Why do you like teaching Toronto: The Changing City?
My own scholarly research relates to urban sustainability and social inequality issues in Toronto. As a result, I have expertise regarding Toronto’s social history; how Toronto has evolved over time in terms of demographics, power relations; and the spatial division of labour in Toronto. In the course, students learn about the reciprocal relationship between social relations and the spatial organization of the city. Neighbourhoods like Kensington Market or Little Italy have evolved over time in terms of the racial, ethnic and class backgrounds of the people who live there as well as what these neighbourhoods contribute to Toronto as a whole.
What interesting new topics will you be tackling this year?
The course continues to reflect some of the current changes and challenges affecting Toronto. Some of the themes that will be explored include: the ‘Manhattanization of Toronto’ and the gentrification of Toronto’s downtown; the commodification of multiculturalism in the city; the increase in the social regulation of citizens in the public sphere; and the phenomenon of the working poor. When we explore these topics, students are encouraged to consider why these issues are happening in Toronto at this time and who the stakeholders in Toronto are that benefit or are challenged by these changes.
Why are urban issues important for sociologists?
Cities are now the principle form of settlement. Living in cities has consequences for how people relate to each other both in terms of how people interact and how their lives are organized. For example, the current shift toward high density residential spaces in Toronto requires us to consider what it means when people who are different come into close contact in addition to considering the consequences for work and urban infrastructure.
The study of cities and urbanism has always been at the heart of sociology. Cities like Toronto are strategic locations for the exploration of many subjects confronting society, such as industrialization/de-industrialization; housing and settlement patterns; social and cultural diversity; crime and social regulation; and the environment. Cities reveal both the best and the worst of the human social condition.