Having worked on this project for a couple of years now I’ve been able to meet with almost fifty organizations and agencies working in around housing and/or immigration in Winnipeg, Providence and Copenhagen. These have ranged from quite local resident organizations, to large national coalitions and everything in between.
As I get deeper and deeper into writing up I’m being reminded of all the interesting work people are doing, often on shoestring budgets, sometimes in hostile climates, and mostly with an enormous amount of creativity and dedication. But I’m also having to come to terms with the fact that I’m just not going to be able to spend all that much time on individual organizations in the dissertation.
So instead I’m going to use this space to present some short profiles of projects and organizations that I found especially interesting, important or just generally rad.
Quick self-promoting updates, my review of Japonica Brown-Saracino’s A Neighborhood That Never Changes was published in Urban Geography, and now if I can just get that last revise and resubmit out of the door I’ll be able to check everything off my summer to-do list.
Speaking of, I’m also finishing up a particularly productive summer of research in Winnipeg filled with loads of interviews, and organizational observations that took the form of everything from helping to analyze housing markets, to hanging out with some really fun kids, to learning more about bedbugs than any one person should know. Thanks again to Understanding Canada the Canadian Studies Program of the Government of Canada for support through the Doctoral Student Research Award that helped make this summer of research possible.
Sometimes a project just sums up everything you’ve been trying to think about in one amazing, elegant action. And the Non C’est Non -No Means No art action in Parc-Extension in Montreal is one of those for me right now. So I am going to gush about it for a second.
It’s the work of a group of young women who live in Parc-X, which is actually similar in many ways to the neighbourhoods that I am working in for my current research project, a working class urban neighbourhood that is increasingly also a diverse immigrant-community neighbourhood.
In their own words: Whoa!! Qu’est-ce qui arrive dans Parc-Extension?! Early last Friday morning, shop keepers, workers, residents and passers-by of Parc-Extension neighbourhood (in Montreal) woke up to fierce feminist posters with pointed messaging in Bangla, English, French, Mandarin, Tamil, and Urdu, by anti-racist feminists in order to denounce sexist behavior and street harassment, and to build safe, dignified and healthy communities for all.
From what I can gather from these images, and from their descriptions, this project comes out of their own embodied spatial experiences –what you see, feel and know when you live, work and play in a place in the body you’ve got. It’s a simple, but radical, vision of a new kind of home space, one produced through collective action and where everyone experiences safety. It’s also a reminder of how a lot of the academic and political debates around immigration, integration and multiculturalism — which still circle around measuring how much ‘they’ have become like ‘us’ — are totally detached from real life.
These ongoing debates completely ignore the interactions between different ‘theys,’ as well as the ways in which people create their own diverse and changing ‘us’-groups moving through everyday life. You get a taste of this through these posters addressed to publics made up of the members of the various communities these artists/activists occupy: a neighbourhood community, various national, ethnic and colour communities, different language communities, an immigrant community, an urban community, an arts community, gender communities, different religious communities and feminist communities, for example.
It’s these types of simultaneities that seem to confound policy makers, and often planning practitioners, who still tend to want to control, or regulate what participation looks like, and tend to only promote the types of participation that can take place when we each come to the table bracketing our multiplicities.
For those of us “in the academy” these are the types of actions we need to find ways to support, incorporating the simple, but again radical, visions these actions present into our own work and advocacy!