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Reconceptualizing displacement: Perspectives from below in Detroit

Reconceptualizing displacement: Perspectives from below in Detroit

Julie Mah, University of Toronto
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 (Davidson, 2008, 2009; Shaw & Hagemans, 2015). Displacement is most commonly conceptualized as forced relocation or dislocation due to physical (e.g. sub-standard maintenance) or economic reasons (e.g. higher rents). However, reducing displacement to a simple spatial moment in time strips out the social relations that produce that space (Davidson, 2009). 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 forms of displacement are often overlooked. However, indirect displacement 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. Looking at how indirect displacement occurs increases our understanding of gentrification processes. It illuminates the various ways in which gentrification transforms a neighbourhood into a place where middle-class residents produce and inhabit a space that reflects their middle-class sensibilities and worldview.
This talk draws from a chapter in my dissertation, which focuses on tenant experiences of direct and indirect displacement in Detroit’s downtown. I examine the displacement effects of recent regeneration initiatives by using evictions data as a proxy for direct displacement and by exploring tenant perspectives of indirect displacement in a rapidly gentrifying downtown.
Julie Mah is a doctoral candidate in Planning at the University of Toronto. Her research examines how gentrification occurs in a shrinking cities context and interrogates the problems of displacement and affordable housing provision in gentrifying neighbourhoods.

(Brown lunch event)


Nov 20 2018


12:30 pm - 2:30 pm


Health, Nursing and Environmental Studies Building, Room 140 @ 4700 Keele St, North York, ON M3J 3T8, Canada
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