Assimilation City: Inclusive planning and histories of exclusion

26 May 2020 (conference postponed to 2021)
Canadian Society for Jewish Studies Annual Meeting, Ottawa ON

Today’s pressing issues surrounding neighbourhood change, urban inequities, and social movements are burdened with complex histories of exclusion. Ottawa is among the many cities around the world to adopt the “city for all” slogan as an expression of tolerance, inclusion, and equity. Within the City’s Official Plan and planning policies, there are pronounced and strange interplays between inclusion/equity policies and multiculturalism/diversity narratives. By tracing the conflation between inclusion and equity in city planning documents and discourse, I reveal how the “city for all” narrative reinforces normative values and identities.

Despite good intentions, inclusive planning trends are a continued demonstration of the state’s hegemonic power and not a transformation of that power. I argue this is in part because inclusion is often only offered by means of assimilation. Those who cannot or will not assimilate continue to be excluded. In order to develop this argument, I look to intersections between historically excluded groups and their confrontation with hegemonic power and forces of assimilation. This includes Jewish, feminist, queer, and indigenous studies. Assimilation is one of many strategies in the politics of difference, along with recognition, accomodation, and rational consensus-building, that continue to presume and reinforce the authority of a dominant group. This work aims to position Jewish thought and experience among other forms of resistance and refusal; as one of many important voices among our many potential allies and co-conspirators struggling for their right to the city.

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