John Bousfield Public Lecture Series: Counter-Insurgency Urbanism

When and Where

Tuesday, November 21, 2023 7:00 pm to 10:00 pm
Innis Town Hall
Innis College
2 Sussex Avenue


Ted Rutland


John Bousfield Public Lecture Series Presents Counter-Insurgency Urbanism — Presented by Ted Rutland.

Join us at Innis Town Hall (Innis College) on Tuesday, November 21st from 7:00 - 10:00pm — reception with refreshments to follow discussion. 


About Ted Rutland

Ted Rutland is an Associate Professor in the Department of Geography, Planning, and Environment at Concordia University. An interdisciplinary urban scholar, his work focuses on the racial politics of urban policing, planning, and governance in Canadian cities. His first book, Displacing Blackness: Planning, Power, and Race in Twentieth-Century Halifax (University of Toronto Press, 2018), brought together ideas from Black studies and urban studies to explore how anti-Black conceptions of the human have been central to modern planning’s efforts to protect and improve human life from the late nineteenth century to the present.

His current research focuses on how, beginning in the mid-1970s, processes of capitalist and state restructuring created the conditions for the rise of the “New Right” and the far right in Canadian cities and an eventual carceral turn in urban politics exemplified by a multi-faceted war on street gangs in Montreal and Toronto. Examining the war on gangs, this research suggests, provides an entry point to broader changes in urban policing, planning, and governance that he terms “counter-insurgency urbanism.” Parts of this research have been published in Environment and Planning D, Geoforum, and the book (co-authored with former gang leader, Maxime Aurélien) Out to Defend Ourselves: A History of Montreal’s First Haitian Street Gangs (Fernwood Press, 2023).



In the 1980s, both economic and political pressures brought important changes to the roles of urban planning and the police in the North American city. In most scholarship, these changes are attributed to the economic crisis that began in the 1970s and the gradual shift to neoliberal urban strategies that emphasize the creation of enticing and secure spaces for educated middle-class residents and tourists. These accounts, however, miss the forces of change that were building on two opposite ends of the political spectrum: the progressive Left and the far Right.

This talk shows how urban planning and the police adopted new roles and began to work more closely together in the 1980s due to the intersection of the Left's push for political decentralization and participation (on the one hand) and the far Right's call for more aggressive, racist policing (on the other). The result was "counter-insurgency urbanism," a new form of governance in which political decentralization and participation helps to embed racist policing into the full range of urban institutions and processes, including urban planning.