A Visit to Toronto

During the weeks of Oct. 10 and Oct. 24th, 2016, three graduate students from the University of Toronto Ethnography Lab (EL) and two graduate students from Humboldt University’s Georg-Simmel Centre for Metropolitan Studies (GSZ) engaged in an exchange project to initiate the establishment of a long-term transnational research collaboration under the working label of Urban Ethnography Lab (UEL).

The motivation for creating this partnership was to create a lab through which to promote ethnographic methods in the study of urban and metropolitan areas and increase its relevance in science and policy-making. The EL is a growing centre that promotes ethnographic research methods, with a focus on urban areas, while the GSZ encourages the growth of international networks of academic groups focused on metropolitan research.

During the second week in Toronto (click here for info on the first week in Berlin), the Urban Ethnography Lab’s German members were welcomed to the EL, where they learned the greater context of the EL’s activities through a variety of urban research excursions, group meetings, and a brainstorming session through which we planned concrete steps for achieving our goals.

On the first day, the EL hosted a lecture and walking lecture through Kensington Market, which is the lab’s primary ethnographic research site.

Kensington Market

Kensington Market Photo: Carolin Genz

Further discussion about the possibilities for comparative research with Berlin’s Kreuzberg neighbourhood were explored, and a later tour through the hidden and unique pubs of Kensington Market were hosted by Henry Lee Heinonen, who had conducted research on the neighbourhood’s nightlife.

The next day they were also taken to Yorkville, a neighbourhood of similar historical composition as Kensington Market, but which has since significantly gentrified. The tour was meant to spur discussion on socio-economic change in Toronto.

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Fashion in Yorkville. Photo: Carolin Genz

This site was further compared to St. James Town, Canada’s most densely populated low-income neighbourhood, which we visited the same day.

The final research trip took place in the Geary Avenue district, another site of burgeoning economic activity and socioeconomic transformation.

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Geary Ave. Photo: Carolin Genz

The German students were invited to participate in a public ethnographic methods workshop hosted by the Ethnography Lab on October 27th, which fueled planning on how best to improve ethnographic methods among Geography researchers.

Following a productive brainstorming session, our team plans to apply for funding and begin research activities by the new year.

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From left to right: (Top) Lukas Ley, Henry Lee Heinonen, Bronwyn Frey, Prof. Joshua Barker, Jessika Tremblay. (Bottom) Holger Wilcke, Emily Hertzman, Carolin Genz

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