Is Territorial Destigmatization Possible? Lessons from a Toronto Neighbourhood.

Wednesday, 18 July 2018: 18:00
Oral Presentation
Mervyn HORGAN, University of Guelph, Canada
Over the last quarter century, territorial stigmatization has emerged as one of the most powerful concepts for understanding how social, spatial, and symbolic processes of contemporary urban inequality are intertwined (Wacquant 1993). The concept has advanced our understanding of the very real material effects of symbolic denigration in wide range of neighbourhoods around the globe. Despite this power, existing research employing the concept has two main problems: (1) it tends to overlook decades of work in the broader field of stigma studies that has burgeoned since Goffman’s pioneering work in the 1960s, and (2) it focuses primarily on delineation and critique of territorial stigmatization’s genesis and course in various locales, largely leaving aside possibilities for amelioration. possibilities.

Drawing on archival research, participant observation, and interviews with a range of inhabitants of Parkdale—a Toronto neighbourhood that has been profoundly shaped and symbolically tainted by its long association with poverty, single room occupancy housing, and psychiatric survivors—this article demonstrates how territorial stigmatization, and a new allied concept, territorial destigmatization, operate simultaneously at the neighbourhood level. I show how territorial stigmatization and territorial destigmatization work across three dimensions: legal, material, and discursive. Foregrounding symbolic elements of these three dimensions, I delineate two strategies of territorial destigmatization: one that is mobilized in concert with gentrification-led displacement, and the other that works to symbolically reinscribe stigmatized persons and housing forms. To complement and sharpen territorial stigmatization research, I integrate recent findings from stigma studies to show how psychiatric survivors and housing advocates in Parkdale are using territorial destigmatization to offset gentrification-led displacement.