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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Resistance and complexity : solutions to urban crises of homelessness and psychopathology through psychiatry, architecture and philosophy Durgan, Edward Lee


This is an interdisciplinary attempt to analyze the ongoing and progressive urban crises of homelessness and psychopathology. It intersects three disciplines: architecture, psychiatry, and existential-phenomenological philosophy. I have coined the phrase ‘anarcha-existentialist’ to describe a method of questioning political and epistemological authority. It extends work on schizophrenia conducted under the supervision of Roger Burggraeve. Primary philosophical sources include Emmanuel Levinas, Martin Heidegger, and Jacques Derrida. I used descriptive and interpretive phenomenology with thematic analysis in qualitative research on the subjective experience of severe mental illness across dwelling types on Vancouver’s downtown eastside. Emergent themes included a struggle for fundamental human rights, distressed personal time, and a relationships between homemaking and management of mental health. Histories of psychiatry and asylum architecture reveal their inseparability from the state. I carried out architectural case-studies of the Woodsquat, the Woodwards redevelopment project, and the Olympic Tent Village that took place during the 2010 Winter Olympics. The crises in question are intractable and existing interventions cannot succeed comprehensively. The disciplines in question appear as auxiliaries to a capitalist-state apparatus to which they are fettered. In architecture, dialectical narratives of modernity are perpetuated. Psychiatry acts to reify the American Psychiatric Association’s diagnostic and statistical manual (DSM5). Together they succeed in re-institutionalizing chronically mentally ill adults and youth while reducing social housing and low-income rental stock. Contemporary architecture theorists and architects have appropriated philosophical concepts to fabricate ethical narratives that justify the gentrification (or class transformation) of urban environments. Vancouverism is an example of the neoliberal economic collusion of civic government, the developer class, and clinical psychiatry. Criminalization of poverty in Vancouver is part of a North American trend. Behavioral genetics and genetic counseling are disciplines bearing direct methodological/ideological lineage to eugenics that inform public policy in Vancouver and elsewhere while aspersions are cast on them by a growing consnsensus of scientists. Complex theoretical models and non-pacifist modes of resistance are recommended to stem the crises. Revolutionary transcendence of nation-state models and establishment of worldwide socio-political relationships based on anarchism portend the diminishment of psychopathology in the world population while providing adequate homes for all.

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