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The 'Monster' House revisited: race and representations of urban change in Vancouver Wang, Holman 1998

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THE MONSTER' HOUSE REVISITED Race and Representations of Urban Change in Vancouver by HOLMAN WANG B.Sc. University of Toronto BEd. University of British Columbia A THESIS SUBMITTED IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF MASTER OF ADVANCED STUDIES IN ARCHITECTURE in THE FACULTY OF GRADUATE STUDIES School of Architecture We accept this thesis as conforming to the required standard THE UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA September 1998 © Holman Wang, 1998 In presenting this thesis in partial fulfilment of the requirements for an advanced degree at the University of British Columbia, I agree that the Library shall make it freely available for reference and study. I further agree that permission for extensive copying of this thesis for scholarly purposes may be granted by the head of my department or by his or her representatives. It is understood that copying or publication of this thesis for financial gain shall not be allowed without my written permission. Department of ^ g ^ O M e ^T7iPH=^, The University of British Columbia Vancouver, Canada DE-6 (2/88) 11 ABSTRACT In the last 15 years, urban change in Vancouver, British Columbia, has been broadly understood in racial terms. Media and academic treatments of landscape transformation have suggested that Vancouver, as a 'gateway city' to the Pacific Rim, will inevitably experience Asian-lead change, economism, and 'creative destruction'. Oppositely, white Canadians are often portrayed as the defenders of tradition, the environment, and Vancouver 'as is'. The epithet 'monster' house, used to describe large, new, and predominandy Chinese-owned houses in Vancouver's elite Anglo neighborhoods, evidences how built form has been strongly correlated with the concepts of race and culture in popular representations of landscape. This thesis problematizes these essentialist, race-driven narratives by examining the ways in which textual representations of urban change are embedded within existing relations of power, particularly taken-for-granted subject-object looking relations. iii TABLE of CONTENTS Abstract ii Table of Contents iii List of Figures iv Acknowledgements y Chapter 1 Introduction 1 Chapter 2 Working in the Idiom of Race and Racism 10 Talking about Race and Racism 10 Racism and Everyday Life 13 Speaking For Others as Essentialist Fiction 18 Chapter 3 Landscape Change, Racial Discourse 22 Demographic Change 22 Racial Discourse and Dominant Narratives 24 Texts and the Production of Difference 29 Reading Landscapes, Reading Readings 33 Chapter 4 Race and Representation 39 Whiteness 39 Whiteness, Multiculturalism, and the Politics of Examination 42 Media and the Reproduction of Looking Relations 46 Representing Builders 53 The Unbearable Whiteness of Being 60 Chapter 5 Response from the Center Response from the Margin 66 Response from the Center: 'Heritage'Architecture 67 Response from the Margins : Looking Back 73 Chapter 6 Conclusion 78 References 81 LIST of FIGURES Figure 1 Contrast of housing styles 3A Figure 2 Unequivocal racial narrative 31A Figure 3 Open design for a spacious interior 50A Figure 4 Dream and reality 50A Figure 5 Traditional house a reminder of the past 50B Figure 6 Large 50B Figure 7 An affair of the heart 55A Figure 8 Surprise! It's single family size! 57A Figure 9 Losers and winners : white enterprise 59A Figure 10 All the reasons in the world to smile : aestheticizing whiteness 59A Figure 11 The Blochs : first feat as developers 59B Figure 12 Creating communities 61A Figure 13 Ward's heritage : 1550 Laurier 67A Figure 14 Ward's heritage: Grandview 67A Figure 15 Ward's heritage : Brock house 67B Figure 16 Ward's heritage : 1200 West 57th 67B Figure 17 Ward's heritage : Oakhurst 67C Figure 18 Ward's heritage : 1050 Nicola 67C Figure 19 Re-staging the past 69A Figure 20 Heritage and unexaminability 70A Figure 21 Mobilizing landscape romanticism 71A Figure 22 Heritage Woods : forest villages" 72A Figure 23 Heritage Woods : denuded hillsides and boxy houses 72B Many thanks to Professor Sherry McKay INTRODUCTION 7997 Vancouver's past and its future [are] in col l is ion as the o ld laid-back, nature-worshipping, E u r o p e a n values confront massive, urbanized, Asian-propel led change. Daniel W o o d Vancouver: The Art of Selling Air and Other West Coast Tales 1885 T h e Chinese character is o f a f ixed, persistent type, alien, beyond any control or chance o f change, to everything that concerns Western c iv i l izat ion. . . [There are] two kinds of civi l ization, the one modern and West and the other ancient and East. G . Sproat Royal Commission on Chinese Immigration T h e Chinaman is in every respect the reverse of a European except that he is a man. C h i e f Justice Matthew Begbie Royal Commission on Chinese Immigration T h e epigrams are separated by more than 100 years and appeal to the distinct 'common sense' o f their day. T h e words written in 1997 would have seemed laughable in 1885; the words said in 1885 would be met with contempt today. After al l , the history o f the relationship betweeen geography and r a c e 1 has been a history of change. Baseless 11 will not use the cumbersome convention that some authors have adopted of using single quotation marks around the word race. I accept that the term is problematic and has been defined in various, sometimes conflicting ways. My awareness of the unstable and contested meaning of the term is assumptions o f b io logical race and racial hierarchy have been replaced by a myr iad of reformulations, most notably the social construction of race. T h e clear inversion of who is 'ancient' and who is 'modern' in the quotations above, and the more nuanced shifts in the style and tone of writing, speak to the ideological distance that has been traveled in little over a century. B u t perhaps what is most strikingly evoked by the quotations is not a sense of change, but a feeling of stasis—that beyond the inversions, academic re-theorizations, and shifts in 'common sense', Chinese people and Europeans on the west coast o f C a n a d a have always been, and continue to be, defined in distinct and oppositional terms. E v e n the policies o f multiculturalism enacted by the Canadian government since the 1970s have done little to dismantle the fundamental premise o f rac ia l difference. In fact, o f f i c ia l multiculturalism has inadvertently continued to reproduce and strengthen the targeting [of minority groups] in both a semiotic and polit ical sense... as long as the classif ication "Chinese" was g iven new forms of currency within the European communi ty , cultural relat ivism c o u l d g ive way to classical forms of" wielding outsider status. 1 T h i s targeting has continued to the present. In V a n c o u v e r , supposedly Canada's most racially tolerant c i t y , 2 re-worked racial discourses have furthered the historic description of East and West as "two solitudes." 3 T h e decade from the mid-1980s to the m i d 1990s was a period of relative economic prosperity in Vancouver , Bri t i sh C o l u m b i a . It was also, however, a time o f tremendous social unease and discontent. T h e period was marked by substantial changes to the built environment, exemplified by the transformation of the industrial lands around False Creek noted here, and will not be noted through the repeated use of quotation marks. Contrast this approach with Alastair Bonnett, Radicalism, Anti-Racism, and Representation (London : Routledge, 1993) 6. Kay Anderson, Vancouver's Chinatown : Racial discourse in Canada, 1875-1980 (Montreal & Kingston : McGill-Queens Press, 1991) 239. Ian Mulgrew, "Vancouver is Canada's most racially tolerant city," Vancouver Sun 6 October, 1997 : A l . Peter C. Newman, "Two Solitudes," Vancouver Magazine December 1992 : 26. into the site o f the 1986 World ' s Expos i t ion . T h e fair was an invitation to international investment and tourism—an invitation that was widely accepted over the next ten years as Vancouver's identity shifted f rom a 'village on the edge of the rain forest' to a 'world-class city' . 1 O n e of the catalysts for the city's growing cosmopol i tanism was its increasing ties with Pac i f i c R i m nations. T h e latest e c o n o m i c b o o m cyc le represented a per iod o f unprecedented A s i a n immigration and capital flow to Vancouver . Consequently, much of the vocabulary, imagery, and scholarship on urban change in Vancouver became rooted in a discourse of racial difference. Popular w i s d o m suggested that Vancouver ' s A n g l o -dominated past was destined to be subsumed by an As ian- l ed future. A s i a n money and culture were, quite s imply , go ing to re-make the c i t y . 2 G i v e n this broad narrative, resistance and resentment against social and material changes in the city were often directed at those of A s i a n (especially Chinese) o r i g i n . 3 In particular, the construction of large, non-traditionally styled 'monster' houses in established A n g l o p h i l e ne ighborhoods was a lighting rod for social debate (figure 1). In older elite neighbourhoods on Vancouver's west side such as Shaughnessy and Kerr i sdale , many longer-established residents protested vehemently against the 'unneighborliness' o f the new houses, which had become strongly associated with new Chinese immigrant owners. T h e protestors accused 'monster' houses of b locking existing views and sunlight, intruding upon the privacy of adjacent properties, and destroying traditional streetscapes through improper ly-sca led and unsympathetic redevelopment. Some protestors even suggested that 'monster' houses were eroding Canadian heritage and threatening the 'Canadian way of life'. 1 David Ley, D. Hiebert, and G. Pratt, "Time to grow up? From urban village to world city," Vancouver and its Region, eds. G. Wynn and T. Oke (Vancouver : University of British Columbia Press, 1992). 2 Vancouver has already been pejoratively dubbed 'Hongcouver' by some. 3 In a 1992 Vancouver Magazine poll entitled "What you like least about Vancouver," the top three responses were (1) worsening traffic (2) The Asian gang threat (3) Monster houses. It is astonishing that two of the top three responses have such a clear racial association, and given the pervasive social myth that Chinese people are categorically the worst drivers and supposedly accident-prone (therefore worsening traffic), it is possible to read a racial allusion into all three top responses (I will demonstrate the racial association of the 'monster' house in this thesis). Judging from my own personal perspective, 1992 was at or near the height of local anti-Chinese sentiment. Anonymous, "Best and Worst," Vancouver Magazine September, 1992 : 50. Older house: example RS-5 house, (till design review: example RS-1 house, no design review: example Modern style house: example Figure 1 - Contrast of housing styles : the 'monster' house is the "RS-1 house, no design review." Source : "Dunbar Community Visions" City of Vancouver, 1998. T h e epithet 'monster house', a double entendre refering explicitly to built f o r m but impl i c i t l y to the inhabitants within , ga ined popular currency through Vancouver ' s Caucas ian-dominated media , wh ich was init ia l ly sympathetic to the concerns o f the protestors. 1 W h i l e news reports d id become less partisan, representations of urban change in V a n c o u v e r became f irmly grounded in a narrative of racial and cultural conflict. T h e discourse on the built environment, tainted by historical ly habituated ways o f seeing structured within pre-existing relations o f power, resurrected phenotypic distinctions between individuals as meaningful signifiers o f difference. Whiteness and Chineseness were re inscr ibed as opposit ional categories wi th in the broader historic process o f racialization unique to the west coast o f Canada . A s the urban change debate developed, racial categories increasingly became conflated with landscape ideologies : Chineseness c a m e to be associated with 'monster' houses , urban deve lopment and "creative destruction," 2 while whiteness signified controlled-growth and preservation. M y thesis interrogates and problematizes this race-driven narrative. I wi l l reveal the h idden interests and l inger ing structures o f power that i n f o r m seemingly neutral representations o f place and urban change. T h i s paper begins with the premiss that the process o f racialization is neither inevitable nor universal, but is a product of specific social and historical forces, operating at multiple scales, that interact in particular spatio-temporal contexts. G i v e n the material forces that drove change in Vancouver , it is perhaps surprising that race not only endured, but intensified, as a central source of meaning, identity, and power. B o t h M a r x i a n and free market modernists had long anticipated the disappearance of 1 Titles of newpaper articles included "Monster mash," "Monster mishmash," "How we saved Shaughnessy from monsters," " A monster problem in Shaughnessy," and "There's a 'monster problem' on the street where they live." Pamela Fayerman, "Monster Mash," Vancouver Sun 15 February, 1991 : B l . Alison Appelbe, "Monster mismash," Vancouver Courier 28 March, 1990 : 1. Paul Ohannesian, "How we saved Shaughnessy from monsters," Vancouver Sun 23 June, 1990 : D10. Kevin Griffin, " A monster problem in Shaughnessy," Vancouver Sun 17 November, 1992 : B l Elizabeth Aird, "There's a 'monster problem' on the street where they live," Vancouver Sun 2 October 1993 : A3. 2 David Ley, "Between Europe and Asia : the case of the missing sequoias," Ecumene 2:2 (1995) 189. race with the spread of a globalized economy. 1 A l l non-market identities and 'differences in colour' were supposed to collapse into the cash nexus and condense into the one c o l o u r — green. Vancouver's experience, however, shows that race is not a pr imordia l essence that has fallen to the inevitable march of 'modern times', but a concept continually reshaped by socially and politically contested representations of difference. Rac ia l i zed discourse in V a n c o u v e r , especially that o f the 'monster' house, has largely been built through media representation and persists due to the failure of academic responses to rigourously question and re-present dominant narratives. A c a d e m i c treatments include D a v i d Ley's article "Between Europe and A s i a : the case of the missing sequoias," w h i c h frames the landscape change controversy as a clash between two historical ly , e c o n o m i c a l l y , and cultural ly discrete diasporas : early B r i t i s h co lonia l s (and their descendants), and recently arrived wealthy Chinese i m m i g r a n t s . 2 L e y demarcates the differences in landscape aesthetics and pol i t ical phi losophy between the two groups, contrasting, for example, the "preservationist ethos" of the Br i t i sh with the "creative destruction" of the C h i n e s e . 3 T h o u g h he does take some pains to muddy the distinctions, L e y nevertheless concludes that the debate over landscape change is a marker of "a grander divis iveness across the C a n a d i a n nation, as people f rom their o w n subject posit ions, inflected by language, ethnicity, class, gender, region, colonial status, and interest group, all employing the rhetoric o f rights, make the practice o f citizenship a jostl ing, competitive fracas." 4 Ley's conclusion that mult icultural ism rests upon unstable terrain is wel l taken, but the underlying premiss that "divisiveness" is a "structural impl icat ion" 5 o f 'real' ethnic differences which fully pre-exist representation is problematic. T h i s notion resonates with popular m e d i a narratives, and leaves issues o f racia l ized descr ipt ion and report ing 1 M.P. Smith, and J.R. Feagin, "Putting 'race' in its place," The Bubbling Cauldron : Race, ethnicity, and the Urban Crisis, eds. Smith and Feagin (Minneapolis : University of Minnesota Press, 1995) 3. 2 Ley, "Between Europe and Asia" 186. 3 Ley, "Between Europe and Asia" 189. 4 Ley, "Between Europe and Asia" 204. 5 Ley, "Between Europe and Asia" 202. unquestioned. In fact, L e y largely dismisses race as a legitimate i d i o m within which to examine Vancouver's landscape controversies. Richard Cavell's article "The Race of Space" examines urban change in Vancouver by tracing the epistemology of the 'monster' house. 1 D r a w i n g on diverse references from various historical periods such as Socrates, H o l l y w o o d horror f i lms , D o n n a Haraway , S i g m u n d Freud , R u d o l f Wittkower, and Charles D a r w i n , the author attempts to establish that "the history o f the monster has been inseparable f r o m issues o f race and 'ethnography' ." 2 T h e racial discourse o f 'monstrosity' that arose in V a n c o u v e r , in the author's view, was not the result o f specific local conditions, but was instead the inevitable product o f a universal human psychologica l response to racial difference transcending space and time. T h e conclus ion that the 'monster' house is rooted in the 'deep structures' of the human m i n d and thus can be deconstructed psychoanalytically is whol ly inadequate, and is reached at the expense o f a careful reading o f p lace - spec i f i c interests, representations, and discourses. W h e r e racialized discourses o f urban change in V a n c o u v e r have been challenged, they have often taken the f o r m o f crude and c lumsy attempts to absolve affluent Chinese immigrants f rom any responsibil ity for landscape change. These challenges have been motivated by particular economic and pol it ical agendas. O n e example is the inftuencial report prepared by D a v i d Baxter, "Population and housing in metropolitan V a n c o u v e r : changing patterns of demographics and demand," which concludes that r is ing housing prices were a product o f d e m a n d f r o m aging C a n a d i a n b a b y - b o o m e r s , not new immigrants. 3 In a didactic tone, the author writes: If we seek someone to blame for this increase in demand, we wi l l f ind only that the responsible group is everyone, not some unusual or exotic group of residents or migrants. In fact, there is no one to blame : the future growth in 1 Richard Cavell, "The race of space," New Formations October (1997). 2 C a v e l l 49. 3 David Baxter, Population and housing in metropolitan Vancouver: Changing patterns of demographics and demand (Vancouver : Copyright David Baxter, 1989). housing demand is a logical and normal extension of trends in the nation's population.! One anchor person for a local news station related at a journalism conference that the Baxter report had an immediate impact on the way the media reported housing issues . 2 B o t h television and newspapers began dowplay ing ethnic themes and focused increasingly on demographic trends or other factors such as munic ipal development levies as reasons for escalating housing prices. W h i l e the lens o f examination certainly shifted away from race and culture, the real agenda of the Baxter report was to shift scrutiny away from capitalist activity. A s Kathryne Mitche l l has eloquently argued, an anti-racist facade was appropriated by free-market interests eager to promote international investment and capitalist development in V a n c o u v e r . 3 T h e Baxter report, therefore, cannot be considered a serious examination of the politics o f race and place. A n o t h e r article that attempts to absolve Chinese immigrants is Peter S. L i ' s "Unneighbourly houses or unwelcome Chinese : the social construction of race in the battle over 'Monster Homes' in Vancouver , C a n a d a . " 4 L i attempts to problematize the view that race is a primordial feature which provides a rational basis for group identity and cultural preservation. Thi s view of race suggests that some social conflicts can be traced to genuine differences in cultural values or behaviors. L i rejects these notions and suggests that race is a social construct of dominant groups. Furthermore, he argues that the significance given to the 'monster' house is a rationalized product of racial antagonisms. W h i l e I am sympathetic to the general thrust o f the author's arguments, I feel that his argument for the social construction of race is overstated. In one particularly shaky passage, the author attempts to Baxter quoted in Kathryne Mitchell, "Multiculturalism, or the united colours of capitalism?," Antipode 25:4(1993) 284. Personal correspondence from David Ley. Mitchell, "Multiculturalism" 285. Peter S. L i , "Unneighbourly houses or unwelcome Chinese : The social construction of race in the battle over 'Monster Homes' in Vancouver, Canada," International Journal of Comparative Race and Ethnic Studies 1:1 (1994). cast doubts on the popular bel ief that Chinese immigrants were largely responsible for buying up large, new houses on Vancouver's west side by stating that Chinese names only accounted for one-third o f the most expensive homes in Shaughnessy [valued over $750,000 C d n ] , and 58 per cent in Oakridge . H o w many of the most expensive homes in these two areas were new ones that would be considered by neighbours as 'unneighbourly' is unclear, j T h e author's attempt to draw on statistical evidence to suggest that there is no 'real-world' relationship between Chinese people and expensive homes is embarassingly weak. In fact, the data seems to fly in the face o f his arguments. B y any measure, 58 per cent Chinese ownership of the most expensive homes in Oakridge is no trivial relationship, and supports the notion that affluent Chinese immigrants exhibited some broad purchasing patterns in regard to housing. W h e n reading L i , his subject posit ion as a Chinese person becomes relevant. H i s article can be characterized (in my own terms) as a classic 'ethnic defense'— an anti-racist work as unsubtle and sweeping as the arguments it attempts to problematize. In this paper, I wi l l not argue against the c o m m o n perception that wealthy Chinese immigrants have contributed to the transformation of elite A n g l o communities . Instead, I wi l l address how local differences between discrete subsets o f the Chinese and European 'communities' (recently arrived, wealthy, H o n g K o n g Chinese immigrants versus long-time, elite, A n g l o - C a n a d i a n residents o f Shaughnessy and Kerrisdale) have come to stand in for distinctions between the larger categories o f race. T h i s has occured because of the way representation in C a n a d a is inf luenced by the pol it ics o f race. T h e conflation of localized difference with racial difference has allowed authors such as W o o d to write about "laid-back, nature-worshipping" Europeans and urban (read : anti-environmental), change-driven As ians in an objective and disinterested tone . 2 I w i l l argue that far f rom being objective or disinterested, such statements are in fact ideologica l , directly or indirectly serving and sustaining particular interests and relations of domination. L i 26. Italics mine. Daniel Wood, "Vancouver : The art of selling air and other west coast tales," En Route November, 1997 : 56. T h e act o f 'reading' a landscape 'text' is a pol i t ical one, informed by social and historical contexts and various cultural narratives and interests. W h i l e the 'monster' house issue has been examined in the academic literature as an interaction between place meaning, landscape imagery, and social identity, previous analyses are insufficient insofar as they have not specifically addressed race issues nor unpacked the complex relationship between race and representations of urban change. T h e literature has not explicitly interrogated how the contextually constructed race privileges o f whiteness inform landscape readings. I wi l l argue that landscape readings from the social position of whiteness often serve to obfuscate and mask white authorship and complicity in landscape change. A c a d e m i c treatments have also failed to develop a polit ical agenda that at once embraces anti-racism, local ism, and progressive identity politics. In order to do so, m y discussion o f 'monster' houses wi l l pay particular attention to issues of race privilege, the politics o f examination, the media as a source of racial pedagogy, and the unemanicipatory effects o f mult icul tural i sm and postmodernism. Despite exhortations both sincere and hypocrit ical , it is not possible to be 'colour-blind' when looking at issues of urban change, yet the ways in which racial ized l ook ing relations have affected representations o f V a n c o u v e r have been given scant attention. Thi s thesis wi l l address this oversight. WORKING in the IDIOM of RACE TALKING ABOUT RACE and RACISM M y discussion of urban change in V a n c o u v e r is unabashedly cast in the i d i o m o f race and racism. T h i s admission is bound to provoke anxiety and hand-wringing (if not anger and outrage) f rom some readers. I have chosen this i d i o m despite fair warning that the word 'racism' is "so vulnerable to manipulation" and easily abused. 1 These cautions are certainly serious, but o f dubious sincerity when they are coupled with self-confident proclamations that rac i sm is effectively a thing o f the past, be l l hooks has ca l led the eagerness with which contemporary society does away with racism a "mythic erasure" that serves to mask certain real i t ies . 2 W h e r e rac i sm is acknowledged to exist, it is often considered a fleeting social anomaly or an "institutional hangover" 3 that is quickly righted as soon as it is uncovered. Those, like me, who still see race and racism as ordering themes that influence everyday social relations are branded as overzealously 'politically correct', or even worse, paranoid. A n d therein lies the problem. T h e supposed dangers of liberal social critique have been so overstated in the 90s' media frenzy over political correctness that many criticisms of mainstream culture today are Neil Bissoondath, "I'm not racist but...," The Broadview Reader, eds. Herbert Rosengarten and Jane Flick (Peterborough : Broadview Press, 1987) 501. bell hooks, "Representing whiteness in the black imagination," Cultural Studies, eds. Lawrence Grossberg, Cary Nelson, and Paula Triechler (New York : Routledge, 1992) 345. David Theo Goldberg, Racist Culture : Philosophy and the Politics of Meaning (Cambridge : Blackwell, 1993) vi i . s imply brushed aside as demands for special treatment. In the minds of many, to suggest rac i sm (or any other social injustice, for that matter) is to cry wolf. O n e writer, R o b Ne l son , responding to an article that I wrote for the Vancouver Sun on my experiences o f racism, asserts that meaningful dialogue is being diminished through the all-too-frequent and far too loosely used cry of racism by some contributors. In many ways, an accusation of racism is to the '90s what being labelled a Communis t was to the M c C a r t h y era. If a position is advanced that does not agree with your point o f v iew, a s imple declaration o f rac i sm is a pretty sure way o f s i lencing your opponent... W e are fortunate to l ive in what is possibly the kindest and most tolerant society on earth. If we agree open dialogue is the most c iv i l i z ed way of overcoming our differences, then surely we can refrain from unwarranted declarations of racism, i T h e author's rhetorical strategy is clear : appeal to emotion by claiming the status o f vict im. S inging the praises o f Canadian society (with admirable Pol lyannaism), he discredits any suggestion of racism as a cog in a vast conspiracy machine set out to attack fair-minded, decent individuals such as himself. T h e comparison to M c C a r t h y i s m , however, is more than a little specious since Left-leaning social critique has no big government, b ig money, mass propaganda campaign, nor paramilitary force behind i t . 2 T o be blunt, the eroding plausibility of monolithic emancipatory ideals has left the Left disorganized. T h e suggestion that a motley crew of Green groups, Marxists , feminists, anti-racists, and gay and lesbian activists are cohesively and systematically b lowing away canons and reshaping mainstream society begins to sound like an undeserved compl iment (liberals should be so lucky) . T h e reality is that majority culture is still f lourishing. Marjor i e G r i f f i n C o h e n , chair o f the women's studies department at S i m o n Fraser Univers i ty , argues that "we still have a culture that is identifiable and dominant ." 3 M a i n s t r e a m culture, despite the howls o f protest, is quite s imply not under any real threat. T h e potential that polit ical correctness Rob Nelson, "Cries of racism silence honest debate," Vancouver Sun 23 May, 1996 : A2. Rick Salutin, 1987, "Loose Canons,"77ie Broadview Reader, eds. Herbert Rosengarten and Jane Flick (Peterborough : Broadview Press, 1987) 182. Griffin Cohen quoted in M . Jimenez, "Sense and sensibilities," Vancouver Sun 21 February, 1998 : BIO. might actually trample over and re-make dominant culture is "minuscule compared to the orgy of media attention—the overkil l—launched in its name." 1 Critics such as Nelson have nevertheless upped the ante by arguing that non-whites do not own a monopoly on vict imhood. The ir point is granted. T h e word 'racism' has been abused and the odd case of anti-racist zealotry has surfaced. T h e belief that only whites can be racist is, in itself, a racist belief. But Nelson's arguments are not entirely innocent. After all, there is a certain g lamour—a "victim chic" 2 —to claiming social marginalization, which the author exploits . Nelson's anger, moreover , has a false r ing . H e is every bit as interested in si lencing opponents as the most zealous minority spokesperson. Despite his appeals for "meaningful" and "open dialogue," the author assumes the authority to determine what is warranted or "unwarranted" opin ion . T h e assumption that his white middle-c lass male values can unproblemat ical ly stand in for what is "civi l ized" and normative closes off debate before it even begins. In relation to his subjective qua universal values, mine can only be flavoured as 'special interest', and therefore trifling, suspect, and not even worthy of consideration. "Open dialogue," then, does not describe a noisy arena of rigourous debate; it is a neo-conservative euphemism for 'dominant-culture monologue'. Nelson does rightly argue that "[i]f one group becomes too afraid to speak honestly then the dialogue ceases." 3 But is political correctness the only threat to free speech? If we can accept that non-whites are not the only vict ims o f racism, we should also accept that neo-conservatives are not the only ones bul l i ed into silence. Accusat ions of L e f t - w i n g fascism or M c C a r t h y i s m make up a "counterterror" 4 to polit ical correctness that is equally meant to muzz le expression. Underneath the rhetoric o f "overcoming our differences," then, is really an argument for the status quo. Ne l son , unwi l l ing to shift locations and see the w o r l d differently, is wel l behind the vanguard o f change. A pol i t ica l stalemate, 1 Salutin 181. 2 Annalee Newitz and Matt Wray, 1997, "Introduction," White Trash: Race and Class in America, eds. Annalee Newitz and Matt Wray (New Y o r k : Routledge, 1997) 5. 3 Nelson A2 . 4 Salutin 182. however , is a victory for dominant culture. N o t surprisingly, neo-conservatives have hardly been distressed to see identity politics in Canada degenerate into a deadlocked tug-of-war of competing vict imhoods. 1 In a social climate where left-of-center critics have been labelled "storm troopers" 2 or "thought po l ice ," 3 an essential question emerges : C a n battles for justice and mutual understanding between people still come from vigorous social critique, or can it only come f r o m an 'aw-shucks', feel-good celebration o f difference? T h i s paper argues for the cont inu ing relevance of the former. T h e alternative is to be s ide-tracked by self-congratulatory double-speak that shouts down anyone who dares to suggest that Canadian society is not yet Utopian. T h e rhetoric o f "achieving harmony and understanding between the many cultures that make up our society" espoused by Nelson and his supporters artfully serves to gag crit ical calls for change. T h i s paper is a conscious effort to combat such sugar-coated intimidation. RACISM and EVERYDAY LIFE M y argument for the continuing relevance of social critiques of race and racism in Canada begs two questions : (1) What exactly is race? and (2) What exactly is racism? T h e answer to the first has been widely discussed in recent social science literature, with general agreement that race as a biological category is scientifically indefensible. 4 A c c o r d i n g to one source, classic 'biological racial characteristics' (skin, hair, and eye colour, etc.) account for only a miniscule . 0 1 2 percent difference in human genetic mater ia l . 5 T h e lack of ev idence for the genetic roots o f race is cr i t ical to refuting b io log ica l reductionist In this paper, members of 'dominant culture' / 'mainstream culture' are not synonymous with 'neo-conservatives.' Sentences which use these terms to refer to the same individuals describe a subset of people who intersect both categories. 'Neo-conservatives' in this case simply refers to those who argue that accusations of racism are nothing more than a symptom of overzealous political correctness. Moreover, these accusations are seen to be a form of oppression in themselves. Eugene Genovese quoted in Salutin 182. Newsweek title quoted in Salutin 181. See Bonnett 6; Anderson 10. Paul Hoffman, "The science of race," Discover Magazine November, 1994 : 4. arguments. It has not, however, erased the idea of race from the practice of everyday life. T h e 'common sense' understanding that individuals belong to racial groups underscores the enduring significance of race as a constructed social and pol it ical category. Rac ia l i zed discourses , narratives, representations, and practices comprise a contextual process through which race is constituted as fact in time and space. Racial categories are constantly be ing negotiated and re-worked and are therefore subject to reinforcement or resistance, and ultimately change. Nevertheless, the accepted constructions at any g iven historical m o m e n t affect h u m a n perceptions and behav ior and thus produce observable , and sometimes quantifiable, consequences (the formation of identity groups, the relations of domination, conflict, and accomodation between them, racialized spatial segregation, etc.) T h i s is almost inevitable since the notion o f race, as a means of categorizing different human bodies, inherently seeks to systematize differences and relate them to differences o f character and worth. It is in this social and political sense, then, that race is real. T h e answer to the second question is also critical since the extent to which racism exists in any given society is partly a problem o f definition. Not surprisingly, definitions have been used to serve particular agendas. I returnagain to the article written by Nelson . In order to support his view that Canada is "possibly the kindest and most tolerant society on earth," he employs a very specif ic understanding o f rac i sm. R e s p o n d i n g to m y experiences o f school-yard harassment as a chi ld , he writes : W h i l e not wanting to make light o f what can be a traumatic event for a chi ld, I can honestly say that I do not know of anybody who was not at one time taunted by their classmates for d isp lay ing a vis ible difference. Fat kids, skinny kids, too tall or too short, braces - whatever the visible difference, chi ldren can often be very cruel . Perhaps M r . Wang's ancestry was his most obvious difference and whi le I w i l l be the first to agree that his schoolmates were insensitive, boorish, and cruel, I wou ld have a hard time accepting his assumption that the actions of children were born out of ethnic hatred, i N e l s o n tries to downplay the s ignif icance o f racial prejudice in two ways . F irs t , he concludes that race, comparatively speaking, is an insignificant cue for school-yard teasing Nelson A 2 . Italics mine. since race is only one of countless visible differences that children point out. However , the significance of race would be drowned out only i f each category of difference c o u l d be 'weighted equally'. T h e y clearly cannot be. V i s u a l differences are not equally perceived, equal ly prayed upon, equally invested with cultural meaning, nor equally important in identity formation. T o compare race (a l i fe-long, ascribed category of identity laden with social mythologies) with something such as 'having braces' (a very temporary, often avoidable , and social ly uncharged experience) is to complete ly distort the relative significance of bodily markers. T h e argument that race is 'just another difference' trivializes the immense cultural inertia that prevents race f rom becoming an innocuous category of difference. T h e second way that Nelson tries to downplay racism is also famil iar and flawed. H e s imply tries to define racism out o f existence by using the most extreme definition : ethnic hatred. Ethnic hatred, after all , is the stuff o f T h i r d Reichs and B a l k a n wars. Since we are free o f mass persecution and genocide in Canada, we are also presumably free of racism as well . W i t h the 'limbo-stick' used to gauge racism raised to unreasonable heights, almost any expression of racial ly motivated prejudice can easily s h i m m y underneath without being identified as a case of 'racism' per se. I concede that 'ethnic hatred' is too strong a term to characterize children's motivations for taunting racially different others. I wi l l not concede, however, that these motivations are s imply benign vestiges of ch i ldhood. Children's feelings can be powerful expressions of racism—this I know firsthand. Ne l son naively assumes that as a(n alleged!) v ict im of racism, I do not understand what it means to be its perpetrator. In fact, as I chi ld I knew how to humiliate and belittle as m u c h as I knew what it was to be humil iated and belittled. T h e surge of power and superiority that I felt as I jo ined in the chorus of school-yard slurs and threw back my own suffering onto others might not have been ethnic hatred, but it was still evidence of a well-developed cognitive ordering of the w o r l d — a n ordering w h i c h a l lowed me to believe that people were naturally sorted into groups, and that indiv iduals c o u l d be shamed for their group belongingness. Is this not one o f m a n y possible expressions of racism? N o amount o f definitional n iggl ing is go ing to erase racism's reality, and Nelson's attempt to do so is a double affront : it denies m y experiences o f racism on both sides of the phenomenon. Race does not have a single transhistorical meaning, and s imi lar ly there is no generic racism, only historically specific racisms with their own time and place-specific causes. T o define racism as 'ethnic hatred' is to take a sociotemporally specific expression o f rac ism and use it as a universal benchmark. T h i s definition is also dangerous since it alludes that rac i sm is rooted in some f o r m o f 'deviant' psychology , rather than the normalized and naturalized attitudes o f everyday life. It is critical to keep in m i n d that [t]here is no single (set of) transcendental determinant(s) that inevitably causes the occurrence o f r a c i s m - be it nature, or drive , or m o d e o f production, or class formation. There are only the minutiae that make up the fabric o f dai ly life and specific interests and values, the cultures out o f which racialized discourse and racist expressions arise.\ O n e of the aims of this paper, then, is to explore the "minutiae" that have synergistically contributed to expressions of racism in a spatially and temporally l imited context. Rather than define racism outright and then search for moments of its articulation, I w i l l examine some o f the general discursive conditions that have lead to the emergence of racial ized discourses and racisms specific to Vancouver in the 1980s and 90s. A c c e p t i n g that racism arises f rom the minutiae of daily life, however, presents a part icular methodolog ica l p r o b l e m . Causes and expressions of r a c i s m are often so nebulous, fleeting, or hidden that they cannot be easily collected into a store o f quantifiable and verifiable evidence from which theory can be produced—at least according to the current dictates o f 'rigourous' social science. I was advised once by a professor (with furrowed brow and a look of deep concern) to "document and record incidents o f rac ism very very carefully." But, to recall a poignant question asked by M i c h e l de Certeau, " O f all 1 Goldberg 90. the things everyone does, how m u c h gets written down?" 1 T h e truth is that so m u c h of what makes up the minutiae of our daily lives simply cannot constitute 'data' nor be entered into the annals o f social history. N e r v o u s looks , aggressive tones o f vo ice , and uncomfortable feelings do not produce numbers on a graph, and they do not even make very good anecdotal evidence. But they may be important parts of c o m m o n racialized social interactions. There is an absence of concrete data, for example, on anti-Chinese attitudes and incidents of racism in Vancouver despite the admission by one white writer that negative comments are legion about how [Chinese] immigrants drive, cut down trees, bui ld ugly monster houses, don't pay their fair share of taxes, don't hire long-time Canadians or want them as customers, don't contribute to charities, are rude in stores, c r o w d and bump people in publ ic without apology, exploit our medical system, inflate real estate prices beyond the reach of the average person, leave teenaged children to l ive alone in west-side mansions with monthly allowances that stagger the imaginat ion^ Such a tantalizing disclosure suggests that a rich store of data is not being collected. There are several possible reasons why. T h e first is that the presence of a Chinese person in any social or academic setting usually leads to enough self-censorship in others that it becomes almost impossible to access anti-Chinese sentiments firsthand (the phenomenon of polit ical correctness is not without its effects!). In other words, those individuals who are most l ike ly to be pol i t ical ly motivated to col lect data on racist attitudes are uniquely disadvantaged in accessing information. I contend that it is equal ly diff icult for non-Chinese people to access racist attitudes emanating from the Chinese communi ty , again because of the relationship between subjectivity and disclosure. T h e second difficulty in recording data, as I have already argued, is that rac i sm is most c o m m o n l y expressed through the prosaic events of daily life, not through flashpoints o f societal discord. Social scientists quite s imply do not have the resources nor the fortuity to show up with tape recorder in hand everywhere that rac i sm rears its proverbial ugly head. T h e difficulty in documenting instances of racism does not mean, however, that they are less real. I am not 1 Michel de Certeau, The Practice of Everyday Life (Berkeley : University of California Press, 1984) 42. 2 Doug Shewan, 'The truth will help fight racism," The Vancouver Sun 30 September, 1996 : A l l . M y emphasis. trying to excuse myse l f f rom gathering any 'hard evidence' at all; this paper does draw together anecdotal and textual evidence to show that recent representations of urban change in V a n c o u v e r were strongly racialized. M y point is s imply that whatever I have recorded wi l l only represent a tiny fraction of the racial discourse in Vancouver , and that criticisms o f m y arguments on these grounds alone seem to miss an important point about the relationship between data and everyday life. SPEAKING FOR OTHERS as ESSENTIALIST FICTION E v e n i f some readers have accepted m y arguments up to this point, I a m certain that some trepidation still remains regarding race-related work. Thi s is because race-based work is so often guilty o f creating 'heroes' and 'villains' with all the subtlety of a H o l l y w o o d script. A n d like a well-conditioned H o l l y w o o d audience, many readers wi l l l ikely assume (due to m y racial subjectivity) that m y thesis wi l l have a predictable anti-racist narrative : Chinese people play the role o f heroes (glorif ied through vict imizat ion) , whi le E u r o -Canadians are again cast as the villains o f society. W h i l e not surprising, this assumption of who I am 'naturally inclined to speak for' is deeply problematic and disturbing. In any anti-racist project, an 'oppressed' or 'marginalized' group must be identified and be to some extent 'spoken for'. In the past, certain homogeniz ing polit ical terms have been coined in order to reference a c o m m o n experience of racism and marginalization. F o r example , the term 'black' in Br i ta in suggested the existence of a s ingular and unif ied group, which in reality was comprised of a myr iad of ethnic and racial identities. 1 T h i s was a po l i t i ca l ly expeditious strategy for a marg ina l i zed group to forceful ly c o m e into representation and re-present the black subject against negative figurations. T h e price for political expediency was that the "innocent notion of the essential black subject" remained. 2 Stuart H a l l has identified a m o v e away f r o m this form of struggle over the relations o f 1 Stuart Hall, "New ethnicities," Stuart Hall: Critical Dialogues in Cultural Studies, eds. David Morley and Kuan-Hsing Chen (London : Routledge, 1996) 441. 2 Hall 443. representation (and its attendant pitfalls) to a politics o f representation itself. 1 T h i s politics of representation acknowledges the immense diversity and differentiation o f subjective positions, social experiences, and cultural identities which compose the category 'black', and begins to dismantle what was once an oversimpli f ied but "necessary f i c t ion ." 2 T h e (theoretical, i f not everyday) end o f the essential black subject forces the recognition that race articulates itself historically through and against other categories o f difference. B l a c k politics, therefore, can no longer be played through a simple set of.reversals, with a 'bad' essential subject replaced with a 'good' one. T a k i n g a cue from H a l l and other theorists such as Gayatr i Sp ivak , I am highly skeptical o f the possibility o f constructing an effective 'voice of the oppressed' that is not a k i n d o f essentialist f ict ion. T h i s paper makes no attempt to 'speak for' an essential Chineseness. After all , it is this myth of sameness that is at the heart o f any racism. T h e Ch inese subject is not another unproblemat ic f ie ld o f k n o w i n g , w h i c h is the very assumption that m y anti-racist project attempts to tear down and lay bare. T h i s theoretical corrective, however, does not make it any easier to conceive of how a politics can be constructed which works with and through difference, which is able to b u i l d those forms of solidarity and identification which make c o m m o n struggle and resistance possible but without suppressing the real heterogeneity o f interests and identities, and w h i c h can effectively draw the po l i t i ca l boundary lines without which polit ical contestation is impossible , without f ixing those boundaries for eternity.3 : Sacrif icing the notion of a 'Chinese community' may be particularly debilitating to pol i t ica l struggle since C h i n e s e - C a n a d i a n s have not countered dominant regimes of representation with the force that black artists and activists in Britain and the Uni ted States have. In other words, Chinese people would be sacrificing what has been to some groups a historical ly "necessary f iction" o f a 'positive racial subjectivity' without hav ing ever benefited f r o m its use. E v e n during periods when Chinese people were considered "a 1 Hall 442. 2 Hall 444. 3 Hall 444. model minority who outwhite[d] the whites," 1 this was much more a dominant culture label than a popular Chinese self-representation. T h e history of Chinese people in Canada is one devoid of well-known c iv i l rights leaders, militant activist groups, influencial theorists, and popular entertainers. Chinese-Canadians today continue to have little control over their own representation in the mainstream media, evidenced by the continued visibil ity o f Chinese stereotypes, particularly in entertainment programming . 2 Abandoning the idea that Chinese people can c o m m a n d a 'positive' reversal o f their o w n representation is, in effect, abandoning a strategy that has yet to be effectively employed. Y e t the only theoretically justifiable form of self-representation available to Chinese people is one that emphasizes heterogeneity. 'Chinese' as a marginal ized category must be identified in this paper since racial signifiers remain part of the vocabulary of everyday life, but I am unwil l ing and unable to render mysel f transparent, a disembodied voice for others. If, as contemporary thought suggests, subjectivity is f ixed in language, m y sense of belongingness to particular groups and w h o I wish to 'speak for' cannot be easily assumed. Indeed, I feel little i f any affinity with new Chinese immigrants. Y e t the perverse assumption that racial belongingness outweighs all other forms of social affinity persists. T h i s is what I wish to challenge. Those who would criticize me for writing in the id iom of race and rac ism fai l to see that I a m merely responding to, not initiating, a racial ized conversation. D. Y . Takagi, "Post-Civil Rights politics and Asian-American identity : admissions and higher education," Race, eds. Steven Gregory and Roger Sanjek (New Brunswick, New Jersey : Rugters University Press, 1994) 232. Stereotypical Chinese caricatures such as the gangster or the kung-fu master continue to flourish in the mainstream entertainment media. In a January, 1998 episode of Twitch City, a new C B C sitcom about the lives of '20-something' roommates, two Chinese actors played gangsters with heavy accents whose every appearance on the screen was marked by the bang of a gong. The two lead characters in the show were 90s, ironic, kitschy, and urbane white Gen-Xers. The show reveals a relationship between race and the privilege of 'postmodern identity play!' The constructed neutrality of whiteness allows whites the privilege of continually re-making identity in what Fredric Jameson calls a "field of stylistic and discursive heterogeneity" while non-whites are denied identity play by the construction of 'authentic' cultural subjectivities. The essay deals with these themes in more depth in later sections. M y responses to questions of race and representation in Vancouver are grounded in the personal, with the f i r m bel ief that the personal is a legitimate site to anchor the theoretical. F o r some academic readers, m y autobiographical intrusions may prove unnerving. However , it is m y bel ief that such authorial vis ibi l i ty is necessary for two reasons : (1) revealing m y inescapable personal entanglements in the issues which I address is crit ical to undermining the notion that 'objectivity' is necessary to the formation of knowledge, and (2) grounding m y arguments within the l imited experiences o f m y own subject position is critical to undermining any authority I may assume to have (based on c o m m o n ancestry) to speak for others. Whatever blows to polit ical solidarity are suffered by the abandonment o f the essential Chinese subject; is a necessary step towards a more nuanced identity politics. Speaking in an isolated, personal voice may be the only way to finally dismantle the notion that we are all the same. LANDSCAPE CHANGE, RACIAL DISCOURSE DEMOGRAPHIC CHANGE Vancouver's urban environment has largely been shaped by several periods o f capital investment, closely fo l lowing the b o o m cycles o f the e c o n o m y . 1 In this sense, landscape change during the most recent economic upswing (from the mid-1980s to the mid-1990s) does not represent a unique experience in the material history of Vancouver . Recent change, like that o f the 1960s (when towering glass office buildings began to crowd into the city's downtown core), was s imply part o f an ongoing, long-term cycle. However , the speed and intensity o f economic changes were accompanied by a new experience o f rapid social and cultural change, owing to increased trade with Pacif ic R i m nations and heightened integration into the international networks of global capital. In the early 1990s, Bri t i sh C o l u m b i a n exports across the Pacif ic surpassed, for the first time, exports to the Uni ted States. 2 In 1991, trade between Canada and H o n g K o n g totalled Cdn$2 .6 bi l l ion, a trade increase of 15 per cent over the previous year . 3 Th i s growth occured despite a period of national recession. Immigration f rom A s i a n countries also far outweighed other source countries dur ing this b o o m cyc le , s ignif icantly impact ing the social geography o f Vancouver . T h i s new layer of social and cultural change, then, combined with cyc l i ca l 1 Mitchell, "Multiculturalism" 266. 2 Ley, "Between Europe and Asia" 189. 3 Ley, "Between Europe and Asia" 189. changes to the economic and physical fabric of the city, created an unprecedented ethos of urban transformation that proved to be a source of unease, controversy and social discord. B e g i n n i n g in the early 1980s, a concerted effort was made by munic ipa l and prov inc ia l representatives and businesspeople to attract offshore A s i a n capital into Vancouver . A campaign to sell V a n c o u v e r as a secure, profitable, and l ivable city was launched by politicians of all political stripes in order to entice wealthy Chinese people, particularly the H o n g K o n g elite, to make investments in advance of the changeover to Chinese communist rule in 1997. 1 T h e category of business immigration was initiated in 1984 by the federal government and targeted H o n g K o n g elites in part icular . 2 Business immigrants inc luded both investors and entrepreneurs who were required to br ing set amounts o f money into Canada and were then given a higher processing priority for immigration. A s of 1991, investors were required to have a m i n i m u m personal net worth of Cdn$500 ,000 and promise to commit Cdn$350 ,000 to a Canadian business over a three year p e r i o d . 3 Statistics show that A s i a n immigrants have consistently lead in the category of business immigrat ion. In 1995, for example, 5824 individuals from A s i a (2516 f rom H o n g K o n g and 2242 from Taiwan—not including assisted relatives) immigrated to Brit ish C o l u m b i a as an investor or entrepreneur; this compares with only 333 individuals under the same categories f rom E u r o p e . 4 T h e shift towards A s i a n immigration co inc id ing with a sharp decrease in the number of E u r o p e a n immigrants (especially f r o m the U n i t e d Ki ngdom) has been a long-term trend evident in all categories of immigration. T h e disparity peaked in 1994, when A s i a n immigrants accounted for 78.6 per cent of all immigrants to Br i t i sh C o l u m b i a , compared to 10.7 per cent f r o m E u r o p e . 5 Fundamental changes in Canadian immigration policy enacted over the last four decades have shifted the focus away from Europe as a source area and favoured immigrants with middle-class or professional 1 Mitchell, "Multiculturalism" 266. 2 Mitchell, "Multiculturalism" 267. 3 Mitchell, "Multiculturalism" 267. 4 "Immigration highlights," BC Stats 95:4 (1995). 5 "Immigration highlights," BC Stats 94:4 (1994). profiles. Thi s has ensured the recent wave of immigrants a vastly differently make-up from previous generations. The recent cohorts o f 'designer' A s i a n immigrants have been "simply the richest, most politically powerful, and best educated people ever to leave one country en masse for another." 1 They , unlike past immigrants, have had the numbers, business savvy, and capital resources to significantly transform social and physical landscapes in a relatively short period of time. T h e dominance of Vancouver's traditional A n g l o establishment has in the past dozen years been challenged by a diaspora of wealthy overseas Chinese, or what one writer has called an "alternative elite." 2 RACIAL DISCOURSE and DOMINANT NARRATIVES T h e epigrams at the beginning of this thesis provide a critical point o f departure for m y examination of urban change in Vancouver , a subject that has received no shortage of media and academic attention. G i v e n the mi l ieu of demographic change which I have just described, it is not surprising that the dominant narrative of urban change which emerged in the media (reflected in the quotation from W o o d ) was strongly racialized. It suggested that V a n c o u v e r as a 'gateway city' to the Pacif ic R i m would inevitably be reshaped by A s i a n cultures as it continued to integrate into a larger g lobal economy. S o great was the burgeoning social and economic influence of the Pacific R i m that some authors had already conceded or claimed (depending on their race!) the privilege to direct the future, call ing the next century "the A s i a n century" 3 or "the era of the chopstick." 4 Other journalists echoed these sentiments, leaving little more to ask than, "To which A s i a n civi l ization wi l l our city be pul led?" 5 Y e t another author took an imaginary journey to 21st-century V a n c o u v e r to send us "greetings f rom A s i a T o w n " 6 and to diagnose the various utopic and dystopic 1 Sam North, "Asia Town," Vancouver Magazine November, 1996 : 49. 2 Ley, "Between Euopre and Asia" 189. 3 R. Dolphin, "Zen and the art of mall raising," Vancouver Magazine March, 1995 : 38. 4 Eva Lee Kwok quoted in Ian Mulgrew, "The Brainy Bunch," Vancouver Magazine March, 1996 : 51. 5 P. Baylis, "To which (Asian) civilization will our city be pulled?," Vancouver Sun 4 November, 1996 : A10. 6 North, front cover. results o f A s i a n influence. A s M i t c h e l l has noted, metaphors used to reference A s i a n immigration and capital flows often evoked images of water, specifically tides, waves, or f l o o d s . 1 These metaphors al luded to the (perceived) inevitability o f change, or more egregiously, warned of impending engulfment or destruction. O n e o f the most contentious issues in V a n c o u v e r ' s postwar h i s tory—the transformation o f 'traditional' urban landscapes wi th in the city's long-establ i shed residential neighbourhoods—was foregrounded precisely within this Zeitgeist o f change. T h e architecture and garden landscaping in elite west-side Anglo-Canadian districts such as Shaughnessy and Kerrisdale had until recently been highly uniform, often reminiscent o f a picturesque and bucolic Tudor Engl i sh countryside. F r o m the mid-1980s to the mid-1990s, however, significant portions of Kerrisdale and some parts of Shaughnessy experienced steady transformation, with older houses being sold and demolished. T h e construction of large, non-traditionally styled 'monster' houses in their place and the fel l ing of large trees became a persistent source of public controversy and neighbourhood anxiety. 2 M a n y long-time residents c o m p l a i n e d bitterly, c a l l i n g the new houses "sterile," "offensive," "factories," "nightmares," and "abortions." 3 O n e west-side resident charged, " M y sense of beauty is assaulted by those stark, tasteless monster houses, built right in the middle o f our neighbourhoods, on clear cut lots without landscaping ." 4 A l t h o u g h the debate often revo lved around terms such as 'heritage', 'character', and 'design', the concepts o f 'culture' and 'race' were increasingly drawn into the discourse on urban change. T h o u g h initially understated, much of the responsibility for the 'aesthetic ruin' o f neighbourhoods landed squarely on the shoulders o f wealthy Chinese immigrants who , un l ike past immigrants, were able to bypass the traditional lower-cost immigrant corridor and move 1 Mitchell, "Multiculturalism" 274. 2 The history and general debate has already been well covered in other papers. See David Ley, Between Europe and Asia, and David Ley, D. Hiebert, and G. Pratt. 3 Kim Alexander Read, Continuity with Change : an investigation of the 'monster house' issue in Vancouver's Westside single-family neighbourhoods (Unpublished M A thesis, University of British Columbia, 1989). 4 Anonymous letter to a local newspaper, quoted in Ley, "Between Europe and Asia" 197. straight into prime real estate territory such as Kerrisdale and Shaughnessy. 1 T h e 'monster' house , then, became an important l o c a l referent in the cont inued construct ion , reproduction, and naturalization of racial categories in Vancouver. Brit ish Columbia's present economic downturn, partly precipitated by the A s i a n financial crisis and an exodus of A s i a n immigants and offshore capital, suggests that the declarations o f an inevitable As ian- i za t ion of V a n c o u v e r were largely premature and overstated. Economic forecasts by Statistics Canada for 1998 predict that Brit ish C o l u m b i a w i l l have the lowest per cent increase in real G D P of any province , and be the only province with negative job g r o w t h . 2 Recent federal government proposals to emphasize Eng l i sh or French language proficiency as a criterion for future immigration and Canada's foreign assets disclosure l a w 3 (both of which may reduce the number o f Paci f ic R i m immigrants) also jeopardize the v is ion o f an A s i a n future. O n c e taken for gospel , this v i s ion is now being cal led "chimeric" 4 by one newspaper columnist , who has mused, "What was surprising was how quickly we here bought into [it]." 5 T h e enthusiastic rise and the present fall of the A s i a n Future scenario raises serious questions about descriptions of place. B y cal l ing the scenario "chimeric," the newspaper columnist is s imply suggesting that other journalists were prone to flights of fancy, over-enthusiasm, or exaggerated rhetoric in their reporting. B u t for academics , the word 'chimeric' may resonate at a deeper theoretical level. It is a reminder of the current critiques 1 Ley, "Between Europe and Asia" 191. 2 M. Kane, "Recession a B.C. reality, economists at TD say," Vancouver Sun 18 March, 1998 : D l . 3 Wyng Chow, "More Canadians hiding assets overseas to avoid tax : Auditor" Vancouver Sun 6 June, 1998 : A l . 4 Pete McMartin, "Many Canadians bought the chimeric Asia vision" Vancouver Sun 22 January, 1998 : A3. 5 McMartin A3. of representation proposed by literary theorists, art historians, and ethnographers which have resulted in the so-called 'crisis o f representation.' 1 Th i s 'crisis' was brought on by a broad attack launched in a number of academic disciplines upon the 'natural attitude' that undergirds mimetic representation. T h i s 'natural attitude' was a product o f Enlightenment philosophers, for w h o m language and imagery appeared to be perfect, transparent media through which the world of experience cou ld be faithfully copied and revealed. M a n y of today's thinkers, however, argue that narratives o f place which purport to be value-free, non-cultural, and non-ideological copies o f the world are in fact fictions. T h i s is because systems of representation which c la im to be universal necessarily conceal their own historic specificity. G i v e n this point, there is no neutral, objective world 'out there' to be described, since there is no world which is not already "clothed in our systems of representation." 2 In the words o f art critic W . J . T . M i t c h e l l , the "innocent eye is b l i n d . " 3 T h e A s i a n Future narrative, then, is not 'chimeric' to the academic because it has been intentionally hyperbo l i c or alarmist, but because it has been coo l ly presented as disinterested observation. It is critical to keep in mind that [a]ny discourse regardless o f its claims, cannot create mimesis (reveal the - naked truth); rather, through its ideological distortions, it operates in the service of power. B y analysing these relations of power, we can more c l ear ly see how interests p lay a const i tut ive role in v i s i o n and representation.4 T h e narratives, concepts, and ideologies inherent in descriptions o f any realm of social practice (in this case, urban landscape change) constitute a discourse, which can be defined as the social framework of inte l l ig ibi l i ty within wh ich al l practices are communica ted , negotiated, or chal lenged. These discourses are both enabling resources as well as constraints or limits within which certain ways James Duncan and David Ley, "Introduction," Place, Culture, Representation, eds. James Duncan and David Ley (London : Routledge, 1993) 4. James Duncan, The city as text: the politics of landscape interpretation in the Kandyan Kingdom (Cambridge : Cambridge University Press, 1990) 14. Mitchell from Duncan 14. James Duncan, 1993, "Sites of representation : place, time and the discourse of the Other," Place, Culture, Representation, eds. James Duncan and David Ley (London : Routledge, 1993) 39. of thinking and acting seem natural and beyond which most who have learned to think within the discourse can not easily stray, j A range of discourses, in turn, constitutes a discursive field, within which truth regimes jostle and compete for legit imacy and popular currency. Some discourses may become hegemonic over time while others remain contestatory. T h e sociohistorical conjucture that facilitates development of a discourse generally requires both material and conceptual conditions to interact over a period o f t i m e . 2 B u i l d i n g a city combines the traditional economic factors o f land, labour, and capital , but it also depends on how symbol ic languages are manipulated. T h e confluence of the two conditions (I have already discussed some of the material conditions, and I wi l l discuss the conceptual / symbol ic conditions in more depth below) in Vancouver fostered a discourse of inevitable As ian- led change which indeed enabled and constrained particular ways of thinking and acting. B r o a d l y speaking, this narrative enabled free-market capitalists to enthusiastically chart a course towards greater global economic integration, while it constrained many individuals f rom seeing authorship for landscape change in terms other than race (i.e. Ch inese people were exclusively responsible for negative landscape change). U n p a c k i n g the interests behind discourses is critical to understanding that the construction of meaning is not unique to an indiv idual , but is shaped by one or more discourses within a larger discursive f i e l d . 3 Discourses are frameworks for conceptua l iz ing and m a k i n g sense o f the w o r l d of experience. T h e y 'position' subjects vis-a-vis others, and are therefore constitutive of, as-wel l as constituted by, social and polit ical relationships. In this way, the discursive field becomes a "site o f negotiation and struggle over meanings, privi leges, and duties" 4 in particular contexts. 1 Duncan, The city as text 16. 2 Goldberg 43. 3 Duncan, "Sites of representation" 155. 4 Duncan, "Sites of representation" 155. TEXTS and the PRODUCTION of DIFFERENCE A s modes of signification, discourses are embodied in texts (broadly construed), including landscapes. 1 B u t i f texts cannot mirror the world , due to the limits o f language: and ideology of those who describe, what are we to make of them? A r e they 'chimeric' in the truest sense, Potemkin V i l l a g e s standing in for the realm o f experience? A n d , i f reception theorists (such as Barthes) are correct in saying that each reader has the autonomy to 'author' a new and unique text through personal interpretation, is there any hope for an author to communicate something o f the 'real world'? W h i l e I support the critique of mimesis , I see that there is a potential danger in going too far wh ich threatens any understanding of human experience at al l . T a k e n to an extreme, radical postmodern relativism dengenerates into a cacophonous morass o f competing voices, interpretations, interests, and fragmented codes of meaning that not only undermine any f o r m o f knowledge, but may actually reconstitute current configurations o f power. A middle ground between theory-free e m p i r i c i s m and theory-laden interpretation is offered by hermeneutics, which problematizes mimesis but does not entirely discredit the production of knowledge. Hermeneuticians do not try to render themselves transparent in their work, but instead explicitly recognize and theorize the site of their representation. 2 What is seen as avoidable bias by the positivist is thereby acknowledged by the hermeneuticiari to be a crucial component in the formation of knowledge . 3 Th i s model o f academic work does not produce texts which attempt to mirror some pre-given reality. Instead, these texts, informed by theoretical and empir ica l elements cul led f rom other texts (the inter-textual field of reference), selectively and self-consciously re-present the 'world outside' (the extra-textual field of reference).4 What is produced is a version of the world that d id not exist previously outside the text, but since the text mediates both extra-textual and inter-textual fields o f Duncan, "Sites of representation" 155. Duncan and Ley 8. Duncan and Ley 8. Duncan and Ley 9. reference, it is neither whol ly 'objective' and 'real' nor whol ly 'constructed' and 'fictive'. Real ity, then, can be thought of as the sum of the world 'out there' and the world as we choose to describe it. . H o m i K . Bhabha's theoretical dist inction between modes o f conceptual iz ing c u l t u r e 1 can be roughly correlated with the mimetic and the hermeneutic, and can be usefully employed in examin ing racia l ized discourses. H e distinguishes the notion of cultural diversity f rom the notion of cultural difference as forms of cultural interpretation. A s he explains, [cjultural diversity is an epistemological object - culture as an object o f empir ica l knowledge - whereas cultural dif ference is the process o f enunciation o f culture as 'knowledgeable', authoritative, adequate to the construction of systems of cultural identification. If cultural diversity is a category of comparative ethics, aesthetics, or ethnology, cultural difference is a process o f s ignif ication through which statements of culture or on culture differentiate, discriminate, and authorize the production o f fields o f force, reference, applicability and capacity . 2 In other words; cultural diversity conceptualizes cultures as pre-given, totalized entities whose differences can be unproblematically represented. Cultural difference, on the other hand, conceptualizes culture as a product o f the moment o f enunciat ion of cultural difference. T h e former aestheticizes archaic origins; the latter sees the social articulation of difference as an on-going negotiation. Bhabha argues that contemporary critical debates on culture all recognize that "the p r o b l e m o f cultural interaction emerges only at the significatory boundaries of cultures, where meanings and values are (mis)read or signs are m i s a p p r o p r i a t e d . " 3 H o w e v e r , he suggests that the wel l- intentioned polemics against prejudice and stereotype, as wel l as sweeping declarations of individual or institutional The notions of race and culture are often conflated in discussions on landscape change. The perceptual inability of many Canadians to distinguish between the subtleties of ethnic background results in race becoming the dominant signifier of cultural identity. The concepts of race and culture will be used more or less synonymously in this paper, with the understandingthat the concept of culture is popularly misconstrued to be a function of race. Homi Bhabha, "Cultural diversity and cultural difference," The Post-Colonial Studies Reader, eds. B i l l Ashcroft et al (London : Routledge, 1995) 206. Emphasis original. Homi Bhabha, The Location of Culture (London : Routledge, 1994) 34. racism, merely describe the effect rather than the structure of the problem. T h e real attack must be launched against the very signification and enunciation of cultural difference. B y challenging articulations o f difference, their authorship and authority are laid bare, and culture is revealed not to be a primordial truth, but a relative and referential truth altered by the contingencies of time and place. M e d i a accounts o f urban change in Vancouver , then, are texts o f cultural difference (hermeneutics) that masquerade as texts cultural diversity (mimesis). T h e reporting o f difference is, in actuality, a part o f the larger process o f constructing difference. A t the most general level of description, it is useful to distinguish between two sets of texts within the discursive field : the enunciative and the analytic . 1 General ly speaking, enunciative texts are ones which make straightforward truth-claims or representations. These texts are usually unself-conscious of the particular ideological biases that they represent, and may in fact purport to be objective accounts o f events. Newspaper and magazine articles which 'reported' the eventual Asian-ization of Vancouver are examples of enunciative texts. O n the other hand, analytic texts seek to examine and explain the historic development and logic o f specific discourses. Texts such as this thesis, then, open up a level of metadiscursivity which can be properly included within the discursive field. Such texts are not bias-free, but are generally much more self-conscious of the particular agendas and interests that inform representations. Enunciat ive texts on Vancouver's urban change in the last decade have tightly interwoven landscape discourses with racial discourses. T h e fundamental narrative thread, evidenced in Wood's opening epigram, was that land-use practice could be correlated with race. F o r example, in a 1992 Vancouver Sun article entitled " A monster prob lem in Shaughnessy," two photographs were starkly juxtaposed : one shows a white woman standing between a traditionally-styled home and a 'monster' house with her arms raised in 1 Goldberg 42. ** • • " * EPw i : " • IAH SMITH CONTRASTING HOMES in Dunbar typify what Llssa For- borhood. She deplores the one on the left and applauds shaw sees as the beginning of the end for her old neigh-' the one on the right Henry Chou (below) doesn't agree. Figure 2 - Unequivocal racial narrative Source : Vancouver Sun 17 November, 1992 : B4. a gesture of defeat, whi le the photograph below shows the face o f a Chinese man (figure 2). The caption between the two photographs reads, Contrast ing homes in D u n b a r typify what L i s s a F o r s h a w sees as the beginning of the end for her o ld neighbourhood. She deplores the one on the left and applauds the one on the right. H e n r y C h o u (below) doesn't agree.j What is immediately signified is a difference in landscape ideology as a function of race. T h e phrase "the beg inning o f the end" also fits neatly into the dominant narrative o f inevitable A s i a n - l e d change. It is a moment that B h a b h a w o u l d cal l the enunciation o f cultural difference, when truth-claims begin to shape a framework o f intell igibil ity for conceptualizing difference. T h e easy marriage o f landscape ideology and racial identity articulated by the photographs is made knowledgeable and authoritative. T h i s representation, o f course, can be subtlely cr i t iqued at a theoretical level , but more importantly it can! be crit iqued as a blatant misrepresentation of the very contents o f the accompanying article - contents which disfigure the boundaries drawn between racial groups. Near the end of the long article, the author writes, C h o u said he actually likes smaller houses with gardens. B u t it was his wife. She wanted a b ig home.. . "If I could buy a new house, I would have a smaller one with a beautiful garden," [said Chou. ] But C h o u also said that when the couple was looking for a new house, the real estate agents only . showed them b ig new houses like the one they bought. T h e y wanted a new house but not necessarily one quite so big, he said.2 In reality, C h o u and Forshaw essentially agree that smaller homes have a strong appeal, yet this agreement is completely distorted to produce an unequivocal racialized narrative. A t the very end of the article, the author writes about another Chinese person : G e o r g e Chen. . . [wants to] retain the unique character and appeal o f Shaughnessy. H e m o v e d into the area about 10 years ago. H e also lives in a Colonial-style house built in 1927. H i s wife gardens and he likes the tree-l ined and, at this time of the year, leaf-covered streets. A s for some of the new houses built in his neighbourhood - well , he's shocked at their size and incompatibility with surrounding houses.3 1 K . Griffin, " A monster problem in Shaughnessy," Vancouver Sun 17 November, 1992 : B4. 2 Griffin B4. 3 Griffin B4. u This description further complicates the relationship between race and landscape practice, yet this sort of complication is very rarely, i f ever, clearly and explicitly communiciated in mainstream textual representations of the built environment. READING LANDSCAPES, READING READINGS A n y debate over landscape aesthetics is an articulation o f social identities and understandings of place. T h e ability to define landscapes is critical to the reproduction and legitimization o f the set o f values, histories, and practices embodied within a particular image of p lace . 1 Landscapes , then, are not inert and superficial end products o f abstract spatial logic, but are in fact "constituent elements in socio-polit ical processes of cultural reproduction and change." 2 Understanding the relationship between landscape and identity, and collapsing the positivist dualisms of subject / object, fact / value, has been an important research focus among social scientists in recent years. These researchers regard landscapes as signifying systems, or texts, which contain objects, practices, and semantic codes that can be interrogated and deconstructed to reveal meaning . T h e use of such a "self-consciously representational metaphor" 3 as text acknowledges the inherently unstable and negotiated nature of meaning. Consequently, recovering textual messages embedded within the built environment is not a matter of simple empirical observation, but of interpretation, or 'reading'. G i v e n this insight, the act o f 'reading' a landscape becomes a polit ical one, our interpretations being the product o f specific historical and social contexts and related cultural discourses. 'Readings' may be thought of as constructed by interpretive communi t i e s , w h i c h frequently , but not a lways , reflect hegemonic value systems.4 N.C. Majury, Identity, place, power, and the 'text': Kerry's Dale and the 'monster' house (Unpublished M A thesis, University of British Columbia, 1990) 23. Duncan, The city as text, 11. Majury 23. Majury 23. T h e notion of an interpretive or textual community refers to a group of people who gather around a shared reading of a set of texts. 1 T h e various actions, privileges, and duties that emerge f rom shared readings constitute a complex of social relations which contribute to the formation of a community. In the 'monster' house debate, the line in the sand between interpretive communities was sharply drawn by journalists, academics, and novelists. T w o diametrically opposed landscape readings emerged, one romantic and expressive (a traditionalist, subjective, aesthetic, use-value view of landscape), the other rational and instrumental (a modern, objective, functional , exchange-value view o f landscape) . 2 A s the discourse on urban change in Vancouver showed, [ejxpresivism and instrumentalism are not free-floating spirits but the ideologies o f discrete social groups who emerge in particular places at particular times when, according to the extent of their prominence, they may become significant cultural architects, moulding a repertoire of symbols and forms, including the built environment.3 T h e romantic reading was most strongly voiced by elite Anglo-Canadians concerned with protecting the s y m b o l i c investments made wi th in their ne ighbourhoods . R e c u r r i n g references to 'pastoral setting', 'heritage architecture', 'our village', 'single family' , and 'urban rainforest' by many long-time residents o f Shaughnessy and Kerrisdale recalled a communal and environmentally conservative way of life. These values along with links to an aristocratic Br i t i sh past served to express both class and ethnic separateness, and to mark landscapes with a 'natural' social and moral order. Opposite ly , the rational reading was subscribed to by another discrete group : recent, affluent Chinese immigrants . Clustered around nineteenth-century economic l iberalism, the ideology of this group was often couched in terms such as 'freedom', 'democracy', 'property rights', 'progress', and 1 Duncan, The city as text 156. 2 David Ley, "Style of the times : liberal and neo-conservative landscape in inner Vancouver, 1968-1986," Journal of Historical Geography 13:1 (1987) 41. 3 Ley 42. 'limited government'. T h e defense of their right to remove large trees, for example, even ones h ighly valued by residential neighbours, was expressed in the name o f private property r ights . 1 O n e prominent Chinese member o f the business c o m m u n i t y , with unbridled enthusiasm for future progress, flatly stated, "Ten years from now, y o u won't even recognize V a n c o u v e r . " 2 T h e 'monster' house issue, then,: may be v iewed as the conflict between two discrete social groups which mobi l i zed around opposed readings of the built environment and attempted to assert theirs as the dominant, 'right', or 'common sense' interpretation. T h e vociferous debate over landscape aesthetics could be seen as part of a localized struggle over social identity and the meanings of specific places. W i t h all the agents involved in the 'monster' house debate unambiguously assigned to 'discrete interpretive communities', and the terms of the debate l imited within clearly demarcated physical boundaries, the struggle over urban change in V a n c o u v e r begins to gain a measure of clarity, consistency, and comprehensibility. Classificatory neatness, after all , gives rise to explanatory power. Unfortunately, however, the 'monster' house issue did not remain a clear and consistent local ized debate. It was always embedded within much larger socia l , historical , and geographic contexts. 1 Broader themes o f culture, nationalism, and race increasingly came into play as the struggle over place meanings grew in emotional intensity in the late 1980s. T h e mobilization of these themes was not innocent. Groups drew f r o m this resevoir o f symbol ic and pol i t ical capital in order to buttress particular land-use agendas and identity constructions. T h e A n g l o p h i l e elite, for example, garnered publ ic support/from residents outside their west-side neighbourhoods by conflating their elite landscape mil ieu with 'Canadian-ness', thereby p l a y i n g upon ethnic themes still pervasive within Br i t i sh Co lumbia ' s see Ley, "Between Europe and Asia" for an analytic text on the removal of two large sequioa trees by a Chinese property owner. For enunciative texts, see The Vancouver Sun, 1990, 9 March B1,B2; 3 April A l ; 5 April A l ; 5 April A19; 6 April A12; 7 April B4, B8; 16 April A9; 4 May B l . Bob Lee, the first non-white member of the elite Vancouver Club, quoted in Ley, "Between Europe and Asia" 189. dominant culture. 1 One long-time west-side resident c laimed that, "Canadians see monster houses as an arrogant visible demonstration of the destruction of Canadian culture. Y e s , we have a Canadian identity and Canadians should be aware of persons who say we don't while they try to rebuild Canada in a different m o u l d for their own purpose and prof i t ." 2 'Difference' in this case clearly alludes to cultural and racial difference, and the statement attempts to mobi l ize a broader foundation of support based on ethnic or racial affiliation. S imi lar ly , those supporting new development publ ic ly charged 'slow-growth' advocates with racism, attempting to throw moral weight behind their arguments. F a c i n g proposed rezoning changes that would decrease the size of new homes, a spokesman for the West Side Builders Associat ion charged the proposals were "discriminatory, racist, and unfair... If these new building by-laws are brought into effect, it wi l l be akin to returning to the early 1900s where some of our land titles specifically excluded people o f certain origins from owning l a n d : " 3 Charges such as these were often invoked and widely reported in the media. Clearly , much more was at stake than mere landscape aesthetics. T h e fierce rhetoric employed to champion particular land-use ideologies wie lded imagery, narratives, and histories resonant with people far removed from the original sites of contention. • W i t h i n the social framework of intell igibil ity produced by enunciative texts, the not ion that landscape ideologies were reducible to race became ah acceptable and meaningful description of difference. T h e conflation of local ized difference between discrete social groups with racial difference became naturalized and taken for granted, the sources o f its product ion largely uninterrogated. Possible convergences in landscape ideology based on class, occupation, tenure of residency, or education were obscured by the overriding belief in cultural and racial difference. T h i s hegemonic narrative supports Majury's contention that the process o f negotiating meaning between social groups can 1 Majury 120. 2 Quoted from Mitchell 275. 3 Non-white builder quoted in Ley, "Between Europe and Asia" 200. become sedimented into relatively permanent structures and relations of inequality. 1 O v e r time a discourse may develop around particular ideas which reflect and reproduce existing power relations. T h e bel ief in essential difference between racial groups is one such structure and relation o f inequality. D a v i d T h e o G o l d b e r g caljs these structures and relations that enable racia l ized expressions the "preconceptual elements of racial ized discourse." 2 T h e y are not abstract a priori essences,...[n]or are they to be confused with the actual, explicit concepts and terms by which racialized discourse is usually expressed. T h e primitive terms are manifestations of power relations vested in and between historical ly located subjects, and they are effects o f a determinate social history. . .They generate the concepts and categories in . terms o f w h i c h r a c i s m is actual ly expressed and c o m p r e h e n d e d . . . Normal izat ion of racial ized expression and racist exclus ion turns on the embedding of their conditions of possibility deep in modernity's formative sociodiscursive structures and scientific vision. 3 Specif ical ly , preconceptual elements include classification, order, value, hierarchy, and " authoritative representation. These concepts in turn support differentiation and identity, discrimination and identification, exclusion, domination, entitlement, and restriction. These epistemological foundations support the articulation o f racial discourse. T h e y inform the social cleavages and racial identities that arise in unique spatio-temporal conditions. W h i l e racial discourses may transform and renew over time and place with relative speed, the deep structures of modern espistemology are themselves much more difficult (impossible?) to uproot. In the fol lowing chapter, I wi l l examine more closely the contextual construction of racial categories - whiteness and Chineseness - in Vancouver. T h e strategic mobilization of such large-scale categories to support the agendas of discrete social groups in a 'turf-war' over Vancouver's elite neighbourhoods demonstrates how easily local conflicts can become embedded within l ingering structures and relations of inequality. E x a m i n i n g constructions 1 Majury 13. 2 Goldberg 48. 3 Goldberg 48. of whiteness and Chineseness within the rubric o f multiculturalism, postmodernism, and European imper ia l i sm is crit ical to understanding racia l ized representations o f urban change. RACE and REPRESENTATION WHITENESS A detailed and integrated historical geography o f whiteness has yet to be produced, 1 and this chapter does not attempt to address this absence. Instead, I a m examin ing whiteness in order to uncover a broader discursive context which until now has not been used to interrogate representations of landscape change in Vancouver . With in the academic literature, establishing whiteness as an analytic object is proving to be a powerful means of critiquing the reproduction and maintenance of unequal racial relations in specific contexts. 2 T h i s paper mainly focuses on how whiteness is represented. T h u s , it is not directly about how white people really are, how they feel about themselves, or how others perceive t h e m . 3 Nevertheless, how anything is represented structures the way we think and feel about that thing, and helps form the framework of intelligibility by which we apprehend the world . T h e study o f representation is, in one sense, l imited, yet it is one of the prime means by which we have knowledge of reality. T h i s chapter looks at how whiteness is both constitutive of and constituted by the discourse on urban change in Vancouver. Thi s is Alastair Bonnet, "Geography, 'race' and Whiteness: invisible traditions and current challenges," Area 29:3 (1997) 197. J. Hartigan, "Establishing the fact of Whiteness," American Anthropologist 99:3 (1997) 496. This a reiteration of the caution offered by Dyer in his work. Richard Dyer, White (New York : Routledge, 1997) xii i . particularly important given that whites continue to have much more control over self-definition in Canada's mainstream media than any other racial group. Whiteness, l ike other racial categories, is socially constructed and articulated in specific historical settings. M a n y authors have addressed the relational construction of whiteness in opposition to other racial categories, such as 'blackness' or 'Chineseness'. 1 H o w e v e r , whiteness may be v iewed as distinct from other racial categories since it has been identified as "a core set o f racial interests often obscured by seemingly race-neutral words , actions, and po l i c i e s ." 2 Put in another way, whiteness maintains itself as an unmarked and normative category by foregrounding race as a category of non-white difference. Thus , non-whites are raced, whi le whites are 'just people', standing in for the c o m m o n a l i t y o f humani ty . E x a m p l e s a b o u n d o f whites w h o are o b l i v i o u s or unselfconscious of their racial subjectivity. One university professor related that every year at least three or four of her white students balk at writing a 'cultural biography' ( informed by categories such as race, ethnicity, class, and religion) because they c l a i m they have no c u l t u r e . 3 bell hooks has written about students who, after listening for the first time to b lack students discuss perceptions of whiteness, react with shock, disbelief, and rage . 4 Final ly , Judy Rebick, a prominent Canadian journalist and feminist, has conceded that [pjeople from the dominant group do not identify primarily with that group. F o r example, I rarely think of myse l f as a white person. I a m not conscious of my affinity with other white people. I don't notice anyone treating me differently because I am white. 5 Rebick's reference to group dominance is also important to the understanding of whiteness, since a myriad of seemingly neutral social arrangements and institutional operations allow whites to benefit from their whiteness regardless i f they, as individuals , harbour beliefs in 1 For a historical account of the construction of'Chineseness' in Vancouver,.see Anderson. 2 Hartigan 496. 3 C. Hyde, "The meanings of whiteness," Qualitative Sociology 18:1 (1995) 87. 4 hooks 339. 5 Judy Rebick, "Bridging identity : a creative response to identity politics," Clash of identities : essays on media, manipulation, and the politics of self, ed. James Littleton (Toronto : Prentice-Hall, 1996) 32. racial supremacy or racial difference, or are made uncomfortable in the presence of racialized others. 1 Aga in , the power of whiteness lies in its ability to appear as a set of race-neutral, unmarked cultural practices, or, as one author writes, its ability to "colonize the definition of normal" through representation. 2 T h e 'fact' o f whiteness can be established on its "historical durat ion and its ideologica l coherence and effective power ." 3 R e i f y i n g whiteness, however , presents particular ethnographic and phi losophical di lemmas. Some scholars have attempted to ground whiteness in certain material relations and social structures that reproduce white pr iv i lege ( soc io-economic status, re l ig ious aff i l iat ion, ideologies o f i n d i v i d u a l i s m , cit izenship, and national ism, etc.), thereby posit ing 'white culture' as something that contains a discrete, positive content. Others have deployed whiteness to describe an "inherent motivational core" or "originary impulse" particular to whi te s . 4 B o t h these approaches, though likely conceived in the name of critiquing power, have the unintended potential o f undermining the concept o f race as constructed, and therefore undermining resistance to racial hegemonies. N o e l Ignatiev, whose own work on whiteness helped spur interest in the subject, rejects the notion of a white ethnicity, fearing such a concept wi l l lead to apolitical white narcissism, or worse, white national ism. 5 Others have also weighed in with opinions on the 'emptiness' of the white category : It is not merely that whiteness is oppressive and false; it is that whiteness is nothing but oppressive and false... It is the terrifying attempt to bu i ld an identity based on what one isn't and on w h o m one can hold back.g A s someone who problematizes the notion of a stable and coherent Chineseness, I certainly agree that s ingular, uni f i ed def in i t ion o f whiteness poses a potential threat to an understanding of race as constructed. B u t to establish whiteness as something that exists 1 Hartigan 496. 2 Richard Dyer, "White," Screen 29:4 (1988) 45. 3 Hartigan 498. 4 Hartigan (discussing Frankenberg) 498. 5 from Ellen Barry, "White like me," (essay downloaded via e-mail, 1997). 6 D. Roediger, The wages of whiteness : race and the making of the American working class (London : Verso, 1991) 13. My emphasis. with certainty, consistency, and a degree of durability does not undermine its existence as something negotiated and arbitrary. Despite appearances, whiteness is not a special ideological case standing apart f rom race; it is a constituent category in the discursive production o f racial geographies. It is this very paradox or duality that lies at the heart o f white hegemony, since white is not anything really, not an identity, not a particularizing quality, because it is everything... Th i s property o f whiteness, to be everything and nothing, is the source of its representational power, j Whiteness, then, is 'not anything really' except the discursively produced privilege of race neutrality. B e y o n d the unifying interest in the reproduction of dominance, grounded in the pr iv i leges o f n o r m a l c y , whiteness is not homogeneous . In fact, it is cont inua l ly reinterpreted, renegotiated, and altered in a host o f novel local contexts, each featuring nuanced conflations of race with place-specific discourses, ideologies, and interests. T h i s is evidenced in the 'monster' house debate and its attendant rhetoric. M y argument that whiteness is both constituted by and constitutive of textual representations of Vancouver's landscape debate recognizes the heterogeneity of whiteness and its ability to rearticulate itself in divergent contexts. WHITENESS, MULTICULTURALISM, and the POLITICS of EXAMINATION T h e fundamental privi lege o f whiteness is unexaminabi l i ty . Represented by Western media as an unmarked and blank category, whiteness escapes objectification in looking relat ions. 2 M a r k e d groups, on the other hand, defined in opposition to whiteness, be long to the f i e ld o f examinable Others . E x a m p l e s o f this a b o u n d in textual representations, such as this T V listing : "Skinhead Johnny and his A s i a n L o v e r O m a r set 1 Dyer (1988) 45. 2 It should be noted that whiteness is only one of many 'unmarked' categories. Maleness, heterosexuality, and middle-classness are examples of others. up a laundrette." 1 W h i l e O m a r is marked by race, the author fails to race Johnny, w h o m we assume (and wi l l eventually discover) is white. A s marked categories, non-whites are plural ized as knowable, definable, and comparable categories that produce whiteness as singular and indivisible. T h e p r i v i l e g i n g o f di f ference awakened b y state sponsored p o l i c i e s o f multiculturalism has foregrounded non-white race and ethnicity as constituents of identity. 2 T h i s has served to strengthen the dichotomy between whites as racial subjects and non-whites as racial objects. Foucaul t has identif ied examinabi l i ty as the key practice o f disciplinary knowledge , 3 and this is alluded to by Rey C h o w when she argues that [t]he invisible interrogation behind the multiculturalist 'ethnicity' apparatus is : "How authentic are you?" - to which everyone voluntarily responds with self-conscious reflections, descriptions, and appellations. Once we respond, however, we are helpless to complete the circuit set off by the panopticist interrogation process. T h e more detailed and earnest our research into our ethnic histories as such, the more successful the panopticist interrogation is in accomplishing its task. 4 T h e assumed objectivity and neutrality o f the examiner, however, is based on the false belief in the separability o f the subjects and objects o f examination. A s I argued earlier in my critique o f mimesis , there are no neutral sites f r o m which to observe, only positions cross-cut by systems of representation that b i n d subjects and objects o f examination in In reference to the film My Beautiful Laundrette by Hanif Kureshi. Anonymous T V guide author quoted from Dyer (1997) 2. Despite the fact that multiculturalism in Canada was initially lobbied for by Jewish and Ukrainian peoples, multiculturalism 'races' non-whites. This is because Jewish, Ukrainian, and other non-Nordic Europeans were 'whitened' after World War U, evidencing that changing notions of whiteness are part of Canada's historical racial discourse. Karen Brodkin Sacks suggests that similar patterns of education, occupation, and suburbanization between various Nordic and non-Nordic Europeans broadened the category of whiteness. Brodkin Sacks frames the change as a "chicken and egg problem." She writes, "Did Jews and other Euroethnics become white because they became middle-class? That is, did money whiten? Or did being incorporated in an expanded version of whiteness open up the economic doors to a middle-class status? Clearly, both tendencies were at work." The inclusion of Jews and other Euroethnics in the category of whiteness has allowed them the same privileges of unexaminability in looking relations. Karen Brodkin Sacks, "How did Jews become white folks?," Race, eds. Steven Gregory and Roger Sanjek (New Brunswick, New Jersey : Rutgers University Press, 1994) 86. Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish : The Birth of the Prison (New York : Vintage Books, 1979) 184. Rey Chow, "Women in the Holocene : ethnicity, fantasy, and the film The Joy Luck Club," 210. (bibliographic information incomplete). existing relationships of power. Throughout history, the examination of marked categories has not been easily distinguished from the prejudiced attention paid to socially marked others, so illusionary is the alleged neutrality of examination as a practice. 1 T h e ability of whiteness to elude examination, however, does not depend solely on the pluralization of the Other. A further dichotomy is necessary between whites and non-whites that, ironical ly , inverts the relation o f white singularity and non-white diversity. Al though the other is pluralized in order to construct whiteness as singular and indivisible, the distinct groups that actually comprise this plurality are themselves homogenized through 2 stereotyping. In other words, any examination of an individual within a non-white group produces knowledge that is representative o f al l other individuals sharing the same classificatory status. Oppositely, as Chambers explains, whites are perceived as individual historical agents whose unclassifiable difference from one another is their most prominent trait. Whiteness is thus atomized into invisibil ity through the individual izat ion o f white subjects. Whereas non-whites are perceived first and foremost as a function of their group belongingness, that is, as black or A s i a n (and then as individuals) , whites are perceived first as individual people (and only secondarily, i f at all , as whites).3 T h e unit of the individual is critical to white hegemony, since the investment and dispersal of whiteness within individual historical agents allows whiteness as a category to escape examination. Whites , then, are imaged as individual and/or endlessly diverse, complex and chang ing . 4 A s Richard D y e r argues, the privi lege of being white in white culture is not to be subjected to stereotyping in relation to one's whiteness. Whi te people are stereotyped in terms of gender, nation, class, sexuality, and so on, but the overt point o f such typification is gender, nation, etc. Whiteness generally colonises the stereotypical definition of all social categories other than race.5 1 Ross Chambers, "The unexamined," Wii'tene.™ : a critical reader, ed. Mike Hi l l . (New York : New York University Press, 1997) 194. 2 Chambers 192. 3 Chambers 192. M y emphasis. 4 Dyer (1997) 12. 5 Dyer (1997) 12. Multicultural is t policies resonate neatly with white privi lege by exot ic iz ing non-white difference, which in turn, produces whiteness as something relatively unworthy of note, furtively carried among individual agents whose representation escapes categorization. Oppos i te ly , the construction of non-white groups as having authentic and knowable practices, histories, and material culture has l imited the range of non-white representation. T h i s has given ideas or arguments grounded within the realm of the 'cultural' tremendous legitimacy and explanatory power. In other words, 'cultural' explanations s imply seem to 'make sense', and can often override other sources o f explanation for social phenomana which disfigure and problematize racial or ethnic divisions. It is true that in the context o f global colonial history, the recognition of the inherent worth of cultural diversity has been tremendously important. T h e struggles o f the margins to come into representation may have genuinely opened up a space for the voices of the Other, challenging the authority of the white West . Unfortunately, "it may simultaneously function as a side-show for white people who look on with delight at all the differences that surround them." 1 A s I argued in Chapter 2, the reappropritation of voice by oppressed groups is a slippery slope towards essentialism. Postmodern multiculturalism's attempt to formalize the responsibility to respect cultural diversity has naturalized representations of difference, possibly making our well meaning endeavors to recognize diversity a taken for granted exercise in pigeon-holing. A s Katherine Fierlbeck argues, [t]o assert that one s imply k n o w s that another person is de f ined predominantly by their culture or specif ic group traits rather than other factors seems as "oppressive" as refusing to bel ieve that the cultural characteristics are important at all.2 Non-white racial and cultural identity, then, has an ambivalent potential. It can constrain as easily as it can liberate, and, as Vancouver's racial narratives show, it can be vi l l i f ied as easily as it can be celebrated. 1 Dyer (1997) 4. 2 Katherine Fierlbeck, "The ambivalent potential of cultural identity," Canadian Journal of Political Science 24:1 (1996) 15. MEDIA and the REPRODUCTION of LOOKING RELATIONS T h e colourless multicolouredness o f whiteness secures white power by m a k i n g it hard, especial ly for white people and their media , to 'see' whiteness. Richard Dyer , White T h e media are critical sources o f cultural pedagogy. T h e y are "vertiable teaching machine[s] in the shaping of the social imaginat ion," 1 influencing how individuals see themselves, others, and society as a whole. Te lev i s ion , newspapers, magazines and other forms of media provide the symbols and codes (enunciative texts) with which we forge our w o r l d v i e w s . 2 In particular, it is a site o f Bhabha's cultural differentiation, where differences between groups are made knowledgeaMe and authoritative through the process of s ignif ication. These arguments perhaps have been taken for granted, since m e d i a representations of urban change in Vancouver have not been explicitly interrogated. T h i s is a particularly glaring absence for two reasons : (1) because the media are critical sites in the production and transformation of ideologies 3 (meanings in the service of p o w e r ) , 4 and (2) because racial groups have differing degrees o f control over self-representation and the representation o f others. 5 W h i l e "it w o u l d be wrong and misleading to see the media as uniformly and conspiratorially harnessed to a single racist conception of the w o r l d , " 6 I wi l l argue that pr iv i l eged narratives o f whiteness are unsel fconscious ly e m p l o y e d and reproduced in media coverage of landscape change in Vancouver. Henry A . Giroux, "Racial politics and the pedagogy of whiteness," Whiteness : a critical reader, ed. Mike Hi l l (New York : New York University Press, 1997) 295. I am sympathetic to the work of reception theorists who argue that individuals are not simply 'passive dupes' who accept every media message. There is always a measure of reinterpretation, resistance to, or rejection of dominant messages. Nevertheless, texts create the discourses within which people react, and thus overarching 'frameworks of intelligibility' can to some degree be treated as 'real'. . Stuart Hall, "The whites of their eyes : racist ideologies and the media," Gender, Race and Class in Media a Text Reader, eds. Gail Dines and Jean M . Humez (Thousand Oaks : Sage, 1995) 18. Definition by Thompson from Katheryne Mitchell, "Visions of Vancouver : ideology, democracy, and the future of urban development," Urban Geography 17:6 (1996) 487. When I worked briefly for C B C (Canadian Broadcasting Company) Television News, my producer acknowledged that the publicly-funded institution lacked non-white staff by joking that lighting tricks should be used to "make me look more white." Hall, "The whites of their eyes" 20. T h e racialization of the 'monster' house and the overarching narrative o f A s i a n -propelled change have been constructed in a myriad of ways, from subtle textual elisions to explicitly demonological representations. F r o m a wealth of textual evidence, I wi l l draw out several specific examples. T h e first is the Vancouver Magazine article "As ia T o w n , " in which author S a m North almost seems to be fomenting moral panic as he speculates on the dystopic possibilities of As ian immigration : Ecology : Dystopia Greater Vancouver's overpopulation and extreme pollution, as wel l as its incendiary race relations and one of North America's highest cr ime rates, can all be traced to the influx o f hundreds o f thousands of newcomers f r o m A s i a . j Culture : Dystopia In hindsight, a fight over vegetation started the gulf between the Chinese and other ethnic communit ies in Greater V a n c o u v e r . W e a l t h y C h i n e s e immigrants who had bought property in the 1990s objected to 1996 bylaws restricting the right to cut down trees. W i t h i n a year there were rallies at w h i c h C h i n e s e property owners c la shed v io l ent ly w i th suburban environmentalists, who threw themselves in front o f chain-saw wie ld ing arborists to save ind iv idua l trees... O v e r t ime the communit ies became permanently separated by the wal led communities built by wealthy ethnic Chinese and patrolled by armed pol ice officers to guard against rov ing bands of forest-dwelling environmentalists^ T h e representations are certainly hyperbol ic , but the article is not a parody. It is a predictive narrative of urban change f i rmly grounded in the i d i o m of race : As ians precipitate environmental disaster (and even create po l i ced ethnic enclaves) , whi le "suburban," "forest dwell ing" (read : white) environmentalists champion preservation. Whiteness maintains itself as racially unmarked since explicit references to 'whites' or 'Caucasians' are not made in the article. Nevertheless, the racially unmarked categories employed by the author are understood to reference whiteness, especially since they are 1 North 52. 2 North 50. o p p o s e d to the category o f C h i n e s e n e s s . N o r t h not o n l y uses "suburban environmentalists" and "forest-dwelling environmentalists" to euphemistically.reference whites, but in various utopic scenarios o f V a n c o u v e r that the author describes, 'government' is credited with mitigating the negative effects o f A s i a n i m m i g r a t i o n . 1 'Government' is, o f course, a race-neutral category, but more importantly it is wel l understood to be a predominantly white institution, historically and presently. Therefore, the oppositional construction of racial categories takes place despite the fact that whiteness is never explicit ly named. Some authors argue that whiteness itself has no content, yet whiteness manages to embody certain qualities in specific contexts through association with the race-neutral categories it colonizes. T h u s , terms such as "environmentalists," "government," and in the most egregious cases "Canadians," come to stand in for whites, g iv ing whiteness particularizing qualities by proxy while al lowing the racial category to remain invis ible . A s this example shows, and as D y e r has so eloquently put it, the "colourless mult ico louredness o f whiteness" makes it di f f icult to 'see' in m e d i a representations of race. In a less alarmist tone, Douglas T o d d , T h e Vancouver Sun's rel igion and ethics reporter, also blames environmental degradation on Other cultures. H i s 'objective' and 'scholarly' tone, however, more effectively obfuscates the reproduction o f hegemonic ideologies o f race. T o d d writes : [There has been an] unprecedented flow of A s i a n immigrants and others to Greater Vancouver, many of w h o m arrive with no tradition of keeping cities green.. . [M]uch o f the controversy stems f r o m groups within Canada's mult i -cul tural mosaic ho ld ing different attitudes to the urban forest... [T]housands of wealthy Chinese immigrants who can afford to tear down an o ld greater Vancouver house and bui ld a larger replacement hold to feng shui, a system of geomancy which says, for example, an improperly placed tree could bring bad l u c k . 2 A g a i n , while non-white groups such as 'Chinese', 'Asians', and (in other portions of the text) 'Sikhs' are identified by T o d d , 'whites' and 'Caucasians' remain unnamed. Instead, 1 North 48, 52. 2 Douglas Todd, "The tree debate is about far more than esthetics," Vancouver Sun 31 August, 1996 : D20. the race-neutral term Canadians is used in opposition to marked groups and easily conflates with white people ("Canadians who want to stop the insensitive cutting of grand trees are colliding with equally zealous people who are determined to protect their freedom to do whatever they want with their land.").1 Todd's framing of the issue as a "challenge in a multicultural city"2 locates environmental differences in the realm of the 'cultural' (i.e. non-white). This gives his arguments explanatory power by mobilizing current hegemonies of racial-ethnic difference. Different environmental attitudes are not the product of a range of factors, but are 'cultural', and therefore unambiguous and reified. According to Sharon Zukin, culture has become a much more explicit site of conflict over social differences and urban fears in recent years.3 As social class, political affiliation, and other traditional institutions of identity slowly lose currency as categories for understanding social phenomena, cultural explanations increasingly 'make sense'. The ubiquitous media references to the traditional Chinese metaphysic of feng shui as a reason for tree-cutting and house design is an example of a cultural explanation that has gained widespread legitimacy. The incredible irony of Todd's article (which identifies feng shui as an anti-environmental aesthetic) is that the accompanying photograph shows a clear-cut suburban development of upscale homes, the kind most strongly associated with white residency. There is, however, no shorthand 'cultural' explanation such as feng shui to interpret this particular landscape pattern. White-dominated suburbia, conceptualized outside the categories of culture and race, is therefore not seen as part of the 'multicultural' problem in Vancouver. The failure to connect the morphology of 'monster' houses with that of new suburban homes built prior to and during the 'monster-izing' of Vancouver's elite neighbourhoods has been the most persistent oversight in media (and academic) treatments of residential urban change in Vancouver. In fact, initial criticisms of 'monster' houses 1 Todd D20. Italics mine. 2 Todd D21. 3 Sharon Zukin, The Cultures of Cities (Cambridge, Massachusetts : Blackwell, 1995) 2. charged that they looked too similar to suburban fringe development . 1 A survey of the "New Homes" section in the Vancouver Sun f rom the mid-1980s to the mid-1990s reveals countless advertisements and plans for suburban homes that display a morphology almost indistinguishable f rom 'monster' houses (figures 3, 4, 5, and 6). S o m e may argue that 'monster' houses are so named because they have a fundamentally different relationship to the urban fabric than new suburban housing. W h i l e 'monster' houses impinge on existing neighbourhoods with long-established symbol ic investments, new suburban homes do not alter pre-existing built landscapes. Y e t the stigma attached to 'mega-homes' belonging to Indo-Canadians in municipalities such as Surrey suggests that de novo built landscapes are not b e y o n d rac ia l i za t ion . 2 It is therefore reasonable to query why whites who l ive in oversized suburban homes on clear-cut lots have not unravelled the conflation of whiteness with landscape romanticism. One reason for this can be found in an article by Pete M c M a r t i n in the Vancouver Sun. T h e article discusses M a r y H i l l , a suburban neighbourhood in the municipal i ty of Port C o q u i t l a m notorious for its clear-cut sub-divisions and large homes. It has been called "an alien cluster of homes growing like a boil ," "unthinkable," and "a sea of stucco and vinyl" by various crit ics . 3 M c M a r t i n describes one white woman's reason for moving into M a r y H i l l : I used to l ive over on that h i l l . . . and when I saw them clearcutting M a r y H i l l , I thought, 'How cou ld they do that? It's so disgusting!' Reluctantly, when we were looking to move , we came over here. A n d then I got up here. It was wonderful! T h e v i e w ! 4 Here is a clear example of 'love of nature' that is highly negotiable : views are more important than nature. T h e 'common-sense' treatment of this w o m a n , however, as an 1 Read 60. 2 In September, 1996, Surrey councillor Jerry Huot characterized the houses of one subdivision as "goddamn East Indian, goddamn megahouses," stirring up a local controversy over his remark. Harold Munro, "Indo-Canadians plan meeting over 'racial' remark in Surrey," Vancouver Sun 3 October, 1996 : B l . 3 Pete McMartin, "The view from Mary Hil l , where once only eagles and developers dared," Vancouver Sun 16 September, 1996 : B l . 4 Ivana Maschi quoted in McMartin B1. FigUTe 3 - Open design for a spacious interior Source : Vancouver Sun 4 January, 1992 : C6. SECOND FLOOR PLAN 11MSQ.FT.riD2.JtiP) MAIN FLOOR PLAN 12t7SQ.FT.(11J,1 fcf) NOTC, THIS OESiGN INCLUDES I V- AN UNFINISHED BASEMENT ? (NOT SHOWNL PLAN NO. 7-4-801 TOTAL UM *0. FT. (HI W1) DREAM AND REALITY: Jenish plan No. 7-4-801 as ft appears in catalogue (left) and on a building lot (below); customers often specify, modifications to the basic design, and popular requests £ incorporated e design Figure 4 - Dream and reality Source : Vancouver Sun 10 November, 1995 : E2. Traditional house a reminder of the past LARGE: a house at the Heritage Woods development in Port Moody Figure 6-Large Source : Vancouver Sun 2 March, 1996 : E l . indiv idual historical agent prevents her attitude f rom representing other whites in her neighbourhood, let alone whiteness as a whole. N o t only are the woman's actions left unscrutinized as a function of her racial belongingness, but the author even defends M a r y H i l l by accusing "the intelligentsia" o f being "finger-wagging town planners, and urban snobs who believe good taste can reside only in turn of the century heritage homes." 1 T h e woman's escape from a racialized public examination is thus doubly assured. It is, o f course, untenable to suggest that the woman's landscape views are solely a product o f her whiteness. H e r race is relevant only insofar as it can be used to dismantle racial categories. M y argument that the woman should be scrutinized based on her racial belongingness is not an attempt to homogenize whiteness through a negative figuration (i.e. suburban whites are all unenvironmenta l ) . Instead, it is an attempt to reveal the heterogeneity of whiteness (it cannot a lways be correlated wi th preservation and environmental ism) by invert ing l ook ing relations. T h e actual heterogeneity of white landscape practice has not weakened the popular l ink between whiteness and landscape romantic ism because whiteness is less a set o f challengeable stereotypes than a set o f narrative structural positions, rhetorical tropes, and habits of percept ion. 2 It is a pattern of looking and cognitive ordering that allows whites to pursue their o w n brand of special-interest politics without it being identified as such. Therefore, whites can define normality and co-opt the meanings o f race-neutral categories without m u c h concern that these meanings w i l l be challenged through an examinination of 'real-life' white bodies (since they represent humanity as a whole and cannot be reduced to race). Whiteness, in other words, can be embodied yet white bodies cannot be objectified in looking relations. T h i s paradox lies at the heart of white representational hegemony. It is hardly surprising, then, that the discourse on urban change in V a n c o u v e r became sedimented within these pre-existing, ideological ways of looking. 1 McMartin B l . 2 Dyer (1997) 12. Unl ike the woman from M a r y H i l l , non-white bodies are explicitly raced and visible in media and academic literature. F o r example, the attention paid to the felling of two large sequoia trees in Vancouver by a Chinese homeowner in 1990 al lowed the incident to 'stand in' for Chinese landscape v iews . 1 A s one person charged, "The two giant sequoia trees on Marguerite Street that were chopped down at the instigation o f the new property owner, Jack E n g , are the latest sacrifices on the altar of multiculturalism." 2 T h e letter suggests that non-white actions are strict functions of culture and race, and can be critiqued as such. Not only are Jack Eng's actions an indictment of Chinese people, they are an indictment of any priv i leging of diversity at al l . T h i s double-standard for looking at white and non-white bodies continues as normative journalistic practice. Such a double-standard, especially as exercised by a predominantly white media, reduces the non-white object to being a function of the white subject, structuring representations of non-white others as a means of knowing the white self without having to explicitly define the qualities of whiteness. Taken for granted looking relations are evidenced elsewhere. El izabeth A i r d of The Vancouver Sun wrote about a dispute between three f i l m producers and an absentee landlord: T h e y don't mince words. " R i c h A s i a n L a n d Owners Threaten to K i l l Outdoor F i l m Fest ival . . ." said the headline in the news release. T h r e e fledgling f i lm festival producers are protesting against their treatment at the hands of - well , r ich Asians.^ T h e final noun is clearly the operative term, which identifies and 'races' the landlord. O n e of the producers defended the release saying, "We're not attacking them for their race, we're just g iv ing the facts." 4 H o w e v e r , as I have argued, such 'facts' are only relevant 1 see Majury and Ley, "Between Europe and Asia." For media coverage, see The Vancouver Sun, 1990, 9 March B l , B2; 3 April A l ; 5 April A l ; 5 April A19; 6 April A12; 7 April B4, B8; 16 April A9; 4 M a y B l . While the articles specifically allowed the incident to 'stand-in' for wealthy immigrant Chinese landscape views, the common conflation between race and ethnicity has given the incident a broader, racially charged significance, spilling beyond the confines of a particular ethnic subset of Chinese people. 2 H . Warn, letter to the editor, Vancouver Sun 23 April , 1990 : A15. 3 Elizabeth Aird, "No matter how you view it, $1,000 a night is quite a lot," Vancouver Sun 13 July, 1996 : D6. Italics mine. 4 Aird, "No matter" D7. when pertaining to non-white groups. Indeed, this is demonstrated in another co lumn by A i r d . She writes : T h e y should have seen it c o m i n g when Starbucks m o v e d into the neighbourhood 18 months ago. T h e end of Robson. . . is being colonized by big money. A company called Tiger Capital of Hong Kong has bought most of the block between B i d w e l l and Cardero.i One company is identified by name only, while the other is identified by name and country of origin (which in this case has a strong racial association). One might argue it is c o m m o n knowledge, and thus redundant information, that Starbucks' owners are white Americans . I contend, however, that this strategic absence of information is symptomatic o f the rhetorical apparatus that maintains the white privi lege of unexaminabi l i ty . Opposi te ly , identifying the Tiger Company as a H o n g K o n g f irm is a clear attempt to foreground non-white ethnicity and race as objects o f looking. 'Facts', then, are not s imply neutral carriers of information, but can be interrogated to reveal the ideological agendas which they serve. A s a white person, E l i z a b e t h A i r d reproduces the systemic p r i v i l e g e o f white unexaminability because she cannot identify her own position o f advantage and power. A s Richard D y e r reminds us, M o s t of this [reproduction of looking relations] is not done deliberately or maliciously; there are enormous variations of power amongst white people, to do with class, gender, and other factors; goodwi l l is not unheard of" in white people's engagement with others. W h i t e power none the less reproduces itself regardless o f intention, power differences and goodwi l l , and overwhelmingly because it is not seen as whiteness, but as normal . W h i t e people need to learn to see themselves as white, to see their particularity. In other words, whiteness needs to be made strange. 2 REPRESENTING BUILDERS It may be argued that coherent racialized narratives are easily constructed in meta-discursive texts such as this thesis when enunciative (media) texts, particularly those pertaining to landscape debates, are selectively and strategically stitched together. It is 1 Elizabeth Aird, "Another neighbourhood bites the dust," Vancouver Sun 2 March, 1996 : D6. Italics mine. 2 Dyer (1997) 9. therefore instructive to look at a group of related articles that do not deal with controversy per se—bui lder p r o f i l e s 1 — i n order to uncover more consistent patterns o f racial ized representation. In Vancouver's local newspapers, individuals involved in shaping the city's built environment are often profiled for business, human interest, or promotional purposes. A close reading o f these profiles reveals that, t ime and again, Eurocentr ic assumptions about race haunt the production o f texts. A s I have argued, the effective power of whiteness resides in the invisible and the unseen. A l t h o u g h in our visual culture whites need to be seen to be white, registering corporeal whiteness is not a 'racializing act' since whiteness is embodied within normative, race-neutral categories. But whites do not escape critique in Vancouver's landscape debates s imply through the passive pr iv i lege of unexaminabi l i ty . Whiteness is also actively ennobled through the neutral categories it colonizes. A s I have argued, it has generally been entwined with notions o f environmental ism and landscape romantic ism. However , in the case of builder prof i les , 2 whiteness often takes on two other embodiments : (1) family, and (2) enterprise. B o t h embodiments are not incidental , but reflect the reproduction o f historically important discourses o f whiteness. These profi les, written in 'folksy' and avuncular tones, take on a home-spun quality that sanitizes and aestheticizes the changes to the built environment initiated by white builders. T h e themes are strikingly consistent, regardless o f the scale of landscape development. F o r example, a profi le on C o l i n B o s a (son of developer Robert B o s a , who was himself profi led in 1992 3 ) , in charge o f over $65 mi l l i on worth o f real estate projects in V a n c o u v e r , is titled, "The son also r ises ." 4 C o l i n , "third eldest in a fami ly of f ive children,. . . still liv[es] at home with m o m and dad ." 5 T h e author writes, "After a busy day 1 My usage of the term 'builder' refers here to contractors, developers, and/or architects. 2 A l l the profiles I discuss are accompanied by photographs of the developers. 3 Steve Whysall, "Builder Nat Bosa sees a city on the brink of its destiny," Vancouver Sun 12 September, 1992 : C I . 4 Steve Whysall, "The son also rises," Vancouver Sun 20 July, 1996 : E l . 5 Whysall E l . at work, C o l i n says he often finds h imse l f going h o m e where, over dinner, his dad invariably ends up asking h i m how the highrise projects are go ing . . . 'My dad and I get along just great.'" 1 A t the opposite end o f the spectrum, a small-scale development is described in this headline : "Family business : Illahee project is an affair o f the heart for these children of Norgate ." 2 (figure 7) T h e article describes the Illahee development b y j h e C r a g g family (three brothers and a sister) in the ne ighbourhood o f Norgate in Nor th Vancouver . T h e author writes that the Craggs' "family history has been entwined with Norgate's since soon after the community o f almost 500 houses was established." 3 E v e n though the development required a change in the local zoning f rom single-family to multi-family,4 the Craggs suggested that their project was "family- inspired," 5 and their goal was "to build a project that preserved their childhood memories o f the area's flourishing gardens and community spirit." 6 It is not surprising that famil ia l images take a central place in representations o f whiteness since white discourse (and racial discourse, in general) has often emphasized the importance of b io log i ca l reproduct ion. Frequent ly , the emphasis on reproduct ion is expressed as an anxiety that the white race w i l l 'fade away'. E v e n as early as 1751, Benjamin Frankl in was already worrying in his Observations Concerning the Increase of Mankind (1751) that "the number of purely White People in the W o r l d is proportionately very smal l ." 7 T h e theme of outnumbering has been a mainstay of white racial politics, and in the context o f V a n c o u v e r , the language of 'waves' and 'flooding' to describe recent Chinese immigrat ion is a play on such anxiety over numbers. In an infamous article by 1 Whysall E l . 2 Nick Rebalski, "Family Business," Vancouver Sun 22 June, 1990 : H I . 3 Rebalski H I . 4 The terms 'single-family' and 'multi-family' refer to zoning categories under Vancouver's Zoning and Development By-law. The different zoning districts regulate the kinds of activities and redevelopment that may take place within. 'Single-family' zones mandate a lower population density than 'multi-family' areas. 5 Rebalski, "Family" H I . 6 Rebalski, "Family" H I . 7 from Dyer (1997) 27. 55A PEAK OF STYLE: living room features vaulted ceiling SIMPLY SPACIOUS: kitchen has room tor breakfast nook Figure 7 - An affair of the heart Source : Vancouver Sun 22 June, 1990 : HI . Elizabeth A i r d in the Vancouver Sun titled, "People are leaving town to f ind an E n g l i s h -speaking street for their k ids ," 1 the author suggests that 'white flight' f rom Vancouver has been caused by large numbers of non-Engl i sh speaking A s i a n families m o v i n g into west-side neighbourhoods. A s one person suggested, You're describing the traditional d i l emma of the minority. People [whites] are experiencing a cultural change in the city and that makes them feel uncomfortable. It's like a reverse colonization. Suddenly we are someone else's natives.2 A i r d concures : Exactly. Whites are now the minority in a lot of Vancouver neighbourhoods and some of them just don't l ike i t . 3 W h i t e discomfort with being outnumbered has also been described in fictional texts. In There Goes the Neighbourhood, a novel for young adults dealing with urban change in Vancouver , a young girl named C a r l a and her family m o v e away f r o m V a n c o u v e r to Saltspring Island. T h e girl's best friend is upset and asks why. C a r l a replies, " W h y do y o u think? M y parents aren't exactly thri l led about the neighbourhood anymore. A r e yours?" "I don't know." "Wel l , mine aren't. T h e y say it's lost all its character because of the monster houses and that it's getting overrun with Chinese."4 W h i l e the expressed fears are explicit ly about the number of A s i a n immigrants moving into traditionally white enclaves, notions of breeding are never far removed. G i v e n the context of 'anxiety over numbers', then, famil ial themes in profiles o f white builders can be read as a reassurance o f white (social, i f not biological) fecundity. Since the racial and cultural identity o f white builders is never mentioned in the profiles, the builders remain unmarked and are assumed to be 'of this place'. F a m i l i a l themes trace a path of succession into the past, thereby establishing notions of origin and rootedness, which in Elizabeth Aird, "People are leaving town to find an English-speaking street for their kids," Vancouver Sunll August, 1995 : B l . Aird, "People are leaving" B l . Italics mine. Aird, "People are leaving" B1. Valerie Lupini, There goes the neighborhood (Red Deer : Red Deer College Press, 1995) 11. Italics mine. turn provide 'moral ground' to counter threats o f displacement. M o r e o v e r , this path is projected into the future through the promise that chi ldren br ing , who represent the reproduction of the hallowed bodies, values, and places o f the past. T h e implicit themes o f nat iv i sm and 'family-as-resistance', then, dignify the b u i l d i n g practices o f whites as legitimate acts within the larger, historically continuous processes of (white) community and nation-building. Opposi te ly , fami l ia l themes, i f used at all to describe A s i a n builders, take on a decidedly different tone. References to family often explicitly trace family lineage outside of Canada, thereby emphasizing cultural transplantation. A profile on Terry H u i and Vic tor L i , the two men in charge of the Pacific Place development on the former E x p o lands, relates that, "[L]ike L i , the son of L i K a - s h i n g , H u i is heir to a H o n g K o n g fortune." 1 Another profi le on architect Stanley K w o k , a 28-year resident o f C a n a d a , describes h i m as a "Guangzhou-born son o f a cotton packer." 2 T h e stigma of the "endlessly extended A s i a n f a m i l y " 3 has also been subtly mobi l i zed against Chinese immigrants . 'Single-family' zoning, often zealously guarded by residents resistant to neighbourhood change, has been wielded to euphemistically suggest the 'incompatibility' o f elite Vancouver neighbourhoods with 'mult i - family' A s i a n households. Contemporary rhetoric resonates with historic stereotypes o f the Chinese "propensity to sleep twelve to a r o o m , " 4 used earlier in this century to establish popular perceptions of Chinese amorality. T h i s threatening stereotype of family is p layed on in an advertisement for a new development. T h e ad features a Chinese family and the headline reads, "The Chongs looked for V a l u e and L o c a t i o n — a n d found it!" (figure 8) A l m o s t unbelievably, the subtitle reads, "Surprise! It's single family 1 Mulgrew, "Brainy" 48. Victor L i is a Canadian citizen. I am uncertain about Hui's citizenship. 2 Rebecca Wigod, "The master builder," Vancouver Sun 7 September, 1996 : B1. 3 Dyer (1997) 27. 4 Anderson 104. 57A 'or Value and Location-and found it! Surprise! It's singlefamilysizet A TREETOPS cluster homf-ma every aquntniail : ooUKCrK)ngsbc^buyingJist,>iKlinore! Truly spacious rooroSj award-winning design, superb fittingva private spa and a well-treed site — all close -to Coquitlam Centre for Alan's business needs and Uly's shopping; minutes from SFU /or Lisa's classes. For superior value you don'niave 10 look any further than TREETQPS!-~~~Coiltiuy 10 A ft all > Another carefully planned community by UNITED PROPERTIES LTD. TheHomecrpfters 201-1195 West Broadway; Vancouver. B.C. V6H 3X5 Tel: (604) 736-3864 Open daily, 12-6 p.m., except Friday Figure 8 - Surprise! It's single family size! Source : Vancouver Sun 1 March, 1992 : H4. s ize!" 1 D i f f e r i n g narratives o f fami ly , then, v i ewed as allegories o f foreignness and nativity, are expressions of racially coded thought. T h o u g h the famil ia l embodiment of whiteness may stand on its own, its narrative power is buttressed by another embodiment—enterprise. Not ions of whiteness are often carried within the ambiguous notion of a 'spirit', one which is able to manage, control, and alter the material world. A s Harriet Beecher Stowe expresses very clearly and embarassedly in Uncle Tom's Cabin, it is the nature of white men to be 'enterprising'. 2 W h i l e enterprise may be thought o f as a sp ir i t—of energy, w i l l , ambit ion , and'v i s ion , it has tangible effects—wealth creation, labour organization, landscape change, and nation b u i l d i n g . 3 Historical ly , the most important vehicles for the exercise and display of white d y n a m i s m and confidence have been imperial i sm and co lonia l i sm. These projects have, o f course, established systems of representation which continue to undergird and influence habits o f perception. A detailed examination of these global apparatuses are beyond the scope of this thesis. Nevertheless, l ingering narratives need to be scrutinized. W h e n representations of urban change in V a n c o u v e r are closely examined, we f ind that the themes of white enterprise—the excitement of advance, the conquest and mastery of space—continue to resonate, even in these'post-colonial'times. T h e family-oriented profi le on C o l i n B o s a refered to above is also a tribute to enterprise. It describes B o s a as "a young, upwardly mobile condo buyer" with "a very b ig j o b . " 4 H e aims to bui ld condos for "his demographic"—"hipsters," "young professionals," and those w h o enjoy "an adrenaline-packed, go, go, go lifestyle"; B o s a confidently predicts his condos wi l l become "a mecca for movers and shakers." 5 T h e homage to enterprise cou ld not be more transparent. Another profile on developer Ian Gi l lespie also 1 Vancouver Sun 1 March, 1992 : H4. It is difficult to imagine how such a transparently prejudiced re-iteration of a cultural stereotype could possibly succeed as a marketing strategy. In my opinion, the ad can only be described as bizarre. 2 from Dyer (1997) 31. 3 Dyer (1997) 31. 4 Whysall, "Son" E l . 5 Whysall, "Son" E l entwines both embodiments of whiteness. T h e succesful condo developer credits his family and "even his former track coach. . . for shaping his approach to life and success." 1 T h e ) author writes, "[Gillespie's] mother, N o r m a , says her second youngest o f four sons has always been an optimist ." 2 A l though couched within a storyline of family , the article is ultimately a tale o f enterprise. Under the headline, "Brash newcomer redefining skylines," 3 the author writes that [djeveloper Ian Gi l lespie exudes confidence. H i s resume—more than $850 mi l l ion worth of projects undertaken since 1993—suggests that he can walk the walk. . . "Losers are motivated by methods, winners are motivated by results," Gi l lespie said in an interview. "I don't remember where I heard it, but I wrote it down. It encapsulted what we're all about." 4 The accompanying photograph shows a smil ing Gil lespie with his arms folded in a gesture of confidence and satisfaction (figure 9. C o m p a r e with figure 10). B e h i n d h i m towers a skyline of new condominiums. A n accompanying graphic lists 14 o f Gillespie's projects in descending scale, starting with the largest at $440 mi l l i on . T h e essential storyline, then, tells o f a 'native son', nurtured lov ing ly by fami ly and friends alike into a powerful sculptor of the built environment. T h e tone is celebratory and disarming, d ignify ing the mission to transform the landscape. Another headline detailing a development by a husband and wife team is a similar effusion of graciousness : "The personal touch : Dedicat ion to every detail pays off for first-time developers now that C i m a r r o n shines in Whi te R o c k . " 5 T h e captions above and below the accompanying photograph (figure 11) o f the couple read : "The Blochs involved themselves with every aspect o f the project," and "The Blochs : first feat as developers." 6 A g a i n , the portrait is one o f industriousness and noble urban transformation. B u i l d i n g becomes a heroic act—a feat—bora f r o m the uncanny spirit o f enterprise. 1 Wyng Chow, "Brash newcomer redefining skylines," Vancouver Sun 30 May, 1998. E l . 2 Chow E l . 3 Chow E l . 4 Chow E l . 5 Nick Rebalski, "The personal touch," Vancouver Sun 3 August, 1990 : H I . 6 Rebalski H I . Italics mine. 59A STEVE ROSCH/Vancou I A N G I L L E S P I E : "Losers are niotivlted by methods, winners are motivated by results." Figure 9 - Losers and winners: white enterprise Source : Vancouver Sun 30 May, 1998 : E l . Figure 10 - All the reasons in the world to smile : Aestheticizing whiteness Source: Wood 51. 5 9 B THE BLOCHS: first leaf a* developers HI FRENCH doors lead from sun room to wide balcony The personal first-ttirTrerdevelrjp'ers . nowlhatCimarron' shines in White Frock' mm-. * \i !• 1 .hri ill is £S2i i-J I T i i i k-•x<M [ ! j 1 - i . -an i i" S i ; , • '; U l , 1 ,.;,i • s. THE CIMARRON features I (clockwise from left): glass blocks |~(haf add CI4SS to ttvtng room entrance, two-level suite above front entry, and oak kitchen with ample dining space and bayed window Figure 11 - The Blocks : first feat as developers Source: Vancouver Sun 3 August, 1990: H I . T h e metaphor of birth is not insignificant. L i k e actual biological reproduction, the reproduct ion of built forms is a marker o f social fecundity. T h u s , the "ambitious" development of (predominantly white-inhabited) Wes twood Plateau, a 600-hectare low-density, single-family housing scheme in the suburb of Coquit lam, is described in a profile as "[fjhe birth of a new community. . . [which] is really all about people and homes." 1 T h e author muses, "What sticks out in the m i n d most are the numbers. M i l l i o n s o f this, thousands of that, hundreds and hundreds o f this and that." 2 H e is clearly impressed by "the enormous scale of things, the vastness of the over-all development." 3 W h i l e the author does describe the expanionist development as "controversial," the controversy centers on the fact that the entire parcel o f land was sold to one developer by the C r o w n in 1989. Issues concerning housing density and the environmental impact o f clear-cutting are not raised by the author. M o r e o v e r , the scope o f the controversy is strictly local . W h i t e -dominated suburbia, taken as a morphology of built forms, has s imply not entered popular discourse as a racialized object o f derision or contempt—"there are still many people who have not heard o f about W e s t w o o d Plateau." 4 Opposi te ly , the popular currency of the C h i n e s e 'monster' house a l lows W e s t w o o d ' s market ing manager to defend his development succinctly : "We don't want any monster houses at Westwood." 5 THE UNBEARABLE WHITENESS of BEING Although I am arguing that the projects o f white builders are often aestheticized through strategic representational tropes, this is not to suggest that these narratives are complete ly authoritative. In other words , I a m not suggesting, because ideo log ica l embodiments o f whiteness circulate within the discursive f ield, that white builders are never the targets o f public antipathy towards urban change. T h e relationship between texts 1 Steve Whysall, "Changing the shape of Coquitlam," Vancouver Sun 18 January, 1992 : H I . 2 Whysall, "Changing" H I , 3 Whysall, "Changing" H I . 4 Whysall, "Changing" H I . 5 Tony Zappone quoted in Whysall, "Changing," H I . and readers is s imply not that direct. O n e white builder, in fact, suggested that the publ ic sees developers in general as "greedy plunderers o f the land." 1 Nevertheless, within the local economy o f meaning structured by texts, white builders cannot be crit iqued on the basis o f their whiteness. This is so, not only because hegemonies of vision make it difficult to 'see whiteness,' but because whiteness is immersed within a narrative reservoir o f family , community , and nation. It is therefore effortless for white builders w h o wish to answer their critics to simply tap into existing streams of romanticized rhetoric. M i c h a e l A u d a i n (president o f Po lygon group, arguably the largest developer in Vancouver) , recognizing the pejorative connotations of the word 'developer', prefers to be called a 'home-builder'. 2 H e describes Garry Santini (ParkLane Homes) and A n d r e M o l n a r ( M o l n a r G r o u p ) , other large V a n c o u v e r developers, as "gentlemen" (a c lever self-reference), and says, "They care about what they are building, care about their reputations. T h e y are people who in a quiet way do quite a bit for the community ." 3 In knottier article explicitly on the topic o f public perception of developers, the caption beneath a photograph (figure 12) o f developer W a l l y M i l l e r reads, "[T]he Tsawwassen home builder says he contributes to society by creating communi t i e s ." 4 C o u c h e d in terms of c o m m u n i t y -building, these responses mask the developers' cynical or mercenary motives for bui lding, such as profit. These are the very same motives that are so often assumed to underlie non-white development. As ian- lead projects are popularly seen as symptomatic o f "the power that the H o n g K o n g money wields" or "unbridled greed." 5 One Vancouveri te , refering to what he perceived as As ian- inspired urban change, argued, "We in this generation must make a stand in support of higher values, or we wi l l leave to the future a city raped by the interests o f prof i t ." 6 W h i l e controversial megaprojects such as W e s t w o o d Plateau are 1 Nick Rebalski, "Housing under siege by urban growth issues," Vancouver Sun, 9 February, 1990 : F l . 2 Anonymous, "Column one," Vancouver Sun, 5 September, 1992 : C I . 3 Anonymous C I . 4 Rebalski, "Housing" F l . Italics mine. 5 Ley, "Between Europe and Asia" 197. 6 Ley, "Between Europe and Asia" 197. 61A Figure 12 - Creating communities (note the large boxy houses in the background) Source: Vancouver Sun 9 February, 1990: F l . nevertheless described as "the birth of a community ," non-white developments such as C o n c o r d e Pacif ic Place by Ch inese developer L i K a - S h i n g are not inherently about community. Instead, they are inherently dubious and subject to question. O n e writer queries, But what do we know of the character of this new development? [Concorde Pacif ic Place] Will it feel like a community? W i l l its parks be green and safe? W i l l its sidewalks be shared in the daytime by baby-strollers and senior citizens, by shoppers and bon vivants after dark?i White bui lding practice, then, is seen to inscribe both a physical and a moral order into the landscape, codif ied within the language of values and community . T h e v is ion is one of rec iprocal responsibil i t ies and shared benefits. T h u s , white deve lopment is represented as an "affair of the heart" 2 which secures profit but is not pursued as profit. O n the other hand, the motives o f non-white builders are assumed to be inherently suspect. Non-white building practice, i f not described antithetically as a direct assault on community values, is nevertheless somehow outside the boundaries o f an ideal ized commonweal th . These partisan narratives are given disturbingly open forum in the white-dominated media. T h e rhetoric o f community used by white developers justifying their practices is freely parroted and rarely critically challenged in the mainstream press. A t the same time, non-white developers are rarely i f ever given voice to respond to critics, let alone invoke the imagery of communi ty . 3 Despite these 'post-colonial' times, I do not think it is irresponsible to suggest that contemporary media texts on landscape use can be seen as an eerie mirror o f co lonia l literature, both of which are 1 Elizabeth Aird, "Huge real-estate project going almost unnoticed in heart of city," Vancouver Sun 26 October, 1995. Italics mine. 2 Rebalski, "Family" H I . 3 One architect told me about a dinner which he attended where awards for 'heritage' design in Vancouver were being presented to homerbuilders. The winners were predomiantly Asian, and the architect noticed in the following days that the story was largely ignored by the mainstream press. Personal correspondence with Sandy Hirschen. an explorat ion and representation o f a w o r l d at the boundaries o f 'civilization'... That wor ld is therefore perceived as uncontrollable, chaotic, unattainable, and ultimately evi l . Mot ivated by this desire to conquer and dominate, the imperialist configures the colonial realm as a confrontation based on the differences o f race, language, social customs, cultural values, and modes of production. 1 . . , Racial ized imagery, albeit with a considerable degree of nuance and elaboration, continues to be wie lded today in historical ly recognizable ways. A s E d w a r d S a i d insightful ly remarks, revealing this k ind o f historical continuity is bound to stir up controversy since we, as a culture, have invested heavi ly in the idea that learning and scholarship m o v e forward and get better as time passes . 2 B u t as I have tried to demonstrate, representation today is no more enlightened, and signs and texts no less ideological , than they have been in the past. T h e persistence of certain habits o f seeing is certainly not the product o f some "nefarious 'Western' imperialist plot to ho ld down the "Oriental' w o r l d . " 3 It is father the product of a distribution o f geopolit ical awareness into aesthetic, scholarly, economic , sociological, historical, and philologic texts;... it is, rather than expresses, a certain will or intention to understand, in some cases to control, manipulate, or even incorporate, what is a manifestly different (or alternative and novel) wor ld ; it is, above a l l , a discourse that is by no means in direct , corresponding relationship.with pol it ical power in the raw, but rather is produced and exists in an uneven exchange with various kinds of power . 4 T h e privi leged place of whiteness in discourse is one such uneven exchange that produces disc ipl inary forms, o f knowledge . T h e term 'disciplinary' refers here to the modernist practice o f establishing a certain 'objective' distance between the knower and the known. In the context o f race, the narrative trope of whiteness "postures as i f it were the unmarked frame of the visible field, laying c la im to the authority of 'direct perception.'" 5 In 1 Abdul R. JanMohamed, "The economy of Manichean allegory," The post-colonial studies reader, eds. B i l l Ashcroft, Gareth Griffiths, and Helen Tiffin (London : Routledge, 1995) 18. 2 Edward Said, "from Orientalism," A critical and cultural theory reader, eds. Antony Easthope and Kate McGowan (Toronto : University of Toronto Press, 1993) 59. 3 Edward Said, "Orientalism,"77jepost-colonial studies reader, eds. B i l l Ashcroft, Gareth Griffiths, and. Helen Tiffin (London : Routledge, 1995) 90. 4 Said, "Orientalism" 90.' 5 Judith Butler quoted in Mike Hil l , "Can Whiteness speak?" White trash: race and class in America, eds. Matt Wray and Annalee Newitz (New York : Routledge, 1997) 159. other words, white privi lege is the unseen omniscient force wh ich does the 'framing' without accountably taking its turn at being 'framed'. T h e fact that whiteness can typify seemingly opposite tendencies—preservationism on the one hand and enterprise on the other—is in no way a contradiction. Whiteness is by definition a slippery creature. A s I have argued, whiteness is less a set o f challengeable stereotypes than a set o f shifting narrative positions and rhetorical tropes. T h e fact that whiteness can be portrayed magnanimously yet go almost unnoticed as a category is also not a contradiction. T h i s is because whiteness privileges white poeple to "both lay c la im to the spirit that aspires to the heights o f humanity and yet supposedly speak and act disinterestedly as humanity's most average and unremarkable representatives." 1 W h a t the debate on urban change in V a n c o u v e r c learly demonstrates is the continued reproduction of racial ized looking relations. Emphas is should shift away from the trite question, "Why were non-whites stigmatized for negative landscape change?" to the more profound question, " C o u l d our current systems of knowledge production have concluded otherwise?" A n y move towards de-disciplinary knowledge—the realization that all knowledge is mediated, relative, and an effect of power—is hindered because the white privilege of unexaminability places the whole burden on those excluded from this privilege to demonstrate their admissibility, as individuals, into the world o f the unexamined. G i v e n the negative political climate for social critique which I described in chapter two, it is hardly surprising that attempts to turn the lens of examination around, to look at whites and 'make whiteness strange', have been keenly resisted. Non-whites who refuse to 'be framed' are charged with overzealous polit ical correctness or a desire to hide other agendas (which is true in some cases, but not all). What seems to be politically acceptable to a majority of Canadians (whites and non-whites), then, is the political status quo : while whites remain the subjects of looking, non-whites remain its objects. This is neither a result o f hatred nor conspiracy. T h e ideological signification of cultural difference is an inevitable product o f 1 Dyer (1997) 223. the naturalized, historically continuous, and taken for granted ways of looking that form the minutiae o f everyday life in postmodern Vancouver. RESPONSE from the CENTER RESPONSE from the MARGIN M e d i a , academic, and literary treatments of urban change in Vancouver have created an architectural semiotic o f Chineseness, most clearly expressed in the notion o f the 'monster' house. B e y o n d this tangible embodiment, Chineseness has also come to stand for a set o f 'dubious intentions' in regards to landscape change. These popular ly understood constructions of Chineseness, however, have not been based on a real and substantive correlation between race, motives, and morphologies o f built form over a wide geographical stage, but have instead been largely based on ideological narratives o f racial difference disseminated through media pedagogy. T h e 'monster' house, therefore, is less a : case of authentic material culture than,an exemplar of a rhetorical strategy mobi l i zed by conservative interests against any change or 'postmodern messiness' in particular areas of Vancouver . Nevertheless, the reification of Chineseness in the 'monster' house has evoked a strong response f r o m dominant society (the center) : a heightened enthusiasm for 'heritage' styles o f architecture. W h i l e preferences for heritage-style architecture are nothing new, I w i l l argue that the current vogue o f neo-traditionalism cannot be read innocently as s imply a matter of 'personal taste'. Opposi te ly , Vancouver's urban change debate has not elicited a sophisticated or nuanced response from the margins—that is, f rom Chinese or other non-white groups—cha l l eng ing the current hegemonies o f rac ia l representation. T h i s chapter wi l l examine the response to racial narratives from the center and attempt to address the inadequate response from the margins. RESPONSE from the CENTER : 'HERITAGE' ARCHITECTURE A s I have argued, little attention has been paid to the ways in which contemporary landscape debates in Vancouver have aligned themselves with existing power relations. T h e current trend towards new 'heritage' architecture is yet another facet of the debate that has not been interrogated as a possible expression of local racial hegemonies. A general return to neotraditional architecture is a phenomenon evidenced in many cities in North A m e r i c a over the last few decades. It is, o f course, part o f the larger cultural revolution against the dictates of high modernism in all its forms, including the built environment. Postmodern architecture, p laying on the themes of contextuality, inclusivity, and diversity, has sought to correct the sense o f placenessness engendered by modern urbanism's appeals to functionalism and abstract universalism. Postmodern architecture has been argued to be an architecture o f democratization, and therefore an architecture of resistance. 1 W h i l e this argument may certainly be legitimate in particular instances, neotraditional residential design in V a n c o u v e r contains another layer o f meaning w h i c h does not express a 'postmodernism o f resistance', but a 'postmodernism of reaction' . 2 T h e discursive production of the 'monster' house as 'foreign', 'ostentatious', and 'unenvironmental' has relied on a reading of the o ld Tudor-s ty led homes o f Shaughnessy and Kerrisdale as 'native', 'tasteful', and 'environmental'. T h e romantic landscape reading has emerged as dominant, and it is this discourse of conservationism and 'Canadian-ness' that has significantly impacted landscape tastes. Landscape romanticism has not only been privi leged in general media coverage of urban change, it has also been expl ic i t ly and didactically supported in one of Vancouver's few popular sources of publ ic architectural education : R o b i n Ward's architecture co lumn in the Vancouver Sun. O v e r the last decade, W a r d has editorial ized zealously in favour o f heritage architecture (figures 13 to 18), 1 David Ley and Caroline Mills , "Can there be a postmodernism of resistance in the urban landscape?" The restless urban landscape, ed. Paul Knox (Prentice-Hall, 1993) 271. 2 Foster from K. Falconer Al-Hindi and C. Staddon, "The hidden histories and geographies of neotraditional town planning : the case of Seaside, Florida" Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 15 (1997) 350. Figure 13 - Ward's heritage : 1550 Laurier Source : Vancouver Sun 27 June, 1992 : D14. Figure 14 - Ward's heritage: Grandview Source : Vancouver Sun 1 August, 1992 : D14. Figure 15 - Ward's heritage : Brock House Source: Vancouver Sun 10 October, 1992: D14. Figure 16 - Ward's heritage : 1200 West 57th Source : Vancouver Sun 18 November, 1995 : D7. 67C Figure 17 - Ward's heritage : Oakhurst Source : Vancouver Sun 13 July, 1996 : D7. Figure 18 - Ward's heritage: 1050 Nicola Source : Vancouver Sun 3 August, 1996 : D7. largely at the expense of any critical examination of contemporary built form (one gets the sense when reading Ward's columns that heritage is architecture). H e has often dedicated entire columns to the defense of particular structures under threat o f demolit ion, and has been particularly crit ical o f what he sees as V a n c o u v e r C i t y Counci l ' s indifference to preservation. F o r a public that can only be described as less than architecturally savvy, an unabashedly pro-heritage voice such as Ward's has proven to be highly influential . In Ward's defense, there are legitimate merits to preserving historically significant structures. However , despite superficial similarities, preserving existing structures from the past and ressurrecting 'past-ness' through new structures in the present are not one and the same. Yet the latter movement has appropriated the very same romanticized landscape reading that heritage preservationists champion. T h e resulting confusion has obscured that fact that heritage preservation and neotraditionalism often serve distinctly different sets of interests. T h e new 'heritage' movement is not s imply a curious anachronism, nor is it merely a product of crude sentimentality. T h e desire for tradition may be read as a reflection of a deeper dissatisfaction with the surroundings of contemporary life. G i v e n the popular : anxiety that V a n c o u v e r is becoming "Hongcouver," then, any impassioned defense o f a return to 'heritage' cannot be easily separated f rom a critique of Chineseness. T h o u g h the romanticized landscape readings of heritage activists such as W a r d are not explicitly racial, his arguments have gained leverage and a sense of immediacy by work ing within the racialized field of discourse. F o r example, W a r d writes : M a n y o f Vancouver ' s o l d homes, pleasantly set in large gardens, are underbuilt by the ruthless standards o f today's real estate market. T h i s is why a garden-eating builder's special seems vulgar and out o f place when it appears next door.j V a n c o u v e r planners propose new design guildlines that wi l l require new homes to be more sensitive to traditional neighbourhoods. If adopted by city counci l , these guidelines wi l l tame the so-called "monster homes" that have rampaged across town in recent years.2 1 Robin Ward, Untitled, Vancouver Sun, 22 July 1995 : D12. 2 Robin Ward, "Architecture," Vancouver Sun, 18 November 1995 : D7. Some of the farms now boast incongruous, sprawling monster homes next to the tumbledown, traditional barns, strawberry fields and vegetable patches. 1 In each o f the statements above, Ward's appeals for heritage are clearly structured as reactions to what he perceives as negative urbanism. Hi s fondness for traditional built form is not merely an expression of idiosyncratic cultural or stylistic preferences, but an overt retort to change. I am not arguing that W a r d consciously played off racial themes, rather that the popularity of his views, evidenced by the current acute awareness of tradition in V a n c o u v e r , owes something to society's immers ion within raced-based discourses o f change. Thus , the meanings of heritage preservation must be examined within the context of a publ ic consciousness saturated with mythologies o f difference, and this is particularly critical when such meanings are hi-jacked to serve reactionary urban and cultural agendas. T h e appeal o f the neo-heritage movement does not l ie in the desire to faithfully reproduce the authentic appearance of a historical period. Instead, its appeal lies in the desire to evoke an atmosphere of traditional hominess, sol id domesticity, and cultural homogeneity associated with the past (figure 19). 2 In other words, neotraditionalism does not commodi ty physical landscapes so m u c h it commodif ies their attendant ways of life. W i t h the 'monster' house effectively branded as a 'price paid' for the pr iv i l eg ing of difference, dominant culture has attempted to restage the social worlds of the past through neotraditional architecture. A s one writer has insightfully remarked, "[A] feeling of social insecurity seems to breed a love of s imulat ion." 3 Stuart H a l l has s imilarly cautioned that when minority cultures begin to make their presence strongly felt, the dominant culture often "goes into an even deeper trough o f defensive exc lus iv i sm. . . [0 ]ne can see a regression to a very defensive and highly dangerous form of national identity ." 4 T h i s 1 Robin Ward, Untitled, Vancouver Sun, 8 August 1992 : D14. 2 Witold Rybczybski, Home : A short history of an idea (New York : Penguin, 1986) 9. 3 M . C . Boyer, "Cities for sale : merchandising history at south street seaport" Variations of a theme park : The new American city and the end of public space, ed. M . Sorkin (New York : Noonday Press, 1992) 187. 4 Stuart Hall, "The local and the global: globalization and ethnicity" Culture, globalization, and the world-system, ed. Anthony D. King (Binghamton : State University of New York, 1991) 25. A heritage house from a golden era, is now yours to COM nome. Edwardian in style, contemporary in comfort and convenient in every way, the Bollert Mansion has been restored to its original splendour. Offering just twenty nine-elegant one bedroom, one bedroom & den and two bedroom residences starting from a surprisingly affordable $139,900. Art Now! Something this special can'the repeated! B O L L E R T P L A G E already 50% s FOR INFORMATION CALL OUR PRESENTATION CENTRE AT D*v«lop«d by 736-4500 2590 Aider Street. Vancouver (between 10th and Broadway.) OPEN DAILY N O O N - 5 P.M. (except Fridays) * Mortamg by H l ± k i ± H J Figure 19 - Re-staging the past Source : Vancouver Sun 24 August, 1996 : C2. defensive response has now layered itself atop any purely benign, personal preferences for traditional styles, and complicates readings of particular landscapes. I contend that u n d er the guise o f c r e a t i n g an e m a n c i p a t o r y u r b a n l a n d s c a p e , neotradi t ional i sm funct ions as an express ion of new and c o m p l e x articulations between currently hegemonic class fractions and a rather chiliastic habitus o f urban social practices. Postmodern arguments about affirmation of social diversity, the revaluation of a "politics of difference," and reemphasis on c o m m u n i t y - b a s e d local p lanning are m o b i l i s e d in neotraditional development to bolster the opposite : existing structures o f class, gender, and racial domination. 1 In other words, neotraditionalism can be read as an attempt by dominant society to reassert its presence through a reactionary identity politics o f seclusion and security. W i t h i n new 'heritage' communities, the messy realities o f contemporary urban life give way to a sense of social and cultural neatness. Neotraditionalism designates anything outside the realm of its syntactic and semantic codes as O t h e r . 2 Thus , this culturally conservative mil ieu returns to dominant society a sense of control over the landscape that was felt to be temporarily lost to 'Other influences'. Individuals who prefer heritage styles are not necessarily motivated by any overt racism. Nevertheless , the appeal o f 'heritage' architecture is cr i t ical ly dependent on the mobil izat ion and manipulat ion o f historical and contemporary social polarities. Neotradit ional architecture m a y be thought of as a material embodiment of whiteness, and like actual white bodies , it is also characterized by an abil ity to elude examination. T h e language of home-bui lding, community , and nostalgia used to promote new 'heritage' subtly references popular accounts o f difference without directly confronting issues of race and nationality. A n advertisement for bank mortgages demonstrates this (figure 2 0 ) . T h e slogan "Can we get y o u into a home instead of a debate?" written over a quaint, heritage-style cottage is a direct reference to local landscape confl ict . M o r e importantly, however, the ad frames heritage architecture as an unmarked and normative Falconer Al-Hindi and Staddon 350. Falconer Al-Hindi and Staddon 356. 70A C A N W E G E T YOU INTO A H O M E INSTEAD we think we can. Citizens Bank ^2—. of'Canada III. No Haggle Mortgages. We think they make sense. After all, why should your mortgage rate depend on your negotiating skills? That's why with us there's no las! talking necessary. Our rates are guaranteed to be better than those posted* at the big 5 banks. To join now call 1- 888-74S-7848. Figure 20 - Heritage and unexaminability Source: Vancouver Sun 3 December, 1997 : A4. category of built f orm. T h o u g h invisible , this category is nevertheless conflated with notions of nationalism, preservationism, and good citizenship. It is at once high-minded yet completely ordinary, c la iming to speak for and embody the commonalit ies of nation. It therefore cannot be the object o f looking relat ions—a role reserved for non-whiteness, which is by definit ion peculiar, unordinary, controversial , and debatable. T h e bank's mobi l izat ion of landscape readings to fuel consumer desire capitalizes on the fervor o f reactionary pol i t ics , and demonstrates a sophisticated cognizance of loca l identity discourse. It also demonstrates that the production of national identity is not merely a cultural endeavor, but one that involves the exercise of power and often the desire for material g a i n . 1 T h e production of categories and meanings around notions of nativity and nation are never static nor innocent. In fact, neotraditionalism, despite appearances, is deeply entwined with the enterprising agendas of late 20th-century capital accumulation. T h o u g h romantic landscape ideologues have successfully revived the "neo-Kantian notion that the beautiful necessarily engenders the good ," 2 neotraditional architecture in no way enjoys a direct and corresponding relationship with real practices o f conservation and sustainability. In fact, the facadism of new 'heritage' design allows home purchasers to al ign themselves with the narratives o f 'Canadian' identity that have emerged f r o m Vancouver's elite neighbourhoods (figure 21) and elide the anti-environmental or excessive consumption that may actually be happening. A n example of this is the 'Street o f Dreams', an annual promotion of new suburban homes that, "as the name implies, we all presumably lust after." 3 T h e setting for the third promotion (1990) was M o r g a n Creek in Surrey, a suburb of Vancouver . T h e 'Street o f Dreams' was heavily promoted in the mainstream media, and the showcase o f heritage-styled homes drew thousands. B u t beneath the guise of sensitive placemaking, one critic found "mind-numbingly useless cliches" and "many o f Mitchell, "Multiculturalism" 271. Mitchell, "Multiculturalism" 356. Sandra McKenzie, "Street of Dreams homes fail sustainability test" Vancouver Courier 9 October, 1996 : 9. , P ;E R H A P SV T H E U L T I M A T E I X L U X t ' R Y. | 71A J(T ht/th entry and living rth*m ccihngs. W'mdmx rtuitxas* \>hd oak bjimisten Ch'rcstorv Gourmet kitchens, taw nW/{ i*l pantry Huihr,iO"i.s Tilth soaker lubynr jtifweJU.1 rtftiplcttx" at same Master bathroonty ".-Hf-Ktty-yftt+H* Juiwi.— lomplele tilth naturaltfui CiH'kttifi! applian<e>, firepLue. Jrver, putt,) apphtiii,,i and won BCGas Naturally. li.rki.Uy. Citti ofefeht dUlirciU design*, ranpitg from K to ippatnttiiCUt*: Kitchen wt ifivL; curpctirULi, harJuwJ Jhonug. and more. k-anging in price from ihc low S300's up 10 $440.0001 hese homes would In among iheir peers in Shaughnessy, where you would pay in excess ot $1 Million for an equivalent older house, By contrast, homes at The Manors will be built specifically for you, with all the contemporary amenities. It will be --guaranteed on-budgetren— time and to your interior specifications. • Located berween rwo un- ' spoiled ravines and a green-belt area in Coquitlam.The I£you have ever contemplated the ownership of a truly grand home, this may well be the time to achieve jt. You will find the finest selection of luxury homes at the The Manors -a quiet ParkLane neighbourhood with "choice sites for exclusive residences. First impressions: elegant, spacious, generous - in a word, quite grand. Manors'neighbourhood enjoys a variety of intimate and distant views. At up to 3,800 sq. ft., these are large homes.The wealth of space creates an overall atmosphere of generosity and style which is a re-minder ol old Shaughnessy. We are so convinced of the value of these homes that when visitingThe Manors, ask about our 12-month buy-back offer. It entitles you to a written guarantee that, if you bought a home by July 31st,1990.and if you ure not lulls satisfied after 12 months'occupancy, ParkLane will purchase your house at the original price. Some conditions apply. This offer costs you nothing-just a visit toThe Manors. We urge you to take advantage of ii. Furnished model h,Jmes arc open daily, tram I — 6 p.m.; Weekends Mease call 464-8X22. BASNET WWY LOUCHE EQ KWY IZT™ HWY#1 ^ I . . .H JAt"'^  Figure 21 - Mobilizing landscape romanticism Source: Vancouver Sun 29 June, 1990 : H5. the features disdained by the good people of South Shaughnessy in the 17 pages of exterior design controls developed for the R S 6 zoning. T w o storey entrances, multiple materials, stained glass windows - must be a 'Surrey thing'." 1 T h e critic draws on the work of urban-issues specialist Phi l ip Langdon, who wrote on development in A m e r i c a : W h e n e v e r I visit expensive new tract houses, I end up thinking about Cadi l lacs . . . the 4700 pound behemoths o f 1959, the apex of late fifties Detroit baroque. Aesthetically, the vintage C a d d y and today's upper priced product ion house share the same bombast ic yearning for super-deluxe effect^ G i v e n that the homes on the 'Street of Dreams' ranged from 4000 to 7000 square feet and each sold for wel l over $1 mi l l ion , the critic rightfully questions whether this yearning for super-deluxe effect is "affordable socially, environmentally, or financially." 3 These unflattering appraisals are not unl ike those launched against the 'monster' house, yet these racial ly-unspecif ic concerns have done little to broaden the scope o f landscape critique. A g a i n , the uncritical mainstream media, reproducing the privileges o f whiteness, are largely to blame. F o r example, a new suburban development in Port M o o d y by P a r k L a n e V e n t u r e s , 4 artfully named Heritage W o o d s , - w a s advertised as "a unique : series o f forest villages" that "project a strong sense of quality and traditional values" 5 (figure 22): T h e ad quotes the developer's photographers, who enthuse, "[Tjhose small town values we often dream about still exist, right here in Port M o o d y . " 6 Ironical ly , however, a Vancouver Sun photograph of the development several years later shows a denuded, clear-cut tract o f land with large, boxy houses (figure 23). Instead of offering a , critical assessment o f the development, the author of the accompanying review (entitled Bonnie Maples, "Integrity is missing on the "Street of Dreams'" Architectural Institute of British Columbia Newsletter September, 1996 : 1. Langdon from Maples 1. Maples 5. ParkLane Ventures is run by Garry Santini, one of the "gentlemen" referred to by Polygon president Micheal Audain (see chapter 4). Advertisement for Heritage Woods, Vancouver Sun 14 September, 1990 : E5. Advertisement for Heritage Woods E5. ~ii 11* dltccl the pbttUigraphy /or Parktane* Audio Yisucl Show, wc covered a lot af ground and talked to a lot of _ people in and around Port Moody. To our -surprise, wo kept finding -more arid more iniercsun?, vistas, hidden parks, nice* quiet beaches and friendly folk-When the show was ready, we knew that values* „t>, ... High above Po raver th i 1 inHeri ^aOout still exist, right herein Port MMKS^ — -Cerrv Citen. turgpnXZrtihtu.: Have a little adventure this weekend and treat yourself to a discovery tour. Thar out this ad with the directions and point the car towards Port Moody Surprising Fort Moody! a home tn a park-like forest cnvirnnmeivT, yet close to the city, I H i d i n g a .sense of community. . Next, up on the Moun-tain, you'll discover Heritage Woods, the first ot a unique series of-forest vi I luges Head f< »r the Heritage Wot nls IntunTTatlon Centre and ciuoy treat mimhcrone IVkLaiics a ud it i-visual steno .show- an experience ' vnii mustn't miss. Because it gives you an idea what to took t< »r wd rtU< « v x |>1< *ri n g • and traditional values. And-speaking, of tradition-our first buyers in any ParkLane neighbourhood have always enjoyed two advantages: they have the greatest choice of prime sites, and exper-ienced the greatest increase tffthc value of their homes. Two very good rcasons-for selecting a home at Heritage Woods now. Then it's time to explore surprising Port Moody. . Wdl give yo» a mart Be Rocky Point Park. Or enjoy a bite at one of the friendly cafes and restaurants. So much to do. so much to see - and all wtthin e»»y reach of Heritage Woods This weekend, come by to discover it delighted by belcarra Park wlirrWrgre PInrrBeacft and 9 km of ocean shoreline. Have a p i c n i c at Buntzcn Lake. Fish off the pier at WELL TAKE YOUR HOUSE IN TRADE. No need tt> watt 'till your house is \t>td. SB tnUxririrr -CVT7 trade-Auk al*ntt <mr Ciirefree Move Pribram j new way of lifct building designedJor people who love nature and tranquility. Furnished models-are open now, giving an example of the different 3-4 bedroom homes you can choose from. Ranging from $265,000 these homes protect, a strong sense ot quality HERITAGE WOODS Figure 22 - Heritage Woods : 'forest villages' Source : Vancouver Sun 14 September, 1990 : E5. 72B ;'• t Photos by JEFF VINNlCK / Vj«%eouve< Sun SPECTACULAR DEVELOPMENT: work takes place on Heritage Woods site that will provido homos :o 4.000 people in a seven-year project that includes town pta^a B U I L D I N G A N E W Figure 23 - Heritage Woods : denuded hillsides and boxy houses Source: Vancouver Sun 14 September, 1990 : E5. "Building a new heritage" 1) describes it as "spectacular." 2 W h i l e an effusion of praise from an advertisement is hardly unexpected, such an injudicious standard o f journa l i sm is troubling, particularly given the rigorous coverage of the 'monster' houses issue in the same publication. Thus , Heritage W o o d s , despite its enterprising modernism and 'creative destruction', nevertheless remained cloaked in the vocabulary of anti-modernism. Neo-heritage architecture, then, is not simply a matter of 'taste' or 'placemaking'. It certainly does not reflect a genuine tenor of environmental responsibility. It is instead a reaction to "preexisting fields o f prejudices, preconceptions, and expectations," 3 and as such can be wie lded ideological ly to serve particular agendas. W i t h i n the context o f a perceived tide o f cultural change, then, 'heritage' architecture has prov ided a tangible symbol around which dominant society has rall ied in order to re-create its own sense of social and cultural selfhood, and to define an alterity to what is native and national. M o r e egregiOusly, however, it has also been appropriated to disguise dominant society's compl ic i ty in negative landscape change, anti-environmentalism, and the feverish drive towards capital accumulation. RESPONSE from the MARGINS : LOOKING B A C K Representation and resistance are very broad spheres within w h i c h the drama of racial relations andsracialized examination have taken place. Texts and textuality have long been entwined with the history o f European imperia l i sm, which has e m p l o y e d texts— histories, anthropologies, f ict ion, and today, journal i sm—to capture the non-European subject within Eurocentric frameworks. T h e non-European alterity has been portrayed as terror or lack4 and these representations have then been re-projected onto the non-1 David Smith, "Building a new heritage" Vancouver Sun 22 July, 1995 : E l 2 Smith E l . 3 Falconer Al-Hindi and Staddon 357. 4 B i l l Ashcroft, Gareth Griffiths, and Helen Tiffin, "Introduction : Representation and resistance,"The post-colonial studies reader, eds. B i l l Ashcroft, Gareth Griffiths, and Helen Tiffin (London : Routledge, 1995) 85. European as authoritative pictures o f themselves. A t the same time, representations o f Europeans have been given as unexceptional, ordinary, and normative. I have argued in this thesis that these historic, racialized ways of seeing continue to be reproduced today in the context of landscape change in Vancouver . A teacher once told me that a grade 3 class discussion (these are 8 year-olds!) on multiculturalism prompted several white children to say, "We don't l ike the monster houses that the Chinese build." T h e Chinese students in the class could only look down silently at the floor, powerless to resist the authoritative picture of themselves that they had internalized. I have personally felt, as a Chinese person, the mental burden that comes with be l i ev ing that 'my race' s h o u l d take special responsibility for unwanted urban change. But I have since come to realize that textual representations of Chineseness are as m u c h a projection o f dominant culture's fears and desires as they are reliable accounts o f groups of people. I know now that so much of what masquerades as objective or impartial knowledge is in fact ideological. T h e discipl inary nature of examination in Vancouver's landscape debate has not gone unnoticed to some observers. Charges of racism have been leveled at those who blame Chinese immigrants exc lus ive ly for the city's aesthetic 'demise'. G i v e n the arguments which I have made, these charges should not be easily dismissed as overzealous pol it ical correctness. Unfortunately , however, legitimate anti-racist voices have found themselves with strange bedfel lows : free market advocates who have appropriated the polities of anti-racism to facilitate international investment and capitalist development in V a n c o u v e r . 1 T h e i r tactic is to extend the privileges o f unexaminabi l i ty to l ike-minded, affluent Chinese immigrants. Conservative-leaning think-tanks such as the Laurier Institute have been established precise ly to produce documents intended to shift the lens of examination away from immigrants and to assign blame for negative urban change to race-neutral targets such as 'building fees'. 2 T h e i r underlying agenda, o f course, is not to shift 1 This point has been eloquently argued by Mitchell, "Multiculturalism" 265. 2 Mitchell, "Multiculturalism" 293. The Laurier Institute was founded in 1989 by private, notably real-estate, interests. examination away from racialized bodies, but away from capitalist activity. Thi s ideological employment of anti-racism must be strongly resisted since it threatens the abil ity o f communit ies to moni tor and contest loca l changes to the built environment . M o r e importantly, it must be resisted since disingenuous accusations o f rac ism adulterate and weaken the true cause of anti-racism. Unfortunately, much of the damage has already been done : accusing people o f racism today, even legitimately, has become a politically suspect manoeuver. A l though I argued in chapter 2 that allegations of rac ism are far too casually brushed off, I have to concede that 'crying racism' is something of a tired and ineffectual pol i t ica l strategy. Its ma in shortcoming is that it only challenges the f inal , palpable manifestations of rac i sm without ever attacking the unseen systems o f power wh ich continue to generate and perpetuate racialized knowledge. O n e o f these unseen systems o f power is, o f course, the f i e ld of texts and textuality. It continues to be tainted by the colonialist fantasy that representation offers a transparent window on an objective reality. In actuality, representation is an instrument of power that has historically, and in the context of Vancouver's landscape debates, made the attributes o f non-whiteness both stereotypical and symptomatic through a k ind of textual 'surveillance'. T h e political agenda must therefore be to evolve strategies which attack the hegemonies of textual representation. T h i s is the response that has yet to be forcefully given from the margins. T h e strategy to achieve these ends, however, is not s imply to put more non-white bodies into newsrooms. T h i s approach naively assumes that individuals f r o m a particular group are more w i l l i n g or able to speak for the interests o f their 'collectivity', and perpetuates the false bel ief that racial and cultural affinity overrides all other forms of social allegiance. T h i s understanding of race and culture is dependent on Bhabha's notion of 'cultural diversity', that cultural contents are pre-given and held in a t ime-frame o f re la t iv i sm. 1 B u t as F a n o n has argued, the time of l iberation is a time of cultural uncertainty, and, most cruc ia l ly , a time of s ignif icatory or representational 1 Bhabha, Location 34. undecidabil ity. 1 Therefore, what must be problematized is cultural representation itself and its authoritative address. A focus on 'cultural difference'—the very enunciation of culture as an adequate system of identification—serves to remedy the prob lem o f how, in s ignifying the present, something comes to be repeated, relocated, and translated in the name of tradition, in the guise of a pastness that is not necessarily a faithful sign of historical memory but a strategy of representing authority in terms of the artifice o f the archaic. That iteration negates our sense of the origins o f the struggle. It undermines our sense of the h o m o g e n i z i n g effects o f cultural symbols and icons, by questioning our sense of the authority of cultural synthesis in general. Thi s demands that we rethink our perspective on the identity o f culture. 2 B h a b h a is suggesting, then, that we rethink the positive aesthetic and polit ical values we ascribe to the unity or wholeness o f cultures. In the context of local landscape discourse, the totalizing constructions of both whiteness and Chineseness must be problematized. In challenging hegemonies of representation, there wil l inevitably be a desire to find a "wholly recovered 'reality', free of all colonial taint." 3 However , this recovery seems unlikely. T h i s is because "decolonisation is process, not arrival; it invokes an ongoing dialectic between hegemonic centrist systems and peripheral subversion of them." 4 Since the subversion of dominant discourse is not static, it does not demand the creation of new, authoritative, non-Eurocentric descriptions of culture. It is enough to engage in a process o f dynamic counter-discursivity, wh ich seeks to subvert the dominant without a view to taking its p lace . 5 Th i s means exposing and eroding the biases produced f rom positions of privilege, as wel l as one's own. It means dismantling culture at the level o f representation and revealing the pre-existing structures of inequality that inform description. I have argued in this thesis that a s ignif icant bias that has not been interrogated in landscape representations of Vancouver is the privilege of whiteness. A s D y e r explains, 1 Fanon from Bhabha, Location 35. 2 Bhabha, "Cultural Diversity" 207. 3 Helen Tiffin, "Post-colonial literatures and counter-discourse," The post-colonial studies reader, eds. Bi l l Ashcroft, Gareth Griffiths, and Helen Tiffin (London : Routledge, 1995) 95. 4 Tiffin 95. 5 Tiffin 96. white people create the dominant images of the wor ld and don't quite see that they thus construct the world in their own image; white people set standards o f humanity by which they are b o u n d to succeed and others bound to fai l . . . W h i t e people need to learn to see themselves as white, to see their particularity. In other words, whiteness needs to be made strange. 1 O n e of the crit ical subversive strategies in 'making whiteness strange' is to try to 'see whiteness', to invert looking relations and make whiteness the object o f examination. Whiteness, the unseen frame that produces authoritative pictures o f the world , must also 'be framed'. T o n i M o r r i s o n describes this a im eloquently : M y project is an effort to avert the critical gaze f rom racial object to racial subject; f rom described and imagined to describer and imaginer; f rom the server to the served.2 W h i l e this project is easily charted, it is considerably more difficult to fulfi l l . H o w exactly does one invert the disc ipl inary relationship between object and subject? H o w is the invisibility o f whiteness made visible? Is it simply a matter of identifying authors, builders, and homeowners as 'white'? C a n non-whites critique whiteness without incubating new forms o f rac ism and race privi lege? Clear ly , altering and disrupting l ook ing relations represents a vast and daunting body of social, political, and theoretical work. Y e t power concedes nothing without a demand. T h i s thesis is one step towards making those demands. 1 Dyer (1997) 9. 2 Toni Morrison, Playing in the dark : Whiteness in the literary imagination (Cambridge : Harvard University Press, 1992) 67. CONCLUSION Despite vocal claims that contemporary urban centers such as Vancouver are Utopias of 'colour-blindness', popular stories about people continue to be told through the i d i o m of visible difference. These stories have fostered uncrit ical assumptions about alterity and otherness, and this has lead to a cognitive leap f r o m physical and cultural differences to something more fundamental which has been cal led "race." 1 M a n y Vancouverites believe that the recent transformation of local landscapes, exempl i f ied by the appearance of the 'monster' house, is unique to their city. T h e y believe that local urban change controversies are products o f genuine differences between A s i a n and 'Canadian' values. T h e reality is that unwanted urban change and conflicts s imilar to Vancouver's have affected countless North A m e r i c a n sites, f rom Bever ly H i l l s , C a l i f o r n i a to Bel la ire , Texas to Park Ridge , I l l i n o i s , 2 regardless o f whether or not there has been a paral lel influx of new A s i a n immigrants. Y e t the belief that clashing cultural aspirations are at the heart o f Vancouver's landscape troubles has persisted. Rather than odd , the naturalization o f this bel ief is a whol ly fathomable and predictable result o f racial ized mass communicat ion grounded in taken-for-granted look ing relations. A s I have shown, the ideological management of signifiers within popular textual representations o f urban change has structured a local economy o f meaning which makes racial ized patterns of intelligibility very difficult to escape. W i t h the discourses that permeate our da i ly l ives constantly expounding the Anderson 245 Frances Bula, "Building a better big house," Vancouver Sun 10 November, 1995 : B l . fundamental premiss o f racial and cultural difference, it is little wonder that representations of landscape values and aesthetics have cleaved along well-worn social fault lines. T h e concepts o f race and culture, though often conflated and misrecognized, are nevertheless taken to be self-evident facts rather than made objects o f explanation themselves in popular social discourse. In Vancouver , it is interesting to note that the drive towards e c o n o m i c expans ion and 'social progress' , so fundamental to the historic development of Western identity, is dismantled in particular contexts but not others to allow for nuanced re-workings of racial categories. In Vancouver's elite A n g l o neighborhoods, residents have ironical ly shifted historic roles and are now the defenders of both 'nature' and 'tradition' against the new champions of economism and creative destruction, while in dense downtown areas and virgin suburban woodlands, notions of a white 'enterprising spirit' continue to ho ld currency and give l icence to landscape transformation. In a further i rony , suburban landscape development often draws on the newfound rhetoric o f environmental guardianship emanating from elite A n g l o neighborhoods in order to justify its own brand o f creative destruction. These oppos ing constructions of whiteness, rather than being contradictory, evidence both the plasticity o f whiteness as a 'race-neutral' category and the inherently unstable and open-ended nature o f racialization. T h o u g h the cultural and political process of racialization draws arbitrary and shifting conclusions about groups o f people, what is neither arbitrary nor shifting is racialization's relationship to power. T o understand categories such as whiteness or Chineseness, they must be situated within the broader historical framework of European modernity and its global domination. T a k e n for granted subject-object relations (ways o f seeing) and the fantasy o f mimet ic representation continue to nurture an uneven exchange within social discourse w h i c h produces ideological and discipl inary forms of rac ia l ized knowledge. F a r f r o m being natural or self-evident, I have shown in this thesis that popular imaginings o f race and culture in V a n c o u v e r are historical inventions whose constructions can be interrogated to reveal the interests o f power which they serve. I have not suggested in this thesis that recent, affluent Chinese immigrants are beyond any blame for negative landscape change. I have argued instead that a racial ized understanding of urban change in Vancouver is a selective perception of the external wor ld nurtured through bias-laden textual representation. I have shown that the practices o f overconsumption and environmental destruction are exhibited across the entire Greater V a n c o u v e r region in complex patterns that cross-cut and disfigure racial and cultural boundaries. Unfortunately, popular stories continue to maintain these capricious borders by employing the narrative shorthand of ethnic difference. What must be problematized, then, is cultural 1 representation itself and its authoritative address. T h e positive value ascribed to coherent and discrete cultural contents must be dismantled to reveal the particular interests which coherency and discreteness serve. M o s t importantly, theoretical and practical efforts must be made to disrupt naturalized subject-object relations by 'looking back', shifting the crit ical gaze back onto whiteness and its assumed frame of race neutrality. In do ing so, fashioning a simple reversal o f racial ascriptions (whiteness is figured negatively whi le non-whiteness is figured positively) is of little political value since the fundamental belief in cultural homogeneity remains unaltered. T h e challenge to cultural signification must instead interrogate the current understanding of culture as an adequate system o f identification. O n l y by being revealed as something f lu id , dynamic , and boundless can the concept o f culture be useful in describing the multitude o f ways in which lives are l i ved through difference. O n l y by removing the social blinkers o f race and culture can criticisms of built form gain the broader scope necessary to address overconsumption and environmental degradation as a societal, not cultural, problem. A n d only by reconstructing the ideas of race and culture can identity politics move forward in creative and non-essentialist ways. It is this future time of cultural ambiguity, o f significatory or representational undecidability, that wi l l be the time of liberation. A reminder that 'race' and 'culture' are used more or less synonymously in this last section since the concepts are often misrecognized and conflated. REFERENCES A i r d E , 1993, "There's a 'monster problem' on the street where they live" Vancouver Sun 2 October. A i r d E , 1995, "People are leaving town to find an English-speaking street for their kids" Vancouver Sun 17 August . A i r d E , 1995, "Huge real-estate project going almost unnoticed in heart o f city" Vancouver Sun 26 October. 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