Production and the Politics of Difference

In production and the politics of difference, we study the ways in which our everyday lives and landscapes become differentiated to produce inequality along many axes of identity, including class, race, ethnicity, nationality, indigeneity, gender, sexuality, religion, ability and legality.

We focus on understanding difference not as something obvious and inherent, but rather as a set of processes by which society makes certain attributes or characteristics of people and groups more relevant than others.

We are particularly interested in the spaces and places through which such codings of difference are produced, resisted and re-formulated.  We also consider the ways in which practices of inclusion and exclusion are politically institutionalized through concepts of citizenship and national identity.

In society generally, we tend to understand identity as something natural and within our control: we are who we are and choose to be.

In Geography, we open up ideas of identity construction to examine the ways in which our ideas about ourselves and others are generated and sustained, particularly through the examination of relationships between identity and place.  Much of our work concerns identities as they are impacted by migration and movement, whether that is through a short move from the country to the city or a transoceanic flight.

The Geography Department focuses upon numerous specialties within this area. Amongst our interests are:

  • translation and recombination of identities by migration and urbanization, and how this in turn gives rise to globalizations
  • social institutions, identity politics and citizenship among racialized groups, immigrant communities and First Nations
  • impacts of community organizations, collective action and the politics of planning upon neighbourhood identities and civil society.
  • construction of occupational identity by cultural workers.
  • spatialization of queer identity politics.
  • construction of identities among immigrant populations in 19th, 20th and 21st century Canadian and American cities.

Through its course offerings, the Department offers opportunities to study the concepts of identity and difference at every scale, from local to global, and at individual and group levels.  Some courses trace the ways in which nation-states such as Canada, as well as their institutions, authorize and regulate identities within their borders.

Students also have the chance to study these concepts in both past and present contexts.  Indeed, many courses emphasize the role and weight of history and tradition in the creation and manipulation of identities.