This dissertation investigates the concept of public formations through the case study of the contentious redevelopment of the Woodward’s building in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver, 1995-2002, focusing on discourses of low-income community (LIC) advocates in the neighbourhood. It draws upon an interdisciplinary body of work that identifies publicity, plurality, and power as key aspects of publics. When applied to a notion of public formations, they are understood as 1) collections of discursive processes that create and sustain a community oriented toward matters of collective concern and as 2) consisting of constitutive practices and relational practices that vary in intention, orientation, and scale. Analyzing documents of the LIC advocates, the City of Vancouver, and the Vancouver Sun, three types of public formation are articulated: emergent, oppositional, and institutionalized. Corresponding to different moments in Woodward’s redevelopment, the public formations describe various collectivizing and public-making processes inherent in the struggle for social housing. It is argued the LIC advocates’ transformed Woodward’s redevelopment into a public issue, and further these practices are forms of active citizenship, challenging the meaning of belonging in the Downtown Eastside.
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Thesis advisor: Angus, Ian
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