“Fuck gentrification” is the new “fuck the man”: the desirability of undesirable punk space

(upcoming September 2017)

Presenting at: 1st International Conference of Anarchist Geographies and Geographers (ICAGG) Reggio Emilia, Italy

Urban planning as it formalized throughout the twentieth century offers a particular relationship and conceptual continuity between the social, spatial, and political that structure the relationships between people, space, and institutions and connects city-making with both place-making and citizen-making. But the city-making project of planning has a “darkside”; one that draws a line between desirable and undesirable people, and between desirable and undesirable spaces. Planning becomes plagued by contradictions and conflicts, both internally and externally, as it tries to reconcile its progressive role and utopian vision with the capitalistic, liberal and democratic systems under which it was formed and continues to operate. The internal inconsistencies are frequently exacerbated to the level of crisis when planning is further confronted with the seeming irreconcilability with another significant part of its ontological heritage—the moral and ethical imperative to act in the public interest.

The public that is of interest, seems to be limited to desirable spaces and people or a transformation of the undesirable into desirable.  This paper looks at the use and transformation of “undesirable” spaces by “undesirable” people and their susceptibility to social and economic changes that affect the desirability of different people and spaces throughout the city. I use the preliminary case study of the intersection of the Ottawa punk scene with the pressures of gentrification and neoliberalism. I mobilize diaspora studies, feminist and subculture theory to guide us towards “messy” analyses of spatial tactics and traditions by “undesirables” who have adaptively circumvented restrictions, covertly contested exclusive and dominant claims to territory, and repeatedly reconstituted and relocated the community.

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