I am a doctoral student whose research grows out of my engagement in the struggles against gentrification and for the right to housing in the working class neighbourhood of St-Henri, where I am looking at collective memory in the context of deindustrialization.
My dissertation, “Displacement Wars and the Battle for Collective Memory in Saint-Henri, 1970-2016,” seeks to complicate the bifurcation of industrial past and post-industrial present. In opposition to the vision of developers and politicians, the self-perception of many long-time neighbourhood residents continues to be grounded in forms of solidarity and community activism deeply rooted in radical traditions that are in many ways the heritage of industrial organization. By tracing through interviews the history of popular mobilizing for local rights (to housing, employment, health care, and against gentrification) in the years of economic dislocation following the closing of the Lachine Canal, I hope to problematize our understanding of Montréal as a post-industrial city. When we pay attention to the contingent nature of global economic shifts in a very local context, important questions arise. How and when in Montréal did decision-makers begin to understand industrialism, as an economic production scheme and a system of social organization, as belonging to the past? What was the reaction of poor and working people to this new understanding of their collective history? What role did the resistance of these communities have in creating the vision of urban space we experience today, and how did they ground this resistance in their own memories of the past?