Boycotting the Queers: punk space and/or safe space in Ottawa

Presented at: McGill Queer Research Colloquium

Abstract: A public petition to keep the Queers out of Ottawa is not a news story you expect in 2016. Of course, in this story, the Queers are a touring US punk band from the early 80s and the petition was started by Babely Shades, a collective of artists and activists of colour and marginalized genders. In response to the claims that the show and the band reinforced homophobia and racism in the Ottawa punk scene, the show was cancelled but soon rebooked as a benefit concert for local LGBTQ youth. The story was further complicated when a member of the local opening band Shootin’ Blanx publicly came out as a “proud trans man” in defense of the Queers. Ottawa’s punk scene was left uncertain of what it would mean either to attend or not attend the otherwise highly anticipated show. This paper looks to this incident and surrounding media coverage as a preliminary attempt to disentangle some of the many complex relationships and expressions of resistance, marginal group politics, and counter-public space in Ottawa.

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Schlemihls and buffoons: the spatial-political margins of punks and pariahs in the city

Presented at: Philosophy of the City, San Francisco CA

Abstract: Like many “undesirables” in the history of cities, punks find themselves regularly forced to adapt to shifting physical and political environments or relocate to increasingly marginal spaces in the city. The freedom to transform spaces that exist outside the mainstream scope that might otherwise enforce prohibitive zoning and other normative regulatory structures, also makes these spaces vulnerable to absorption by the system they seek to escape. While the punk scene in Ottawa, Canada—like many cities—is strongly anchored to physical spaces such as music venues, the tendency to occupy off-the-radar (i.e. cheaper and less regulated) spaces make them susceptible to social and economic changes that affect the desirability of different spaces throughout the city. Continue reading “Schlemihls and buffoons: the spatial-political margins of punks and pariahs in the city”

Messy Methodologies: Proposing radical alternatives to the formal research plan

Presented at: The Space of Struggle | A Mini-Conference on Radical Planning. Portland OR.

Abstract: The city as it is conceived and constructed through urban planning theory and practice is a reproduction of the values and forces which shape it, leaving it vulnerable and blind to other forces which risk burdening those who fall outside its definition. Due to the fundamental challenges of engaging with radical positions, perspectives, and experiences of the city, a consciousness of the limitations of conventional methodology and methods must be carefully considered; not only for logical but also ethical consistency with the subject. This paper examines the challenges of proposing an experimental—what I call “messy”—methodology informed by alternative approaches and radical theories which, by their nature resist rational organization, normative structures, and formal processes. Continue reading “Messy Methodologies: Proposing radical alternatives to the formal research plan”

Sacred Zoning: Spatial Demarcations in Jewish Thought

Presented at: CSJS annual conference, Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences 2016. Calgary AB.

Abstract: The stereotypical landscape of human settlement in North America is that of an endless grid which was laid down by surveyors and turned land into a commodity that can be traded. On this seemingly neutral pattern, places emerge in which people endow space with meaning: the “other side of the tracks,” the elite suburb, the civic centre, the green oasis. This spatial differentiation is in part governed by public land-use regulations, most often known as zoning. In the process of managing the development and shape of urban environments, zoning imposes structure and limits on the form and function of cities, and by extension on people. Marginalized groups are especially subject to exclusion from the Master Plan. Continue reading “Sacred Zoning: Spatial Demarcations in Jewish Thought”

A queer queer street? Reading Ottawa’s Le/The Village

Presented at: Queer Research Colloquium 2016, McGill University. Montreal QC.

Abstract: In 2011, “Ottawa’s main street” was officially recognized and rebranded as “The/Le Village”. Discretely marked by a few placards, rainbow stickers, and handful of LGBTQ services, the six blocks of “Le/The Village” is strangely integrated into the landscape of the urban business core. Queer geographies provide important perspectives on how the gay village has become a normalized typology while also disrupting norms and providing important spaces of difference. “The/Le Village” reveals the tension between the physical and symbolic need for spaces of belonging, and the mainstreaming—in this case mainstreeting—of marginalized identity through territorial delineations and visible markers. This paper interrogates histories and analyses of the “traditional gay village” through a reading of both the visible urban landscape and media narratives of “Le/The Village” and the ways in which it conforms and deviates from a queerly normative typology.

SK8: Urban innovation and governance in the spatial and social design of skateparks

Presented at: Association of American Geographers Annual Conference 2016. San Francisco CA.

Abstract: April 2015: In Montreal, Mayor Denis Coderre legalizes skateboarding in Peace Park. In Ottawa, construction is finally underway on McNabb skatepark. As a means of transportation, recreation, athletic endeavour, and alternative community, skateboarding has a conflictual but undeniable relationship to the city. Though the current trend in city-sanctioned skateparks is often initiated through community grassroots organization, there is a strong reliance on city governance. Whether cities authorize skateparks through deregulation or funding purpose-built construction, the conventionally radical and outsider skate community becomes participant in official processes and control. Continue reading “SK8: Urban innovation and governance in the spatial and social design of skateparks”

Marginal Vernaculars and Place-Making Tactics

Presented at: Unsettling Heritage: Critical/Creative Conservation, Carleton Heritage Conservation Symposium 2015. Ottawa ON.

Abstract: In recent years, tactical urbanism has captured popular imagination. Its hands-on and bottom-up alternative practice of urban place-making encourages citizens to respond to their environment directly with ad hoc and relatively minimal or temporary transformations—often as a form of protest to the expected function or design of public space. This approach is set in direct contrast to the formally-driven design and future-oriented methodologies of the planning profession. Though framed as a form of ‘participatory urbanism’, it is important to note that tactical urbanism often operates around, rather than in direct collaboration with, official and authoritative professional structures of urban planning. Continue reading “Marginal Vernaculars and Place-Making Tactics”