Mazer K M, Rankin K N, 2011, "The social space of gentrification: the politics of neighbourhood accessibility in Toronto’s Downtown West" Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 29(5) 822 – 839
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The social space of gentrification: the politics of neighbourhood accessibility in Toronto’s Downtown West
Katie M Mazer, Katharine N Rankin
Received 24 June 2009; in revised form 5 December 2010
Abstract. In this paper we take up the Lefebvrean challenge to disrupt the ideological mediation of social space and join it with Peter Marcuse’s powerful conceptualization of displacement pressure as a call to probe the everyday life of gentrifying urban neighbourhoods. The people whose everyday lives we hope to access, however partially, are those at risk of displacement—specifically rooming-house tenants and proprietors of commercial shops providing affordable goods and services in Toronto’s Downtown West neighbourhoods. We explore cognitive mapping as a technique that might capture commercial and rooming-house tenants’ perceptions of social space and also guide subsequent interviews to address questions of safety, belonging, territoriality, spatial access, and ownership. Our maps suggest that rooming-house tenants and homeowners live parallel but separate lives, and they point to the different ways these groups occupy their neighbourhoods. Together, the narratives and maps reveal the high stakes of displacement, and displacement pressure, for people whose urban world is largely homologous with the social spaces of their neighbourhoods. We contend that such perspectives are necessary for a praxis of scholarship that takes seriously questions of political agency and the challenge of articulating a resistance to gentrification and the seductions of urban ‘revitalization’.
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