UBC Toxic Tour

In collaboration with Stop the Institute  and Sarah Ling from Knowing the Land Beneath Our Feet Geography 495 is putting on a UBC Toxic Tour. This has been done previously by the Mining Justice Alliance. The UBC Toxic Tour is a walking tour guided by a map  and represented virtually online. Both models superimpose three different locations onto one site. The three locations are the UBC buildings that have received donations by mining companies, mining sites owned by these mining companies in Latin America, and images from 170 to 100 years ago before Musqueam land was occupied to build the campus. This tour  is meant to be reflective as people debate social responsibility and the ties the campus has to different locations, struggles, and communities. The goal is to hold mining companies and UBC and ourselves as students accountable for the human rights abuses and environment destruction occurring here and abroad.

The theory behind the project:

The UBC Toxic Tour acts on several different theoretical approaches to building solidarity. The project works to cancel out the “Other” and to collapse distance through the use of interlocationality.

The map’s use of superimposed images creates an imaginary geography through interlocationality. By hypothetically transposing one image with another we create layers of locations in one physical spot. What this does is it makes us realize that our emphasis on distance in our conversations, rationalizations, and the media should not take away from the relationships between ‘here’ and ‘there’. As Paula Levine puts it: Superimposing images “[collapses the] distinctions between “foreign” or “domestic,” these hybrid spaces erase the safety of geographic distance and portray the impact of political, social and cultural change in local terms/on local ground”. Using interlocationality also minimizes the distance between here and there. And our map of the buildings brings UBC as the institution and its students as participants directly into the conflicts occurring elsewhere.

Creating less distance and bringing the conflict to your location helps cancel out the Other. When we hear of catastrophic events and traumas on the media they always seem distant. This distance creates a relationship between us and them. We are here watching the television set in our living room and they are there protesting, and suffering from pollution, war, etc., unrelated to our life and those we consider to be a part of our imagined community. We are the spectators, the observers, or as Paula Levine who I will speak more about later puts it, we are the perceivers and they are the perceived. By superimposing these images we can attempt to remove this othering processes by cutting out the distance and revealing our relationship

This project has been inspired by two others: the Shadow Project and the Vancouver Toxic Tour.

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