York urban studies professors recognized with book prize

an open book

The International Planning History Society (IPHS), dedicated to the enhancement of interdisciplinary studies in urban and regional planning history, has recognized Department of Sociology Urban Studies Professors Douglas Young and the late Lisa Drummond with an award for the book they edited together.

The book titled, Socialist and Post-Socialist Urbanisms: Critical Reflections from a Global Perspective (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2020), was awarded the Third Book Prize, which is given to the best anthology or edited work in planning history written in English and published in 2020 or 2021.

The achievement took Young somewhat by surprise. “To think that the project Lisa and I worked on sitting across from each other at her dining room table or in a café in downtown Toronto should achieve international recognition is truly wonderful. We thought it was pretty good, obviously, but we had no idea if anyone else would. It’s nice to know that other people do,” mused Young.

Douglas Young York University
Douglas Young

The book originated in a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) Standard Research Grant in 2010. “That project was called ‘Socialist Cities in the 21st Century: Modernist Legacies and Contemporary Policy-Making,’” said Young. “In it we studied iconic places in East Berlin, Hanoi and Stockholm. Lisa was a Hanoi expert but had never been to Berlin. I had previously studied Berlin but had never been to Vietnam and we both wanted to explore the urbanism of social democratic Stockholm. In 2013 we organized a double panel of papers on the topic of Socialist and Post-socialist cities at the annual meeting of the American Association of Geographers. Out of those sessions came the idea for the book.

“Lisa and I were very grateful for the grants in aid of publication we received from the Faculty of LA&PS,” said Young. “The team at University of Toronto Press were a delight to work with.”

Lisa Drummond
Lisa Drummond

The book is important because it covers some rarely explored ground. “So far, the several reviews published in scholarly journals have been generally positive,” said Young. “The book’s primary contribution to the field of urban studies is that it combines, in a single volume, cases from both Asia and Europe (as well as Central America and Africa) that explore socialist and post-socialist urbanisms. Most books on socialist and post-socialist cities focus on either central and eastern Europe and Russia or east and southeast Asia. What is also noteworthy about our book is that it includes studies of cities that don’t appear frequently in the literature for example, Tirana in Albania and Addis Ababa in Ethiopia.”

Of course, missing from all this is Drummond. The well-loved professor died following a long battle with cancer in January of 2021.

Young reflected on working with Drummond. “Lisa was a tonne of fun and our senses of humour just seemed to click. Often one of us would trigger a bout of uncontrollable giggling and belly laughs. The laughing fits no doubt added several months to the book project but at the same time made working together so enjoyable. Lisa also had edges – some of them I shared with her (like her rock-solid aversion to Uber); other times I bumped into them. She was fiercely loyal and generous. We were a great team as colleagues in Urban Studies, as researchers and as travel companions. I miss her. These days I find myself often thinking ‘Lisa would hate my shorts,’ or I’ll laugh out loud at a sentence in a novel and then imagine reading it to Lisa. I almost forgot – whenever Lisa went back to Vancouver to visit family, high on her to do list was having a Monty Mushroom Burger at a Whitespot Restaurant.”

Young continued, “Lisa was an ideal colleague with whom I had the pleasure of working over the course of 20 years prior to her unfortunate passing. This book would simply not have been possible without her. Its success stands as testament to her excellence as a scholar, an author and a co-editor. I know she would be thrilled to receive this prize.”

Young is an associate professor of urban studies in the Department of Social Science, LA&PS at York University. He is retiring next year and recently completed a sabbatical leave during which he began to explore the impact of the eighth meeting of The International Congresses of Modern Architecture on urban planning in Canadian cities in the 1950s and 1960s. He plans to continue as a senior scholar in LA&PS and look into the development of particular modernist building typologies in Canadian cities.