Gentrification and Voiceless Politics

The first article I chose was the one concerning gentrification. This article focuses on Portuguese population of the Toronto area. Toronto has experienced many changes in its social makeup, as it has a very large foreign-born population. As is the case with the Portuguese residents. A large number of them had settled in west central Toronto around the 1970s, slowly moving northwest. In the process, they were replacing the Italian population that had been settled there before. This is an early example of gentrification, or a very similar situation in many aspects. As the article goes into detail about, there are many positives and negatives to gentrification, and I think they are worth considering.

One positive aspect to gentrification is the stabilization of declining areas. Today, it is a given that gentrification happens within areas that are not in the best shape, and not exactly desirable. As money and life is brought back into these areas, they become more attractive as they “stabilize” and bring attention back. Along with this, vacancy rates decline, which is a positive in bringing back vibrancy to neighborhoods and surrounding areas. While these attributes are very important, they do not come without a price. As new social groups come into these areas, it sets up the a process of residential and commercial displacement. Gentrification increases property value, and residents, and even businesses, become uprooted and are forced elsewhere as housing becomes less affordable. As this displacement happens, so does the loss of community and identity. The social networks and connections that had been there are all suddenly gone, and any sense of belonging or symbolic identity with a specific place is now gone. As these social groups are pushed out, you begin to have less social diversity, whether its class, race, etc. These are all impacts experienced by the Portuguese residents of Toronto, and anyone who has experienced similar situations. While gentrification encourages positive development, it always comes at a cost.

The second article I read was the one concerning voiceless politics. This article focused on a group of younger residents who frequently used a local downtown park as a hangout. It seems that there were elements of gentrification as well, as the surrounding area had been transformed, it was expected that the residents would change also. Nonetheless, it did not turn out as expected, and problems continued with the younger residents. Some restrictions were put on the park with the intention to steer away the younger residents. These gatherings and hangouts came at the expense of the older residents who didn’t appreciate what had been happening, and wanted to put an end to it. While their opinions were clearly stated, the younger residents never voiced theirs. While they may have had some legitimate points to make concerning their rights as citizens, they ultimately chose to say nothing. While it seemed as though they were choosing not to participate in the debate, it can very well be seen as an act of voiceless politics. Through their own actions, they used the park the way they chose, regardless of punishment. Through verbal understanding, the situation would have turned out much differently. Instead, standing their ground in dissidence without verbal debate made a louder statement in the end.

Both of these articles draw parallels in some ways. Both are urban issues in public spaces, linked to specific areas, and seen as politics of the city. Every city has its own agenda and way of dealing with these issues, but in the larger picture, they can be issues on a larger scale as well, simply taking place in the city. More often than not, we are simply just unaware.

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