Interpreting long-term urban change through critical visual analysis

Dr. Brian Doucet
Tuesday 4 Oct 2022, 15:00 - 17:30
Erasmus University College
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John Bromley

What can historic images of a city’s past tell us about contemporary urban challenges? What kind of conversations, debates and dialogues occur when these old photos are updated with current views from the same location?

This technique is known as repeat photography, and this visual analysis is well-positioned to contribute important insights into how the big forces of change shape urban landscapes. Repeat photography reveals the tremendous physical, economic and social changes in cities, such as when entire factories disappear and are replaced with luxury flats. But it also renders visible subtle variations, or lack thereof, such as when the entire economy of a city changes, but the built environment remains static. Critical visual analysis helps us understand that there is nothing natural, or inevitable about cities and how the changes we observe are rooted in wider political economies or planning structures.

About the lecture

In this talk, Brian Doucet will take a trip to his hometown of Toronto. We will visit the city through a quintessentially Toronto resource: photos taken by streetcar and tram enthusiasts. While trams are common in Europe, they almost entirely disappeared in North America, Toronto being one of the exceptions. As a result, many transportation enthusiasts photographed the city in the 1960s and 1970s. We aren’t interested in the vehicles themselves, but rather everything else that was photographed around them – streets, buildings, people, signs etc. These photographers ventured into distant parts of the city in pursuit of their hobby and, as a result, we have photographs of many ordinary places from an era long before cell phone cameras. These historic images have been paired with more recent views to help us interpret the subtle and not-so-subtle changes that have shaped the city over the past fifty years and open up a series of questions about how cities change, why and for whom?

This talk is based around the book Streetcars and the Shifting Geographies of Toronto: a visual analysis of change (Brian Doucet and Michael Doucet, 2022, University of Toronto Press). Brian Doucet will have a discount code available for those interested in ordering the book.

Brian Doucet’s talk will be followed by a response from dr. Marianne Klerk, urban historian at EUC and journalist and programme maker for (among others) Vers Beton, Arminius. After their interaction, there is time for a conversation with the audience, and the event will close off with drinks. 

Who is this lecture for

This free-of-charge event is open to all Erasmus University students and staff members as well as people outside the university. The lecture will be held at Erasmus University College (Lecture Hall B).

Schedule for the event

15:15 - 15:25Welcome and introduction of the speakers by dr. Roy Kemmers
15:25 - 16:05Lecture and presentation by dr. Brian Doucet
16:05 - 16:30Response by dr. Marianne Klerk, interaction with Brian Doucet
16:30 - 17:00Questions from and conversation with the audience


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More information

Dr. Brian Doucet is the Canada Research Chair in Urban Change and Social Inclusion in the School of Planning at the University of Waterloo. Born and raised in Toronto, he lived in the Netherlands between 2004 – 2017, where he completed his MSc (2006) and PhD (2010) at Utrecht University. He taught urban studies at Erasmus University College between 2015 – 2017. His research focuses on topics of gentrification, housing, neighbourhood change, transportation and cycling. You can follow him on Twitter @bmdoucet. He now lives in Kitchener, Ontario with his wife, two children and golden retriever.

Dr. Marianne Klerk is a senior lecturer in humanities at Erasmus University College. She moved to Rotterdam to study history at the Erasmus University. There she completed her MA (2011) and PhD (2016), after which she became a postdoctoral researcher at the Faculty of History of the University of Oxford. In 2019 she left Oxford to pursue a career in journalism. She now curates debate series and publishes about city culture.

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