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A kinder, gentler gentrification: racial identity, social mix and multiculturalism in Toronto’s Parkdale neighborhood

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This paper intervenes on the contemporary Canadian discourse that equates bourgeois self-making practices of progressive urban subjects with moves towards genuine spatial justice. Emerging from a three-year project assessing gentrification Toronto’s Parkdale neighborhood, the author probes the dissonance between the triumphalist rhetoric circulated by an anti-gentrification elite and the lived realities of displacement and violence in poor, racialized and mad communities. Using ethnographic observation and analysis of extensive interview data, this paper suggests that the ideas of inclusive urban development often rely on the ejection of intolerable bodies from the sphere of urban life and the simultaneous exaltation of ‘enlightened’ middle-class subjects as the authors and protagonists of social change. Yearning for a better future, this paper functions as a cautionary tale, a warning that so long as race and gender remain secondary sites of investigation and action, work for urban emancipation will reinforce those systems of domination it hopes to oppose.
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Keywords: Subjectivity; activism; gentrification; multiculturalism; whiteness

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: School of Social and Community Services, George Brown College, Toronto, ON, Canada

Publication date: November 2, 2018

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