The Right to Remain Flag, 2014–2015 markers and paint on nylon, 95" x 32" This flag is a symbol of unity among all the people who live, work, or support the DTES. The flag was created as part of the Right to Remain Community Fair workshops. Credit: Right to Remain Community Fair Team (Ali Lohan, Karen Ward, Quin Martins, Andy Mori, Trevor Wideman)

Geography Seminar Series 2017-2018 Talk #2

November 23, 2017

Talk #2 : Putting the Right to Remain to work for tenant organizing in the Downtown Eastside

An ascendance in recent years of a paradigm at the urban research-policy nexus has contributed to an ethos of “big science” ostensibly represents a shift from an in vitro (i.e. in the test tube) to in vivo (i.e. in real life) research modality; a city imagined as an urban body, a site of clinical observation, experimentation, and the generation of evidence based policy insights for everything from environmental sustainability to health equity. While argued to be a more natural, and applied way to put science to work on real life issues, the paradigm very much maintains the positivist distance that undergirds claims to rigour, objectivity, and thus influence. Contra this shift is an alternative paradigm for urban research that has much longer legs and a more overt politics- an in situ (i.e. in place) positionality that prioritizes embedded research activism, the creative generation of critical community knowledge practices, and the mobilization of diverse social groups working in solidarity across traditional lines of urban separation. Rather than pursuing “solutions science” from the outside for the inside, in situ urban research works through the grounded creativity generated in situ to advance an alternative vision for urban life premised on justice and a right to the city. In this presentation, I will review several years of this creative research practice undertaken by a team of human rights organizations, community artmakers, and students working together an ongoing project called the “Right to Remain.” Now focused on the renewed effort to reclaim and rehabilitate the Single Room Occupancy Hotels (SROs) under the leadership of the Downtown Eastside SRO Collaborative, we highlight some of the challenges and opportunities that we have encountered in actualizing research in situ.

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