Free lecture - Displacing Blackness: Planning, Power, and Race in Twentieth-Century Halifax

October 24, 2018

Speaker: Ted Rutland

When: October 24, 2018, 7 p.m.

Where: Room 1400, SFU Vancouver - Harbour Centre (515 West Hastings St.)

Cost: Free

Urban planning has long been seen as a way of improving human life through spatial means. But what if planning's commitment to human life is the cause of, rather than solution to, the destruction that it often causes? What if the human being, as planning conceives it, is more limited and race-specific than it might seem?

This presentation examines a century of planning history in the city of Halifax, Nova Scotia. Focusing on a series of planning initiatives that sought to protect or improve human life, the presentation shows how planning's conception of the human being relied on particular distinctions between the normative and the pathological, and how Black life – and thus, Halifax's longstanding Black population – was continually placed outside planning's vision of human flourishing. Drawing connections between the history of urban planning and emerging scholarship on anti-blackness, this presentation locates an anti-Black conception of the human being at the core of modern planning practice. Displacing blackness, expelling blackness from the sphere of the human, is integral to the operation of modern planning – not just in black neighbourhoods, but across the urban terrain. 

Rutland's talk is of particular relevance for Vancouverites today.  The planned redevelopment of Northeast False Creek has spurred renewed calls for redress for Vancouver's Black community because of our own history of "Black removal" -- the City's destruction of Hogan's Alley and the displacement of its residents to build the Dunsmuir and Georgia viaducts.

About Ted Rutland

Ted Rutland is an associate professor in the Department of Geography, Planning, and Environment at Concordia University. His research examines the racial politics of urban planning, policing, and community organizing in Canadian cities.


This presentation is co-sponsored by the SFU Urban Studies Program and SFU's Geography and History departments.