Vancouver Institute for Social Research: Matt Hern

March 30, 2015

Matt Hern – Land As Freedom


For some time now I have been studying the Albina district of Portland, Oregon – the site of one of the most starkly racialized gentrification battles in America and currently embroiled in a well-publicized dispute over a Trader Joe’s and an empty lot. Starting there and moving through East Van, Coast Salish Territories, New Orleans, Jackson Mississippi and a few other spots, I interrogate dominant gentrification theory to connect everyday inequality to our understandings of land, ownership and wealth. I submit that considering property theory can lay some of the groundwork for understanding how contemporary divergences in wealth are accelerated and deepened – not just between individuals, but within and between places – and then how that divergence is wielded in the service of racialization, displacement and dispossession.


Even in an age of financialization and servicization capitalism remains more about land than production: constantly seeking new spaces for profit and relentlessly reterritorializing. Thus, assertions of commonality are forced to confront the conundrums of property, and ultimately, land. I hope to bring both post-development and decolonizing sensibilities to bear as I offer some ideas about both sovereignty and the commons, and what those ideas might, and should mean.


The Vancouver Institute for Social Research (VISR) is an independent, para-academic, graduate-level, theory-based free school that began in Feb. 2013. Our intent is to move beyond the borders of the traditional university and to open up a more accessible platform in the city for the engaged discussion of critical theory.


The Institute’s fourth session will be organized around the theme of “Sovereignty,” and is being held from March 2 to April 27, 2015.


Once a week on Monday evenings from 7-9 pm at the Or Gallery (555 Hamilton Street), professors, grad students, and local activists will be presenting on topics of their choice. The seminar will be free to the public and advance readings will be distributed through our WordPress site. Videos of past classes can be found here.


Venue is wheelchair accessible

Participant Bios

Matt lives and works in East Vancouver, Coast Salish Territories, with his partner and daughters. He has founded and directed the Purple Thistle Centre, Car-Free Vancouver Day and Groundswell Grassroots Economic Alternatives among many other community projects. His books and articles have been published on all six continents and translated into ten languages. He currently teaches in CBU’s MBA program is an Adjunct Professor in UBC’s SCARP program. He has taught at many other universities, and continues to lecture globally.