Annihilation or Assimilation: the dark side of inclusive planning

3 October 2019
Presented at: Philosophy of the City, Detroit MI

The “city for all” is only ever really a “city for us,” and sometimes the not-yet-“us”.  

By tracing the conflation between inclusion and equity in planning documents and discourse, I reveal how the “city for all” narrative reinforces normative values and identities. Inclusion and equity are frequently used interchangeably or in self-referential loops: i.e. an equitable city needs to be inclusive; and, in order to be inclusive, the city needs equitable policies. In the Canadian context, there is also a pronounced and strange interplay between inclusion/equity policies and multiculturalism/diversity nationalist narratives. 

The struggle for rights and inclusion—largely lead by the civil, women’s, and gay rights movements—did some good (sometimes great good) for some people, but not all people. I argue this is because inclusion was only offered by means of assimilation. Those who cannot or will not assimilate continue to be excluded. Exclusion/inclusion are two sides of the same hegemonic coin; a demonstration of the state’s hegemonic power, not a transformation of power.  

Planning’s discomfort with acknowledging the ways in which it contributes to exclusion is reflective of several refused but necessary acknowledgments by dominant theories and popular narratives of modern liberal democracy. Exclusion does not only disrupt the normative planning value of inclusivity, it disrupts the role of rationality in democratic processes, and the possibility of unity, consensus, and universal standards. It creates a whole new existential crisis for planning.

This work aims to position Jewish thought and experience among other forms of resistance, and as an important voice among our many potential allies and co-conspirators. I look to intersections with other historically excluded groups and their confrontation with hegemonic power and forces of assimilation. This includes feminist, queer, subculture, and indigenous studies. Further inspired by theories of agonistics by Chantal Mouffe, I begin to build a case for a political system, and by extension planning system, based in neither annihilation nor assimilation. 

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