The Hybrid Performance of a District : A Study of the Work of a Tenants’ Association

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Title: The Hybrid Performance of a District : A Study of the Work of a Tenants’ Association
Author: Bencherki, Nicolas
Publisher: Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies
Date: 2012
Language: eng
Belongs to series: COLLeGIUM: Studies across Disciplines in the Humanities and Social Sciences 13
ISBN: 978-952-10-8578-9
ISSN: 1796-2986
Abstract: Using the case of a four-year ethnography of a tenants’ association in an underprivileged district of Montréal, Québec, Canada, I show how workers use artefacts to translate the built landscape – the physical characteristics and issues of buildings – into language. This translation, I contend, is necessary to ground the association’s calls to city officials for intervention as legitimate and necessary. In turn, those calls, as they are recirculated, open up or deter programs of action. In other words, action is transformed into language which in turn calls for further action – and the distinction between action and language fades. This is not only a theoretical stance but also a preoccupation of participants themselves, whose daily work consists of effacing their own intervention and of presenting their calls for repairs as genuine demands from the district’s built landscape itself. This is especially important in a district where gentrification and other physical changes have a growing impact on poorer citizens. As researchers, we need to keep in mind that pitting materiality against language, or action against its descriptions, is unproductive from a pragmatic point of view and fails to account for the way in which community workers – among others – work and attempt, discursively, to shape their environment while presenting that environment as speaking “by itself.”
Subject: sociomateriality
built landscape
community organizing
tenants’ rights
Rights: © author(s) & Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies

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