| Creative Arts-Based Geographies Some Cautionary and Hopeful Reflections
This paper is a response to growing excitement about arts-engaged research in geography. More and more geographers are practicing participatory arts projects to co-investigate pressing issues with communities. However, there are a lack of reflexive discussions about the limits of this work within the confines of the neoliberal and colonial university pressuring researchers to produce 4-star work that makes an impact, or measurable change. Here I add criticality to our understanding of the pitfalls and potential of arts-based analyses. I reflect on interviews with women, queer, non-binary and trans artists who I met during my time as a post-doctoral researcher in Glasgow. I also offer an auto-ethnographical account of my attempts to practice research exchanges with artist and activist Ailie Rutherford and the Peoples Bank of Govanhill (PBoG)’s Swap Market, a collective that co-researchers and collaboratively practices alternative economies in Glasgow’s South Side Govanhill neighbourhood. Moreover, I critically reflect on my experiences attending professional development workshops that were a mandatory part of my research fellowship. As I recount these experiences, I speak back to neoliberal and colonial university enclosures reinforcing heteropatriarchal and white supremacist understandings of knowledge production. Inspired by queer feminist performance theorist and artists, I also show how arts-based research points to strategies for unsettling neoliberal and colonial university enclosures.
|Intro: Planning for Feminist and 2SLGBTQ+ Spaces
An introduction to Planning for Feminist and 2SLGBTQ+ Spaces. When I was a planning student in the late 1990’s, women activists contesting patriarchal city building with Women Plan Toronto (WPT) sparked my interest in planning for women and 2SLGBTQ communities. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, WPT encouraged public sector planners and policy makers to plan women-friendly neighbourhoods that included accessible and affordable housing and public spaces and parks amenable to children, seniors and people with disabilities. WPT also advocated practical alternatives to address women’s planning concerns, including strategies for designing public transportation suitable for wheelchairs and strollers and ensuring women’s and children’s safety in urban design. Moreover, by facilitating non-hierarchical and participatory workshops, WPT encouraged refugee women, older women, single moms and lesbians to rely on their embodied knowledge while engaging in planning meetings. Through these activities, WPT unsettled paternalistic planning practice that often celebrates white male urban experts while ignoring the experiences of women and 2SLGBTQ communities.
|Spaces for Feminist Commoning? Creative Social Enterprise’s Enclosures and Possibilities
This paper contributes an intersectional feminist analysis and methodological approach to debates about commoning and social enterprise. Through a narrative description of feminist social enterprise projects based on action research with the Kinning Park Complex, a social centre with a radical history in Glasgow’s South Side, I demonstrate how contemporary community economic development models can entrench intersectional exclusion. Specifically, I show how market‐oriented social enterprise models reproduce precarious work, hinder cooperative ethics, and promote depoliticised notions of difference. However, I also investigate the ways that community organisers and activists at KPC are re‐working these neoliberal models to carve out spaces for feminist commoning. Through these acts, women‐identifying and non‐binary activists, artists, and community organisers grapple with the classed, raced, and gendered politics of community organising and foster solidarities across difference.
|En/Acting Radical Change: Theories, Practices, Places and Politics of Creativity as Intervention
Creative arts-based methods and methodologies are, of recent, seeing a (re)surgence in human geography. Much less explored by geographers, however, are creative arts-based methods and methodologies as agents of sociopolitical change or as modalities overlapping with the intensifying work of place-based engagements by critical, racialized, queer, feminist, anti-colonial, Indigenous, differently-abled and/or activists, artists, and scholars. This paper provides a broad historical overview of creativity and arts practice in geography. It then interrogates some of the shortcomings of current scholarship about creativity (in practice and theory) in the discipline. We draw from scholarship and front-line testimonies about arts in, to name a few, Indigenous-led interventions like Idle No More, in recent arts-based actions in support of asylum seekers, 2SLGBTQ or trans, feminist, and sex worker’s rights. We also offer critical geographic analysis focused on the potential and limitations of creativity for re-workings, for resistances, and for critical collaborations. We offer that critical analysis as a way to also understand creative practices as catalysts for forging affinities and alliances. By turning to critical and radical visual, performance, and literary artists working with and in-place to foster sociopolitical change, we conclude the chapter with discussions about what geographers might learn from artists and arts-engaged scholars about creativity as an intervention and agent of transformation.
|Regulating and Resisting Queer Creativity: Community Engaged Arts Practice
This article draws from and advances urban studies literature on ‘creative city’ policies by exploring the contradictory role of queer arts practice in contemporary placemarketing strategies. Here I reflect on the fraught politics surrounding Radiodress’s each hand as they are called project, a deeply personal exploration of radical Jewish history programmed within Luminato, a Toronto-based international festival of creativity. Specifically, I explore how Luminato and the Koffler Centre, a Jewish organisation promoting contemporary art, regulated Radiodress’s work in order to stage marketable notions of ethnic and queer diversity. I also examine how and why the Koffler Centre eventually blacklisted Radiodress and her project. However, I also consider the ways Radiodress and Toronto artists creatively and collectively responded to these tensions. I maintain that bringing queer arts practice into discussions about contemporary creative city policies uncovers sites of queer arts activism that scale up to shape broader policies and debates. Such disidentificatory interventions, acts of co-opting and re-working discourses which exclude minoritarian subjects, challenge violent processes of colonisation and commodification on multiple fronts, as well as fostering more collective and relational ways of being.
|In praise of chaotic research pathways: A feminist response to planetary urbanization
This intervention contributes to feminist and queer responses to Brenner and Schmid’s ‘planetary urbanization’ thesis. I discuss the generative potential of their attempts to craft alternative urban research pathways and their critique of urban age discourse, a body of work that defines cities as static sites of ‘innovation’, ‘creativity’, and ‘sustainability’. However, echoing critics of the planetary urbanization approach, I contend that Brenner and Schmid’s research schema risks reproducing exclusionary analytical hierarchies by promoting a totalizing, ‘god-trick-like’ standpoint and ignoring marginalized feminist, queer, and praxis-oriented urban studies approaches. As a result, planetary urbanization ignores situated and relational knowledges and lived experience. Moreover, I question Brenner and Schmid’s efforts to bring order to what they perceive as ‘chaotic’ urban research. I then reflect on the feminist analytic tool kit I employ in my arts-based research in Glasgow, including performing with Fail Better, a cabaret that makes space for politicized artists and under-represented artists of colour, queer artists, and working class artists. I argue that planetary urbanization offers useful strategies for interrogating the globalized geo-economic processes propelling contemporary efforts to re-invent cities into sites of competitive creativity. But I also argue that this approach cannot account for the intersectional inequalities neoliberal regimes reproduce or uncover artists’ and activists’ efforts to forge solidarities. I conclude by calling for feminist, queer, and arts-based research journeys that embrace humility, dialogue, taking risks, and possibly failing in our efforts to chart alternative research pathways.
|Undecidability and the Urban: Feminist Pathways Through Urban Political Economy
There is a well established body of feminist scholarship critiquing the methodological and epistemological limits of an “objective” view from nowhere in urban research and political economy frameworks. Recent developments, such as the planetary urbanization thesis, have reignited feminist efforts to counter patriarchal, colonial, and hegemonic ways of knowing. Here, we recount our frustrations with the reproduction of dominant political economic modes of “knowing” urban processes such as gentrification and culture-led regeneration in research that seeks to uncover the production of neoliberal spaces and subjectivities. We argue that this narrow approach forecloses the possibility of observing or working with radical world-making projects that stand outside of traditional understandings of the political. Thus, we heed our feminist colleagues’ call to foreground the undecidability of the urban, allowing ourselves and our subjects to express uncertainty about the causes, outcomes, and impacts of urban processes. In what follows, we share short research vignettes from our projects in Toronto and Glasgow and discuss the implications of forging unexpected solidarities, engaging in embodied, participatory knowledge production, and reading urban politics off of persistent, uncertain, under-the-radar projects. We maintain that working from a position of undecidability yields greater potential for renewing our political imaginations beyond neoliberalism.