The University as a Neoliberal and Colonizing Institute: A Spatial Case Study Analysis of the Invisible Fence between York University and the Jane and Finch Neighbourhood in the City of Toronto

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Ardavan Eizadirad


Jane and Finch is notoriously known in the City of Toronto as a high profile “Priority Neighbourhood” characterized by poverty, crime and violence. And yet, it is situated in close proximity to York University, a place of higher learning characterized by modernism, order, multiculturalism, and innovation. Using a spatial analysis, the first half of this essay traces the social, cultural, and historical development of Jane and Finch and York University, contrasting the rapid development and expansion of York University in relation to the slow growth and deteriorating living conditions of Jane and Finch. The second half of the essay explores the racialization of physical and social differences between York University and Jane and Finch. In particular, I explore how interlocking systems of domination produce, maintain, and (re)produce an invisible fence that constitutes York University as a civilized space and Jane and Finch as a spectacle of violence and delinquency. Overall, this article uses York University as a case study to argue that the university, as an extension of the State, participates in a neoliberal and colonizing project that constructs York University as a safe place of higher learning at the expense of social marginalization, stigmatization, and exclusion of the Jane and Finch community and Othering of its residents. By the racialization of Jane and Finch and Othering of its immigrants and visible minorities, York University exemplifies the processes by which whiteness is protected and privileged and the university’s perpetuation of poverty and violence in Jane and Finch are masked.

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Author Biography

Ardavan Eizadirad, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE), University of Toronto

PhD Candidate in Department of Curriculum, Teaching, and Learning at OISE, University of Toronto