Blog Post 2: Re-orientation Exercise

In my introductory blog post, I stated that one of my favourite spaces was the Beaches Boardwalk in Toronto. Located in the East end of the city, this space is a popular location, particularly in the Summer, for people to come swim, relax and enjoy themselves at the beach. Although after critically analyzing this space, it is apparent that the way bodies either temporarily occupy this space as visitors, as opposed to those who permanently live in the surrounding neighborhood, shows a clear imbalance of power.

Boardwalk HousesAs discussed last class, February 18th, the concept of Whiteness is a complex system that functions socially, politically and ideologically. This creates an unequal balance of power, in favor of those who are deemed white from those who are not. The Beaches is an area and community inhabited primarily by upper-middle class to upper class, white individuals and families. High living expenses associated with this community continually reinforce what bodies can afford, purchase, inhabit, represent themselves and exhibit control in this space. As a result, the bodies that permanently inhabit this location reinforce notions, values, attitudes and habits of the Beaches community. Specifically, the community is known to be an area of the city where residents can afford large properties, have several cars, financed from highly paid incomes associated with young urban professionals or budding nuclear families.

 After conducting research on housing and real estate in the Beaches, it was shown that houses primarily ranged just above or below $1,000,000. Even the cost to rent was astronomical with houses costing thousands of dollars a month. These financial requirements to own property and establish representation in the location, is limited by class-based status and structures. Due to this, certain types of people continually inhabit this location, reinforcing the functioning of the community and its public spaces as upper class areas. This can explicitly be shown in the public space of the boardwalk.

Beaches House

Control of private space effects how public space is understood in a community. It creates a divide from those that must commute outside of the area and experience the beach, water and boardwalk for limited sets of time in the summer, from those who are able to take part in these ‘luxuries’ anytime they wish. Sarah Ahmed states “Whiteness could be described as an ongoing and un-finished history, which orientates bodies in specific directions, affecting how they ‘take up’ space” (150). In the case of the Beaches boardwalk, this ongoing process of those able to afford to live in the community continually cycles and reinforces itself. By doing this it establishes the ways bodies ‘take-up’ space, either temporarily as visitors or those able to become permanently apart of the community and exert greater control over its public areas.

Henri Lefebvre’s concept of Spatial Practice, one his three triads in the spatial model, involves deciphering space to reveal practices of a society. Moreover, the spatial practice of neocapitalism embodies a close relationship with daily routine and urban reality, which include urban networks, private and leisure spaces (Lefebvre 291). This concept highlights a connection between private space, public space and social practices. In the case of the Beaches, there is a link between those who control private space (homes) in the community, effecting the social functioning of the area and control over public space as well. Overall there is a clear disconnect between those permitted to be apart of the community, who have permanent access to public spaces like the boardwalk, from those who do not and must commute in, taking on the role as a visitor, to only temporarily enjoy the space.

New Town Houses Beaches Boardwalk


One comment

  1. The idea of who is excluded and includes from The Beach goes beyond commuting and distance. It is reproduced by the types of bodies that frequent it and are dominant to the gaze of others. The interpellating gaze can be quite violent.

    What fascinates me about The Beach is the type of shops that co-exist there. Like the weed café has been able to stay open for so many years, but I remember an Ebay store (a la The 40 Year Old Virgin) nearby at one point only lasted a few months. Although it is not a neighbourhood that has seen major overhauls of its denizens, like Yorkville (which used to be a hippie rock art star drug haven), the Annex, Junction, Parkdale, Queen East, Ronces… etc.

    I am curious about how the neighbourhood started. Was it a working class neighbourhood first like many in Toronto? How does a history of a neighbourhood affect its contemporary aesthetic, ideology, etc…

    Is it even possible to engage in a détournement of such sedimented places like the Beach?

    As an aside from Marx: Private property has made us so stupid and one-sided that an object is only ours when we have it, when it exists for us as capital or when we directly possess, eat, drink, wear, inhabit it, etc, in short, when we use it.


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