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The place of the poor: Poverty, space and the politics of representation in downtown Vancouver, 1950--1997 (British Columbia)

Опубликовано на портале: 19-05-2004
Организация: Simon Fraser University (Simon Fraser University)
Подтип: PhD
Тематические разделы: Социология, Социальная стратификация

This dissertation examines the social construction of Vancouver's Downtown Eastside neighbourhood since 1950, challenging the recent narrative of urban decline which has situated the area as a skid row district where an influx of drug addicts has displaced a poor but respectable working class community, inducing a spiral of decline.

Contrary to this nostalgic memory, this part of Vancouver has been labelled as skid row for at least fifty years and has been the site for an array of programs focused on ‘normalizing’ the district and its population. Such programs have institutionalized ways of looking at and talking about this part of the city that have stigmatized the place and its inhabitants, providing broad continuity between the contemporary narrative and an earlier version of skid row. In Vancouver, as elsewhere, skid row appeared in the official lexicon shortly after World War II as shorthand for the centre of the city's lodging house district. The notion of skid row combined assumptions about the isolation of and the distinction between the deserving and undeserving poor with post-War anxieties about gender roles and panic by the local elite over sagging downtown competitiveness in a narrative of decline that situated the largely impoverished, male lodging house population as the source of decay and therefore as an impediment to renewal. The programs of urban renewal, population dispersal, and individual rehabilitation justified by this narrative were only challenged with the advent of the social rebellions of the 1960s and the rise of indigenous organization. Central to this challenge was the formation of a counter-narrative that reconfigured the identity of the population and place, situating them in terms of the area's past at the interface of the urban and rural frontier industrial economy. The anomic decay of skid row was displaced by the image of a neglected, exploited but nonertheless proud community which served as a mobilizing tactic in the pursuit of neighbourhood improvement. However, this self-consciously oppositional symbolic politics of community was unable to escape the skid row narrative, which persisted as its ‘constitutive outside’. As the social geography of Vancouver shifted in the wake of the 1986 world's fair, with gentrification of old working class neighbourhoods and the massive residential redevelopments on the once-industrial peripheries of the CBD, the Downtown Eastside is once more cast as a marginal skid row district with a population that threatens the well-being of Vancouver's downtown.

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