FES Speaker Series looks at displacement in downtown Detroit

The 2018-19 Faculty of Environmental Studies (FES) Speaker Series, part of the Faculty’s 50th anniversary festivities, continues on Nov. 20 with “Reconceptualizing displacement: Perspectives from below in Detroit.” The event will take place from 12:30 to 2:30 p.m. in 140 Health, Nursing and Environmental Studies Building (HNES), Keele Campus.

Downtown Detroit
Downtown Detroit. Photo by Doug Zuba on Unsplash

Gentrification-induced displacement has long been a topic studied in scholarly and policy-making circles. Yet, despite the large body of research, displacement processes are still not well understood. Displacement is most commonly conceptualized as forced relocation or dislocation due to physical or economic reasons. However, reducing displacement to a simple spatial moment in time strips out the social relations that produce that space.

Empirical studies that use quantitative methods to examine gentrification-induced displacement understand displacement only in its spatial dimension as direct displacement and thus tend to focus on measuring if and how many residents have been forced to move. Indirect displacement, however, holds serious implications for equitable planning initiatives that seek “revitalization without displacement,” as these initiatives tend to only address physical dislocation. Even if low-income households manage to “stay put” in gentrifying areas, they may still experience indirect displacement as their neighbourhood changes to cater to the tastes of more affluent newcomers, which can lead to feelings of exclusion and a loss of sense of place.

In this talk, Julie Mah, a doctoral candidate in Planning at the University of Toronto, will draw from a chapter in her dissertation that focuses on tenant experiences of direct and indirect displacement in Detroit’s downtown. She will examine the displacement effects of recent regeneration initiatives by using eviction data as a proxy for direct displacement and exploring tenant perspectives of indirect displacement in a rapidly gentrifying downtown.

FES Speaker Series

This research-focused speaker series takes a multi-format and interdisciplinary perspective to interrogate relevant topics involving planning, urban infrastructures and civic capacity. Through a mix of panel discussions, guest lectures and round tables, the goal is to generate critical debate on topics that intersect planning practice, governance, infrastructures and place-making in contemporary cities.

The topics have been curated by consulting FES faculty and students on emerging areas of interest in urban studies, and by balancing out historical and theoretical discussions with contemporary planning debates.

The remaining sessions in the series, all taking place at noon in HNES 140, are as follows:

  • Jan. 15 – “Queers in Space: A History of Sexuality and the City”;
  • Feb. 12 – “Displacing Blackness: Planning, Power, and Race in Twentieth-Century Halifax”;
  • March 5 – “Condominium Development and Public Space”;
  • March 27 – “Planning, Popular Democracy and Alternatives to Capitalism: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives”; and
  • April 30 – “Leveraging Bogotá: Sustainable Development, Global Philanthropy and The Rise of Urban Solutionism.”

For more information, visit the FES homepage.