“More People Are Dying”: An Ethnographic Analysis of the Effects of Neighbourhood Revitalization on the Lives of Criminally Involved Men

  • Author / Creator
    Urbanik, Marta-Marika
  • This dissertation interrogates how residents of a Canadian ‘ghetto’—Toronto’s Regent Park neighbourhood—navigate the fears and dangers of residing in one of Canada’s most disadvantaged areas during a period of mass neighbourhood change. Based on 156 interviews and over 10 months of ethnographic field work conducted over 4 summers, this project engages with criminological and sociological concepts to grasp the complex ways neighbourhood redevelopment affects those living in the midst of urban renewal, particularly in regards to criminal processes and structures. It explores how male residents have changed their navigation of social relations, space, and presentations of self since the onset of neighbourhood redevelopment, to better suit newer neighbourhood dynamics during this period of instability. First, contradicting common notions that view major criminal players as a purely negative phenomenon; my findings demonstrate that the presence of major criminal players in an impoverished neighbourhood can benefit communities (i.e., by controlling violence). The displacement of these actors due to neighbourhood redevelopment robs the neighbourhood of means of informal social control, leaving many residents feeling increasingly fearful about the supposed changes in predictability and nature of violence. Second, the displacement of many of the neighbourhoods’ major criminal players has allowed for a new racialized gang to form, creating competition over status and resources between established groups and emerging ones, yet perhaps surprisingly, not leading to intra-gang violence. Here, the shared identity as Regent Park residents has suppressed intra-gang violence, with the groups drawing moral boundaries between each other, instead of drawing weapons. Finally, my results show that while neighbourhood gangs have usually been located in a set space, the proliferation of social media has expanded the consequences of gang-involvement, affiliation, and neighbourhood ‘beefs,’ providing new insights into the nature of street dynamics and the street code. Overall, this dissertation demonstrates that the destabilization of the neighbourhood’s physical and social fabric has also destabilized as opposed to eroded its criminal element—as was originally hoped with the revitalization— and this destabilization is considered to be far more dangerous by my participants during the neighbourhood’s transitory phase. Accordingly, this dissertation offers caution about the optimism currently surrounding neighbourhood redevelopment initiatives, particularly regarding the alleviation of neighbourhood crime and gangs.

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  • Graduation date
    Fall 2017
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Doctor of Philosophy
  • DOI
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.
  • Language
  • Institution
    University of Alberta
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  • Department
  • Supervisor / co-supervisor and their department(s)
  • Examining committee members and their departments
    • Harvey Krahn (Sociology)
    • Lisa Strohshein (Sociology)
    • Kevin Jones (Faculty of Extension)
    • Sandra Bucerius (Sociology)
    • Kevin Haggerty (Sociology)