On Kern, Sex & the Revitalized City

As everyone read the Kern chapters, I will use this post to prompt some discussion.

First. There are many things that I appreciate about Kern’s book: among other things, I welcome her ability to explicitly link urban policy, the praxis of development, and the experiences of young women condo owners. I am left wondering about gender, however. In the text, gender works as something of a monolithic category. It is deployed but not necessarily examined. At the same time, there seems to be something of (at times, ever so slight) a re-fashioning of how gender is understood and performed for these middle-class women condo owners. Does gender get re-worked in this text, in your opinion?

Second. Kern’s discussion of community is an important challenge to the notion that communities necessarily emerge out of “shared” space, or that new developments in existing, well-established neighbourhoods will join in with similar kinds of community engagement. It’s actually a mystery to me why anyone would make these assumptions. Perhaps this is because I have also written about community in an effort to unsettle its romantic lure. Following Miranda Joseph and others, I interrogated the ways that my interviewees employed the term/idea, arguing that these women used “community” as a way to assert agency. Here’s a piece of my argument (from Muller 2007, “‘Lesbian Community’ in WNBA Spaces”, Social & Cultural Geography):

“MN Lynx [Women’s National Basketball Association] fans reveal that ‘lesbian community’ is invoked as a claim to agency when markers that previously signalled lesbian space have been rendered incoherent. In other words, ‘community’ discourse can be read as an assertion of empowerment in a time and place when lesbian spaces have been dissolved into the urban landscape, and when there is no clearly identifiable ‘lesbian space’.”

I raise this here as another example of how “community” is marked (and marketed). Just as my focus on WNBA fans highlighted the conflicted uses of “community” discourses, Kern’s discussion illustrates how “community” is both imposed (by developers’ visions of what condo living should look like) and adopted by some condo owners, just as it is impossible to operationalize (see p. 118). What are your thoughts about the way that community works in this book?