Spring 2023 - HIST 330W D100

Controversies in Canadian History (4)

Re-creation of DTES

Class Number: 4830

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Jan 4 – Apr 11, 2023: Wed, 9:30 a.m.–12:20 p.m.

  • Prerequisites:

    45 units, including six units of lower division history.



An examination of selected topics in Canadian history. The content will vary from offering to offering. See department for further information. HIST 330W may be repeated for credit only when a different topic is taught. Students may not take selected topics within HIST 330W for further credit if duplicating content of another history course and vice versa. Writing.


The Creation and Re-creation of the Downtown Eastside

The Downtown Eastside (DTES) of Vancouver has gone through many changes over the past 150 years.  A First Nations hunting and fishing territory for thousands of years, the area became the centre of the emerging city of Vancouver at the turn of the 20th century and a thriving working-class neighbourhood through much of the 1900s. Since the 1970s and 1980s, however, the area has been represented in new and disturbing ways.  Dubbed “Canada’s poorest postal code” in the media and popular understandings, the DTES has been defined by outsiders as a “dumping ground” for the city’s social problems:  addiction, poverty, homelessness, sex work, gender violence, and HIV/AIDs.  Yet the DTES is much more than the sum of the challenges it faces, and residents and their allies have re-appropriated the neighbourhood and re-created a strong sense of community, mutual caring, and activism.  Today, however, residents struggle to maintain their community in the face of increasing gentrification and its related impacts, including a radical decline in social housing, increasing rents and food prices, growing hostility towards low-income residents, and ultimate displacement.  Through an exploration of written primary sources, secondary literature, films, oral narratives, videos, and websites, and through engagement with speakers from the community, this course will seek to understand the intersection of inequalities situated in gender, race, ethnicity, sexuality, age, class, and (dis)ability that have created and re-created Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.  It will also encourage students to consider how we might integrate academic work with a commitment to social action.


As a fully participating student in this course, you will be encouraged to:

  1. develop a critical understanding of gender, race, class, and sexuality as systems of difference that undergird inequality;
  2. understand the DTES in terms of the intersectionality of these systems of difference;
  3. understand that these categories are socially constructed and reconstructed over time and place;
  4. appreciate how oppressed and exploited groups resist their subordination and struggle to recreate their own social and cultural identities;
  5. enhance your abilities in critical historical analysis; and
  6. improve your written and verbal communication skills.


  • Attendance and active participation 15%
  • Written reading responses 15%
  • Group facilitation of readings 15%
  • Op-ed 20%
  • Research paper OR creative project + paper OR social action + paper 35%


PLEASE NOTE that GSWS students who are interested in taking this course are welcome, provided that they have met the prerequisites for upper division courses in GSWS. History prerequisite will be waived for those students. Please contact Undergraduate Advisor Roberta Neilson for assistance.



All required readings will be available on SFU Canvas and/or the Internet.


Your personalized Course Material list, including digital and physical textbooks, are available through the SFU Bookstore website by simply entering your Computing ID at: shop.sfu.ca/course-materials/my-personalized-course-materials.

Registrar Notes:


SFU’s Academic Integrity website http://www.sfu.ca/students/academicintegrity.html is filled with information on what is meant by academic dishonesty, where you can find resources to help with your studies and the consequences of cheating. Check out the site for more information and videos that help explain the issues in plain English.

Each student is responsible for his or her conduct as it affects the university community. Academic dishonesty, in whatever form, is ultimately destructive of the values of the university. Furthermore, it is unfair and discouraging to the majority of students who pursue their studies honestly. Scholarly integrity is required of all members of the university. http://www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/student/s10-01.html