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Business Improvement Areas and the Justification of Urban Revitalization: Using the Pragmatic Sociology of Critique to Understand Neoliberal Urban Governance

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Title: Business Improvement Areas and the Justification of Urban Revitalization: Using the Pragmatic Sociology of Critique to Understand Neoliberal Urban Governance
Author: Kudla, Daniel
Department: Department of Sociology and Anthropology
Program: Sociology
Advisor: Parnaby, PatrickHorgan, Mervyn
Abstract: Business Improvement Areas (hereafter BIAs) have become a central feature of urban revitalization across North America, Australia, Western Europe, and South Africa. Urban scholars describe BIAs as a neoliberal form of urban governance insofar as these quasi-state organizations use private sector strategies to make changes to public spaces. Despite growing literature highlighting BIAs’ neoliberal form of power, there is little understanding of the influence these organizations have during urban revitalization decision-making processes. Drawing on interviews, participant observation, and document analysis from two BIAs in London, Ontario, I use the pragmatic sociology of critique to study interactional settings where BIAs engage in normative and morally-laden discussions about urban revitalization. I specifically focus on the Downtown London BIA’s involvement in the revitalization of a four-block downtown street called Dundas Place as well as the Old East Village BIA’s involvement in the neighbourhood’s residential development planning process. I argue that the production of BIA spaces is contingent on interactional settings where social actors engage in dialogue, debate, and negotiation. This is not to discount BIAs’ political and economic forms of power; rather, I argue these forms of power cannot be separated from socio-cultural forms of power enacted during interactional decision-making processes. In addition to showing the justificatory strategies used by BIAs, I show how BIA-related decision-making processes are influenced by their organizational interests and limited by certain institutional arrangements.
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/10214/17488
Date: 2019-09
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