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2007 10 30
Geographical Perspectives on Kensington Market
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During the four years I've been supervising senior undergraduate Geography students conducting field research in Toronto's Kensington Market, I've seen quite a few interesting projects. A semiotic analysis of graffiti. A demographic study of the interweaving of Kensington and Chinatown. An analysis of 1930s-era newspaper descriptions of the 'Jewish Market' during an era of pronounced anti-Semetism in Toronto. Projects on vernacular architecture. Pedestrianization studies, and bike culture. A postcolonial examination of multiculturalism and subalternity. Ethnographic studies of Jewish, Portuguese, and West Indian cultural influences on the local spaces of the Market. An investigation of front gardens as cultural expression. Projects on food and 'authenticity', gentrification, and counter-culture. Fascinating work.

The best of these projects reflect thoughtful engagement not just with the scholarly literature on place, culture, identity, urban design and related fields, but also with the Market itself. About a quarter of my students discover some close family or cultural connection to the Market; perhaps their parents lived there in the past; as children quite a few of them had been brought regularly to the Market on excursions for foods and goods otherwise available only 'back home'. Last year one student pointed out pictures of her uncle and other relatives in Jean Cochrane's book Kensington (Boston Mills Press, 2000). Above all, however, these projects work best when they reflect a commitment to listening to the Market's ebbs and flows, its secrets and its stories.

This term several of my students seeking opinions and experiences on subjects as diverse as multiculturalism, globalization, urban design and Jewish cultural legacies have asked if they might reach out to Reading Toronto's community, particularly those who might shed additional light on their field research areas. Their requests are posted below; please contact the students directly or, if you have any questions about geographic perspectives on the Market, please contact me at alharris@yorku.ca .

* My name is Christine Misir and I am studying multiculturalism and ethnic diversity in Kensington Market. I would like to speak to anyone with opinions on diversity in Kensington market, particularly people of colour and those who would describe themselves as members of the minority. I can be reached at christine_cricket85@hotmail.com or buffy101@yorku.ca

* My name is Asha Persaud and I am studying globalization in Kensington Market, specifically in the response of the Nike Corporation trying to enter the market as well as other businesses whose arrival has raised controversy, including the Freshmart and perhaps even the COBS franchise. I would like to speak to you if you have an opinion about these businesses and on changes in the retail character of the Market. I can be reached at ashap@yorku.ca and please put Kensington in the subject line. Thank you.

* My name is Panagiotis (Peter) Koumoulas and I am studying vernacular architecture (cultural influences on the built environment) in Kensington Market. I would to interview anyone who is of Jewish, Mediterranean (Italian, Portuguese, Greek), or South-East Asian descent with some type of connection to Kensington Market. Ideal candidates have either currently or previously resided or worked within the market (i.e.rabbis, priests, store owners). I would greatly appreciate any help and I thank you in advance. I can reached at axilleas@yorku.ca .

* My name is Jordan Cukier and I am studying the Jewish cultural legacy in Kensington Market and the Jewish Cultural Identity that remains. I would like to speak to you if you have opinions on Jewish Cultural identity in Kensington market or attend/attended one of the synagogues in the Market. I can be reached at jordancukier@hotmail.com.

[Amy Lavender Harris teaches in the Department of Geography at York University. In conjunction with the Imagining Toronto project she writes regularly about Toronto literature and the imaginative qualities of cities. She is related to Kensington Market by marriage.]

[Backward sign image by Matei Savulescu and used here under the aegis of a Creative Commons license.]
[email this story] Posted by Amy Lavender Harris on 10/30 at 10:33 AM

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