Yesterday, I applied for entry into UVic’s two-year thesis MA program in History. Hopefully, I’ll start in September. Here is my statement of research interest:
“Los Angeles is Vancouver’s worst nightmare,” writes Lance Berelowitz. “Yet in so many ways there are remarkable parallels, real echoes of the Los Angeles that Vancouverites love to hate, right here in Lotus Land.”1 He makes a convincing case that the two cities share similar histories and occupy similar places in their respective national imaginations and that important, meaningful lessons can be learned from comparing their histories. I would like to argue that similar lessons can be learned by comparing Vancouver and Seattle. However, when I wrote a comparative historiographical essay on Vancouver and Seattle last year, I discovered that little comparative history had been written about them. Most of the literature that compares them is either outdated or concentrates on contemporary policy issues. It tends not to offer deeper insight into how the cities developed or lessons that could be learned from their divergent development. This lack of comparative historiography inspired me to seek opportunities to study the history of these cities.
The two year MA program in History at UVic will provide opportunities to extend the education I have already received here through course work, and will allow me to contribute to the comparative literature on Vancouver and Seattle through a thesis on one aspect of their history. Two major international expositions in the twentieth-century created public spaces and altered public uses of space in Seattle and Vancouver: Century 21 in Seattle (1962) and Expo ’86 in Vancouver. A thesis on this topic could explore questions about the creation of public buildings, parks and transportation systems in those new and retooled spaces. Since public space is a defining feature of and controversial issue in these cities, a comparison of how they have been constructed historically by mega-events provides opportunities for a broader understanding of their development.
During my time at UVic as a visiting student, several professors have impressed upon me the importance of studying local and regional issues and have taught me some of the tools that will enable me to do so. I am grateful that John Lutz and Jordan Stanger-Ross have both offered to be advisors for my thesis project. I have also had the opportunity to work with Warren Magnusson and discussed my interest in historical geography with Reuben Rose-Redwood, two of the leading urban scholars at UVic. Combined with the recent creation of the Urban Studies Committee, and the extensive scholarly literature on how mega-events change cities, this suggests the possibility that I may be able draw on local, interdisciplinary support for my project. My academic achievements include excellent grades (an 83% average at UBC and an 8.00 GPA at UVic). During my time at UBC, I was honoured to receive two major scholarships for academic success, and was offered the President’s Scholarship after my final semester at UVic.
I am passionate about the need for good public spaces in cities. They provide safe, diverse, equitable and fun places for citizens to enact the “intricate ballet… of the good city sidewalk.”2 The type of research that I have described here will help scholars to understand how public space has been created by mega-events in the Pacific Northwest and has the potential to illuminate the meaning and dynamics of public space and cities more generally. It also has the potential to help planners create better public space in the future. Doing this research in a comparative context will allow me to consider these issues in different local, regional, national and temporal contexts that still share salient features.
1Lance Berelowitz, Dream City: Vancouver and the Global Imagination (Vancouver: Douglas & McIntyre), 228.
2Jane Jacobs, The Death and Life of Great American Cities (New York: Vintage Books, 1992), 50.
Because of the brevity required by the statement of intent, I couldn’t mention all the professors and family who have helped me as a student over the years, nor all the experiences that have shaped my thinking about and passion for cities. Those of you who I did not have an opportunity to thank, please know that I appreciate what you have done for me.