Punking the common urban narrative

(upcoming) November 2020
Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning Annual Meeting, Toronto ON (virtual).

Planning participates in a kind of storytelling that “is not simply persuasive. It is also constitutive” (Throgmorton 2003). The capacity of planning to persuade and to constitute through stories, depends upon the socio-political structures that privilege the stories it has to tell and the futures it envisions. The stories planning tells work to shape both material outcomes but also ways of being, ways of knowing, and ways of evaluating. In order to radically rethink planning praxis, we need  to consider and value stories not only as accounts of past events. We must critically position stories as reflections of the present, and evaluate the power they reproduce into the future. When we understand planning documents and planning processes as social narratives, we must also consider how they participate in the dominant narratives of that society, who they benefit, and who they continue to burden and exclude even in the stories that tell us otherwise. For Sandercock (2003), not only does planning learn from stories, “planning is performed through story.” In this paper, I invert the statement to also call attention to which stories are performed through planning. I adapt performative narrative analysis (Reissman, 1993) to the analysis of three case stories of marginalized and alternative group placemaking events in Ottawa, Canada.

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Not My City: songwriting as research text

8 July 2020 (conference postponed to 2021)
KISMIF: Keep It Simple Make It Fast, Conference. Porto, Portugal.

in the dark on empty streets deserted parks and alleys […]

The future-oriented utopian cities of urban planning imaginaries sit in stark contrast to actual or existing cities. Behind policies for beautification and rejuvenation is the socio-political ugliness of capitalism, patriarchy, colonialism, and racism. In some of the most depressed and ugly parts of the city, we can find spaces of resistance based in camaraderie, mutual-aid, care, and joy. My doctoral research looks to marginalized and alternative urban groups for ways to reinterpret, resist, and refuse mainstream urban narratives and planning practices.

Continue reading “Not My City: songwriting as research text”

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.

Continue reading “Assimilation City: Inclusive planning and histories of exclusion”

Future dis-oriented and punk placemaking

26 October 2019
Presented at ACSP Annual Meeting, Greenville SC

“We shall define planning as future-oriented, public decision-making directed toward attaining specific goals.” (Fainstein & Fainstein 1971)

For decades, marxist, feminist, indigenous, and black scholars have offered critical deconstruction of the different expressions of democracy and rationality in planning and the ways they privilege capitalist, patriarchal, settler-colonial, Western interests. They have challenged the desire for justice, order, and efficiency—recognizing that these are hegemonic constructs supported by institutions that have historically and continue to exclude and burden marginalized groups. Far less attention has been focused on targeting and challenging the third defining criteria of planning, its future-orientation. When pursued uncritically, this future-orientation similarly risks reproducing hegemonic forms of oppression and exclusion. One potential dimension through which to consider why and how marginalized groups are excluded from planning is through their alternative temporalities, including the negation of future. What is the future planning plans for and who is the public planning plans for? What power does planning have to shape the public by planning towards a specific future? How do non-conforming and marginalized groups resist the normalizing forces of the future public and of a public future? Continue reading “Future dis-oriented and punk placemaking”

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.   Continue reading “Annihilation or Assimilation: the dark side of inclusive planning”

No future. Punk planning, agonistics, and anarchism

6 April 2019
Presenting at: AAG Annual Meeting, Washington D.C.

Don’t be told what you want
Don’t be told what you need
There’s no future
No future
No future for you

(Sex Pistols, 1977)

Top-down vs. bottom-up. Western vs. Eastern. Global North vs. South. These are the usual binary positions from which planning is approached and theorized. Even as planning theory continues the important work of interrogating who is included in their definition of the public, it continues to fail to consider those who are not included and what non-inclusion means for the city. Radicals, discontents, delinquents, undesirables: these are some of the non-public participants, or perhaps more-than-public participants in the city. Planners too easily forget that placemaking can, most frequently does, and historically has occurred through non-rational, non-predictive, non-deliberative, and non-prefigurative actions. While theories such as counterpublics (Fraser, 1990), subcultures (Hebdige, 1979), or undercommons (Moten & Harney, 2013) acknowledge nonconformity to the normative definition of the public culture, they are still etymological prefixed and conceptually predicated on a spatial relationship to the politically-defined plane of the public realm. Beyond binaries, negation is an important space of subversion and difference. One potential dimension through which to consider why and how some of these non-publics are excluded from planning is through their negation of future.
Continue reading “No future. Punk planning, agonistics, and anarchism”

Urban equity and diversity: radical theories and deradicalized practices

October 2018
Presented at: Philosophy of the City, La Universidad de La Salle, Bogotá

In the spatialized struggle for social justice, the feminist banner is increasingly raised and foregrounded by urban activists, scholars, and policy-makers. If we asked today’s urban feminists to respond to Dolores Hayden’s question “what would a non-sexist city look like?” we might overwhelmingly hear that cities ought to be safe, inclusive, and accessible. To meet this tall but important order, they might say we ought to listen to those whose safety is at risk, those who are excluded, and those who are denied access. Today’s urban feminists tell us it is time to privilege and bring forward the voices not only of women but of the many other and multiply marginalized people whose interests have been and continue to be left out of city-building and planning. I position myself among these radical urban feminists. My doctoral fieldwork on public placemaking and alternative scenes in Ottawa (Canada) begins to point towards ways in which radical positions and theories are translated and appropriated into mainstream actions that risk reproduction of dominant normative approaches that depoliticize space; that let some people in only to reinforce the boundaries of who is to be left out. Continue reading “Urban equity and diversity: radical theories and deradicalized practices”

Ask a punk: from informality to anti-formality and anti-authority and when to say fuck

10 February 2018

Presented at: Curating Resistance: Punk as Archival Method, Los Angeles CA

Sometimes you can’t design your research. Sometimes the city is what happens while you’re busy making plans. What are the linkages between tactical approaches to punk place-making and punk knowledge-making? As a doctoral candidate researching punk space in the city, specifically as it intersects with formal urban planning processes, I find striking analogies between my academic struggles and punk place-making. The qualitative-(re)turn in the social sciences has extended legitimacy to a variety of alternative research methods. In the process of formalization and institutionalization, in many instances the underlying conceptual and ethical arguments for the diversification of methodological approaches are buried if not entirely lost. Continue reading “Ask a punk: from informality to anti-formality and anti-authority and when to say fuck”

‘Parking Lot Citys an Ugly Place’ Punk Inverted Images of Capital City

11 April 2018

Presented at: American Association of Geographers Annual Meeting, New Orleans LA

Does Ottawa even have a punk scene? Yes, buried beneath the carefully curated and manicured image of the National Capital, the punk scene hides… in plain sight. What about our image of punk and our image of Ottawa make their coexistence in the same space so unimaginable? Perhaps more importantly, from whose perspective and for whose ends are those images constructed? While the planning interests of “town and crown” notoriously and continually conflict, they are allowed to coexist and together form and reinforce the city’s identity. Perhaps it is because both agree that the National Capital ought to uphold the Great Canadian myth of multiculturalism and neoliberal democratic expectations of a safe, inclusive, and accessible city. Continue reading “‘Parking Lot Citys an Ugly Place’ Punk Inverted Images of Capital City”

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

21 September 2017

Presented 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. Continue reading ““Fuck gentrification” is the new “fuck the man”: the desirability of undesirable punk space”