Two Sides of the Fence: A Comparative Analysis Of Parc-Extension and Town of Mont-Royal

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterResearch


[Extract] Choosing the topic for research is an expression of a person's fascination for the subject. This fascination is nothing more than the culmination of perceived peculiarities about someone or something that constantly intrigues the individual. In my case I was taken aback by the astounding differences found in the neighbouring districts of Parc-Extension and the Town of Mont-Royal. Call it fate or serendipity, but all it took was a wrong turn on l’Acadie Boulevard to prompt my curiosity about the differences in lifestyle between these two areas. The sight of the fence that separated the calm, quiet and spatially organized environment of the Town of Mont-Royal from the noisy and crowded setting of Parc-Extension was enough to offend me. I had never come across such a variation in land use within such a short distance. Intrigued by this phenomenon, I set out to investigate the reason for this spatial segregation. The study of the different lifestyles required that I go beyond a simple observation of the resident’s daily activities and find a way to experience life as a fellow resident.

For this reason, I chose to live with a family in Town of Mont-Royal and another in Parc-Extension. While I was able to establish contact with a family in Town of Mont-Royal, and live in their house almost like a family member, I had problems getting sufficient information from the family in Parc-Extension. Without much hesitation, I chose Spiros, the owner of a Greek restaurant that my family usually frequents. Spending countless hours with this man in his restaurant, I was able to put my research back on track. Credited by my Greek ancestry, something that Spiros seemed to enjoy quite a lot, I was able to instil a sense of security, which allowed him to passionately speak about his view on Parc-Extension. However, it was one of my classmates that guided me to Hajji – one of the most interesting persons I have ever encountered. I first met him in the basement of an Armenian Orthodox church during a Saturday version of Sunday school for some troubled Parc-Extension youth. The topic of the class that day was “sin and damnation.” My five years of Jewish high school were enough to impress Hajji, who only after a few hours became very fond of me. Being an immigrant myself, I was able to relate into many aspects of his acculturation. Hajji began to treat me as a friend rather than as a researcher, which allowed me to discuss many of his personal experiences in Parc-Extension.
When I began my work, I had very little training in ethnographic research. My experience in the field taught me the beauty of being an extrovert. Persistence in times of despair is one of the better lessons I learned. At times, all I could think was that people would only turn their backs and refuse to participate. At other times I was so nervous and there was so much going through my head that I did not know how to express myself. When that happened, I kept quiet, listened and waited for the perfect moment; that split second in a conversation where I could enter. What I did learn, though, is that people like to talk, some of them more than others, and some of them too much. For the ethnographer, however, there is no such thing as too much talk. For it is exactly in the times of incessant and sometimes tiresome blabbering that I was able to pick up true individual qualities.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationStories from Montreal: Ethnographic Accounts of Life in North America’s Francophone Metropolis
EditorsLouise Gauthier, Tammy Saxton, Chana Cohen
Place of PublicationMontreal
PublisherTrickster Publications
Number of pages18
ISBN (Print)0889473781, 978-0889473782
Publication statusPublished - 2001
Externally publishedYes


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