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Women and urban place-making

Women and urban place-making

Linda Peake on the Toronto Islands

Rapid urbanization affects everyone, but women living in poverty represent a disproportionate percentage of the urban poor, bearing the brunt of housing and employment insecurity, inadequate transportation infrastructures, violence, and the climate crisis and other environmental disasters. Through research, public education and policy engagement in strategically chosen cities in the global south, Professor Linda Peake’s most recent research is a partnership project with the goal of advancing understanding of how the relationship between poverty and inequality is being transformed by the dynamic early 21st century context of urbanization, reconstituting gender relations and gendered rights to the city. Peake’s research also calls into question traditional theorizations of the formation of urban places through explorations of the multifarious practices through which subordinated urban residents, and specifically women, live, move, work and care for others in conditions of underdevelopment or economic precarity. Her research also critically engages with urban policymakers in the application of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal 5 (Gender Equality) and Goal 11 (Sustainable Cities and Communities) , exploring gaps between these global development goals and the everyday lives of low-income women and their practices of urban place-making. Her work not only challenges how we understand the relationship between urbanization and gendered relations but also raises issues that are vital for equity, belonging, and justice and for democratic and sustainable urban development.

This is the core of the SSHRC Partnership Grant research on Urbanization, Gender, and the Global South: A Transformative Knowledge Network (GenUrb) that comprises a global group of over 40 feminist urban scholars and activists from 10 countries. The six-year project (2017-2023) comprises 13 partners that encompass six universities, three women’s organizations, two civil society groups, a Canadian-based policy organization and the multilateral UN-Habitat Gender Hub.

The Red Thread building, Georgetown, Guyana, with the GenUrb Georgetown City Research Team 2019

The research is taking place within and across the seven cities of Cairo, Cochabamba, Delhi, Georgetown (Guyana), Ibadan, Ramallah, and Shanghai – chosen for their differing regional locations, sizes and experiences of urbanization and migration. The public education initiatives of the project promote active citizenship and the building of local institutional capacity. Initiatives thus far have included, for example, local radio programs (Georgetown), video production (Mumbai), exhibitions (Shanghai), and public debates (Ramallah).

In September 2019, the project hosted a three-day international conference on Feminist Explorations of Urban Futures. With more than 80 speakers and over 200 attendees, paper sessions, roundtables, and workshops were held on various themes including affective urban cultures, comparative feminist urban research, decoloniality, methodologies, gendered mobilities, housing and infrastructure, migration/displacement, social reproduction, urban activism and policy-making, among others. A number of conference videos are now available on the GenUrb website and publications are in progress.

Feminist Explorations of Urban Futures International Conference | The City  Institute at York University (CITY)
At the Feminist Explorations of Urban Futures (FEUF) conference at York University 2019

Peake has been the Director of the City Institute at York University since 2013. Her supervisory and mentoring work with graduate students, post-doctoral fellows (PDFs) and early career faculty members, has helped further cement the City Institute’s profile in global debates on urban scholarship and the training of the next generation of both Canadian and international urban scholars. In this vein, she has arranged for the next Summer Institute in Urban Studies to be held at both York University and the University of Toronto.

Peake is the 2020 winner of the Canadian Association of Geographers Award (CAG) for Scholarly Distinction. For her CAG nomination, Peake is recognized for her body of work in human geography. She contributed significantly to the development of feminist approaches in geography when such ideas were first developing in the early 1980s. While in the early 1990s her work (often with Audrey Kobayashi, Queen’s University)—on empirical studies of gender and race, analytical approaches based on intersectionality and the conceptual framing of race and whiteness—was foundational in the emergence of anti-racist geography. It is the application of anti-racism and feminism to her scholarship that has long- characterized Peake’s engagement with urban theory, in which she not only addresses gender, race, class and sexuality as spatialized relations of power that co-produce urban places and subjectivities, but also the anchoring of social reproduction as a fundamental urban analytical category.

Peake has also published extensively on women, work, housing and family relations in Guyana, and she has maintained a three decades long collaborative relationship involving research, training and advocacy with Red Thread, a grassroots women’s organization dedicated to working across class and race. This work has informed her numerous important contributions to processes of geographic knowledge production, and especially the development of feminist, collaborative and transnational research methods and methodologies.

2nd edition forthcoming

Peake’s interests in knowledge production also extend to issues of engaging with people experiencing mental and emotional distress in the academy. Her recent work with Professor Beverly Mullings (Queen’s University) led to the establishment of the American Association of Geographer's Affinity Group on Mental Health in the Academy, of which she is currently the chair.

Being at the forefront of research in feminist geography for four decades, her role in the development of feminist thinking in geography has also contributed to important analyses of the emergence of critical and radical approaches in the discipline including, for example, her recent work with Eric Sheppard (UCLA) on the Union of Socialist Geographers.

Peake sits on a number of editorial boards of academic journals includingUrban Geography and the International Advisory Board of Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society. Most recently she was elected to become a Director on the Urban Studies Foundation Board, responsible for disbursing funds for fellowships and workshops.

Her latest publications include:

*‘Placing Planetary Urbanization in Other Fields of Vision’, Environment and Planning D: Society and Space. 36 (3): 374-386 (2018 with Patrick, M., Reddy, R., Ruddick, S., Tanyildiz, G. S., and Tchoukaleyska, R.);

* ‘(What Geographers Should Know About) The State of U.S. and Canadian Academic Professional Associations’ Engagement with Mental Health Practices and Policies’, The Professional Geographer 72 (1): 37-53 (2019, with Kim England);

*‘The Union of Socialist Geographers’ (2019 with Eric Sheppard);  

*Gender and the City (2020);

*Urbanization in a Global Context, 2nd edition (forthcoming, edited with Alison Bain); and

*Peake, L., Koleth, E., Tanyildiz, G., S. Narayanareddy, R. N., and patrick, d. (eds) (forthcoming) A Feminist Urban Theory for our Time: Rethinking Social Reproduction and the Urban (London: Antipode Book Series, Wiley).

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