Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Sociology

Cultural Mixers: Race, Space, and Intercultural Relations among Youth in East-End Toronto

Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Sociology

Cultural Mixers: Race, Space, and Intercultural Relations among Youth in East-End Toronto

Article excerpt


This paper examines how the configuration of space and sense of inclusion and exclusion inform racialized youth's sense of belonging. Racialized youth are situated in a particular way within the Canadian context, shaped by inclusions and exclusions (Creese 2015; Cui 2012; Paragg 2015; Potvin 1999). Neighbourhoods are the very sites where everyday differences are both practiced and contested. However, the interactions between different ethno-racial (1) groups in specific neighbourhoods are understudied. The focus of this paper is to interrogate how differences are constructed, interrogated, and policed between 'others' in spaces where there is significant diversity, and its implications for the experiences of belonging. Place is where influences and belongings intersect (Clayton 2004). Places (as material spaces) foster and even compel negotiation among those who share spaces (Massey 2005).

In this study I examine Malvern and Chester Le, two 'priority neighbourhoods' (2) in Toronto's east-end. In what ways do neighbourhoods shape belonging and negotiations of difference? By belonging I refer to youth's identity, and the experiences of attachments that forge for them a sense of social inclusion in society. Identity is defined against another and therefore cannot be seen as a unified subjectivity, but rather as "always in a process of becoming" (Cupers 2005: 735). Through a process of "separation from and identification with", ideas are constructed of "who [people perceive] they are and what they should do" (Bendixsen 2013: 26). Identity is dependent on social interaction which is informed by broader structures. Identity formation is a "complex set of interlocking processes based in multiple social relations that is closely articulated with defining structures" (Proweller 1998: 6). Identity is shaped by local positionings (Ibid: 6).

I draw on the United Nations' (2017) formulation of youth as anyone from the ages of 15 to 24. With increasing levels of youth unemployment, rising cost of living, longer time in school, adulthood is increasingly postponed. Therefore, I have chosen to include youth well into their 20s. Since youth have fewer resources than their adult counterparts, they often remain fixed in their local environments (Harris 2009). Therefore, local places are important sites of young people's self-making (Harris and Wyn 2009).

Neighbourhood has "no single generalizable interpretation" (Kearns and Parkinson 2001). How neighbourhoods are officially defined might not correspond with how people living in the neighbourhood might define its borders (Barnes et al.2006). Therefore, it is important to recognize the scale of this space as being different depending on people's everyday existence (Eijk 2010). Based on Armbruster and Meinhof (2011), I center on neighbourhoods to study the everyday interrogation of differences; i.e., they do not have the same connotations of "homogeneity, uniformity, or sense of belonging" as other scales of belonging such as "imagined communities" associated with conceptualizations of nation-states (10).


This study seeks to re-scale belonging from attachment to the nation (Yuval-Davis 2006) to explore the role of neighbourhoods in the experiences of belonging. It explores whether individuals can simultaneously feel exclusion at the national level and attachment to sub-national spaces. Different conceptual approaches to research on ethno-racial youth in Canada demonstrate that they are differently positioned in ways that tend to undermine their inclusion, engender discrimination, or disadvantage them in particular social and economic spheres. Macro-level statistical studies of young people, for example, illustrate there is discrimination in the labour market (Krahn and Taylor 2005); uneven academic achievement (Thiessen 2009); and over-representation of racialized youth in the criminal justice system (Fitzgerald and Carrington 2011). …

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