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Week 10 7 March 2012 GEOG 4280 | Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 1 Week 10 Class Fictions: (1) Dwelling and Poverty (2) Narratives of Work in Toronto Literature GEOG | Imagining Toronto Department of Geography Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies York University Winter Term
(1) Dwelling and Poverty Week 10 7 March 2012 GEOG 4280 | Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 2
Toronto the Good: Every city has a self-image, and every citys self-image is almost precisely a representation of what it is not, what it is least. John Seeley, The Underside of Toronto (1970: 9). Week 10 7 March 2012 GEOG 4280 | Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 3
In Toronto poverty is not exactly a crime, but it is sufficient of an inconvenience to make everyone very desirous of not possessing it. C.S. Clark, Of Toronto the Good (1898: 27). Week 10 7 March 2012 GEOG 4280 | Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 4
Toronto is a long street with doorways that cost too much to enter. Andrew Pyper, Kiss Me (1996: 125). Week 10 7 March 2012 GEOG 4280 | Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 5
Week 10 7 March 2012 GEOG 4280 | Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 6 The City of Toronto defines homelessness as a condition of people who live outside, stay in emergency shelters, spend most of their income on rent, or live in overcrowded, substandard conditions and are therefore at serious risk of becoming homeless. City of Toronto, Toronto Report Card on Housing and Homelessness
Scripting Homelessness Marvasti (2001) argues that social workers script narratives of homelessness to maximize service worthiness; e.g., to facilitate access to shelter, food and other services. Underpinning these narratives is a discourse of morality inherited from 19 th century narratives of the deserving poor. Allen (2001) argues that literary narratives of homelessness typically take two forms: (1) the quasi-heroic narrative of the wandering vagabond; or alternately, (2) the degraded victim. Week 10 7 March 2012 GEOG 4280 | Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 7
Literary Scripts of Homelessness 1. The Degraded Victim: Stories that rehabilitate their protagonists by making them seem sympathetic, even heroic and thus deserving of advocacy and assistance. Scrimgers ex-doctor, Helwigs brilliant schizophrenic, Shields beloved daughter 2. Heroic Rebellion: Auberts disgraced former judge, living as a citizen of the kingdom of free reign. Bishop-Stall describing his homeless colleagues as vagrant celebrities, the nobility of the bums. Week 10 7 March 2012 GEOG 4280 | Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 8
Images of Homelessness White or Aboriginal Mentally ill Male About 1/3 of Torontos homeless population is estimated to be in need of psychiatric help (Daly, 1996). However, the conditions of homelessness – extreme poverty, social isolation, hunger and exposure to the elements – contribute to or exacerbate symptoms of mental illness. Moreover, a policy of de-institutionalizing psychiatric in- patients without providing adequate community support has also increased the visible homeless population. Problems like this are what led Cap Capponi to describe Parkdale in Last Stop Sunnyside as a dumping ground for alcoholics, drug addicts, ex-cons and de-institutionalized mental patients. Week 10 7 March 2012 GEOG 4280 | Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 9
Hidden Narratives of Homelessness What of the undeserving poor, long-term alcoholics, ex- cons, hustlers, shills and con-artists? In many cases they are simply written out of the narrative. Some exceptions; e.g., Ted Plantos The Universe Ends at Sherbourne & Queen. Data on homelessness in Toronto indicates that people who become homeless are disproportionately likely to have grown up in poverty, experienced domestic violence, self-identity as Aboriginal, suffer poor physical and mental health, battle addiction or have spent time in prison. Increasingly, homeless populations also include women, children and racialized minorities. Causes and effects? Week 10 7 March 2012 GEOG 4280 | Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 10
It is a city that burrows, tunnels, turns underground. […] Even the homeless and the outcasts travel downwards when they can, into the ravines that slice around and under the streets, where the rivers, the Don and the Humber and their tributaries, carve into the heart of the city; they build homes out of tents and slabs of metal siding, decorate them with bicycle wheels and dolls on strings and boxes of discarded books, with ribbons and mittens, and huddle in the cold beside the thin water. Maggie Helwig, Girls Fall Down (2008: 7). Week 10 7 March 2012 GEOG 4280 | Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 11
Derek Raes life in the ravine is, after its manner, a life well organized. His time is measured by the regular catastrophe of the trains passing over his head, thunderous and dirty, an assault of noise. The days and weeks are shaped by weather, the poison sun and debilitating humidity of late summer shading slowly into the long cold nights and the sheltering snow. [...] Though Derek is radically isolated, he is not in fact quite without human contact. He is known to the street nurses, for instance, who bring him the bottles of water and tins of Ensure that now constitute his entire diet. Maggie Helwig, Girls Fall Down (2008: 149). Week 10 7 March 2012 GEOG 4280 | Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 12
None of this represents the truth of Dereks existence, his passions and his miseries, the battles he wages all alone against pains and fears and the forces of universal gravitation. The raw courage that is required of him every day. His hard-won choice to continue living, when so many possibilities to stop are offered at every hand, the cars on the highway, the trains on the tracks, an end to the daily loss. None of this represents Dereks soul, scraped bloody, howling, fighting always to hang on, a solitary superhuman ordeal, unacknowledged by the world, unrewarded. Helwig, 2008: Week 10 7 March 2012 GEOG 4280 | Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 13
A photograph in winter: the street nurses make their way up a snowy slope of the Rosedale ravine, carefully, sleeping bags under their arms, the emissaries of the comfortable world, toward an improvised tent, toward people who live without comfort. Another photograph: a very thin, aged man, surrounded by piles of plywood, his few possessions, a notebook in his lap, on the banks of the Don. His name is Fred. Im not homeless, he says, fists clenched in determination. This is my home. Maggie Helwig, Downward. In HTO: Torontos Water from Lake Iroquois to Lost Rivers to Low-Flow Toilets (Coach House, 2008: ). Week 10 7 March 2012 GEOG 4280 | Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 14
Some afternoons the musician sat in the coffee shop muttering, a short pencil in hand, scribbling musical notes onto a tattered fragment of a brown paper bag. He kept a worn leather folder of music under one arm, sometimes shifting it to the inside of his grungy coat, sometimes to the table, then back to his armpit..[...] Oku came out of the St. George subway one day, and as he walked toward the university, he saw the musician sitting on a concrete embankment, his leather folder in his lap, his large hands making a gesture of piano playing. Oku slowed his pace, trying to avoid another unpleasant encounter. But he saw that the musician was heedlessly playing his symphony. His face was a beautiful mask of pleasure, his long fingers lustful on some arpeggio. Dionne Brand, What We All Long For (2005: ). Week 10 7 March 2012 GEOG 4280 | Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 15
Like every story you ever heard, this one is about the teller. I am a vagrant. A voyager, a wanderer, a citizen of the kingdom of free reign. […] That May I was living in a large packing case partially roofed with stolen tar paper and snugly nestled under a tree in the middle of a wood that could not be reached except by foot or horse. Rosemary Aubert, Free Reign (1997: 1-2). Week 10 7 March 2012 GEOG 4280 | Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 16
I loved the river even here. I loved how dark it was, how it held its secrets with the dignity of the damned. I loved how grass and even small trees managed to sprout out of the concrete that held it captive. …. I loved the sounds, even if they were the sounds of man rather than the sounds of nature. I loved the rattle of the old bridges as the streetcars went over them. I loved the lap of the water as it licked at concrete. I loved the wind in the slim weeds that grew between the railroad ties. I even loved the sound of the rush-hour trains, the buzzing traffic, the sound of my own feet on the asphalt path. I think what I really loved in those moments when I was cupped in the hand of the city was life. Aubert, 1997: Week 10 7 March 2012 GEOG 4280 | Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 17
Week 10 7 march 2012 GEOG 4280 | Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 18 Like a first year sociology student I keep coming back to Maslows hierarchy of needs. I know there are five levels, and that the first must be something like food, water and shelter, because thats what I work at all day. But the second? Human contact, a good book and pinball? The third, I guess, is the stuff you get jailed for: fast cars, cocaine and kisses that end in a sunlit morning by the sea. Above that would be enlightenment, an Academy Award and true love. And then finally, I guess, redemption. Shaughnessy Bishop-Stall, Down to This. Toronto: Random House.
While others slip into the shelters, were building our own houses with our hands. While they crowd around the TV in a community centre, were stoking the fire barrel, watching sparks rise like new stars in the cold night. Theyre under a blanket of rules, and were making up our own then tossing them off with a laugh. Some of them keep it toughthey live alone beneath viaducts and bridges. But we live together on the banks of the river and the lake. Were fought each other, and well fight each other again. But not just now. Shaughnessy Bishop-Stall, Down to This (2004: 83). Week 10 7 March 2012 GEOG 4280 | Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 19
Week 10 7 March 2012 GEOG 4280 | Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 20
I learned not to stare at the haunted men and women who would rummage through public garbage receptacles that had already been picked through half a dozen times before, in search of food or some discarded treasure. And I wouldnt stand open-mouthed, staring at those who, like pigeons swooping down on crumbs of bread, grabbed up cigarette butts from gutters and sidewalks, straightening up long ones and immediately lighting them, the shorter ones going into torn pockets for later. Pat Capponi, Last Stop Sunnyside (2006: 56). Week 10 7 March 2012 GEOG 4280 | Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 21
Week 10 7 March 2012 GEOG 4280 | Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 22 Im not crazy, you know. I spent a few years on the streets, and maybe I was yelling, but I was never crazy. I was just confused, wondering where everyone had gone, my family, my friends. Pat Capponi, Last Stop Sunnyside. Toronto: Harper Collins.
Philosophical Perspectives on Homelessness: Raymond Koukal Within this closeness that is dwelling in the polis I encounter, more and more frequently, those which do not dwell. I find that the homeless jut into my environment, without belonging to it. [...] On the same pavement where I walk they scuttle out of where they do not belong to another location where they do not belong, and every gesture of their mortal bodies reveals their resignation to not belonging. Koukal, Discrete Environments: Those Which Do Not Dwell. International Studies in Philosophy, 28(2): Week 10 7 March 2012 GEOG 4280 | Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 23
Those of us which dwell swirl in eddies about the homeless, not indifferent, not concerned, not solicitous, but disturbed. We respond either with something like negation or something like charity, but in either case these confrontations disrupt our environment because we have encountered something out of place, something-we-do-not-know-what-to-do-with. Koukal, 2006: 69. Week 10 7 March 2012 GEOG 4280 | Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 24
(2) Narratives of Work Week 10 7 March 2012 GEOG 4280 | Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 25
Description of a foundry owner, circa 1908: A typical member of the wealthy class who lives in luxury off the sweat of his employees and then lays them off as if they were useless things if theres the least dip in his profits. […] There would be no wealth without our work. Ten hours a day they work us, and look at what you put up with on the killing floor. What for? So men like Mr. Flavelle can live a life of luxury. Judi Coburn, The Shacklands (Toronto: Second Story Press: ) Week 10 7 March 2012 GEOG 4280 | Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 26
The clock was on the wall behind her. She darent turn and look again. The boss had shouted at her the first and last time shed looked. That seemed an eternity ago, and even then her feet were numb. Now sharp pains ran across her shoulders and down her back. If she twisted her head to relieve the pain in her neck, she jostled the girl beside her, who glared silently but ferociously. […] Filthy floors. Dust in the air so thick it made Katya cough until she spat up blood. And just yesterday there was Anna, fired when a sewing machine needle ran through her finger and blood stained the sleeve she was sewing. [Barbara Greenwood, Factory Girl. Toronto: Kids Can Press.] Week 10 7 March 2012 GEOG 4280 | Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 27
One evening in October the newspapers printed extra editions reporting a stockmarket crash. Of all the city's neighbourhoods Cabbagetown probably took the news most quietly. In the wealthier districts, and even in the middle-class neighbourhoods, the citizens were shocked or sloughed off the news as merely a temporary halt to the inevitable spiralling of the economy..... Cabbagetown went on its serene way, not caring whether the stockmarket crashed or didn't, such things being as far away and as alien to Cabbagetown as an aeroplane crash in Peru. With millions of dollars worth of investors' paper profits blowing away on the autumn breeze Cabbagetown knew that its hard-earned wealth was safe. Come Friday night or Saturday noon the same familiar pay envelopes would be carried out to the shipping platform by the foreman or handed through the timekeeper's wicket as usual. Whether some stock-market plungers lost their fortunes or whether a particular stock was worth this or that was of no particular interest. As a matter of fact most Cabbagetowners felt rather smug about the whole thing. (Garner, 1969: 36) Week 10 7 March 2012 GEOG 4280 | Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 28
The panic wasn't over as soon as the optimists predicted, and over the next few months its results began filtering down through business and industry, and even into Cabbagetown itself. Business said it had to retrench, and it began to cut its staffs relentlessly, and cut the pay checks of those who were retained in their jobs. Garner, Cabbagetown : 39. Week 10 7 March 2012 GEOG 4280 | Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 29
The soap was manufactured, flaked and boxed by mechanical means; but Ken was the missing link in the technological manufacture and distribution of soap flakes, for as yet there was no machinery in the plant to mechanically take the boxes from the chutes and pack them into cartons. Why should there have been when Ken was young, agile and had perfect eyesight which could discard broken boxes, did not have to be oiled or repaired and could work a fifty-five hour work week without breaking down. [....] Sometimes Ken would remove the gauze mask that he, along with everyone else in the room, wore in place of the non-existent ventilating system, and shout obscenities back at Trenton [the foreman], hiding them behind a beatific smile. Trenton, who was slightly deaf, saw the smile but did not hear the words. [....] To relieve the overpowering monotony of the job he acquired the habit that sustains all such workers, of allowing his thoughts to escape into the world outside the factory walls. (Garner, ) Week 10 7 March 2012 GEOG 4280 | Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 30
[T]he efficient workers reach their destinations quickly and easily while the malfunctioning workers end up maimed, mangled or dead. [Rabindranath Maharaj, Homer in Flight. Fredericton, NB: Goose Lane.] Week 10 7 March 2012 GEOG 4280 | Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 31
Framed by the dim interior of the stand [at Queens Park] a man leaned hatless, straw hair coxcombed by the wind, shouting,... Work... Name of the single unemployed of this Province... Fullscale program... Union wages... The wind, and the honk and squeal of traffic, shredded his sentences, which in any case came jerkily, slowly, from the swaying figure. Twenty cents a day... Starvation... Bennett government... Slave camps... Winter.... Kin a ragged topcoat buttoned to the neck he rocked, beat on the railings with bare fists. Organize... Bosses... Mass action... Above him a canvas banner bellied: WORKLESS UNITE – JOIN PROTEST MARCH TO CITY HALL MONDAY. [....] The back if the long line was suddenly convulsed with struggling figures; the police had converged, batons flashing.... A thin little man charged back toward them, brandishing a spindly placard, but the nearest policeman brought a baton down with a long swing; the thin man clutched his had, staggered, sagged to the grass. (Earle Birney, Down the Long Table. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart: 52-54). Week 10 7 March 2012 GEOG 4280 | Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 32
Ive seen the working stiff being kicked around all over the North American continent..... You dont even have to go anywhere outside this town to see that the system is rotten and has broken down. Right here in good old Tory British Toronto you have the same problems they have anywhere else. Just because I dont use Commie words like labour power, petit-bourgeois, or surplus value doesnt mean I cant see whats wrong. Im just not interested in your new civilization or your new religion or your new politics, or whatever the hell it is. Im just interested in pork chops for the poor, jobs for those who want to work, bugless beds and free hospitalization. Hugh Garner, Cabbagetown (Toronto: Ryerson Press,  1969: 279) Week 10 7 March 2012 GEOG 4280 | Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 33
In Emily Schultzs Toronto novel, Heaven is Small, the imperative to work and the desire to create works are pitted quite literally against one another. Gordon Small, a failed writer who has died without noticing the event of his own passing, travels to suburban Don Mills to apply for a job as a proofreader at Heaven, the worlds largest publisher of romance fiction. In methodical order he is appraised, interviewed, employed and assigned a cubicle in the pink ocean of the Editorial department at Heaven, where he reads and copyedits romance manuscripts for eight hours a day. As the weeks pass, Gordon realizes that he and his colleagues are dead, and that working at Heaven represents some sort of afterlife limbo. The significance of Heavens working conditions is not lost entirely on Gordons colleagues, one of whom inventories Heavens reliance on nineteenth century Taylorist labour management practices, observing that their work lacks intellectual content, tasks are mechanized, routinized, simplified and fragmented, and even their wages are calculated to keep them compliant. Coercion outweighs consent, Gordons co-worker declares, adding, a bona fide industrial plant stands above you, my friend … the wheels of romance turn with Fordism. Schultz, Heaven is Small. Toronto: Anansi: Week 10 7 March 2012 GEOG 4280 | Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 34
At times Im certain Im being groomed for something higher up, but as I have only hazy notions of the organizational structure of Seymour Surveys I cant imagine what. The company is layered like an ice-cream sandwich, with three floors: the upper crust, the lower crust, and our department, the gooey layer in the middle. On the floor above are the executives and the psychologists – referred to as the men upstairs, since they are all men – who arrange things with the clients; Ive caught glimpses of their offices, which have carpets and expensive furniture and have silk-screen reprints of Group of Seven paintings on the walls. Below us are the machines – mimeo machines, I.B.M. Machines for counting and sorting and tabulating the information; Ive been down there too, into that factory-like clatter where the operatives seem frayed and overworked and have ink on their fingers. Our department is the link between the two: we are supposed to take care of the human element. Margaret Atwood, The Edible Woman. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart. Week 10 7 March 2012 GEOG 4280 | Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 35
Because our department deals primarily with housewives, everyone in it, except the unfortunate office-boy, is female. We are spread out in a large institutional-green room with an opaque glassed cubicle at the end for Mrs. Bogue, the head of the department, and a number of wooden tables at the other end for the motherly-looking women who sit deciphering the interviewers handwriting and making crosses and checkmarks on the completed questionnaires with coloured crayons, looking with their scissors and glue and stacks of paper like a superannuated kindergarten class. The rest of us in the department sit at miscellaneous desks in the space between. Ibid.: 14. Week 10 7 March 2012 GEOG 4280 | Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 36
What, then, could I expect to turn into at Seymour Surveys? I couldnt become one of the men upstairs; I couldnt become a machine person or one of the questionnaire-marking ladies, as that would be a step down. I might conceivably turn into Mrs. Bogue or her assistant, but as far as I could see that would take a long time and I wasnt sure I would like it anyway. Ibid.: 20. Week 10 7 March 2012 GEOG 4280 | Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 37
I realize every office has its share of assholes, but in the newsroom the proportions seemed all out of whack. Most offices, Ive found, break down something like this: 5 percent of the people are cool or allies, 10 percent are assholes; and the other 85 percent are indifferent, neutral. But in the Cosmodemonic crackhouse, it was more like 5 percent cool people; 85 percent assholes; and 10 percent real fucking assholes. David Eddie, Chump Change : 195. Week 10 7 March 2012 GEOG 4280 | Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 38
Canadian Experience Torontos new working class: part-time service sector workers, a population composed disproportionately of recent immigrants and racialized minorities. This working class is largely invisible. Its members are disproportionately likely to be injured on the job, less likely to be unionized, less likely to enjoy health and other employment benefits. Week 10 7 March 2012 GEOG 4280 | Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 39
Some say that life imitates art. For the immigrant in these stories there is no life and there is no art. There is no life because they do not live freely nor with any semblance of mutual, creative relationships. The immigrant is merely living. How are things, man? Living, man. I just here, living. [Austin Clarke, from the Introduction to Nine Men Who Laughed. Toronto: Penguin.] Week 10 7 March 2012 GEOG 4280 | Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 40
Braving the punishing cold, you beat the footpaths, searching for vacancies. You do Yonge Street, then Bloor, Dundas, and Queen, the East End, then the West. Taking refuge in donut shops, using precious change to make phone calls doomed by the first word, the accent. I am a salesman, I was a salesman. Just give me a chance. Why dont they understand we can do the job? Canadian experience is the trump they always call against which you have no answer. [M.G. Vassanji, No New Land. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart.] Week 10 7 March 2012 GEOG 4280 | Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 41
He would carry the newspapers to the basement, turn to the classified sections and gaze apprehensively at the Help Wanted ads. The entire process depressed him. […] Canadian degree … previous Canadian experience required … Canadian accent required … Canadian experience preferable … Ontario letter of standing required. [Rabindranath Maharaj, Homer in Flight. Fredericton, NB: Goose Lane.] Week 10 7 March 2012 GEOG 4280 | Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 42
In the eight years he had spent in this country, he had lain low for the first five, as a non-landed immigrant, in and out of low-paying jobs given specifically to non-landed immigrants, and all the while waiting for amnesty. One year he worked distributing handbills, most of which, because of boredom, he threw into garbage pails when no one was looking, and laughed, until one cold afternoon in February when his supervisor, who did not trust immigrants, carried out a telephone check behind his back, only to discover that none of the householders on the fifteen streets he had been assigned to had ever heard of or had ever seen the brochures advertising Petes Pizza Palace, free delivery. [Austin Clarke, Canadian Experience.] Week 10 7 March 2012 GEOG 4280 | Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 43
Lets see, do you have ten years driving experience? Ten years? Ive only been in the country ten days. Tens the requirement. Years, days, what does it matter to me? Tens good enough. But… Do you know every single street in this city? Not a single street. Thats good enough for me, too. Thats how I started. Youre hired. [Ansari Ali, The Sacred Adventures of a Taxi Driver. London, ON: Third Eye.] Week 10 7 March 2012 GEOG 4280 | Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 44
Week 10 7 March 2012 GEOG 4280 | Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 45 Geographies of Work I: Marxist Perspectives on Labour We inhabit the space-time of capital. (Gidwani & Chari, 2004) In this view, spaces – including literary spaces – are produced and reproduced by the flows and circuits of capitalism. What are the spatial consequences of a system that turns labour into abstract labour? Does space also become abstract? (according to Lefebvre, yes!) How can we play with this ultimately spatial metaphor?
Work and Alienation Marx argued that all work is devalued under the alienating conditions of industrial capitalism, which (1) reduces workers to automatons, (2) separates working people from the products of their labour, (3) pits workers against one another as a class and (4) estranges them even from the core of their own essence. For a fuller discussion of work and alienation, see James Reinharts The Tyranny of Work (1987: 14-16). Week 10 7 March 2012 GEOG 4280 | Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 46
Week 10 7 March 2012 GEOG 4280 | Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 47 Labour, Production, Place Marxist political economy and radical geography Begins with the assertion that space is socially produced, and that socially produced space is a historical (more specifically, economic) phenomenon: materialism. According to Marx, industrial capitalism operates through circuits of capital. Surplus value (profit) is extracted from workers. The logic: material inputs are relatively inflexible (and therefore can produced only a fixed volume of profit) but workers are supremely flexible. Surplus value is also extracted from space: the labour process is also a spatial process. David Harvey describes capital as value in motion – it travels through phases in the circuits of capital, which manifest spatially. As capital travels across space and time, it transforms those spaces and is transformed by them. In this sense, spaces are said to be socially produced.
Week 10 7 March 2012 GEOG 4280 | Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 48 Lefebvre on Spaces of Capital Logico-epistemological space … the space of social practice, the space occupied by sensory phenomena, including products of the imagination such as projects and projections, symbols and utopias. (1973: 11-12) L-E Space is actually subsumed within the forces and relations of production under capitalism: space as traditionally experienced is actually disappearing. Huh?
Week 10 7 March 2012 GEOG 4280 | Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 49 Lefebvres hypotheses about space 1.That physical (natural) space is disappearing and has been reduced to mere background décor and nostalgia 2.That every society (and every mode of production) produces its own space 3.If space is a product, then our knowledge of space reproduces and expounds the process of production – through (1) social practice, (2) representations of space, and (3) representational spaces) 4.Space is historical: the shift from one mode of production to another entails the production of a new space Lefebvre posits that there are three kinds of space: (1) absolute space (historical), (2) abstract space (space under capitalism) and (3) representational space (spaces of difference, naïve but revolutionary).
Week 10 7 March 2012 GEOG 4280 | Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 50 Lefebvre on Social Space Representational space is effectively superceded – even killed off – by industrial capitalism Social space (space under capitalism) is simultaneously exaggerated and reduced to spaces of capital (production and consumption) People, things, and places are replaced, slowly but implacably, by products destined to be exchanged, traded and reproduced ad infinitum … (Lefebvre, p 74)
Week 10 7 March 2012 GEOG 4280 | Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 51 Contemporary (Capitalist Spaces) On modern cities, Lefebvre writes that everything here resembles everything else; he adds that repetition has everywhere defeated uniqueness, that the artificial and contrived have driven all spontaneity and naturalness from the field, and, in short, that products have replaced works. Repetitions spaces are the outcomes of repetitive gestures. Spaces have been reduced to the visual, to spaces of spectacle, to images available to be bought, sold, produced and consumed in an endless cycle
Week 10 7 March 2012 GEOG 4280 | Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 52 Some examples … City form that privileges spaces of production (factories, business districts) and physical structures that ease their flow (transportation networks, roads, airports) Work-space design: the physical organization of work to support mass production (the geography of your work- place) Temporal flows organized around work-leisure. Space-time compression (David Harvey) Mass cities = mass production and mass consumption banalization of space (Guy Debord): space as spectacle Alienation?
Week 10 7 March 2012 GEOG 4280 | Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 53 How does literature respond to capitalism? Literature as a mirror: Passivity, complacency, consumption, spectacle Literature that exposes or conceals class divisions Literature that resists spatial alienation Literature focusing on spatial transgression working class literature Literature as disposable (genre fiction? Bestsellers?) Note that space is far more than a passive industrial setting Note also that the labour process is also a spatial process Again, though, we have the problem of voice: who speaks for whom? Are the voices of the working class merely appropriated by bourgeois writers?
Week 10 7 March 2012 GEOG 4280 | Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 54 Working-class writers seek to portray a pace of activity controlled by machinery, supervisors, or a time clock. They attempt to reproduce the boredom of sameness, of mindless repetition, of humans acting as machinery. Their challenge is to portray a place where individuality is not only not valued, but suppressed. They seek to portray the consequences of living, hour after hour, with such suppression. (Christopher & Whitson, 1999: 73-74)
Week 10 7 March 2012 GEOG 4280 | Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 55 What is working class literature? Working class as: blue-collar wage-earners. Working class literature as being narratives written by working- class people about their class experience.(Christopher & Whitson, 1999) Life at the level of raw survival (ibid): starvation, waiting, oppression, exclusion, and resistance. Distrust of authority. Class identity. Crisis. Challenges of these definitions: Must the categories involve a binary opposition? Are all workers members of the working class? Are all workers class-conscious? What about (the large mass of) bourgeois literature about the working class? Must all working-class literature be heroic or revolutionary? Can workers ever be content, or must the literature explore themes of alienation and oppression? Do workers seek to transcend or celebrate their class position?
Week 10 7 March 2012 GEOG 4280 | Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 56 Geographies of Work II: Phenomenologies of Work There are remarkable similarities between the Marxist critique of capitalism and phenomenological encounters with work and alienation. Much turns on how we define work. Work and alienation: Hegel; Marx; Heidegger; Scott Shershow (the double necessity of work); Hannah Arendt Work as inextricably linked with the project of Being.
Week 10 7 March 2012 GEOG 4280 | Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 57 The Question Concerning Technology Heidegger on the essence of modern technology: that it reduces nature and human beings to standing reserve … ordered to stand by, to be immediately on hand, indeed to stand there just so that it may be on call for a further ordering. (from The Question Concerning Technology) But where Hegels concept of alienation focuses on the collective spirit, and Marxs concept of alienation focuses on labour, Heideggers concept of alienation focuses on being. techne: a bringing-forth, an arising of something out of itself, a revealing, a gathering of essents (things) together Technology, in contrast, is not a bringing-forth but a challenging-forth, in which energy is extracted and stored. Spatial implications: spaces are ordered; movement becomes coerced; nature is trammeled.
Week 10 7 March 2012 GEOG 4280 | Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 58 Spaces of Alienation Heidegger on the homelessness of modern man; our failure to dwell Marx on flexible spaces Lefebvre on the disappearance of representational space Harvey on space-time compression Debord on the banalization of space
Week 10 7 March 2012 GEOG 4280 | Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 59 Sites of Representation: the Labouring City The lived experience of work Centres and peripheries, margins, seams, edges Shifts in urban form, travel, mobility, temporal change, domestic space Spaces of opportunity, belonging, inclusion and exclusion, interiority/exteriority Analyses of race, sex, class: class fictions How does class play out in the citys literature?
Week 10 7 March 2012 GEOG 4280 | Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 60 Work-spaces in Garner The workers vanishing in space: two narratives (how might we extend this analysis to visible and invisible labour in contemporary Toronto?) Resistance as spatial practice How is the city carved up by production? How is it reconstituted? What is included or left out? How do networks of production and consumption flow? What might a map of work in Toronto look like? How would we represent work spatially?
Work and Works In The Work and the Gift (2005) literary scholar Scott Cutler Shershow describes the double necessity of work as a paradox that arises from the imperative to perform the obligatory labour that sustains our material existence despite deriving the bulk of our identity from the parallel impulse to build, craft or otherwise create works with intrinsic value, such as a hand-knit scarf, a literary masterpiece or a well laid wall. This tension, arguably inherent in human endeavour, turns destructive whenever works are subsumed beneath the demands of work. In distinguishing works from work, Shershow belongs to an intellectual tradition stretching from Hegel (who emphasized the transcendent qualities of work performed in the creation of works) to Hannah Arendt (who distinguished work, as an end in itself, from labour, or work as a means to an end). Week 10 7 March 2012 GEOG 4280 | Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 61
Week 10 7 March 2012 GEOG 4280 | Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 62
Week 5 3 February 2010 GEOG 4280 | Imagining Toronto Copyright © Amy Lavender Harris 1 Week 5 Class Fictions: Narratives of Work in Toronto Literature.
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