David Ley

PhD, Pennsylvania State University
Department of Geography

David Ley’s research is in the areas of downtown and inner cities as well as broader issues in social and cultural geography. In particular, his work has focused on issues to do with immigration and large urban centres, the black inner city as frontier, the role of humanistic approaches to geography, gentrification and political ideology, and urban landscapes and cultural conflict.

One of Dr. Ley’s major research activities from 1996 to 2003 was as UBC Director of the Metropolis Project,a SSHRC funded Centre of Excellence. The project’s mandate is, initially, to examine race, ethnicity and immigration in Canadian cities, and thereafter, in comparative context with cities in other countries. Prior to taking up his residency, Dr. Ley held an Exploratory Workshop entitled Multicultural Sites/Sights: Sydney and Vancouver as Gateway Cities.

Dr. Ley has a very diverse and extensive publication record. He has papers in such noted journals as Annals - Association of American Geographers, Urban Geography, The Canadian Geographer, and Economic Geography. He has also authored or co-authored nine books, including the ground breaking work The New Middle Class and the Remaking of the Central City, Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 1996; and what is now considered a classic in urban studies, The Black Inner City as Frontier Outpost, Washington: Association of American Geographers, 1974.

Among his many honours and distinctions, David Ley is a Canada Research Chair, Tier I, recipient of a UBC Killam Research Prize, 1989-91, and elected Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada (1998). In 2000 Dr. Ley received the Christenson Fellowship of St. Catherine’s College, Oxford and in February 2003 he was named a Trudeau Foundation Fellow (2003-2006).

Primary Recipient Awards

Distinguished Scholars in Residence, David Ley, 2003

David Ley

Exploratory Workshops, David Ley, 1999

David Ley

Comparative method is a significant research strategy for revealing outcomes in disparate regions, assuming that those regions have sufficient similarities to make the comparison credible, and sufficient differences to make it informative. As settler societies, Canada and Australia have similar economic and cultural histories beneath a broader imperial hegemon. Their staple economies engage a classic heartland-hinterland geography, with settlement concentrated in metropolitan cores, a demographic process that has intensified in the current era of globalised, post-industrial economies. These metropolitan cores are disproportionately plugged in to international flows of capital, information, and people. Some 60 percent of all immigrants to Canada in the 1990s have settled in Vancouver or Toronto; in Australia, close to 55 percent of 1986-1996 arrivals are living in Sydney or Melbourne. These are unprecedented levels of concentration: these cities have become the primary multicultural sites in their respective nations, cosmopolitan locales where the opportunities and strains of multiculturalism are worked out.

Moreover, immigration reform in the 1967-1975 period ended the eurocentrism that had directed settler flows to both nations since confederation. New immigrants from outside Europe reached 50 percent in Australia by the late 1980s, and approached 80 percent by the 1990s in Canada, where they are described as 'visible minorities'. Non-European citizens have a heightened visibility, living disproportionately in ethnically segregated neighbourhoods, where their difference is advertised by media coverage and the celebratory tones of official multiculturalism with its tendency to exoticise ethnicity. Together they draw attention to the multicultural sights of the contemporary metropolis. Here then is our problematic: a new social geography reshaping major cities in Canada and Australia.

We identify nine interrelated research themes to be addressed by an interdisciplinary team of scholars from Vancouver and Sydney, in a workshop building from a successful precedent in Sydney in June 1999 and towards a major research initiative to follow the second meeting at UBC in July 2000.