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Espaces de dissensions civiles / Space of Civil Discord
October 29, 2010
Pavillon DeSève, UQAM / 320, rue Sainte-Catherine Est, Room DS 1950

Program:  HTML version | PDF version 


David Harvey writes, “The freedom to make and remake our cities and ourselves is one of the most precious yet most neglected of our human rights.” The capitalist privatization of spaces - from neighborhoods and entire cities, to national and global locations - have radically transformed human landscapes through the “creative destructions” of financial, corporate, and state intervention. The wholesale appropriation of public spaces and their transformation into more profitable terrains of capital marginalize the poor, who are increasingly subjected to “geographies of containment” (Kawash) in inner city slums, shantytowns and to the “shadow cities” of the third world (Robert Neuwirth). Zygmunt Bauman notes that these spaces have become the repositories of disposable human beings displaced by economic, military, and natural disasters, and the production of “wasted lives” has become the inevitable outcome of rampant modernization and globalization.

In Canada, the Council for Social Development estimated in 2004 that 3.5 million were living in poverty, constituting more than 11% of the total population of the country. Attempts to number the homeless by Statistics Canada proved inadequate, for not only was there no operational definition of homelessness (prompting some to employ the term “continuum of homelessness”), but the difficulties of providing census figures of a hidden, mobile, and ever-changing population proved insurmountable. Recent estimates range from 1000 homeless in Calgary to 10,000 in Montreal. Despite the difficulties of arriving at precise numbers, these staggering figures are at odds with the prevailing national narrative of a democratically inclusive, prosperous, and egalitarian first-world nation that benefits from a progressive social safety net. Homelessness is not simply an unfortunate byproduct of capitalist processes but a complex social phenomenon shaped by government policies, housing regulation, corporate investment, social services agencies, and urban design. Furthermore, homelessness is culturally constructed through social discourse and through symbolization and representation in literature, the visual arts, cinema, and mainstream media.

This conference, which took place October 29, 2010 within the auspices of the Zones of Tension research group, opened up a space of debate on the question of the right to the city and more specifically, on the issues of poverty and homelessness in Canadian and Québécois social and cultural context. In what ways do poor individuals and communities contest, appropriate, and represent the spaces of the city as forms of resistance to the encroachments of capital? Topics to be addressed include constructions the working class, poverty, and the homeless; the built environment as site of resistance, conflict and violence; the engaged interventions of the poor and homeless through street art, demonstration and protest, and the social histories of slum dwellings, evictions, squatting, and tent cities in Canada and Quebec.

For more information, please contact:

Simon Harel
Full Professor, Department of Literary Studies, UQAM
Member of the Royal Society of Canada
Recipient of the Trudeau Fellowship Prize (2009-2012)
(514) 987-3000, ext. 4289

Domenic A. Beneventi
Postdoctoral Fellow, CELAT-UQAM
(514) 987-3000, ext. 5629

Conference entitled Whither Culture? A Special Event on Cultural Mobility, 29 April-1 May 2010.
Under the supervision of Simon Harel and Marie-Christine Lambert-Perreault.

Organizing committee: Jérôme-Olivier Allard, Fabienne Claire Caland, Simon Houle,

Jonathan Lamy, and Karina Victoria Sieres.

With participants Benoit Aquin, ATSA (Action terroriste socialement acceptable / Socially Acceptable Terrorist Actions), Anouk Bélanger, Simon Brault, Ying Chen, Jean-François Côté, Boris Chukhovich, Andrée-Anne Dupuis-Bourret, Pierre Fortin, Masaki Fujihata, François Hartog, Simon Harel, Steven High, Alan John Knight, Michaël La Chance, Laurent Le Gall, Laurent Lamarche, Jean-Pierre Lemasson, Grégory Martoglio, Catherine Mavrikakis, Laurent Reveillac, Roxanne Rimstead, Régine Robin, Sherry Simon, Will Straw, and Éric Vennetilli.

Four members of the Zones of tension research team – Domenic Beneventi, Simon Harel, Roxanne Rimstead, and Sherry Simon – took part in the international Colloquium “Urbanités littéraires / Cityscapes - Literary Escapes”, sponsored by SUNY - BUFFALO in collaboration with the European journal Formules. The aim of the colloquium was to study the relationship between writing and its urban environment, as well as to make explicit the interactive connections between literature, architecture and urbanism.

10-13 September 2009, Niagara Marriott, Buffalo

Abstracts of the papers

Under the aegis of the research team Zones of Tension (UQAM)

© Boris Est, National Library, 3D installation, 2009

Conference Psychanalyse et survivance : formes et structures (Psychoanalysis and Survival: Forms and Structures)
77th Congress of the ACFAS, Ottawa (Canada)
Friday, 15 May 2009

Organized by Nellie Hogikyan (Post-Doctoral Fellow, CELAT, UQAM) and Claudie Gagné (Assistant Professor, Trent University)


Conference Contested Spaces: Conflict, Counter-Narrative, and Culture from Below in Canadian and Québécois Literatures / Espaces contestés : conflit, contre-récit et la culture d’en bas dans les littératures canadienne et québécoise
Organized by Roxanne Rimstead (Université de Sherbrooke) and Domenic Beneventi (CELAT, UQAM)
1-2 May 2009

Conference Poster. Photo : Chris Erb

Web site
Interviews with participants (video)

The Culture from Below Web site was created under the supervision of Roxanne Rimstead.

© Boris Est, Bibliothèque nationale, installation 3D, 2009
Conference Séismes / Seismic Shifts,
20th and 21st Century French and Francophone Studies, Internationl Colloquium / Colloque international d’études françaises et francophones des 20e et 21ème siècles (Minneapolis, MN)
26-28 March 2009
Web site
Thursday, 26 March 2009
Session D6. Zones of Tension
Chair: Simon Harel (Université du Québec à Montréal)
  • Sherry Simon (Concordia University): “Occupying the Territory: Topographic Shifts in Montréal Literature.”
  • Roxanne Rimstead (Université de Sherbrooke): “Looking Back in Anger: The Local and the Global in Poems by Patrice Desbiens.”
  • Pierre Ouellet (Université du Québec à Montréal): « Tonalité, tonicité, tensivité : l’expression de l’indignation dans la littérature actuelle » (“Tonality, Tonicity, Tensivity: The Expression of Indignation in Contemporary Literature”).
  • Simon Harel (Université du Québec à Montréal) : « Itinérer/intinérance : lieux communs du conflit » (“Homeless/Homelessness: Common Spaces of Conflict”).
  • Catherine Leclerc (McGill University) : « Malaise dans la traduction : passages au français de la littérature anglo-québécoise » (“Translation and Its Discontents: Anglo-Quebec Writing's Turns to French”).

The conference Le Père : diaspora, nation et transmission  (The Father: Diaspora, Nation, and Transmission) took place on 4-5 March 2008 at the CELAT, UQAM. The conference was organized by Nellie Hogikyan in collaboration with Simon Harel, under the aegis of the Zones of Tension research team and the help of the CELAT, UQAM.


The conference Densité, intensité, tensions. L’urbanité montréalaise en question (Density, Intensity, Tensions: Probing into Montréal Urbanity) took place on 2 November 2007 at Montréal’s Galerie Monopoli. The conference was organized by the CELAT, UQAM, in collaboration with the Institut du patrimoine (Heritage Institute), UQAM, and the Université de Montréal’s Department of English Studies.

Conference Poster