Debunking the Civil City Myth: Making "Invisible Bridgeview" BC Visible




Kataoka, Serena

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Stories about the civility through which diverse peoples have come to live peaceably in cities such as Vancouver are being used to launch Canada into the global urban future. The freedom promised by respect for privacy, mobilizing action for change, constructing our environments ethically, and improving our lots tends to be presumed as good. No need for politics, just planning. Mainstream, progressive, activist, and entrepreneurial focus on planning civil cities tends, however, to make the places where we live, places like Bridgeview BC – a neighbourhood on the fringes of Vancouver – invisible. In a sense, this dissertation is an extended set of reading notes to a case study based on archival research and fieldwork that is presented in an Appendix entitled Invisible Bridgeview. It shows what of the case study is highlighted when we take what I call the “civil city myth” seriously. Each chapter: (1) explicates an influential iteration of that myth (as articulated by Jane Jacobs, James C. Scott, and Le Corbusier) and shows how it positions Bridgeview (as backwards, on the margins of society, as a local site of global struggles, and as economically dependent); (2) illustrates a civil city myth at work (dumping on, mobilizing, ‘educating,’ and exploiting Bridgeview); and (3) taking our urban romanticism seriously, undoes a key distinction shoring up the civil/barbaric one, thereby rendering a civil city myth as an urban myth (that highlights Bridgeviewers’ capacity to negotiate conflict and self-govern, practical knowledge and commitments, kinship-based cultural movements, and ruralesque urban way of living). Thus the thrust of this analysis is from planning civil cities to engaging in urban politics – including struggles over basic infrastructure, community development, activism, and entrepreneurialism. Generous as it might seem to recognize Bridgeview (among all other places) as urban, it dismisses residents’ own sense of the place as “a small town in the big city.” So while taking the urban mythology as a point of reference, this dissertation concludes by crafting a mythology of intimate sub-urban politics – of gangs, affects, unintentional interventions, and squatting together. Seeking justice here, we are responsible in and to our relations, after all.



urban, political theory, local politics, sustainability, community development, Bridgeview, Vancouver, Surrey, urban planning, Jane Jacobs, evolution, environmentalism, activism, transportation