Reimaging urban space: the festival as a (re)branding vehicle for inscribing Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside as Japantown

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McCulloch, Scott
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This research study uses a synthesis of theoretical frameworks from sociology and geography to develop critical branding theory that guides an analysis for how urban space is branded with a narrative and identity. The project investigates how a long running Japanese Canadian culture and arts festival called the Powell Street Festival that takes place in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside acts a branding vehicle and reimages urban space with commemorative aspects. The study consisted of twelve qualitative interviews, document and archival research, and a participant observation. Findings suggest that the Powell Street Festival performed as a vehicle for reimaging space, and through subtle-commemorative branding, Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside has been rebranded, in part, with Japanese Canadian facets. The Japantown brand coupled with the high potential for urban revitalization of this space, leads to a concern over the possible social and physical displacement of current Downtown Eastside residents, many of whom are low-income persons.
Sociology, Urban Branding, Festivals, Urban Space