Abstract:

In November of this year, the city of Montreal will begin working to cover up a 200-metre creek, the last significant natural water flow within the boundaries of the city. A group of local activists have been fighting the creek’s burial in court for years, but the city won its argument that after years of neglect, and some shenanigans in local plumbing infrastructure, the creek’s smell has become unbearable, and that it must go the way of all urban rivers before it, into a concrete pipe. As activists fought this, they underwent a kind of infrastructural inversion, becoming aware not only of submerged infrastructure but also the environmental, legal and historical underpinnings of urban plumbing. In so doing they unearthed a ghost: a long-lost tributary of the St Laurence known as the St-Pierre River. Following their experience and that of other ghost hunters, this paper reflects on how entities inhabit the urban landscape, and the role that such entities might have in a Anthropocenic reimagining of urban life.