Spatial Narratives of Property Loss: Social memory and the dispossession of Japanese Canadian-owned property in British Columbia

Date created: 
Social memory
Spatial narratives
Site of memory

This project informs an emergent literature on memory and property. More specifically, it uses a geographical perspective to analyze memories of property loss. The case study – a sample of thirty-one oral histories related to the dispossession of Japanese-Canadian-owned property during the 1940s – comes from the Landscapes of Injustice (LoI) SSHRC-funded project. LoI addresses haunting across the social memory of Canada; by sharing spatially-grounded life stories, interview participants unsettle under-recognized meaning attached to property loss. To embrace the centrality of space and place to this reckoning, I frame these “spatial narratives” around the processes of hauntology in les lieux de mémoire (sites of memory) (Derrida, 1994 & Nora, 1989). I focus on three distinct themes across the narratives and to analyze them, draw from the work of three contemporary property theorists. Citizenship explores the political undertones of “Canadian” property ownership and loss (Singer, 2000); Investment identifies the monetary and non-monetary values put into property (Becher, 2014); and Belonging details important networks that structure property and create unique experiences of belonging (Keenan, 2015). As I recognize the complex nature of social memory, I also illustrate the ways in which these themes interconnect. Finally, I argue that spatial narratives from LoI gesture at a deeper and wider story of property; at the intersection of social memory and property, there is a window into the layered history of remembering and forgetting dispossession in colonized British Columbia.

Document type: 
This thesis may be printed or downloaded for non-commercial research and scholarly purposes. Copyright remains with the author.
Senior supervisor: 
Nicholas Blomley
Environment: Department of Geography
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) M.A.