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Lecture 6

Lecture 6, Urban Politics beyond City Hall

Course Code
Deborah Cowen

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Lecture 6, October 19, 2010
1. Informal evaluation results
2. Politics within and beyond city hall (contd)
3. Migration and the City
Urban Politics beyond City Hall
Notes on Politics and Urban Space
• Political relations shape urban space but space also shapes political relations.
• Space canharden relations - makes them more difficult to change.
For example, social polarization in the city can create more political distance between social groups and thus impact
how they relate in the future.
• Alternatively, some spatial configurations can make political relations more open and fluid.
For example, groups that are ‘thrown together in neighbourhoods in Toronto find ways to work together and even
identify with each other when they may have been in serious conflict in their home countries.
Urban social movements
Civil rights, labour, feminist, LGBTQ, immigrants rights, and environmental movements as crucial to the political
life of a city but beyond the bounds of formal government.
Quality of urban life will define quality of life for most people, thus political conflicts over quality of life are often
urban political conflicts
- The city as the site of movements (where things happen)
- Urban as a particular kind of movement (the focus of political claims)
Other kinds of urban politics that happen beyond the strict bounds of city hall: Business improvement areas and
neighbourhood associations
The Politics of “Community”
- Defining inclusion always entails defining who or what is excluded (ie-gated communities)
- Communities distinguish themselves socially and spatially (ie- debates overmonster houses’)
- “Racism, ethnic chauvinism, and class devaluation, I suggest, grow partly from the desire for
community. (Iris Marion Young, 1997)
- What about positive notions of community?
Urbanism and Colonialism
Blomley argues that Canadian notions of community have relied on colonial imaginaries as well as practices.
He argues that our collective mythologies rely on the notion that Canada was built on empty land – “terra nullius.
More specifically he argues that the building of Canadian cities relied on the displacement and dispossession of
aboriginal people.
Dispossession - process by which settlers came to acquire land historically held by aboriginal people
Displacement - the ‘conceptual’ removal of aboriginal people and the ‘emplacementof white settlers.
Cities as Indigenous Spaces
More than 53% of Indigenous people in Canada live in cities (textbook, p.375)
(United States: 60%; New Zealand: 84%; Australia: 76%)
Indigenous people have distinct patterns of urbanization that are closely tied to federal policy.
(This includes actual rates of migration to cities, as well as how and whether indigenous people are counted as such)
Rapid urbanization is also provoking conflicts between cities and traditional indigenous lands.
(For instance, the Caledonia standoff in southern Ontario has seen suburban development from the Greater Golden
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