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”

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”

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”