Schlemihls and squatters: undesirable urban people and places and utopian imaginaries

Presented at: Canadian Society for Jewish Studies Annual Conference, Montreal QC

Both Jews and punks are generally (mis)represented as predominantly urban cultural groups—both with histories of being “undesirable” people who occupy marginal and “undesirable” spaces of the city. Yet, little scholarship directly investigates their spatial practices and experience or their relation to dominant city-making processes such as urban planning. What is the relationship between (un)desirable people and (un)desirable spaces? Who controls the definition or creation of urban desirability? Continue reading “Schlemihls and squatters: undesirable urban people and places and utopian imaginaries”


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”

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”

Wandering dwellings: Diasporic architectures

Presented at: Diasporas: Exploring Critical Issues. 5th Global Conference 2012. Oxford UK.

Abstract: Historically, the Wandering Jew is perceived of as dehumanized and rendered eternally homeless through the Euro-Christian construction of the his self and his home as Other. Rather than a representation of the intrinsic existential condition of the Diaspora, the tragic homelessness experienced by the Wandering Jew is, I argue, a hegemonic construct of Euro-Christian ideology. According to what Daniel Boyarin calls “diasporic consciousness”, the Jewish people identify with a multiplicity of places simultaneously, carrying a sense of the familiar into the foreign. Continue reading “Wandering dwellings: Diasporic architectures”

Return to a Foreign Home

Presented at: Homelands: Diasporas Return. Kultrans 2010, University of Oslo. Oslo, Norway.

Abstract: Historically, the Jewish People identified with a multiplicity of places simultaneously, carrying a sense of the familiar into the foreign, and navigating between seemingly contradictory states – interior/exterior, permanent/transient, mind/body, local/foreign. This is what Daniel Boyarin has called the Diasporic consciousness of the Jewish People. In this context home is understood as a mediator in a nuanced existence between the perceived and constructed dualities of life, and facilitator of transition – a journey rather than a rooted existence. Continue reading “Return to a Foreign Home”

Wandering Dwellings: the Diasporic Home

Presented at: A Celebration of Jewish Studies in Ottawa 2007. Library and Archives Canada, Ottawa ON.

Abstract: Deeply rooted in Jewish tradition, the “Home” becomes the intersection of the transient self and the stationary architecture where the self is free to recollect in its interiority and simultaneously position itself in relationship with the exterior elements. Both the function and form of the architecture of “Home” are understood as a (1) mnemonic device to evoke recollection and (2) facilitator of physical relationship with the other through its openings and transitional spaces. The re-construction of a Jewish home is therefore intrinsically tied to a re-collection of the fragmented cultural and tectonic memories of house images carried by the Diaspora, specifically the importance attributed to the mezuzah, talit, tefilin, the sukkah and eruvim. The Wandering Jew suggests a framework for reinterpreting the relationship between the heimliche (literally the home, rootedness, hidden, or burried), the unheimliche.

Monsters in a Strange House

Presented at: Envisioning Home. CUNY Graduate Conference 2006. New York, NY.

Abstract: In Jewish mysticism, beth, the Hebrew word for home and second letter of the alphabet, represents the manifests of duality and beginning of plurality, ie. the first ‘other’. The first letter of the Torah, beth, further represents the dualistic nature of creation. The lack of differentiation, however, between ‘home’ and ‘house’ in Hebrew precludes the usual binary connotations of private/public, self/community, now/then, us/them; extending the sense of place beyond the constraints of space. Expanding upon Heidegger’s theories, Christian Norberg-Schulz proposes that man’s ability to identify with place, as it is poetically experienced, is his ability to identify with himself and to feel at home. Continue reading “Monsters in a Strange House”