Indy Dreams and Urban Nightmares: Speed Merchants, Spectacle, and the Struggle over Public Space in the World-Class City. .

Author:Garber, Judith A.
Position::Book Review
 
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Lowes, Mark Douglas.

Indy Dreams and Urban Nightmares: Speed Merchants, Spectacle, and the Struggle over Public Space in the World-Class City.

Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2002.

148 pp.

ISBN: 0-8020-3672-4

$45.00 (hardcover)

A persistent gripe of mine is the dearth of scholarly monographs on Canadian urban politics and political economy (as opposed, say, to municipal government or urban geography). I often struggle to find books that are current, concern Canadian cities primarily, and engage the interdisciplinary, critical core of contemporary urbanism; work that fulfills these criteria but is also comprehensible to undergraduates is indeed rare.

Indy Dreams and Urban Nightmares helps fill this gap. Mark Lowes tells a compelling, digestible story about the political and discursive contest over a notable public space in Vancouver in early 1997. Lowes's book is an examination of the effort to relocate the Molson Indy Vancouver (MIV) -- an annual, major-league "motorsport event" -- from False Creek to Hastings Park in northeast Vancouver.

Hastings Park has long been developed and commercialized, but in late 1996 the city approved a Restoration Plan returning the park substantially to green space. Facing opposition to a racetrack in the park, MIV's corporate promoter, Molstar Sports and Entertainment, threatened to leave Vancouver, then offered to create a park restoration fund, and finally orchestrated a several hundred-member "official volunteer organization" (84) which engaged in grassroots lobbying on behalf of the MIV. However, "extremely hostile and vocal collective opposition" (108) in the Sunrise-Hastings neighbourhood--the same forces advocating the park restoration -- convinced Molstar to keep the race in False Creek.

Lowes grounds his study in theories of the ideational and material dimensions of mass consumption of/in spectacular urban public spaces. He attempts "applications of such theory" by "tell[ing]...a story" about the example at hand (12, emphasis in original), relying heavily on the work of Richard Gruneau, David Whitson, David Harvey, Neil Smith, and especially Sharon Zukin for his framework. Lowes has no pretensions to theoretical or conceptual development, but puts his borrowed theoretical framework to good use.

A major problem with Indy Dreams and Urban Nightmares is lack of critical distance from a key concept -- "community" -- that is heavily employed by the anti-Indy forces and the author. This problem dominates Chapter...

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