absolutely agreed with the argument that these policies stem not only from neoliberalist thought (par.4), but from anxieties surrounding national unity, social order, and safety. However, I struggled with some thoughts that complicate the matter for myself and perhaps for other people who are unsure about inclusionary policies. If we were to adopt multicultural policies that encouraged people to occupy the spaces in the city that they choose, which would often likely be in areas where similar people lived, would we not still have the same issues of “same” vs. “other” (par.26) that we have now, if not an intensified version? Wouldn’t a person occupying space in the area that was an obvious “other” to the neighbourhood culture still be seen as a threat to the social order? Furthermore, wouldn’t this run the risk of the majority making negative connotations between the issues in an area and the certain group (whether cultural, ethnic, socioeconomic or otherwise) that primarily occupies that place? Is it even possible to think of concepts like unity or safety without human nature forming some sort of “other” that will be excluded?

On Driskell, Fox & Kudva: “Growing up in the new New York: youth space, citizenship, and community change in a hyperglobal city”

Driskell, Fox & Kudva (2008) argued that with the effects of globalization, we must begin to re-examine and deconstruct the current definitions of what constitutes immigration, citizenship and identity. What, in your opinion, changes these definitions? Why are the current views on immigration and citizenship problematic in their role of shaping identities?

On Bosco, Aitken & Herman: “Women and children in a neighborhood advocacy group: engaging community and refashioning citizenship at the United States–Mexico border”

I would like to examine the concept ‘differently equal’ that surfaced in the Bosco, Aitken & Herman paper.  Doesn’t saying that having different abilities and backgrounds categorize a person into being different types of equal?   Isn’t equality a blanket statement given to all people no matter their ethnicity, gender, or economic status?  This term is a blanket contradiction – ‘different’ cancels out ‘equal’.

If having children help translate for their parents in a variety of situations is so controversial and people are so terribly opposed, should there not be alternatives provided to immigrant families in a compassionate manner to aid them in this adjustment process? It seems extremely backwards to start throwing bills around stating English is the sole language of a state in which Latino immigrant families uphold the California state economy. If individuals and communities fail to meet these requirements they become void and are denied citizenship as well as the ability to seek the resources needed to advance by this standard. I use citizenship as a liberal definition of access, sense of community and belonging, political agency and economic prosperity. [break]  Are we so misguided to believe that new immigrants do not wish to access all those resources afforded to the so called good English speaking Americans? One example against child translators stated that it would be inappropriate for children to communicate a terminal medical diagnosis to their parent. This translates in my mind as immigrant parents cannot distinguish what is or is not appropriate for their children. Do we really think in that given situation parents would not seek alternatives to protect the emotional well-being of their children? Shock and awe is definitely a tactic here. Further, if this is actually the case how sad is it that families are being forced to use their children to communicate such emotional affairs because there are no alternatives. [break] There is this very ethnocentric sociopolitical mindset that implies guardians, particularly mothers from cultures outside the white white West have inadequate parenting abilities and tend to sacrifice their children for family gains. This leads to a sort of Western crusade against ethnic diversity in the name of protecting the child. So what are the objectives here? [break] Lastly, given the Spanish speaking population in California and the national political and economic backbone of the Latino and Mexican immigrant population would it not seem logical to find effective alternatives, such as multilingual medical centers, government funded translating organizations for non-English speaking immigrants, language centers directed by Latino persons, on site translators in all social service spaces? None of this seems terribly difficult considering most of it is happening in different forms anyway by the efforts of Latino communities and multilingual people in different social agencies. [break] So, is the problem that government bodies are trying to save money and stick on Band Aid solutions? Are sociopolitical structures inherently racist? Or is the Latino-American population so underrepresented in government that these issues are simply forgotten? What’s missing here?

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?

Oct 24 Qs

Students questions for the Oct 24 class meeting

Overarching questions

As we saw with ‘gender mainstreaming,’ the top-down initiatives to create transformative social change embodied a number of contradictions that are relevant to the discussion of ‘participatory engagement’ as well. Issues of funding dictating priorities, accountability, lack of continuity on projects, co-optation of words such an ’empowerment’ and ‘community,’ and tokenism within an unaltered status-quo. Is it a fundamental contradiction that community initiatives are proliferated by top-down agencies of the state that sustain pervasive structural relations of inequality?

Can feasible solutions to the issues that come to bear on participatory engagement be workable within the logic of neoliberalism and mass consumerism? Conversely, are there certain contexts and/or organizations in which participation could be productive of alternative spaces or disrupt existing power relations? For instance, Pollock & Sharpe (2011) recognize contestation and conflict as an appropriate relation of community. Are they implying that conflict might engender processes of social change and open up space for the contestation of power relations? (really, are they? I don’t know! This is all conjecture). If this is what they are alluding to, how does this happen? What conflictual processes might engender resistance?

 

On Jones & Evans, “Rescue Geography: Place making, affect and regeneration”

Reading the Jones & Evans article, I was very much relating to what it was that they were describing the community regeneration of Berlin’s Kreuzberg district to Walley in Surrey. It becomes quite apparent the kind of improvements the city has done, (creating beautiful apartment buildings, adding a university campus, etc.), in order to change the reputation of Walley from a drug infested district to a modern fashionable way of living. My question lies in wondering whether this district will indeed change into this “ideal” city that is being pushed forth; or will it always be considered an “unsafe” area to be in?

Jones and Evans discuss how “rescue geography” can help articulate and promote the “place associations” of residents, thus helping to create more “authentic regeneration schemes” (p.1). How might processes of regeneration as strategies to disperse spatialized poverty threaten “embodied” and “affective connections” of the current residents of urban cities? How might this apply to Vancouver? What are some place-making strategies used by residents of Vancouver in maintaining affective connections to their communities?”

In the Jones & Evans article they speak extensively about rescue geography and that use it has in seeing the emotional attachments people have for particular space and places. Do you feel if walking interviews had been done of Gas Town before the beginning of the gentrification of the area that they could have better designed a place for the people in the area? Do you think that rescue geography can prevent gentrification and turn spaces into places for the people of that area?

On Lozner, “Diffusion of local regulatory innovations: The San Francisco CEDAW ordinance”

Lozner (2004) argues that in order for the CEDAW ordinance to be applicable and successful in other cities, we need to take into account local and specific contexts.

  • What are some considerations that must be taken into account when using participatory problem solving in other cities?
  • What do you think needs to be accounted for, in terms Vancouver’s specific social contexts, in order to make initiatives like CEDAW successful in the Lower Mainland?

As well, what are some of the benefits and downfalls to participatory problem solving?

On Pollack & Sharp, “Real participation or the tyranny of participatory practice? Public art and community involvement in the regeneration of the Raploch, Scotland”

Is the Real Participation or tyranny of practice another form of participatory action similar to WICI? Is the Real participation of tyranny or part of practice considering gender in their visions? or should they be? I understand that getting the community involved equally with government is seen as the first step but  this is the problem with current space and surroundings. They were not viewed through a gender lens when they were developed therefore they lack in areas relating to gender.

In the conclusion, the authors state that: “‘Creative Spaces’ shows that participatory public art processes can be a means to activate and empower citizens, often on their own terms […]” – however, they then mention that: “Encouraging communities to fight for ‘imagined futures’ can be a dangerous strategy against the reality of the everyday” (p. 3075). Do you think that the negatives outweigh the positives in this context, or do the positives outweigh the negatives? For if a project that a community had envisioned did not go through in their favour, does that mean that their efforts were a complete waste, or did they still achieve a certain degree of success (i.e. they engaged in dialogue with one another, began to think more critically about their surroundings, etc.)?

Pollock and Sharp contend “that participation has become a new ‘tyranny’ that, despite its claims, is little more than tokenism” (2012, p. 1). Do you believe that participatory planning is a valid avenue for community members to identify and voice their sense of place? Or do you believe the pervasive rhetoric that suggests participatory planning is merely an idea planted by larger stakeholders to give the illusion they are listening? One example in Vancouver where community participation and input has been asked for is in the revitalization of downtown Woodward’s. Do you think the large stakeholders of Woodward’s regeneration value this community involvement? Do you think they prioritize participatory planning and is it successful?

Pollock and Sharp stated that “Integral to this were claims that engaging communities in artistic practices would engender cohesion, tackle exclusion and result in better place-making”, regardless of the lack of evidence for this statement  Do you agree or disagree? If you agree with the author would you be willing to provide evidence from your past experience with community involvement?

In Pollock’s article, the idea of active citizenship through community participation is analyzed and problematized. The main pitfall of many community development projects, according to Pollock, is the fact that institutions often dictate the community’s involvement in the project, rather than the more desirable reverse effect (par.20). However, I think that the entire premise of the article goes against this very statement, in that the “push towards active citizenship rather than passive representational democracy” (par.2) seems to be institutionalized rather than a grassroots movement. In my experience, representational democracy has been portrayed as “active” – we are always encouraged to get out and “exercise” our democratic right to voting. It seems that the rhetoric has simply been changed to encourage people’s participation in the institutions. How can a community development project ever be successful, then, if we are still deferring to the government to define terms like “active”, “community”, and “participation”? Furthermore, have we even reached a point where participation is open enough to truly be “active”? Or do people see discussion of larger community development as irrelevant in their limited, oppressed, independent lives, like many people felt with the “Community Spaces” project? Perhaps we should be looking to the people (i.e. grassroots movements) to dictate what is important to “community” and “development”, rather than referring to another institutionally produced ideology.

On “Community Vision for Change in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside” (not required)

In this publication its vision  includes to put people first and welcome all who advocate for affordable low-income housing and respect our vibrant community values as well to ensure low-income people have affordable homes and access to resources to meet our needs. However I felt that the article was exclusive and not welcoming of students (when not all but some of students are low-income). Having a SFU Woodwards nearby I see the how some students might use the Carnegie cafeteria after all they are on a student budget. This article wants to remember its community members and students are a part of this community. Why does there need to be a tug of war over affordable housing? This should be an indication of the importance to have and keep affordable housing because the implications could lead to displace local resident that are most vulnerable.

Oct 17 Qs

Pre-meeting Qs for Oct 17

On Hanson, “Gender and mobility”

When addressing the issue of women’s lower spatial mobility in relation to men, Hanson states that redress in terms of policy-making is complicated given that in addition to sensitive economic and environmental realities we do not currently understand how certain groups change their mobility patterns based on changing external circumstances. Hanson suggests that the best approach is to tease out the effects of context by synthesizing the body of context-sensitive studies identifying patterns and then making generalizations. She states she is aware that especially among feminists “the word ‘generalization’ sets off alarm bells and raises red, green and yellow flags”. Should it? How does what Hanson proposes differ from other methods of informing policy direction, such as social impact assessments?

Through the article, the issue of gender and mobility being so incredibly intertwined is discussed. Hanson identifies two distinct strands, which look at how mobility shapes gender and how gender shapes mobility. How is this applicable in Canada and in particular Vancouver? And do you think mobility for women in Canada is dictated by constraint or choice (as Hanson defines constraint/choice)?

I am curious to know if there have been any successful legal/social policies that have been created to cater to the gender and sustainable mobility relationship? If not, what would be a hypothetical example?

In my view I could call forced immigration unsustainable mobility. Hanson mentioned that men move more than women. But with neoliberalism and globalization women move more than men. Therefore, which category can we place forced immigration and trafficking?

On page 15 under the subheading of Gender and sustainable mobility, there is a paragraph about statistics and breaking down the percentage of women and men using sustainable modes of transport. I am interested to know where and how this data was collected. The author is trying to make a point that women contribute to fewer vehicle miles traveled (VMT)than men. However the author misses the fact maybe women are on foot or using cycling as a form of transport because maybe they cannot afford a maintaining a vehicle and all that it entails.

On Bourassa, “Racism, Sexism, and Colonialism” and NWAC recommendations, “Gender Matters”
 It is odd to me that an Aboriginal person can lose their status, when this can be described as being part of a cultural identity. Does the problem exist in the labeling of people? If you lose you status you may not be accepted back into the nation again, because you lost that label or the symbol of your actions portrays that you are identifying with a different culture. With regard to the article, why is it that we still enforce these policies that continue to divide Aboriginal women (see footnote in article). Does this relate to the “Downside of State Support” article? It seems again that the government is creating divisions within policies which divide people, more specifically women.

The NWAC (2012) contends that historic inequities and traditional community beliefs upheld in customary law should not outweigh contemporary priorities for Aboriginal women (Jackson, as cited in Bourassa et al, 2004). Do you believe that it is possible for Aboriginal women today to reach gender equity in the face of such challenges as discriminatory status entitlements and bands who fall back on the Indian Act’s earlier divisive policies? Why or why not?

One of NWAC’s recommendations called on Federal, Provincial and Territorial governments to focus on youth justice and the reintegration of youth by focusing on less punitive measures. The Youth Criminal Justice Act (2003) has some aspects which focus on reintegration of youth (although not perfect). Can you think of any other programs which have attempted/attempts, promises to solve, or adhere to some of the recommendations made by NWAC. Which recommendations stand out to you the most?

In Vancouver I see a great deal of sociopolitical divide between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal women. There are several organizations and resources which offer services for Aboriginal women and the community at large but how effective and transformational are these spaces particularly for Aboriginal women’s cultural identity, health and well-being? Further I am at a loss to find inclusive programs that create a space for Aboriginal women and non-Aboriginal women to engage, learn and communicate in a way that may enable us to bridge cultural assumptions, oppression, colonialism and historical animosity. It feels as though there is a deep divide in the way that Aboriginal affairs are being conducted between government initiatives, and grassroots organizing. This tends to be a messy subject that is met with a great deal of fear and frustration which leaves our communities in a state of sociopolitical paralysis. If cultural, gender and political mobility is something we strive for how can we overcome the barriers of history and formal political structures to move forward? How can a multicultural collective be established? Is this possible given our very problematic history? The readings discuss the issues at hand but I still have no idea how one would begin to put the information and theories into practice on a larger scale than simply personal politics.

Oct 3 Qs

Degen and Rose (2012) outline the numerous ways in which sensory experience of an urban space is influenced not only by design, but also by individualized memories associated with that space (and others like it). Three types of sensory interactions are described: present experience can be overlapped with memories of previous experiences within that environment, encounters with one environment inspires memories of comparable environments, and such comparisons can develop a typology to articulate judgments (i.e. “this is ‘just another town center.’”) The authors outline the complexity of each interaction: how does the role of perceptual memory create a paradoxical experience of sensory engagement with a particular urban space? Or, how might memories both increase and reduce sensory immersion in an environment in different ways? How might this be related to gendered experiences?

When talking about the physical and symbolic nature of the stranger, in their article “‘The stranger’, the city and the nation,” Koefoed and Simonsen mention that the stranger takes on an abundance of shapes and roles depending on the context which it is performed. What is your interpretation of this? Can you think of different roles, or shapes and the context in which they are performed and how/if they apply to you?

In the article “‘The stranger’, the city and the nation” we see the idea of ‘the stranger’ and the example of the Pakastani families in Denmark feeling discriminated against due to the fact that they don’t appear to be Danish. Do you feel that because Canada is multi-cultural the idea of ‘the stranger’ is less prominent in our society or as equally prevalent?

Sept 26 Qs

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Student questions and discussion points for Sept 26 class meeting

1. Gurstein & Vilches (2010) complicate their analysis of the just/unjust city by incorporating the ways in which women exercise their agency in the face of systemic barriers to justice, and even create a just city within the confines of injustice. For instance, through informal support networks that foster a sense of belonging. While this can be a good thing, the authors also allude to the vulnerability and instability of relying solely on informal networks of support. Thus, while lone mothers have actively carved out a space of coping and survival, the question remains whether this is merely a temporary fix to a larger problem (Gurstein & Vilches (2010). My question, then, relates to the implications of agency for creating effective social change. Agentic individualism, for instance, might lead to the pursuit of individual mobility over collective action. Arguably, poverty and homelessness has been conceptualized in individualistic terms, as something one has to ‘get out of’. How, then, can these women’s combined agency through efforts to survive translate into effective collective action for social change given the ongoing constraints that plague their daily lives?

2. Through the readings the array of methods used to promote and create awareness and discussion among women and others in the community arose. Through this, I wonder what other methods may be implemented effectively? As well as what other methods are used in other countries?

3. In the Women in Cities International document and the article “The Just City for Whom? Reconceiving active citizenship for lone mothers in Canada”: Does the concept of an “active citizen” relate to the Together in Women’s Safety project and in what way? In relation to the Just City for Whom article, the idea of active citizenship presented holds tremendous power, is it the ability to be an influence or to have rights that holds this power?

 

Sept 19 Qs

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Student questions and discussion points for Sept 19 class meeting
In the second article – Chapter 4 in Moss & Falconer Al-Hindi – the author Kim England discusses the ways in which her research on domestic care workers in Toronto could be categorized as ‘local’ or ‘localized’: first, both herself and her fellow researcher Bernadette lived in the city in which they were performing their research. Second, the experiences they were documenting were highly localized to live-in care workers in Toronto only. And third, under the current hegemonic definitions of ‘local’ versus ‘global’, her research could be defined as localized. However England offers strong counter arguments to each of these points. What are her counter arguments and how does she urge her readers to reconsider the politics of defining the ‘local’ in relation to the ‘global’? Can you think of any examples of how ‘local’ situations, relations or experiences in Vancouver could extend beyond our city and affect the ‘global’?

Focusing specifically on the Gokariksel Article, I was wondering if the terms “secular” and “democratic” are the same or if they are interchangeable? As well, I’m not to clear on what the term “Post-Islamic” is and what its relevance to feminist geography is in this paper.