Category Archives: urban

Do this. [Ban Cars – NYT].

I think something like this needs to be done for most cities. I mean, not just prepare an article like this, but implement versions of it. Would be necessary to unravel this from its capitalist renderings, and the issue of street vendors of a corporate nature sluicing out the informal sector is not negligible – eek, the prospect of Nike-sponsored street malls or Starbucks boulevard make me feel green in the wrong ways (boke). But with regulations and initiative – and a cultural brain-transplant to replace SUV-fetishism with bikes and some weather-related considerations … All in all, I am still mildly surprised NYT ran this story, and see it as a sign that a moment is still up for grabs even if the Californian Ideology seems set to blow it, and many other problematic aspects. Frankly, the problems seem solvable if there is time and inclination to discuss it, start on the buses…

[The Times version of this article has pretty excellent graphics and a video if you can read it on their site – may be paywall, seems like a free sub from Vietnam – I could not reproduce the dynamic graphics on here, but they are slick for a print paper – go here: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/09/opinion/ban-cars-manhattan-cities.html]

I’ve Seen a Future Without Cars, and It’s Amazing

Why do American cities waste so much space on cars?

By 

Opinion Columnist

As coronavirus lockdowns crept across the globe this winter and spring, an unusual sound fell over the world’s metropolises: the hush of streets that were suddenly, blessedly free of cars. City dwellers reported hearing bird song, wind and the rustling of leaves. (Along with, in New York City, the intermittent screams of sirens.)

You could smell the absence of cars, too. From New York to Los Angeles to New Delhi, air pollution plummeted, and the soupy, exhaust-choked haze over the world’s dirtiest cities lifted to reveal brilliant blue skies.

Cars took a break from killing people, too. About 10 pedestrians die on New York City’s streets in an ordinary month. Under lockdown, the city went a record two months without a single pedestrian fatality. In California, vehicle collisions plummeted 50 percent, reducing accidents resulting in injuries or death by about 6,000 per month.

As the roads became freer of cars, they grew full of possibility. Rollerblading and skateboarding have come back into fashion. Sales of bicycles and electric bikes have skyrocketed.

But there is a catch: Cities are beginning to cautiously open back up again, and people are wondering how they’re going to get in to work. Many are worried about the spread of the virus on public transit. Are cars our only option? How will we find space for all of them?

In much of Manhattan, the average speed of traffic before the pandemic had fallen to 7 miles per hour. In Midtown, it was less than 5 m.p.h. That’s only slightly faster than walking and slower than riding a bike. Will traffic soon be worse than ever?

Not if we choose another path.

Rather than stumble back into car dependency, cities can begin to undo their worst mistakegiving up so much of their land to the automobile.

The pandemic should not stop us. There is little evidence that public transit is responsible for the spread of the coronavirus in New York or elsewhere; some cities with heavily used transit systems, including Hong Kong, have been able to avoid terrible tolls from the virus.

If riders wear face masks — and if there are enough subway cars, buses, bike lanes and pedestrian paths for people to avoid intense overcrowding — transit might be no less safe than cars, in terms of the risk of the spread of disease. In all other measures of safety, transit is far safer than cars.

What’s that you say? There aren’t enough buses in your city to avoid overcrowding, and they’re too slow, anyway? Pedestrian space is already hard to find? Well, right. That’s car dependency. And it’s exactly why cities need to plan for a future of fewer cars, a future in which owning an automobile, even an electric one, is neither the only way nor the best way to get around town.

A few weeks ago, I began talking to Vishaan Chakrabarti, a former New York City urban-planning official and the founder of Practice for Architecture and Urbanism, a Manhattan-based architecture firm. Like other urbanists, Chakrabarti believes that the pandemic has created an opportunity for New York and other cities to reduce their reliance on cars.

Manhattan, already one of the most car-free places in the country, is the best place to start. Chakrabarti’s firm, known as PAU, had been working on an intricate proposal to show what it might look and feel like to live in a city liberated from cars, to show how much better life in New York might be with one simple change: Most cars would be banished from Manhattan.

PAU’s proposal would not ban all motor vehicles, just privately owned cars. There would still be delivery trucks, paratransit, emergency vehicles, and taxicabs and rideshare cars, if you needed them.

But private cars account for so many of Manhattan’s vehicles that banning them would instantly improve life for just about everyone who lives and works in New York.

In parts of downtown, pedestrians have to cross wide roads designed to carry traffic from the Williamsburg and Manhattan Bridges.

In a car-free world, the city could expand sidewalks to give those pedestrians more space.

Two-way bike lanes could replace car lanes in both directions. A concrete barrier would protect bikers.

Dedicated bus lanes, free of car traffic, would efficiently shuttle people in and out of Manhattan and relieve congestion on the subway system.

Source: Practice for Architecture and Urbanism

You already know what’s terrible about cars: They’re dirty. They’re dangerous. They’re expensive to buy and maintain, and environmentally hazardous to produce and operate. Automobiles kill around 90,000 Americans every year — about 40,000 in car accidents, and an estimated 50,000 more from long-term exposure to air pollution emitted by cars.

But Chakrabarti is among a group of urbanists who’ve been calling attention to a less-discussed problem with cars. Automobiles are not just dangerous and bad for the environment; they are also profoundly wasteful of the land around us, taking up way too much physical space to transport too few people. It’s geometry.

In most American cities, wherever you look, you will see a landscape constructed primarily for the movement and storage of automobiles, not for the enjoyment of people: endless wide boulevards and freeways for cars to move swiftly; each road lined with parking spaces for cars at rest; retail establishments ringed with spots for cars; houses built around garages for cars; and a gas station, for cars to feed, on every other corner.

In the most car-dependent cities, the amount of space devoted to automobiles reaches truly ridiculous levels. In Los Angeles, for instance, land for parking exceeds the entire land area of Manhattan, enough space to house almost a million more people at Los Angeles’s prevailing density.

This isn’t a big deal in the parts of America where space is seemingly endless. But in the most populated cities, physical space is just about the most precious resource there is. The land value of Manhattan alone is estimated to top $1.7 trillion. Why are we giving so much of it to cars?

Without cars, Manhattan’s streets could give priority to more equitable and accessible ways of getting around, including an extensive system of bike “superhighways” and bus rapid transit — a bus system with dedicated lanes in the roadway, creating a service that approaches the capacity, speed and efficiency of the subway, at a fraction of the cost.

Eliminating most cars in Manhattan would also significantly clean up the air for the entire region. It would free up space for new housing and create hundreds of acres of new parks and pedestrian promenades, improving the fundamental health, beauty and livability of America’s largest metropolis.

There have been several proposals to ban cars in Manhattan, and the city has been working on a system to impose a toll on cars south of 60th Street. (This congestion-pricing project was scheduled to start early next year, but it has been delayed by the pandemic.)

What distinguishes PAU’s proposal is its visual appeal. Chakrabarti says his firm aimed to show, at a street level, how much better life without cars might be for most New Yorkers. “This is an amazing way to live,” he said.

Parking spots and piles of trash dominate much of the space on a typical residential street in Manhattan.

Eliminating parking would create space for large trash receptacles and more bike lanes. Additional crosswalks would make it easier for people to safely cross the street.

Source: Practice for Architecture and Urbanism

Any proposal to ban cars had better look amazing, because in America, the automobile has never been just a way of getting from A to B. More than a century of car ads and a good deal of hagiographic cultural propaganda has done a job on a lot of us. For many Americans, cars are not just a consumer product but a rite of passage, a symbol of national pride, and an expression of liberty nearly as fundamental as anything promised in the Bill of Rights.

I know, because I, too, have long loved cars. I love them viscerally, the way a dog loves a bone, or an Instagrammer loves a sunset, and I am as surprised as anyone to be calling for their eradication from cities.

As a teenager growing up in Southern California, America’s center of car culture, I spent endless hours lusting after the vehicles in car magazines; these days my appetites are whetted digitally, with ridiculously detailed car-review videos on YouTube. My current ride is a car that only European automobile nerds would appreciate: an apple-red Volkswagen Golf R, a “hot hatch” that does 0 to 60 in under five environmentally disastrous seconds, which I bought only because driving it very fast touched me in unmentionable places.

Yet when I got my speedy ride, I quickly realized it was kind of pointless, because most of the time there’s too much traffic where I live to go any faster than a golf cart. This is the drab reality of driving you’ll never see in car ads — a daily, rage-inducing grind of traffic, parking and shelling out to fill up; an option that many people choose not for any love affair with cars, but often because driving is the least-inconvenient way of getting around where they live and work.

I was receptive to Chakrabarti’s proposal because in the last few years, I’ve grown increasingly disillusioned about America’s tolerance for the public health and environmental damage caused by cars, not to mention the frustrations of commuting by car. And I’m losing hope that the car industry will be able to fix the damage anytime soon.

I’ve spent much of the last decade watching Silicon Valley take on that industry, and I once had great expectations that techies would soon make cars substantially cleaner, safer, more efficient, more convenient and cheaper to operate.

But many of their innovations are turning into a bust — or, at the very least, are not making enough of a difference. Uber and Lyft once promised to reduce traffic through car-pooling. In fact, ride-hailing services have greatly worsened traffic in many big cities.

Tesla turned the electric car into a mainstream object of lust — but most of the rest of the auto industry is struggling to get consumers to switch over from gas, so it could take 15 years or more to electrify America’s entire fleet. The largest automakers still make most of their profits from dangerous, gas-guzzling S.U.V.s that will be on the roads for years to come, and automakers continue to mount aggressive legal and lobbying campaigns against mileage standards.

Electric cars are no environmental panacea — they are more efficient than gas-powered cars, but they still consume a lot of resources to produce, and if they result in people driving more, they may not greatly reduce overall emissions.

Then there’s the accident-free, self-driving car — the auto industry’s holy grail. Don’t hold your breath: The dream is proving to be far trickier than many carmakers imagined, and cars will remain reliably deadly for years to come.

When he wanted to underscore the unexpected nature of invention, Steve Jobs was fond of using a version of a line widely attributed to Henry Ford: “If I’d asked customers what they wanted, they would have told me, ‘A faster horse!’” Silicon Valley’s collective quest for a better car has begun to look similarly narrow: What if Ubers and Teslas are just faster horses — and what if the real way to revolutionize transportation is to think beyond the car entirely?

A more straightforward campaign against the automobile has been winning results around the world. This is a movement by urban planners, community groups and far-thinking elected officials to reduce the amount of land cars occupy.

The effort has resulted in the wresting of major tracts of land away from cars in some of the world’s largest cities. Late in Michael Bloomberg’s tenure as mayor, Janette Sadik-Khan, the transportation commissioner, pedestrianized large sections of New York City, including Times Square, and created hundreds of miles of new bike lanes. Last year, the city banned cars from part of 14th Street in Manhattan, resulting in faster crosstown bus service.

Market Street in San Francisco has been turned into a car-free promenade. And in Paris, Mayor Anne Hidalgo has made taking away land from cars the centerpiece of her politics, and it’s working. Traffic in Paris has fallen by 40 percent in the last decade; last month, Hidalgo handily won re-election.

Manhattan reimagined

How communities might redesign various types of streets.

Mid-block pedestrian crossing

Residential streets like 46th Street in Hell’s Kitchen

Recycling and waste pickup

Social services

Two-way protected bike lane

Commercial streets like 50th Street in Midtown

Taxi and rideshare drop-off

Sidewalk expansion

Street vendors

Crosstown arterials like 125th Street in Harlem

Dedicated bus lanes

Bus stop

Source: Practice for Architecture and Urbanism

It’s good urban policy, but it’s also a matter of equity and justice. Chakrabarti often refers to a concept he calls “street equity.”

Imagine you’d like to transport 50 people from one end of Manhattan to the other. If you were to send them by bus, you could stuff everyone in a single bus car — taking up around 450 square feet of road space, about the size of a tiny studio apartment. But if you were going to send 50 people by automobile, you’d need a lot more road. For 50 people, each driving alone, you’d need 2,750 square feet of space —  basically a McMansion of roadway to transport 50 fat cats.

What does it take to move 50 people?

50 cars

55 square feet per person

One bus

9 square feet per person

50 bicycles

15 square feet per person

Source: Practice for Architecture and Urbanism

And cars take up space even while they’re not in use. They need to be parked, which consumes yet more space on the sides of streets or in garages. Cars take up a lot of space even when they’re just looking for parking.

Add it all up and you get a huge number: In addition to the 2,450 acres of roadway in Manhattan, nearly 1,000 more acres — an area about the size of Central Park — is occupied by parking garages, gas stations, carwashes, car dealerships and auto repair shops. There is three times more roadway for cars on Manhattan as there is for bikes. There’s more road for cars than there is sidewalk for pedestrians.

Cars have a way of gobbling up urban space.

Look at Park Avenue. When it was constructed in the early 20th century, it was true to its name — a large park ran down its center.

Over the years, much of the park was converted to roads for cars. Now just a small median remains.

A redesigned Park Avenue could reclaim its former glory, with a large pedestrian promenade winding down the commercial corridor.

Source: Practice for Architecture and Urbanism

The amount of space devoted to cars in Manhattan is not just wasteful, but, in a deeper sense, also unfair to the millions of New Yorkers who have no need for cars.

More than half of the city’s households do not own a car, and of those who do, most do not use them for commuting. Of the 1.6 million commuters who come into Manhattan every weekday (or, who did, before the virus), more than 80 percent make the trip via public transit, mostly trains and buses, or by walking or biking. Only around 12 percent of daily commuters get to the island by car.

“It really does feel like there is a silent majority that doesn’t get any real say in how the public space is used,” Chakrabarti told me.

New York’s drivers are essentially being given enormous tracts of land for their own pleasure and convenience. To add to the overall misery of the situation, though, even the drivers are not especially happy about the whole deal, because despite all the roadway they’ve been given, they’re still stuck in gridlock.

And they most likely will be forever, because cars are not just greedy for physical space, they’re insatiable. There is even a term for the phenomenon: “induced demand,” which holds that the more land you give to cars, the more attractive driving becomes, leading to more traffic, leading to more roads — an unwinnable cycle that ends with every inch of our cities paved over.

In that sense, even drivers should have an interest in fostering alternatives to driving.

“The one thing we know for sure, because we understand geometry, is that if everyone drives, nobody moves,” Brent Toderian, the former chief planner for the city of Vancouver, British Columbia, told me. Even if you’re a committed daily driver, “it’s in your best interest for walking, biking and public transit to be as attractive as possible for everyone else — because that means you’re going to be able to drive easier.”

Indeed, PAU’s plan bears this out. Banning private cars on Manhattan would reduce traffic by as much as 20 percent on routes that start and end within New York’s other boroughs — that is, in places where cars would still be allowed — according to an analysis by traffic engineers at Buro Happold, a consulting firm that studied PAU’s plan.

Currently, wide uptown avenues like Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard are mired in traffic.

Eight lanes of traffic and parking take up most of the roadway, with pedestrians forced to hustle to cross long crosswalks.

In the new plan, community members could vote on how they wanted to use the space reclaimed from cars. There would be room for curbside vendors, gathering spaces and civic and social services.

Source: Practice for Architecture and Urbanism

How would people get around in a Manhattan without private cars?

Mostly on foot, by bus or by subway; often on a bicycle, e-bike, scooter, or some future light, battery-powered “micromobility” device (things like one-wheeled, self-balancing skateboards); and sometimes, in a pinch, in a taxi or Uber.

Some of these may not sound like your cup of tea. Buses are slow, bicycles are dangerous, and you wouldn’t be caught dead on a scooter, let alone a one-wheeled skateboard. But that’s only because you’re imagining these other ways of getting around as they exist today, in the world of cars.

Cars make every other form of transportation a little bit terrible. The absence of cars, then, exerts its own kind of magic — take private cars away, and every other way of getting around gets much better.

Under PAU’s plan, road traffic in a car-free Manhattan would fall by about 60 percent. The absence of cars would allow pedestrians, buses and bikes to race across New York at unheard-of speeds. Today, a bus trip from uptown to downtown — for instance, from Harlem to City Hall — takes an hour and 48 minutes. With the sort of rapid bus system PAU imagines, and without cars in the way, the same trek would take 35 minutes.

Fewer cars, faster buses

Removing private cars would shorten bus commutes into and around Manhattan.

BRONX

BRONX

74 min.

Hunts Point to Union Square

74 min.

Hunts Point to Union Square

NEW JERSEY

NEW JERSEY

41 min.

Jackson Heights to Union Square

41 min.

Jackson Heights to Union Square

45 min.

Paterson, N.J. to Union Square

45 min.

Paterson, N.J. to Union Square

QUEENS

QUEENS

22 min.

Long Island City to Dumbo

22 min.

Long Island City to Dumbo

BROOKYLN

BROOKYLN

27 min.

Flatbush to Union Square

27 min.

Flatbush to Union Square

Note: Assuming a traffic reduction of 60 percent in Manhattan and 8 percent outside of the borough. Source: Practice for Architecture and Urbanism, estimates from Buro Happold

The plan wouldn’t improve just Manhattan. A ban on private cars on the island would ripple across the Hudson, altering transportation and livability across the wider metropolitan region.

Today, cars clog the tunnels and bridges coming into Manhattan.

On the Manhattan Bridge, for example, there are seven lanes for cars.

A new layout would replace four of them with bus lanes, paths for cyclists and a pedestrian promenade. Three lanes would go to taxis and ride-share vehicles. The middle lane of traffic would switch direction depending on demand.

Source: Practice for Architecture and Urbanism

The public health effects would ripple across the region, too. The most polluted air in New York hangs over the Bronx and Queens, in communities largely populated by immigrants and people of color. New York City has some of the dirtiest air in the nation, estimated to cause 3,000 premature deaths annually.

Among other ailments, long-term exposure to polluted air is thought to increase the deadliness of Covid-19. Much of the unhealthy air is caused by traffic sitting idle on the roads leading to Manhattan. Buro Happold estimates that PAU’s plan would lead to a 50 percent reduction in toxic air pollution in Manhattan, and a 20 percent reduction in the other boroughs.

It’s easy to forget that Manhattan is an island because roads block the view of the waterfront.

This is especially true on parts of the borough’s east side, where Franklin D. Roosevelt Drive runs along the edge of the water.

An expanded greenway would connect with the one on the island’s west side, making it easier for people to bike, run and walk around Manhattan’s perimeter.

Source: Practice for Architecture and Urbanism

Given how completely automobiles rule most cities, calling for their outright banishment can sound almost ludicrous. (We can’t even get some people to agree to wear masks to stop the spread of a devastating pandemic.)

Instead of fighting a war on cars, Toderian told me, urbanists should fight a war on car dependency — on cities that leave residents with few choices other than cars. Alleviating car dependency can improve commutes for everyone in a city.

Chakrabarti acknowledges the political risks of trying to ban private cars. But Manhattan, he points out, is a special place. With a population that is already quite used to getting along without cars, the island is just about the only place in the country where you could even consider calling for the banishment of cars. Manhattan could be a place for all of America to witness how reducing an urban area’s reliance on cars can lead to a better life.

At the moment, many of the most intractable challenges faced by America’s urban centers stem from the same cause — a lack of accessible physical space. We live in a time of epidemic homelessness. There’s a national housing affordability crisis caused by an extreme shortage of places to live. And now there’s a contagion that thrives on indoor overcrowding.

Given these threats, how can American cities continue to justify wasting such enormous tracts of land on death machines?

Animations, illustrations and source material provided by Practice for Architecture and Urbanism with contributions from Vishaan Chakrabarti, Ruchika Modi, Julia Lewis, Skylar Bisom-Rapp, Junxi Wu, George Distefano and Mateo Fernández-Muro. Buro Happold provided additional source material with contributions from Francesco Cerroni, Alice Shay and Gabriel Warshaw. Satellite imagery provided by Google.

Produced by Gus Wezerek.

 

Comparison

Cities of Entanglements: Social Life in Johannesburg and Maputo Through Ethnographic Comparison.

By Barbara Heer  (2019 transcript Verlag, Bielefeld)

 

Screen Shot 2019-09-03 at 15.44.40

and on page 282:

Screen Shot 2019-09-03 at 15.43.53

 

 

yes, jealous the supervisory Hannerz get to say it: anths giving up what they cannot avoid. Ah well. If I was not already the enemy of anthropology in 1990, I was certainly aspiring to it.

And still:

https://www.academia.edu/37841048/City_The_museum_of_vernacular_regeneration

Innovations… Conference 4-5 October 2019, TDTU, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

http://issh2019.tdtu.edu.vn/

Innovations in the Social Sciences and Humanities

4th and 5th of October 2019.
Ho Chi Minh City, Socialist republic of Vietnam

Welcome to the website for the conference Innovations in the Social Sciences and Humanities, jointly organised by The University of Trieste, Italy; the Universität Leipzig, Germany; National Chiao Tung University, Taiwan; University of Warwick, UK; College of Humanities, Education and Social Sciences (CHESS) at Purdue University Northwest (PNW), USA; and Ton Duc Thang University, Socialist Republic of Vietnam.

Conference Venue – Ton Duc Thang University

Address: 19 Nguyen Huu Tho Street, Tan Phong Ward, District 7, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.

Invitation and Call for papers:

For the International Conference 4-5 October 2019 at Ton Duc Thang University, HCMC, Vietnam, we would like to hear from those working on innovative approaches to public engagement in the social sciences and humanities. Methodological, empirical, archival or conceptual-theoretical work is encouraged, especially where a keen interest in application, consequence, practice or outcome is involved. Sometimes this is called impact on the one side, or intervention on the other, but we are nevertheless interested in all inquiries and investigations which advance the emancipatory possibilities of scholarship in a radically changed global context.

Social and cultural practices in both modern life and in the preservation of historical memory, could suitably connect sociology, social work, history, ethno-anthropology (museums, exhibitions, fairs, monuments, collective ceremonies), cultural tourism, eco-preservation policies, and other urgent contemporary social issues. Comparative studies are welcome, but not the only focus. We are especially interested in deep and detailed studies which have wider significance and suggestions for ‘best practice’. After many years of ‘interdisciplinarity’, or at least talk about this, we are interested to see examples where this works well in practice. We can assume all studies are comparative and interdisciplinary in a way, and all certainly have consequences, implications…

We are especially keen to hear from those working in three overlapping areas of engaged activity: these may be people working as anthropologists, historians, museum and preservation/heritage studies; cultural geographers, sociologists and in cultural studies; or on border studies, migrant labor and workplace and institutional inquiries. Our themes will interact within the structure of the conference, but we are keen in particular to go deeply into each area.

With Innovations in Public Engagement we anticipate discussions of the ways scholarship might best go about communicating in public the experience of the past and of human, cultural and environmental diversity, including technological and bio-political innovations and their contemporary reshaping of pasts and presents. Challenges to questions of who produces scholarship and why, for whom and by whom, can apply to past and present uses of knowledge, where the models of research and inquiry are actively reworked in the face of new public demands.

With Historical/contemporary practices and policies we seek to address issues related to contemporary forms of social conflict, including unequal citizenship and new racisms, the rise of right-wing populist movements and infiltration of religious power in secular governmentality, migrant workers as neoliberal slavery, questions of human trafficking and refugees, developmentalism and environmental pollution, crony capitalism and geo-economic zoning politics.

With Innovations of methodology, training and new skills for the future it seems to us crucial that our work respond to rapid reconfigurations of the very possibility and consequences of engaged social sciences and humanities scholarship. Whether the changing context is imposed by governments by industry or by civil society, when we deal with institutional change and competitive and imperative demands, we do need to develop new tools for knowledge(s) and new sensibilities/sensitivities. Education, reform and responsiveness, new skills and objectives, new modes of investigation and teaching in general. An urgent and targeted focus on how scholarship might remain relevant and critical in the face of global trends – funding cuts, social constraints, new demands, new conservatism, and crises of certitude.

The Socialist Republic of Vietnam will be our venue, but it need not necessarily be the context or focus of all papers, nor are comparative, or East-West or ‘post’ or neo-colonial framings always to be foregrounded in the papers. We are interested however in papers that encourage us to think anew about the implications of where we are and about how to re-orient humanities and social sciences scholarship in contexts where rising tensions in East Asia, Southeast Asia and South Asia call on us to innovate and apply once more.

On acceptance of your paper, we will provide you a letter of acceptance or an invitation letter for your visa application to Vietnam or financial sponsorship from your institution. Therefore, you are encouraged to submit your paper at the earliest time possible.

Language:

The conference proceedings and papers will be in English.

Important dates:

  • Abstract Submission: By February 28th, 2019
  • Notification of Paper Acceptance: Before March 30th, 2019
  • Full Paper Submission: By May 30th, 2019
  • Registration and Payment by: August 20th, 2019 (early bird discounts apply)
  • Conference Dates: October 4th– 5th, 2019

We look forward to receiving your contributions and kindly ask you to disseminate the call to your colleagues who may be interested in participating the conference.
Please do not hesitate to contact us at issh2019@tdtu.edu.vn if you need any further information.

________

Assoc. Prof. Le Thi Mai, Ph.D
Head of  Sociology Department

 

Screenshot 2018-11-26 at 16.03.23http://issh2019.tdtu.edu.vn/

Assembling the early 1990s again in Melbourne

Screen Shot 2018-04-20 at 22.05.06

There was a time when the Clever Country was the buzzword – in a time of buzzwords – the multifunction polis and the Precincts model were then fairly obvious code for back-door privatisation, and higher ed was slipping companies into campus ‘Science Parks’ to benefit from the free tax-payer-funded “synergies” that would ‘incubate” start-ups for commercialisation whoopee.

Well, this latest plan from the my alma mater, the University of Melbourne, has the merit of replacing a hospital (my sister and nephew born there) and offers a prime front door site for Uni.Melb Inc. Privatisation is such a dated word these days that it passes by in a blink… Further below I will offer as contrast an old essay on university-commercial research complicity, questioning the premise of these new premises for learning. Learning – is that what universities are still for, or research, or are the caveat’s obsolete and dated, very early 1990s, and we are in the realm of future business? Well, there is an old critique to be made nevertheless (someone said to me today that the key to moving forward is how criticism is handled – push back with exo-punitive denial, or quietly get on an fix-up your practice. I know Uni.Melb has a long history of not being able to handle criticism. In terms of institutional memory it will seem far far and long ago when the then Vice Chancellor Pennington, in the days when a vice-chancellor was basically a jumped-up after-dinner speaker and raconteur of limited means, who just happened to be friends with the Liberal machine… but anyway, Pennington had said the sign of a troubled department was disagreement within, and for the politics department then that was as laughable as it seems. Nowadays not so much, and vice-chancellors are armed against criticism so any dissent means its time to shoot the messenger, with intent).

But by and by – having just been reading Seuss to the kid, I have to stop rhyming so as to get through this bit… Let’s list some absurds in the precint proposal:

“Planning … innovation” – it goes without saying this is a proxy for nothing.

“The University of Melbourne and its [unnamed] partners” – were the partners not invited to the press conference, or did they refuse to stump up their cut for the reslease? Maybe they are secret or sect-like or shy. It anyway leaves me with a big question why. [away, Sneed, away]

“one step closer” – no need to worry about how long this white elephant will take, we are all the more closer to the rhetoric of the early 1990s. The Precinct model for Melbourne was Jeff Kennet vintage at least – have we just been Jeffed again? Ahh those were the days.

“The new precinct will host researchers, companies, government bodies” – as we saw, privatisation. Companies can access the tax-funded thrills of the library and the University Club, though I suspect Jimmy Watson’s might do OK, if anyone still does lunch without whimpering.

“community members from different backgrounds” – obligatory diversity statement up front. Always welcome. Will it mean a whole department of such, or still here and there brochure-freindly photo-inclusiveness? Don’t tell me class is a bigger factor than the racist demographic of University as usual. It continues.

“innovative solutions to society’s biggest challenges” – how would it be if someone suggested exclusion of corporate interests from research agendas? A fresh impetus for critical multicaulturalism, radical barefoot legal theory, Co-research inquiries, activist-in-residence programme, counter-mapping and Marxism 101-999? You know its needed. get in.

“vision… precinct… innovation…” – the circular rhetoric of recycled prose.

““Innovation emerges from vibrant and collaborative environments where people are encouraged to share skills and ideas as they work and socialise together,” Professor McCluskey said” – oh my, this is word for word straight out of the original brochure documents for setting up the multifunction polis, the work of Kenichi Ohmae, the Aust Govt Collaborative Centres definition of a science park – a pleasing environment adjacent to a a university (they do not mean Princess Park). the idea that boffins will leave their labs and sit having lunch under trees chatting until Eureka! Gold is panned from Sovereign alley/Elgin Hill. No need to go to Ballarat, the new rush starts here, well, heavily recycled, but wow. McCluskey does not stray far from the brief. “vision… precinct… innovate…”  (raconteur speaker as I said, with crib notes).

“buildings arranged around a central and publicly-accessible open space” – panoptic 101. never before in Carlton have so many been sold out for so little.

“Fab lab… Superfloor… hackathons… ” – and bean bags I bet. The Graduate School already had them in 1990 too, hat tip TT.

The upsides: Childcare, student accommodation… and Spotless as facilities partner (the partners get named at the end). We should be overjoyed and confident that it is Spotless. Recall, they were recently taken over by Downer EDI, so a check on their spotless industrial relations and court records, mining deaths, dubious pressures to settle strikes, and well, lets not think the Uni of Melbourne is going through some sort of subtle shift into touch love to redeem by association. Clever dialectic that would be.

An innovation precinct only works if, bottom line, there is a big profit player that makes the lead. An old book but informative, have a look at Peter Hall and Manuel Castells “Technopoles of the World” Check out Complicity below (after the Uni.Melb press release (sorry, journalism article) and if you are really keen, come back later and read up on Malaysia’s Multimedia Super Curry Puff, a similar plan under PM Mahathir (who, well frankly, maybe those were the good old days…).

 

Alumni Magazine 20 April 2018

The University of Melbourne and its partners are one step closer to developing Australia’s leading innovation precinct, receiving planning approval from the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP).

The University of Melbourne purchased the former Royal Women’s Hospital site in 2012 and announced in 2017 a partnership with a consortium led by Lendlease to redevelop it. Early works commenced in November 2017 and construction is expected to commence in mid-2018 for completion in 2020.

The new precinct will host researchers, companies, government bodies and community members from different backgrounds and disciplines who will work together to develop innovative solutions to society’s biggest challenges.

University of Melbourne Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) Professor Jim McCluskey said by enhancing research and education, the precinct will support the vision of Melbourne as a ‘Knowledge City’ and play an important role within the Melbourne Innovation Districts.

“Innovation emerges from vibrant and collaborative environments where people are encouraged to share skills and ideas as they work and socialise together,” Professor McCluskey said.

The precinct will be ideally located adjacent to the University of Melbourne’s Parkville campus, which hosts some of the world’s top researchers, and within close proximity to the Melbourne CBD. It will have the tools, platforms and services to create an ecosystem where start-ups emerge and cutting-edge products and services are developed.

Mark Menhinnitt, Lendlease Urban Regeneration Managing Director, said the development will regenerate the former Royal Women’s Hospital site into an open, light and modern precinct, delivering a bold new architectural statement.

“This purpose-built facility will set a new benchmark in education and industry collaboration that meets the highest standards of design and sustainability, while also honouring the site’s heritage and history,” he said.

The 74,000 sqm precinct will feature a series of connecting buildings arranged around a central and publicly-accessible open space. In addition to co-working and commercial office space, the precinct will feature a Fab Lab, student accommodation and a ‘Superfloor’ dedicated to collaboration and fostering the exchange of ideas.

Dr Julie Wells, University of Melbourne’s Vice-Principal (Policy and Projects), said that the precinct will be a place for the local community to live, work and exchange ideas through a vast program of events such as hackathons, workshops, exhibitions and social events.

It will also include shops, cafes, public spaces, accommodation for graduate students and visiting academics, a childcare centre and Science Gallery Melbourne, which will deliver cutting-edge exhibitions, events and experiences.

The consortium delivering the innovation precinct in partnership with the University of Melbourne comprises Lendlease as developer, builder, co-investor and investment manager of the commercial space; GIC as major co-investor of the commercial space; Spotless as the facilities manager; and Urbanest as investor and manager of the student accommodation.

 

So, 18 years ago,the early 90’s already seemed old.

‘Complicity’ essay for Assembly catalogue 2000

Click on the pages to enlarge and read.

 

and:

The https://hutnyk.wordpress.com/2017/04/29/semifeudal-cybercolonialism-technocratic-dreamtime-in-malaysia/

Semifeudal Cybercolonialism: Technocratic Dreamtime in Malaysia

Thanks Kaloy Cunanan for recovering this from ascii-land.

An article on the multi-function polis in Malaysia, from 1999

Hutnyk 1999 Semifeudal Cybercolonialism Technocratic Dreamtime in Malaysia

appeared in Bosma, Josephine et al (eds) 1999 Readme! ASCII Culture And The Revenge Of Knowledge, New York: Autonomedia.

A longer unpublished version is Semi-Feudal Cyber-Colonial.

Restored 18th century Danish tavern to be inaugurated today

[JH comment: now if you were plying the illicit opium trade on behalf of dodgy East India Company officials, you’d also need to stop by the Tavern and deal. I guess]

DanishTavernopenFrom; The Milennium Post

by Nandini Guha | 28 Feb 2018 12:20 AM

http://www.millenniumpost.in/kolkata/restored-18th-century-danish-tavern-to-be-inaugurated-today-287209

Kolkata: An 18th Century Danish tavern that was in ruins, has been finally restored into a 120-seater café and lodge overlooking the Ganges at Serampore, by the Ministry of Tourism and the Government of Denmank. The heritage property will be inaugurated on Wednesday by Indranil Sen, the minister of state for Tourism and several ambassadors representing the Nordic countries. The tavern dates back to 1786. Restoration work was taken up by heritage architect Manish Chakraborti and his team in 2015. “A lot of European vessels used to ply on the river during that time. They used to spend a night in transit at the tavern. When we took over restoration though, it was in ruins. The roof had collapsed and there was debris everywhere. Now the old building has been restored to its old classical beauty,” Chakraborti told Millennium Post. The cost of restoration has been borne by the National Museum of Denmark (Rs 3.5 crore) and the state Tourism Department (Rs 1.5 crore). The Tourism Department is presently looking for an operator to run the café and it is expected that it will be fully operational in a month. “The important thing is that the government is investing in a heritage building that has now been converted into a reusable commercial space. As far as the menu is concerned, the operator has to keep in mind that this is Serampore and not Park Street. The pricing could be similar to cafes like Flury’s or Mrs Magpie. And of course, it will be a boost for the state’s tourism prospects,” added Chakraborti. Chakraborti had earlier won a UNESCO award for restoring the 200 year old St Olaf’s Church in Serampore, again an initiative of the Government of Denmark and the West Bengal government.

http://www.millenniumpost.in/kolkata/restored-18th-century-danish-tavern-to-be-inaugurated-today-287209

Do you remember when Australia did this for CHOGM? So its not just a ‘commonwealth’ thing.

Urban beauty. I dunno if I am more disgusted by this event with Ivanka or the WP’ article’s failure to do proper comparative memory work – since I do remember various round-ups for dignitary visits in Australia. Malcolm Fraser, bizzaro now a lefty icon, had Alice Springs cleaned up for a visit of Commonwealth Heads. And then the area around Sydney was to be cleaned up before the Olympics as I remember. Tom Forgan, head evangelist for the Advanced technology Park, said: ‘well, you don’t want all your poor people standing around in the middle of the city do you’. Oh, and who was being cleaned up? Not poor white folks, of course. Bleaaagrrrrr:

Ivanka Trump’s impending visit to India prompts roundup of beggars

 November 10 2017
(Hyderabad police via Twitter)

NEW DELHI — As Ivanka Trump’s visit to India nears, the south Indian city of Hyderabad is getting ready to dazzle its foreign guests — by locking its homeless and destitute people out of sight in prison rehabilitation centers.

Nearly 400 beggars were picked up from city streets and trucked away to one such center at the Chanchalguda jail, the Indian Express reported.

As the city scrubs up to impress its foreign guests, police plan to clear away 6,000 beggars and have banned begging entirely in the city until the first week of January.

The beggars are “employing children and handicapped persons to seek alms at the main junctions of roads,” said the ban order. “Such acts are causing annoyance and awkwardness.”

View image on TwitterView image on TwitterView image on TwitterView image on Twitter

Habeebnagar PS staff conducted Beggar- free city at Dargha Yousufian Nampally

“Some beggars argued that we were taking their freedom to live anywhere they want but we told them it was for their own good because they are going to the rehab centre where they will be taken care of,” an unnamed official told the Express.

The beggar clearance comes weeks ahead of the three-day Global Entrepreneurship Summit that starts Nov. 28, where the first daughter will lead the American delegation to co-host the summit.


Ivanka Trump delivers a speech at the World Assembly for Women in Tokyo on Nov. 3.  (Eugene Hoshiko/AFP/Getty Images)

Authorities told ABC News that they want Trump and foreign delegates to see India’s good side and not the “Slumdog Millionaire” stereotype commonly associated with the country.

The event’s theme is “Women First” and its tagline, “Prosperity for All.”

In the past few decades, Hyderabad has rapidly rebranded itself as India’s Silicon Valley, as an outsourcing hub for global firms and the Indian headquarters of international tech companies, including Apple, Google and Microsoft. But despite rapid growth, wealth is unevenly distributed and a huge homeless population lives off the scraps of the city’s techie middle class.

In recent years, the city’s fortunes have begun to turn for the worse. Automation threatens jobs and new visa restrictions in multiple countries, including changes to H-1B in the United States, have dampened the hopes and ambitions of many young technology students.

To bring back some of its sparkle, India’s government is keen to portray the country as a pioneering technology hub and attract foreign investment.

George Rakesh Babu, founder of the homeless charity Good Samaritans in Hyderabad, said, “The preparations are happening in every corner of our city. But the prison capacity in Hyderabad is not enough to look after all these people.” He pointed out that the central jail’s maximum capacity was only 1,000.

Vanishing acts like this are not unprecedented when foreign dignitaries come to India. They happened in Hyderabad in 2000 when President Bill Clinton visited the city.

To judge from some of the reaction on the police department’s Twitter account, the move was welcomed by many.

Habeebnagar PS staff conducted Beggar- free city at Dargha Yousufian Nampally pic.twitter.com/AuAqQ0j0P1

We want to see begger free Hyderabad for ever. Hyd witnessed such things in the past when Presidents of America visited. Nevertheless we appreciate your efforts and best of luck.👍🏼

Others lamented that the roundup was temporary.

” . . . After the international conference has completed, situation remains same,” tweeted one man.

“Super job,” tweeted another. “But see that they r not allowed again on road.”

Habeebnagar PS staff conducted Beggar- free city at Dargha Yousufian Nampally pic.twitter.com/AuAqQ0j0P1

We hope it should be implemented successfully but after the international conference has completed situation remains same…

Gunnersbury Bagh. (Kill your darlings 10)

[A set of cuts that jettison the last underworked section of the book – residue of a previous plan, now offcuts in the sawdust.]

Ethnography as a hobby or habit. The day off. 

With comrades, significantly not anthropologists, I visited the 2012 London Mela with this in mind: to make clear a parochial orientation, as comparative diasporic-settler dispensation, that conviviality and cosmopolitanism were not only buzz words, but also not much put into everyday political context. The Mela in Gunnersbury Park looks just like the Mela films I’ve described [forthcoming book]. I half expect a storm to rise up, the weather in so-called British summer is so unpredictable. The initial interactions we have are screen-time-esque, we pose for a selfie, someone is shooting video for Asianet or similar, vox pops on why we are here before we even get past the entrance gate. If it is also a media event inside it is also at least a welcome escape from wall-to-wall screen time, a temporary respite from media under the trees where the carcinogens and drones cannot so easily reach, and Wi-Fi options are rubbish. Phones in our pockets though, and texting to find each other when lost in the crowd works with a delay, perhaps because of the crowds, or the cops. The world in microcosm already begins to replicate the exotic locations of non-resident and diasporic masala drama.

We meet with friends and join conversations on the events of the day, we set about setting the world to rights, as Mrinal Sen once told me was the point of adda (personal communication 1998). There are a number of Melas held throughout the UK in summer – Nottingham, Leicester, Bradford are regulars – and researching South Asian musics made this too part of that amorphous festive research non-category then in its sonic register in the North of England. Anticipating relaxation and conversation, but also some stage action, as well as decent food, sunshine – it is London in summer, I am still wary – and carnival rides, we seek out the sensibility of diasporic South Asias in this idea of conviviality, the social reproduction of support and solidarity. Under austerity this is also strained and increasingly threatened, as ever, but still it can be identified. The idea of community as manifest in Gunnersbury Park, in the family groups welcoming relatives, children, friends and comrades in convivial festive embrace is the take-home experience of Mela.

At Gunnersbury Park there is the chance of taking an angular, or should it be greater, more expansive, interpretive perspective over the everyday routines that leave convention untouched. Mundane and routine and full of problems it may be, but life and food and music and weather are more nuanced than all your concepts and theories. Isn’t it important to think about these things more than the conceptual egotism of non-referential writing for impact, awards or self-advancement. 

This year the Ferris wheel is wholly commercial, but offered fun times and an atmosphere of celebration in contrast to the mood of the previous year just three weeks after London had been ‘consumed’ by riots AKA uprising after the police had killed the unarmed Mark Duggan. Other contextualising factors can be listed, but in the 2012 edition even before getting to the venue and the memory of the previous year’s uprisings, police panic and government rhetoric was on display amidst quite different feelings both before and after the Olympics event. I introduce my partner to a friend after we arrive and it turns out they both have previously lived in one of the most effected areas in 2011, the borough of Ealing was subject to ‘disorder’ on the third night of the uprising. What to say of those events? A vast number of words were spilled in the press and in research reports which tried to explain why London erupted in ‘spontaneous bouts of aggressive late night shopping’ as one government pundit glossed it on BBC’s Newsnight. A subsequent police crackdown, with emergency courts convened, and youths sent to prison for not paying for bottled water, buns, cans of drink or DVDs.

Looking back from Mela to the previous August, of 2011, there are videophone images of wrongful arrest added to a vast rota of unacceptable and flagrant disregard of process on the part of the police. No surprise was expressed about this in conversation with people too often at the sharp end of stop and search interventions in present-day London. While Mela is relaxed, it is impossible to consider any community gathering without remembering the wider record of murders by Police that to date have gone unaddressed in the UK. This because of the presence of numbers of Jankel armoured police vans and busloads of riot cops waiting in the streets not far from Gunnersbury Park. A vivid reminder that multicultural celebration has a harsh reception in some sections. The cops for one, but also the well to do art crowd, the bureaucrats and managers, those who are cops in other uniforms. Exposure of Police murders in London, as documented in the film Injustice (2000 dir. Fero/Mehmood), shows that community policing, with its stop and search power and ready-response teams, is no straightforward ‘service’ – friendly cops at a carnival – but rather comes across often as aggressive and provocative threat well beyond lawful regulations. If the police have an explicit duty of care, there are far too many examples where this has broken down in ‘broken Britain’.

The London Mela in 2012 was the tenth version of that event, and it was no surprise our next discussion about the Olympics served as contrast to the previous year of conflict. The Mayor of London’s ‘celebrations’ (strangely possessive mode of expression) for Eid ul Fitr had been moved to Gunnersbury Park because of the Paralympics. Boris Johnson’s sponsorship of the Eid stage at the Mela was quite some way from his celebrated – and heckled – appearance with a broom to clean up the streets in Clapham the previous year. Perception on the ground, as opposed to the media, often runs a different course. What this means is that political self-regard is a mere contrivance – the idea that Mela can suggest an alternative modality for thinking of culture, commerce and globality, a vernacular form of cultural exchange already there in the city, but countermanded by the presence of Johnson and the cops.

The impact of the Olympics raised discussion of a long history of disconnect between the white Left and the militant Black and Asian anti-imperialists. One comrade railed against the ways the SWP had mismanaged Stop the War (STW), claiming leadership of the activist coalition, failing to ‘Stop’ the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, and presiding over a decline in numbers mobilised from the high-point of February 15th 2003, when two million people protested in London. Sectarian splits and squabbles left the organisation as a dysfunctional rump by 2007, while the wars escalated. Subsequent silence on NATO involvement in Libya was only confirmation of the ineffectual character of STW (Chandan 2015). So much so, even the suggestion that STW might ‘mobilise’ to attend the Mela and protest Johnson’s sponsorship was laughable. Sitting in the sun by the Eid stage, which was somewhat away from the commercial parts of the Mela further up the park in Gunnersbury, it was easier to enjoy a day out without the constant need to negotiate the egos of self-promoting anti-racist pseudo-Left posturing. This does not mean the day was without cost or exertion. Long queues for the food at the Moti Mahal restaurant tent, curiosity piqued at what the Rotary Association, the Red Cross or the Post Office had to offer amongst the various stallholders. Membership, health aid, and special parcel rates for the subcontinent were the obvious answers easily found. Clothing stalls sold tie-dye and kaftans from what seems like a much earlier era, and the travel company next door to the Bikram Yoga promotional stand made appropriate partners in the business of getting away from it all – the global extension and adaptation of yoga to suit varied European and North American audiences, regardless of culture, is phenomenal. Selling yoga back to South Asians as a novelty must be one of the strangest twists in the convoluted game. Wondering what people made of that. To look at London activism through the eyes of those in the British-Asian contingent, informed and critical of Islamism or Hindutva as represented in its war versions, is a necessary empathy that needs more effort. There are so many who are far more knowledgeable of the culture turned exotic and the cinema made subject of study than I can be, which means being left thinking there is still too much to learn. Yet the suggestion is readily accepted that on the one hand NATO attacks, on the other, the Olympics, might be taken as a dialectical code through which to understand ‘the two Augusts’ of festival Britain.

 

Olympic Mela I

The Olympics featured Akram Khan, Anish Kapoor and Eric Idle. The connection between the two Augusts as quite different manifestations of the ‘same’ South Asian cultural management was easy enough to put forward. One August was an uprising with slow but certain legal containment and subsequent media-managed clean up. The second August an extravaganza of merchandising, replete with invitations to well-known and unknown celebrity South Asian figures curating some of the events. The Olympic ceremony was choreographed by a master of ‘new intercultural’ dance, Akram Khan (see Mitra 2015); a twisted challenge to the Eiffel tower was offered by Anish Kapoor as ‘helter skelter’ in the form of the ArcelorMittal Orbit which stood outside the Olympic stadium in Stratford; Eric Idle provided the comic relief. Then Prime Minister David Cameron celebrated the Olympics as a triumph of British business. Uncomfortably, he had to negotiate a complex investment in attending the opening and closing ceremonies while denouncing the declining school sports programming that permits ‘Indian Dancing’ and other non-competitive formats. All the while mouthing platitudes about support for Islam as a religion of peace, while leading trade delegations to Arms Fairs to sell British weapons to despots – with Britain having the 6th highest grossing armaments industry, but the largest percentage of third world sales.

Eric Idle, of the Monty Python comedy team, was perfecting his version of bhangra-style dancing at the Olympic ceremony after singing ‘Always look on the bright side of life’. It would be mean to mock another of the pensionable comedy circuit over such a feel-good expression, but contrasted with the Prime Minister’s pronouncements, this may be considered the high point of political critique in neo-liberal multi-racist Britain. Idle dancing, while Akram Khan watches on and Anish telescoping the view from the tower. How can this confluence sit except as provocation to understand Global South Asia as a zone of interpretation in a war that has two polarities – bombing and exotica? More disturbing perhaps was that the closing ceremony was a kind of expression of release and frankly unexpected comforting celebration. Surprising success in track and field accompanied by no serious logistical breakdowns, and of course no terror ‘incident’ meant the closing ceremony contrasted massively with the atmosphere before the games. The Prime Minister no doubt daydreamed of a poll uptick, on the back of a recovering economy – which was not to be, as the recession seemed locked-in via a mix of austerity policies and permanent stagnation. Citizens wore their Olympics volunteer shirts for weeks after the event, and the stain on the capital from the previous August was seemingly erased. Or at least all those subject to austerity measures were silenced, or had migrated north. Prime Minister Cameron himself felt emboldened enough to praise the games and the people of London, even at one point mentioning its diversity. No mention of the weapons programme, the medals forged by Riotinto, the payback and corporate favours that secured the event in the first place, and his palpable relief to have bumped the criticisms of austerity off the front page of the press for a while. His Brexit demise still some way off, the critique of ‘Indian dancing’ managed to signal the two poles of a demonisation and exoticist versioning of Global South Asia together even as the image was simplified in a cultural attack. All that is wrong with contemporary Britain was put right in an imaginary fantasy of a sporting pay-off from the Olympics, with school children once again competing in robust, muscular, athletic contests and effete aerobic non-sports triumphantly excised from the curriculum. Global South Asia had thereby degraded under Cameron’s misrule in favour of an image of Eric Idle pointlessly ‘dancing’ while Britain rejoiced in a victorious new dawn of escalating armaments investment and a still greater, if secret death squad proxy war on terror compliment to austerity as the permanent solution to fiscal needs.

 

Melodrama of the worst kind, her Royal Richness, parachuting in with James Bond was the only saving grace, until the shock of recognition wore off and the multi-millions of extorted wealth in Olympic proportions reminded us that transference and projection are the vehicles of deceit. The allegorical national fantasy here is that 007 protection and a combat ready grandmother can keep the old Empire spirit alive, even if displays of the Koh-i-noor and other splendid stolen baubles are demoted to commonwealth events and shares in the mining industry, weapons trade and off-shore schemings are the real treasures of the day.

 

In the Mela event immediately after the Olympics it was possible to dwell upon the resources expended to put on and maintain these community cohesions. The logistics of carnival do not extend as far as they do for sport in general, where infrastructural dispensation from Whitehall confers responsibility to set up subsequent decades of enhanced school sports curriculum and competitive business initiatives. The work involved at Gunnersbury Park, without as many volunteers, but still some in branded identification t-shirts, was both incredibly popular and clearly taxing. The steward responsible for the cash box seemed distracted, the cleaners behind the scenes and the coordinators of the amateur Bharatanatyam dance groups were apparently underpaid but dedicated beyond the call. Others were volunteers of a more regular variety, staff of parents’ shops, regulars on the festival circuit, still others roped-in for a one-off. Who else works to make Mela happen? The website operators, those responsible for publicity and liaison with the press, including TV crews which came down at dusk – when the light is best perhaps – and took their story with a few sound bites from the organisers. An appearance by the local councilor, and security provided for them, band security, port-a-cabin monitor – and delivery, maintenance, catering. The significant effort of community organisation members to make an event like the London Mela go off well is not a negligible contribution to annual GDP. It is often unwaged work, not seen or remunerated, as if it were a freely given gift, but even here – as Marx would help us see – the contribution of all parts of the society to the society of surplus labour extraction somehow always contributes, in the end, to the reproduction of labour capacity and profit.

 

Olympic Mela II

Is it still plausible to talk of allegorical Mela if the London 2012 Olympics is presented as national-ideological and Global South Asian festival-exotica in turn? Analysis means working through the corporate-ideological in the use of the games to provide opportunities for Riotinto to forge the medals and ArcelorMittel to build the tower; the psychological-ideological category of internal revolt in the opening and closing ceremonial performances and the success of Mo Farah; and finally to contrast the threat of international terror-ideological in the surface–to-air missiles stationed very publicly in parks before the games with the affable performative-ethnographic exoticist Pythonesque rendering of the British nation as neo-Global South Asia at the end. Each of these interpretations accesses dimensions of the current corporate psycho-terror-exotic dispensation in turn. At the same time, I do not want to dismiss the critique of allegorical focus as homogenisation and must recognise the Games did function as a celebratory resolution and in fact transformation of a concerted pre-games anxiety. The weeks before the celebration and increased sensitivity to tabloid headlines on corruption and security stemming in part from the previous domestic and international year of rioting and war. The weeks after, a smug satisfaction, and continued austerity and war, with barely felt gestures such as Johnson’s sponsorship of the Eid stage and the installation of a wax figure of Madhuri Dixit at Madame Tussauds.

Is it too strange then to see the Olympics as a melodramatic staging of a festival of Global South Asia – the London Eye and the Ferris wheels of Mela as the chakra in the middle of the Indian national flag, the images of diasporic London in Bollywood cinema and Gunnersbury Bagh all as part of a representation of Asia that has escaped its moorings to do cultural duty for the geopolitical intrigues of business and arms traders.

 

 

kill your darlin’s day 5 (missed a day) still slashing away, detritus for the record…

Things that were context then, needed to be updated now so go:

 

–  the New Cross Fire,[1] the Battle of Lewisham,[2] Brixton SUS[3]

[1] The New Cross fire occurred in 1981 and involved the tragic loss of 13 young lives in an incident many thought was a case of arson on the part of fascists against local youth. A massive protest march from New Cross into the centre of London took place with protesters chanting ’13 dead and nothing said’ in the face of police indifference and incompetence. An inquiry in 2001 was largely inconclusive, and leading up to the 30th anniversary of the fire discussion continues, for example at the guided walk part of the Border Infection workshop at Goldsmiths, noted here: http: //hutnyk.wordpress.com/2010/03/10/border-infection-goldsmiths-22-24-march-draft-tbc/

[2] Battle of Lewisham 1977 was a day of running protest against the National Front., commemorated in a peripatetic part of workshop, Migrating University, held at Goldsmiths, co-organised with Paul Hendrich. See http: //hutnyk.wordpress.com/2007/08/21/migrating-university-goldsmiths-to-gatwick/

[3] Stop under Suspicion (SUS) laws allowed police to disproportionately harass black citizens of London, fuelling tensions. Three decades later and similar police powers have lead to disproportionate numbers of Asian men being harassed, under the guise of ‘terrorism alerts’. With much less of a public outcry this time round. Even at the local bus stop: https://hutnyk.wordpress.com/2010/09/06/dragnets-of-london/

Island Story: Journeys Through Unfamiliar Britain, JD Taylor

JDTaylorJust started JD Taylor’s book, bought in Waterstones sociology section yesterday. Brilliant. I mean, the placing of this book in that shelving – shame its four floors up from ground. If there were two copies I would have moved the one I did not buy down to the new books section at the entrance, alongside stuff from Owen Jones and Russell Brand…

Dan by bicycle around Britain – possibly the last book to Unite the disparate multi Island nation (not one nation, emphatically not):

“I reach Leith, a port town now absorbed intoEdinburgh metropolis, but still retaining its own independent spirit. It’s a bustling though evidently impoverished place, by no means as grim as the early-90s immortalisation in Irving Welsh’s Trainspotting. The Banana Flats cotch over the scene like a piece of Thunderbirds’ concretopia, as colourful as a stubbed out snout. The old docks have now been gentrified by posh restaurants, luxury apartment blocks and a moronic Ocean Terminal mall, a non-place inflicted on Leith for once having any kind of character”

So in 20 years this will be the first of the many travel volumes of the by then portly, but still adjectively agile, latter day Jonathan Meades, William Dalrymple, Bill Bryson, Ian Sinclair. Only he will still seem precocious and young – eat your heart out Owen Jones.

“David meets me in the centre of Nottingham. A friend of a friend, he’s kindly offered me a place to stay and help repairing my bike. He smiles, is gracious and issues wise observations as I tail him up to Canning Circus. A local man, bike enthusiast and university researcher, his insights are as consoling as the porters we clink in the beer-garden.

In the Midlands, these working class communities where things were once made now seem abandoned of political importance. Poverty creeps. There’s a danger of seeking out some master to put it right, David warns. ‘We’ve found a problem, do something about it.’ He remembers the riots of 2011, the local police station getting firebombed. ‘For one small moment’, something important happened. Young people were out in the streets, talking politics and the future. They felt like they had power, that for a moment they might be heard…”

Reasons enough to buy the book. Info here: http://repeaterbooks.com/politics/another-island/

Marx Trot 2014

Marx Trot on sunday 13 July, starts at 2.30 archway tube…\

<note, May 2016, the next Marx Trot is planned for August 14, 2016. More details on this blog soon. This is just a date holder>

Mshelfie

A day of revolutionary dawdling, pints, and ending up awash somewhere on Tottenham Court Rd… The annual Marx trot this year will be on Sunday 13 July. All welcome. Lal Salaam!

We will again be leaving from Archway tube 2:30 pm, then to Highgate Cemetery Marx’s Grave about 3pm – heading across the Heath to the Lord Southampton pub which was the old man’s local on Grafton Terrace – then onwards to Engels’ house, then to the pub where the Manifesto was adopted by the Communist League, – now a crappy cocktail bar – and more… All welcome (kids could surely come for the first couple of hours – but warning, its a longish walk across the heath between Highgate and the Grafton Terrace House BYO libations for the first part).

[word to the wise: bring some tinnies in a bag – and sunscreen, umbrella as weather dictates and dosh for dinner (possibly in a footba-oriented venue). The early part of our route involves considerable walking – on the heath – kids are very welcome for the first few hours but after 7.00 it possibly gets a bit adult oriented – well, I mean we visit pubs Marx used to haunt – gespenst-like – in Soho. Mostly harmless, but its cup final night]

Previous trots = https://hutnyk.wordpress.com/2013/07/05/marx-trot-this-sunday-2-30-archway-tube-2/ and https://hutnyk.wordpress.com/2012/07/03/marx-trot-2012-july-7-2/and here: https://hutnyk.wordpress.com/2011/05/21/marx-trot-29-5-2011/

Pics of the houses: http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/photo/london/index.htm

Other links:

http://www.alphabetthreat.co.uk/pasttense/pdf/communistclub.pdf

The Great Windmill Street venue is where Liebknecht says the Manifesto was adopted by the League of the Just/German Workers Educational Association/Communist League – but some say it was at the White Hart in Dury Lane. In any case Marx lectures on Capital at Great Windmill Street, but see here:http://www.alphabetthreat.co.uk/pasttense/pdf/communistclub.pdf

For Leninists – a diversion on the trot might take in Charing Cross station, and areas near Kings Cross and Pentonville:http://sarahjyoung.com/site/2011/01/16/russians-in-london-lenin/

Dancing the first international! http://history-is-made-at-night.blogspot.co.uk/2009_10_01_archive.html

A pub crawl with Karl http://www.mytimemachine.co.uk/pubcrawl.htm

Counter-Mapping Universities

Good to see Ex-Zeppelin and new Hamburg students take up the QM Counter Map:

From the QM collective interview:

What has been the reception to this project, as best you can tell. Have there been unexpected or unintended responses? Has it inspired kindred projects/mobilizations?
The reception has been good, and quite diverse. Some people like the map, some the game, and people stress different aspects of both. In general people really appreciate the fact that it looks very different from most activist and political material. A staff member at Queen Mary in the International Student Admissions Office asked for copies to help her explain to her British colleagues the issues faced by many international students. A presentation to a group of professors highlighted how little our own lecturers knew about the difficulties faced by their own international students.

The game has worked very well as a tool that forces people to discuss their own and others’ experiences of education and border crossings. We specifically designed it as a relational device to get the players to share their experiences and frustrations, and to imagine alternatives. The colourfulness and playfulness of the map has brightened up many a grey bureaucratic political meeting, and inspired others to invent similar tools of mapping, acting and organising in relation to other institutions. We’ve had requests for people to use our InDesign files for making their own maps (the ‘code’ of the map is open and free), and given workshops to other groups making their own maps of the university.

Meeting tomorrow morning (22nd) near Hamburg hafen:

During this meeting we will be focusing on counter mapping using a map project that John Hutnyk presented to us developed by Queen Mary University PhD students a couple of years ago. He has recommended us the following ‘literature’, which we would kindly ask you to prepare for Sunday in case you are interested in taking part.

1) http://lateral.culturalstudiesassociation.org/issue1/content/countermapping.html

2) http://classwaru.org/2012/06/24/mapping-shared-imaginaries-for-anti-capitalist-movements-an-interview-with-tim-stallman-of-the-counter-cartographies-collective/

3) http://www.countercartographies.org/downloads/?dl_cat=2

Afterwards we are planning a small walk through the Hamburg Hafen with the focus on ‘contested spaces’ in order to link the breakfast session with Hamburg.

IPWA

Rustom Bharucha reports that the Progressive Writers Association has its origins, according to ‘its most distinguished founder- member Mulk Ray Anand’ in ‘the expatriate community of India students in London, who had charted their first manifesto as “progressive” writers in 1935 in a Chinese restaurant’ (Bharucha 1998:29)

Bharucha, Rustom 1998 In the Name of the Secular: Contemporary Cultural Activision in Inidia Delhi: Oxford UP

Metropolitan Factory

From the good folk at Minor Compositions, a project for hipsters, creatives and others with too much to lose (please share widely):

Surviving as a cultural or artistic worker in the city has never been easy. Creative workers find themselves celebrated as engines of economic growth, economic recovery and urban revitalization even as the conditions for our continued survival becomes more precarious. How can you make a living today in such a situation? That is, how to hold together the demands of paying the rent and bills while managing all the tasks necessary to support one’s practice? How to manage the tensions between creating spaces for creativity and imagination while working through the constraints posed by economic conditions?

In a more traditional workplace it is generally easy to distinguish between those who planned and managed the labor process and those who were involved in its executions: between the managers and the managed. For creative workers these distinctions become increasingly hard to make. Today the passionate and self-motivated labor of the artisan increasingly becomes the model for a self-disciplining, self-managed labor force that works harder, longer, and often for less pay precisely because of its attachment to some degree of personal fulfillment in forms of engaging work. And that ain’t no way to make a living, having to struggle three times as hard for just to have a sense of engagement in meaningful work.

This project sets out to investigate how cultural workers in the metropolis manage these competing tensions and demands. The goal is to bring together the dispersed knowledges and experiences of creative workers finding ways to make a living in the modern metropolis. And by doing that to create a space to learn from this common experiences that often are not experienced as such while we work away in different parts of the city.

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Train Research Group

This Wednesday 1st Feb, 4pm G3 Laurie Grove Baths is the second Goldsmiths meeting of the Train & TubE Research Section (ahem, I am not really suggesting we call the group ‘tatters’! Its just that the abbreviation TRG also does not scan).
all welcome.
The following few things sent in may also be of interest:
The Olympics Premium (aka buying off the workers with Uncle Tory’s fast cash bribes):
Russian art group Voina have done the ‘lunch on the metro’ stunt too (you need to scroll down to the third image):
Also, in Belgium they are making the point somewhat more directly.  This is the latest and most dramatic action on the Brussles Metro following an unpopular fare rise:

And a few things circulated from the UFSO:

 – here’s some inspiration – AD Block Sweden:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9_w4tFMbUSo

Here is a link to a documentary about the struggle of tube cleaners from a few years back,
if you haven’t seen it: http://v2v.cc/v2v/Underground_Londoners
or: http://www.mediafire.com/?ixmtvvela3ia56e

And here is a great Hungarian Metro thriller ;)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kontroll

Neil tours us round Deptford.

Why thanks Neil:

http://transpont.blogspot.com/2011/09/convoys-wharf-latest.html

Transpontine: South East London blogzine – things that are happening, things that happened, things that should never have happened. New Cross, Brockley, Deptford and other beauty spots. EMAIL US: transpontine@btinternet.com Transpontine: ‘on the other (i.e. the south) side of the bridges over the Thames; pertaining to or like the lurid melodrama played in theatres there in the 19th century’.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Convoys Wharf Latest

The future of Convoys Wharf, site of the former Royal Dockyard on the Deptford riverfront, has been discussed here before. A revised planning application for the site has recently been submitted by News International (former owners of the site) and Chinese property developer Cheung Kong (current owners).There is a lot of local concern about the plans – not just about the impact of what is proposed, but in relation to the loss of the potential once in a hundred years opportunity to do something special here that makes a positive difference to people in Deptford. Challenging these plans, put forward by two of the world’s most powerful conglomerates in the world, is a daunting prospect.Enter Deptford is…, ‘a group of local residents who want to ensure that the redeveloped Convoy’s Wharf offers the best for Deptford and its future. We are NOT affiliated to any political party, commercial interest or quango’. This Saturday 24th September, 10 am to 12 noon, they are organising a ‘planning objections workshop’ in the Blue room at the Albany, Douglas Way.They say ‘Many local residents are worried about the impact of the redevelopment, and are keen to ensure that their concerns are heard by the council. But the planning documents are numerous and complex, and many people who want to respond to the application simply don’t have the time to read them fully. Even those who do have time to read the documents may not know enough about the planning system to be able to write an effective response. So we are holding an URGENT planning objections workshop THIS SATURDAY MORNING at the Albany theatre in Deptford, to provide help and advice to people wanting to comment on this planning application’.

Is that all there is?

A couple of weeks ago I took a group of visitors to Goldsmiths on a guided walk around New Cross and Deptford, focusing on the history of the area and some of its buildings. It was an interesting group, mainly from USA and India, including among others critical architects, a photographer, a film maker and a singer/theatre writer.

The theme of their meeting was globalisation and preservation and this seemed very apposite to Deptford. After all it is arguably one of the birthplaces of a kind of globalisation, the East India Company having been based here, and various colonial and slaver expeditions starting out from the Deptford shipyards. And ‘preservation’ is part of what the argument about Convoys Wharf is all about – how can or should any development reflect the site’s history and preserve the memory of shipbuilding and migration (as for instance Shipwright’s Palace argue)? And what about the site of the historic Sayes Court garden?

One thing that is very striking about the area, looking at it through the eyes of visitors, is just how much it is a zone in transition. I kept finding myself saying on the one hand, ‘until recently this was here’ and on the other ‘soon there will be a new tower block here’. Another feature for an area so tied up with its riverine history is how cut off much of Deptford is from the river itself, not least by the walls around Convoys Wharf. The current planning application promises to restore public access to the river, and that is essential. But does that mean we should just accept any scheme that offers a view of the water?

Another theme that emerged from chatting to the visitors was how similar the experiences of urban development, and specifically riverside development, are across the world. Unimaginative identikit schemes, often by the same architects and developers in different countries, with ‘luxury flat’ tower blocks and sterile semi-public spaces. Is that all there is?

The View from on High.

A month ago new pics were released from nearly ten years ago in New York. Interesting – a view from above.

Seeing these images, and the way that this is still identifiably New York despite the dust, and the death that we know lies as under a shroud below (and the years of death to follow in the new imperialism) – this vertical perspective evokes that city like no other. I am forcibly struck by how this is not at all like looking down on London. It seems somehow important. Sure, most of us do look down on London in some way nearly every day (but not always from high buildings, or from a helicopter [though right now I am typing this from the eight floor of the New Cross estate tower block – with superb views]). Our usual view of London from ‘above’ is more or less glossy, and typically stylized: the tube view of London is that of the visitor who does not yet ‘get’ that the tube map is more art, not a guide to space – the stations are closer or much further apart than the design indicates (the tube map is a simplified, relative view of the network, where lines run only vertically, horizontally, or on 45 degree diagonals. It was designed by Harry Beck in 1931). The contrast with the horizontal evokes the visitors’ view of New York which must necessarily involve looking up from the street (or down from a plane as a prelude to control, Dick Tracy, Spiderman, Google™). In New York the skyscrapers fascinate the visitors from out of town, while the locals seem more concerned with moving across the grid. Recall the fabled comment of the film auteur Antonioni that he would only make a film in New York if the rectangle of the cinema screen were built on a vertical axis. This was reinforced in the televised scenes of downtown Manhattan on September 11, 2001 – the view as if in cinemascope from uptown or from Brooklyn just made the event look like a motion picture spectacle. But on the street, passers-by looked up aghast and saw their city anew. That I think was the strange thing of the day, well one of the strange things.

I recall TV images of people on the street that day staring up at the towers shocked and awed as the planes crashed into the buildings and they fell. Tourists aside, this looking up is usually unusual. Quotidian street protocol does not often include such moments – people look up at advertising hoardings, or the increasingly prevalent public screens of the city, tourists gawp at skyscrapers, but generally city folk mind their own business and carry on. Head down, sidewalk traffic, hustle and bustle, going somewhere. It was much more besides, but September 11 in New York was a neck strain, televised to all.

The people of the street are quintessentially the crowd, the masses of festivals, street party (lights out in New York), café’s (Ash Amin conducting a seminar), conviviality, the rows of shops, the enticements to buy, the seductions of commodification that grab us and make as part of the all consuming apparatus. The street market, with its connections and flows – commerce to the illicit trades, drugs, street people, organized crime, sex work (Berman 2006), restaurants, fashion, fantasy, spectacle (also Berman 2006). All the time careful to note as we pass: the infrastructure of the street; power supplies, underground cables, roadworks, traffic disruptions; a massive network of material labour which still produces the street; lighting: the streets as avenues of neon. CCTV, security guards, doormen, Jane Jacobs, out for a stroll. Taxis – in Cairo I am hailed by a taxi driver who says, without taking a breath: “in my taxi I will take you anywhere you want to go to my brother’s emporium” (see also Mathew 2005, and Kalra 2000b). Marshall escorts his students to his favourite bar. Cars and trucks: delivery vehicles, lorries, buses. The street also as the site of accidents, car crashes, stalled or too fast, traffic; bars, cafes, street food; cinemas, amusement arcades. Pollution – sewerage, drains, the gutter – rubbish, garbage disposal – Boy George working off his community service; rag-pickers – detritus held up to the gloaming by Siegfried Kracauer, who was not the least of these, whatever Benjamin says. Who makes and maintains the street? Monsieur Hulot has been mechanized, the steamroller more rapidly paves what took aeons before, a team of pavers pave the footpaths and painters paint the signage in rapid time.

The rackets, the numbers, dealers, look-outs, scams, pyramid schemes; passport and visa forgers, job search entrepreneurs, denizens of the doorstep, visitors to the soup kitchens, survival strategies of the many; looking out for the street-peddlers, the organ-grinders, and if we are lucky, the lazzaroni; if we are hungry, the Iskon krisna consciousness devotees offering free vegetarian recipe booklets; muggers, petty thugs, street-smarts, wise-guys, the cleaner, the fixer, marabout (Simone 2004:41); criminal slumlords, drunks, musicians; money-changers; carum players and pan-handlers, Reclaim the night, dykes on bikes, the strip, at sunset, and after hours, arcade workers, meter maids, hawkers, buskers, vendors of sweets and treats. Exchange at this level involves all sorts of informal economic connections. I walk with a roll of money seeking trinkets, transgressions and the routines of my 24 hours. The city is alive, has a pulse, skips a beat. Marshall Berman stops and shows me a sign in Times Square. There are all sorts of mixings, the transgressive has become the rule. For sale as well – everything on offer. Multiplicity with corporate sponsorship, and always escaping the ratchet that would bolt everything down and stop it from moving, pluralizing, hybridizing.

The street is horizontal plane – if we go up the lifts of the towers, even those in the Eiffel tower, we see the city as plan, as flattened space. But this view from the gods erases diversity and community in favour of a privileged and sanitized position. On the horizontal plane, the issues are about sanitary drainage and the cacophony of the crowd. This evokes the class and racial hierarchies of the Megacity which are visible at street level just as much, if not more, than in the high-rise and boardroom. An equally important but less uniform global heterotopia assembles at street level – in what has been called a culture of congestion – the ‘urban jungle’ is worryingly described as a ‘potent yet troubling term’ (Cairns 2000:125). There are reasons to both valourize and worry over this scene, since jungle bunnies is an unhelpful designation. Even as the ethnicity of the street-scape is apparent, it cannot be adequately discussed without reference to shifting articulations of racial hierarchy, national chauvinism, communal politics and geo-imperial consequences such as the war on terror or economic restructuring. Los Angeles as city of migration is differently diasporic than the migrations that have swollen Mumbai or Shanghai. The Megacity is always one of movement and babel.

Street politics also deserves mention, the tunes are buzzing round my brain, the page is organized to the tunings of ‘Street Fightin Man’, by the Rolling Stones; in cinema everywhere there would be moves from ;The Commune; or ‘Favela Rising’, Watts to the blak bloc; marchin’ chargin’ feet, offering rehearsals for police crowd control; the over policing of Eid in Manchester has a different soundtrack, sirens and bhangra; in Brick Lane street bombs made of nails, racists attack; on May day there are anti capitalist and anti-war rallies, and these affirmations of the spirit (Rosie) also serve as exercises in crowd control – hasn’t this always been necessary in the Capital? There is a history of house to house street fighting that stretches the horror from Berlin to Nablus to Falluja; the future urban wars will be still more brutal – and on to the future – ‘Terminator’ chronicles devastation, or ‘Bladerunner’ with its polyglot urban chiasmus that has been recreated so often in subsequent films like ‘The Fifth Element’… Slum clearance in honour of Indira’s lost son Sanjay Gandhi, who died in a plane stunt … The reserve army of labour is currently living in dormitory metropolises, 85% ‘occupy property illegally’ – if one accepts a notion of legal property at all in such a context, as Mike Davis suggests: ‘Street vendors and informal sector entrepreneurs’, as well as regularized low level service sector workers, often squat in subsistence accommodation within (long commuting) reach of the inner urban centres of commerce and wealth. In what Mike Davis calls ‘Haussman in the tropics’, the ongoing ‘conflict with the poor’ characterizes the situation of ‘most Third World city governments’ (Davis 2006a:99). Although his capitalization of the relational-hierarchical term ‘third world’ indicates some level of adherence to what Aijaz Ahmad had denounced as the three worlds theory (1992), it is clear that the street is uneven here. High housing costs, long commutes…

Of course the streets of the ‘gated community’ have gates and access security systems, which significantly changes the formation of ‘community’ in such places, as does the fabled presence of ‘armed response’ signs on the lawns of residents of Los Angeles, and the burly doormen outside the clubs and bars. Access is denied, the arcades are privatized. The electronic swipe-card ingress to urban compounds, the video surveillance of new build estates in London. The difficulty of walking the streets now because the way is blocked with fear. ‘If I had a shotgun what would you do?’ asks a guy near Madison. ‘Anything you like’ I reply. We laugh and can talk. But not everyone has it so easy. The necessarily scripted visit is a research requirement, and provokes a humbled awareness of the need for the researcher to begin to learn new rules, protocols and the order of any street – fifth avenue or a sewer ridden slum lane come close together for once. The word on the street is not free.

More pictures of NYC here.

Andrew Benjamin Complex Urbanism Feb 2, 2010

Andrew Benjamin
Complex Urbanism

Tuesday February 2nd
14-16.00hrs. Free.  All welcome.

Council Room, Laurie Grove Baths, Goldsmiths University of London

Terms such as ‘complexity’ bring with them an assumed logic of addition. Events are taken to have become complex due to the planned or unplanned incorporation of new elements. And yet simple addition is no longer sustainable. For development to be possible another conception of complexity needs to emerge.
Moreover, the city is not a neutral site. Differentials of power are at work within the city.
A theory of complexity that allows for both design and analysis has to interconnect programmatic development with the unplanned.
The texture of the urban will demand therefore another vocabulary. The language of lines
and divisions and the feint of neutrality will cede its place to a rethinking of relations in terms ‘porosity’, fraying’ and ‘sites of trauma’ (amongst others).  If there is a philosophical thinking of the city then has to begin with the recasting of relations that such a setting creates.

Andrew Benjamin is Professor of Critical Theory at Monash University, Melbourne, and a Visiting Professor at the Centre for Cultural Studies.  He is author of  number of books including, ‘The Philosophy of Architecture’, ‘Present Hope: Philosophy, Architecture, Judaism’ and, with Charles Rice, recently edited, ‘Walter Benjamin and the Architecture of Modernity’, published by re:press,http://www.re-press.org/

In preparation for this seminar, please read the text ‘Towards a Complex Urbanism’ available by email from m.fullerATgold.ac.uk

National Instruments

On the initiative of Moinak Biswas, Film Studies Jadavpur Uni, Kolkata, and with great input from Rosalind Morris, but initially inspired by the Preservation in Globalization workshop convened by Gayatri Spivak and Jorge Otero-Pailos, an interesting redevelopment seems possible. A disused factory site adjacent the Jadavpur campus was toured by our group in early December. A documentation of the site has begun by photographers invited by the Jadavpur Media Lab has generated some great pictures, see here. The site was left pretty much intact when the factory closed in 2003 – well worth  a look.

Now (see below) there is a plan to gut the site and turn it over to the engineering faculty. The site is huge – there is room for something alongside. Hence, the following draft international petition:

For continued innovation at the National Instruments site, Jadavpur.

The redevelopment of the National Instruments site offers a rare opportunity to look forward and back at the changing dynamic of industrial production. The extant materials, documents, personal effects, and machinery (lathes, punch card clocks, work desks) provide a physical record of workplace experience now passing. Jadavpur University, with its reputation, scholarship and global reach is well placed to facilitate an innovative approach that builds upon the proud history of NI and looks forward creatively to new developments.

A simple shroud should not be passed over this accumulated wealth of objects, and labour, from the past. The factory remains might be best preserved by the University in a working space that is devoted to tracking the transformations of industrial production and workplace experience in India. That a museum and art/technology laboratory has been proposed is supported by international scholars, a large number of whom have visited the site and/or noted the initial documentary work produced by Moinak Biswas and his team. We consider this an excellent, exciting and potentially rewarding possibility for joint work and international co-ordination. Scholars would seek international funds to locate research projects on labour history, urban development, new economy (service sector, technology, privatization) and co-research in joint ventures with Jadavpur scholars and students. A truly international project to unite workers of the world might be reanimated here.

The idea is that various people will sign this and it be put to the Jadavpur heads to consider the proposal, from Media Lab and Film Studies, to do something interesting with the site. Well, I think its interesting. I used to work in a similar factory as a grubby teenager. My dad spent a very large part of his life in one – Stanley, Nunawading, Melbourne, Australia. I have a touch of the heebie-jeebie’s looking at the machines, especially the drills where I had spent long low-paid days… (the picture I have used is from a post by Madhuban Mitra and Manus Bhattacharya – with thanks)

_____________

Giving some history of National Instruments, and of the original preservation project and future plans, Moinak writes:

The factory started off in 1830 under the name ‘mathematical instrument maker’, then became ‘mathematical instruments office’, both serving mainly the ‘survey of india’ instituted by the east india company. During ww1 it got seriously involved with the defense dept., became national instruments factory; was relocated to the premises you saw in 1957, renamed ‘national instruments limited’ (NIL) as a public sector unit under the union govt. the factory mainly made optical instruments for survey, measurement, photography, etc. and was popularly known for its national 35 camera. It fell into some crisis first in the 60’s, and then into a more serious one in the 80’s, got referred to the board of industrial and financial reconstruction (BIFR). Manufacture stopped in 2003. most workers accepted the voluntary retirement scheme (VRS) and left in march, 2003. 64 employees remained on campus and witnessed the ruination. In 2009, jadavpur university took over the property with the aim of building an extension campus for the engineering faculty.

the media lab of the dept of film studies at jadavpur undertook extensive photo documentation of the premises in june, 2009. we commissioned 10 young photographers and filmmakers to shoot for 4 months on the premises, covering everything possible. we have a bank of 20 thousand still images and 60 hours of video footage. a blog from the stills (http://darklythroughalens.wordpress.com/) and a couple of films have been made. more projects will follow. we have shot interviews with many ex-employees. it’s now a substantial labour and industrual landscape archive.

but there should also be preservation of a different kind. the university has started renovating parts of the buildings, and will soon remove most of the equipment and files, etc. we were thinking of proposing the creation of a space, using one big room like the canteen you saw, which will preserve their products, some of the tools, machine parts, workers’ id papers, bills, service documents, policy documents, the punch card machines, etc, and at the same time be an active space for independent art practice, including independent film screenings, installations, etc. the major problem is to persuade the university to spare that space. it would pay more serious attention to an international community of artsits and intellectuals. but we should keep in mind what can be sustained and how far, given the public funded university framework in india, and given the fact that anything doing with art has first to prove its vialbility to the engineering faculty dominated.

_______________

This is great stuff – history and potential. But there are also things to debate. University take over of the fading industrial economy has a long track record (see here, here and  here). Is it really possible to tamper with such trajectories? Besides drafting the above call at Moinak’s request, I also offered my two pice worth of cynicism earlier in the discussion [note: I was a bit ill at the time]:

Moinak, your sentence on the the creation of a space that will both preserve the NI worker’s “products, some of the tools, machine parts, workers’ id papers, … punch card machines, etc, and at the same time be an active space for independent art practice” is a great start. But I wonder if the museum/archive route is too passive, and might not claim much in terms of physical space in the building (when it all should be kept in those terms – see Mao Mollona’s excellent film on industrial steel machinery in Sheffield, where a fully functioning workshop has been maintained 1890’s era machines in working, and profitable, order). I also wonder if, importantly, the preservation argument does enough in conceptual terms within the overall regeneration/transformation of the economy and the University – a discussion I imagine that must be going on, and needs new thinking.

I am acutely aware that here “anything doing with art has first to prove its viability to the engineering faculty dominated”, and wonder if the focus of what we present might be geared towards this. That said, I am stumped for where to look for initial funds, or clearly marked ‘preservation funds’. It is not my forte. However, ongoing funding could also be geared into the conception.

An Art/Laboratory would probably have pedagogical, research and creative components.

At issue is who inhabits the space, what it provides, and outcomes now and for the future.

Thus, neither a mortuary service for fading industry, nor a hollow art scene doing a ghost dance for dead capital (tried and tested, but too often turned into mere foyer or coffee shop – eg Tate Modern), the project has far greater inter- and intra- disciplinary purchase, and potential as for very wide participation. The former workers, the Jadavpur students, local residents, the city in general, and both national and international research teams across many areas can be drawn into the nexus of this site conceived as instrumental to the transition between older and newer economic modes. Research, teaching and creativity all have a role in transition.

A range of projects, both national and international – but many funded internationally – could locate in dedicated space within the project:

Possible internationally funded Research Projects for Instrument Lab

– changing infrastructure of economies, history and globalization, technology and colonialism, warfare and commerce, education and training history (see journal of the Confernce of Socialist Economists)

– class composition and worker’s inquiry, labour history, transition economies and the transformation of work, co-research with workers of older and newer economic production (this is a project I would like to pursue between Goldsmiths, Queen Mary Business School and Jadavpur – funded by Economic and Social Research Council UK perhaps, the Co-Research would involve workers paid as researchers in both discontinued production such as National Instruments, as well as in new industries in Kolkata such as creative economy, service sector, media and telecoms. They would be researching, documenting and theorizing their own conditions of work – aim initially at a three year project @ £500k for 4 paid researchers on site, plus money for collaborative work).

– precision capitalism, mathematical arts of production, skill, craft and body/machine knowledge: instrument hand and brain, cyborg labs then and now (Fuller/Harwood/MUTE or RAQS?).

– obsolescence and regenerative second life, industrial remains and urban renewal, science and fiction, creative revival as life force in cities (see P.Hall and M.Castells: Technopoles of the World).

– photographic imaging and war/industry convergence (as digital is to analog; globalization is [not] to industry)

– teaching exchange, especially in cultural studies of work, education, training, urban preservation and curating (possible Network Grants at £70k each)

These projects in various ways – there would be many others possible – would be conceived to locate researchers at Jadavpur, employed locally and internationally, and would work with local constituents and stakeholders (workers, researchers, students, local residents, support staff). Each would entail a pedagogical exchange function, as well as a display (installations, museum, art) aspect. The point is to keep this alive to change, the transformation of work, of class composition, or urban environs, and of the university itself (as universities move to project based work, and older models of disciplinary containment are supplemented).

Ahhh, now I have written all this down I think maybe its not strong enough yet to stave off the impending disposal of most of the workplace artefacts, beautiful machines (valuable machines) and other remains, but those remains are the resource and raw material of something potentially great in the future. Our labour can reanimate them – the sweat of our friends to whom we owe a debt (not just of mourning).

Sorry for the Derridisms – the flu drugs again kick in…

Literature and Film Go Wild in the Streets: from Burning Books to the War on Terror.

Abstract for Joel (to be written up by March)

Literature and Film Go Wild in the Streets: from Burning Books to the War on Terror.

Book burning is something close to the heart of novelist Salman Rushdie, whose work, The Satanic Majesties was famously burnt in Bradford  twenty years back (and in India six months earlier) in 1989. This protest is said by many commentators to mark the public articulation and mobilization of a specifically Muslim South Asian presence in the UK (Malik 2009). There is much scholarship on this theme and the changes it rings in: Gayatri Spivak long ago pointed out how ‘the Rushdie affair has been coded as Freedom of Speech versus Terrorism’ (1993:237), and with its long history, the burning of books of course agitated the liberal sensitivities of many commentators who later were all in favour of the bombing of Baghdad, including, presumably various libraries, museums and bookshops. This is not to excuse the fatwa or to enter into the debates about censorship or appropriate handling of Islamic narrative (the six wives of the Prophet as prostitutes was always going to get Rushdie into trouble, as his sales publicist no doubt hoped, but horribly underestimated). The point that interests me here is the reconfiguration of the streetscape of diaspora and terror that this book burning achieved. An outrage reconfigures and then changes shape – as Rushdie’s characters also do – through the context of geo-political intrigue, investing these characters and issues with darker sentiments that is then played out in suburban space. The book burning on the street evokes other street politics – from burning cars and rioting (example: the film Sammie and Rosie get Laid – Frears/Kureishi) through to a more persistent low level everyday anxiety of racial profiling in a surveillance state. Where Spivak attends to a geographic and linguistic ‘really existing’ Asia that has now become the major location for the sharp end of the war on terror, from South East to North East (Philippines, North Korea) and North West to Middle East (Afghanistan, Palestine) we can talk of an expanded reconfigured Asia as host for a the theatre of war (Spivak quotes Koshy 2003:x) that ever more becomes a matter of urban/street conflict in locations like London, Manchester, Bradford and Birmingham. On streets like those of Lewisham, London, this Asia, and the visibility of ‘Asians’ loses geographical specificity and is embodied in the figure of the threatening Muslim: the people of the book become book burners and Jihadis. Various commentators do not seem to agree on how this came to pass or what should be the response, but clearly there can be multiple and varied globalized versionings of terror. The war on terror at home can be seen in the sociological reportage of Malik, Gopinath and Fekete, in the cinematography of Kureishi and Frears, and the theoretical reflections of Chow, Derrida and Sen.

See also here and here.

This Much is True

demenezesI will be attending this important bit of theatre:

THIS MUCH IS TRUE
By Paul Unwin and Sarah Beck

On 22 July 2005 Jean Charles de Menezes was shot dead by the Metropolitan Police at Stockwell tube station. It was a defining moment in London’s history yet too many questions are left unanswered.

Award-winning writer and director Paul Unwin’s (co-creator of Casualty and Holby City) and Sarah Beck’s play is a shocking, electrifying, insight into what really happened before, during and in the years following Jean Charles de Menezes’ death.

Weaving together new and personal testimonies from senior police officers including Andy Hayman (Metropolitan Police former head of counter terrorism), Brian Paddick, Jean’s family, his friends, the legal team (including Michael Mansfield QC), THIS MUCH IS TRUE brings the tragedy to the stage and reveals much that has never been said publicly before.

Cast: Amber Agar, Stefano Braschi, Alice Da Cunha, Gerald Kyd, Beatriz Romilly, Justine Waddell.

Directed by Tim Roseman with a multi award-winning creative team including Paul Wills, Mike Walker, Knifedge, Richard Howell and Daniel Pemberton.

http://www.theatre503.com/whatson/detail/144/
www.theatre503.com
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Jean Charles de Menezes

target_small1You can read the verdict and see the press conference by the family campaign on the website at the end of this press release:

Press statement from the family:
Friday, 12 December 2008

Press statement by the family of Jean Charles de Menezes, the campaign and their lawyers Birnberg Peirce following the jury’s verdict

“Today is a very important day for our family and campaign for justice. We have spoken to Jean’s family in Brazil and they like us feel vindicated by the jury’s verdict. The jury’s verdict is a damning indictment of the multiple failures of the police and the lies they told. It is clear from the verdict today that the jury could have gone further had they not been gagged by the Coroner. We maintain that Jean Charles de Menezes was unlawfully killed” – Patricia Armani Da Silva, cousin of Jean Charles on behalf of all of the family.

The family’s legal team argued that evidence heard by the jury provided sufficient grounds for the jury to return unlawful killing (murder) in respect of the two police shooters, C12 and C2 as well unlawful killing (gross negligence manslaughter) in respect of the actions of three of the command team. We also submitted that, in accordance with Article 2 (ECHR) the jury should be permitted to return a meaningful narrative verdict that could identify all the police failings that caused or contributed to the death of Jean Charles de Menezes.

The five legal teams representing supposedly separate interests of the police combined ranks to oppose our submissions, maintain that the evidence only supported a lawful killing or open verdict. The coroner ruled in favour of the police. As a consequence the family sought to challenge the decision, lodging an urgent application at the High Court. Mr Justice Silber considered the challenge in relation to the narrative verdict only but ruled that the coroner had a wide discretion and he would not interfere with his ruling.

The family considered that the coroner had effectively gagged the jury. Any verdict returned by them would have at best limited meaning and would not have the effect of holding the police accountable for any failings. At that stage, having exhausted all legal avenues, the family instructed their legal team to cease participating in the inquest proceedings.

We have lodged grounds to appeal the decision of Mr Justice Silber and our judicial review challenge of the coroner’s decision in respect of unlawful killing remains to be considered.

To date, not one police officer involved has been held personally accountable for failings that led to the death of Jean Charles. In fact the two most senior officers in the command team have been promoted. The law as it stands, effectively provides legal immunity for police officers who shoot innocent people in the cause of protecting the public.

This case raises questions of critical constitutional importance. Should our armed police service be protected from meaningful criticism (let alone criminal sanction) or are the public entitled to go about their day to day business free from the fear that they could be shot dead without warning if mistaken for a suspected terrorist?

For further information and background information visit: inquest.justice4jean.org

Whittington’s Cat notes for Panto Terror.

Punch and Judy. The grim and glum reality of opportunism is today more and more prevalent, more and more accessed, acquiesced, more or more or less bad, worse than before. We are confronted on all sides by both overt and covert ‘research’ groups, by think tanks and lobbyists, who have decided – in a climate of total war – that we need to attend to (the control of) the global public sphere. The tanksters are interested in ideas, in projects and in strategies, they are interested in the management of feelings, the orchestration of responses, they are interested in refining a certain clarity of message. They bring us bread and circuses – both stale.

Their boosterism says nothing. The climate they encourage thrives on the sentiment of abstract disengagement – alongside the promulgation of procedure and the ‘dictatorship of the secretariat’ – they persuade us that we abjure our interest or involvement in political questions because a) things are too complex and b) complexity needs to be controlled.

These people are sceptics who rail against scepticism. They present themselves as those who present answers, but the way they do so cynically narrows the space of answers to a tightly controlled furrow. The engagement they favour is disengagement except on their own studiously abstract terms. There is no room for the questioning of sceptics in their cynical world.

And then they sometimes claim they are for democracy – but not broadband democracy or open debate – rather a pay-per-view, programme management, narrowcasting, niche-market democracy. Their democracy excludes debate, questions, objections and alternatives. They have long ago vetoed the possibility of thinking outside the box, for there lies danger, difference, a multiplicity that cannot be corralled. The box must always have a brand mark, a slogan, a font or a strapline – sometimes just a colour (the colour is always drab).

They promote their insights as research, as scholarship, as traditional values and as wisdom – but they are faceless, passionless, automatons – going though the motions (jack boots are not far away, but they forgo them for frequent flyer miles and airport lounge privileges).

I do of course think there are more than two sides – the lines shift and the players change, sometimes swapping, sometimes double agents. But there are some, the best you can say of them is that while they are one of ‘them’, they do at least talk like ‘us’. We should carefully watch these ones especially.

Who are they? In fact they are us. Turn again Dick Whittington, Turn again.

———

And why Dick Whittington? – see here for both the real and the Pantomime story, where a cloth-merchant adventurer pilfers some gold, travels to the orient to get rich, and returns to London to become Mayor. OK, this all happened 700 years ago, but the cat seems to have nine lives. These are notes for Pantomime Terror – inaugural on 30/09/08 (5.30, IGLT Goldsmiths).

Border Patrols

The city is the border. Each time you wave away the Chinese DVD seller who approaches you in the pub; each time you glide past the Polish beer in the cornershop, choosing a stella or chardonnay instead; each time you discard the free advertising newsheet you’ve barely even read – a million instant statements of the border.

Sex worker postcards in the last remaining telephone booth (new in town!); spruikers on the curry shift entice you for a deal; dragging angry and Peckham through the CCTV streets at dawn – the border is the city and the walls between us all.

It could not be that we don’t know this: that the management of the border is a mass participation project operated absentmindedly by all of us all day. Through an overkill of commentary and a shifting, churning hierarchy, the profiles, stereotypes and judgements that are constantly made yet so often denied are the guilty enactment of this regime. Border Police do their work – spot check, detention, deportation – all the better because our everywhere everyday distracted border operation is there in all we do.

The regulations are on the streets, the regulators are here.

Siddown Siddown!

tricorn.jpg“Hey you, up the front, pull yer head in, your noggins’ in the way, I can’t see the action”.

I have long been a fan of Owen Hattersley’s word and image hoard as found on “Sit Down Man Your a Bloody Tragedy”. It presents a (recently very) Keiloresque version of London that is a somehow both a well-informed mix of architectural-spotting psycho-geography and has the tone of an ethnography written by some 50’s era fixated interplanetary alien cosmonauts (with cannon ixus 750s on board). We know Owen from when he spoke at a workshop we organized at CCS a few years back and I think his stuff is pretty wonderful. I’ve been recommending it to students wanting evidence that something interesting is going on in London (and its been a constant source of great images – and wacked out soviet era postcards – for a long time).

And indeed, something must be going on in the UK since the government has released a brand new Security Strategy ‘to deal with national emergencies such as terror, disease pandemics and flooding’. I am looking forward to reading that! I betchya it doesn’t have very good pictures, but the portrait of a class cleansed urbane Britain that it offers will no doubt be crystal clear.

Own has a piece in the ‘New Statesman’, which you can find out about after directing your cursor *here*.

apple is apple

There was a chap in Calcutta back in the late 1980s who insisted that all religions were ‘the same’. He’d often say over and over: ‘apple is apple – one apple one god’. It seemed profound at the time, and I wished I’d remembered that today when I was giving a talk at Columbia University Ethnomusicology department (I’m not 100% sure that is the official name of the dept -thanks Tylor for organising – do see their mag Current Musicology). The issue at stake was whether comrade Aki Nawaz saw himself as some sort of representative of Muslim youth. I think not, even if Aki has been known to say stuff like ‘Islam is a more serious kind of punk’, its not always necessary to mark everything out in terms of the mainstream gut-reaction oppositions of the day, even so Fun^da^mental can speak as often from a ‘Muslim perspective’ as from any other. I see no problem with that given the amount of time, say, the Police are not asked if they are speaking from the perspective of the forces or order, I mean as Christians. I mean, isn’t that what keeps Sting going, despite all the Buddhist claptrap he is want to spout for sales purposes? (I know I know, that is hardly fair – ah well – but their reforming and playing here just means they are deserving some degree of lampooning. That old story of Burroughs, when introduced to the band, telling his friends to get rid of any gear they might be holding, still deserves a wry smile).

Speaking at Columbia was fun, in a well-kitted out room (projector, sound, stereo system all working flawlessly). Suffice to say the discussion was engaging, and had much to do with relative degrees of irony in politics (the talk was about hip hop and politics in the UK – surprise). Discussion helped along by Charity Scribner and David Graeber (soon joining Goldsmiths), an interesting PhD candidate called Tim, Stephanie the super-assistant, and of course the wonderful Sherilyn. We then repaired to 20-10 (??) for drinks, baseball, the worlds largest pizza slices, and disturbingly potent free drinks from the barman also called Tim (who seemed to like playing Steve Miller songs much more than is reasonable).

Before having to trek back uptown to retrieve a key to Charity’s flat because I had mixed up the originals I had cut this morning (for a dollar), I found this charming mark (see picture) someone had written in the concrete near the corner of Christopher St and 7th. Awwwww. How idealistic and romantic is that? No initials, no slogan – though this pavement mark was alongside a wallposter which read: ‘Slow down and smell the Garbage – NY easy’. Says a lot I think, in these humid summer days. I can hear Frank singing something about the city having been named twice or something.

On to High Falls.

Megacity topic: Street.

Megacity topic: Street.

I’ve just come back from the TCS workshop on Megacity – a volume of the TCS-NEP New Encyclopaedia Project… Megacity is a term for those urban conglomerations that – ill defined as yet – have about 10 millions or more population, expand beyond the confines of the modernist city (whatever that means) and are something more, or different, from the ‘global city’ of a certain urban sociology…. I was asked to present on the idea of the street, and I wondered how a certain kind of urban anthropology might reconfigure what as yet seems a pretty inchoate conceptualisation of Mega… but I was happy to have a go. Here are some of my first, somewhat pedestrian, ground zero perspectives on the city as it transmutes from modernist to megalopolis… This is a proposed encyclo entry that will either canvass the street as a single article, or suggest a cluster with several authors (as is the format of the NEP).

It might be good to start by trying to reverse the perspective that framed the discussions of the first part of the day. These had been about how to conceptualise the megacity, how to map it, diagram it, how to represent that which ‘cannot be represented’ (Andrew Benjamin with a new context for the words of Marx from the 18th Brumaire). I do not disagree with attempts at abstract comprehension, but I wonder – given the task of ‘problematizing the urban’ what it might be to start – so to speak – at the other end. So I began with a phrase, with the idea of ‘the word on the street’.

The assumption to break with here, to challenge, is the idea that at ground level there is chaos and disorder. That an intrinsic disarray was articulated as the condition of the rampant growth of the city into megacity seems to me to have missed something important about urban space. There is order, and it can be examined – though this takes time. For me to hold onto an image that evokes this, I have this terrible trinket of a lighter-representation of the twin towers with aeroplane which reminds me, all too graphically (see pic) of one among the many striking scenes of that precipitous urban event of 2001: people on the street staring up at the towers in shock and awe as the planes crashed into the world trade centre on September 11, 2001.

Quotidian street protocol does not often include such moments – people look up at advertising hoardings, or the increasingly prevalent public screens of the city, but generally they mind their own business and carry on. Head down, sidewalk traffic, hustle and bustle, going somewhere. It was much more besides, but September 11 in New York was a neck strain, televised to all.

So I started to read the classic city texts – Whyte Street Corner Society, Jacobs The Death and Life of Great American Cities, and newer ones like Duneier’s Sidewalk, and Berman’s On the Street, – which are each great – deeply worked, reliant on long fieldwork. And all that makes me wonder if we need to rethink the focus on the street in the megacity so as to be careful not to jump far too quickly to suggest uniformity, replication or a typology. The mass observation scenario of looking up on high as the image of the city transforms before our eyes is perhaps a reminder that life in the megacity cannot be grasped all at once or forever, that the city has many different and changing facades (sometimes brutal-tragic and sudden) and that the teeming cultural plethora of the city, for good or bad, is peopled by crowds of multiple provenance who come together on the sidewalk sometimes, but are otherwise also variously divided. The street is as complicated and complex here as it is, differently, just around the corner, or a few moments later in time. Would we need a reminder then that whether the aim is to plan, to theorize, to segment into creative or economic quarters, or to otherwise conjure the city, there will always be more, and more than a supplement or remainder, rather a glorious excess; a bleeding beyond the prescriptions of definition.

How would the protocols of urban anthropology look if we were to rethink them through the idea of the megacity? I wonder if we can ever think the street in a way that goes past those earlier renderings, updates them, or at least learns from their specificity. There have been many versions of urban anthropology that seek out the word on the street. The street is thought, a path of thinking; the street-map the synapses and dendrites of the mind (Simmel), an intersection a thought; if the road is a sentence (Derrida), the city is a text to interpret (Lefebvre); if the square or the crossroad is a node amongst flows (D&G), and traffic networks; labyrinthine plans and perspectives and views; transformed mapping with new technologies (Kittler), google earth and sat-nav replace the a-z, the imaginary city tracked through poster, project and propaganda, networked (AbdouMaliq Simone), the aspirational city of planning and commerce (Holsten) photogenic street-scenes to draw and attract; the vibrant, viral and virtual city which makes an image site of the street, overexposed (Virilio), heterotopia, hetero-dysfunctional.

If the street of the megacity is as likely to be a major thoroughfare such as Broadway Manhattan as it is to be a tiny, winding, obscure lane in Salt Lake City (Bidhanagar) the ever growing ‘edge’ of Kolkata. The point is that in such cities, people live. Questions of how they live (demography, quality, strategies), if its possible to live (adequate shelter, sustenance, services) and if its possible to live better (policy, organization), remain.

It may be that megacities are only coherent at a distance, as organisms that can hardly even be diagrammed. Sprawl/scrawl. When moving along the streets, when speeding along the city’s arteries, what we feel is the rush, and yet when on the street we can’t see the street we’re on (for all the street vendors, drug dealers, shop fronts, commuters, sweepers etc) but when we can see the whole of the street, we’re not really on it). The map is not the territory, the name is not the person.

Derive.

Walking down Broadway with Marx’s Capital in hand, reading the signs, or down Nimtollah Lane with a dictionary (my Bangla is poor), I am faced with the multiple character of the megacity when the sheer abundance of ways the life of the street connects not so much to other streets on an A-Z map of the nation, but rather direct to the global ecumenium. The megacity has streets peopled by citizens of the world. They might be going somewhere or staying put, even stuck; they might be movers and shakers or ‘illegal’ and on the run. The city though is global when the street hosts the peoples of the world. This heterotopia is to be mapped otherwise than in a national history – rather start with the idle flim-flaneury of Benjamin in Paris, the derive of the situationists, or Ian Sinclair’s London wandering. (see Robert Bond 2006 ‘Speculating Histories: Walter Benjamin Ian Sinclair’ Historical Materialism 14(2):3-28). This is not old fashioned, though some may be walking with eyes locked on personal or public screens, saturated space of advertising, walking with one’s eyes on an electronic horizon.
I have walked, and plan again to walk, the length of Broadway ‘as research’. The Walking Day. From fetish object to so-called original accumulation.

A vast apparatus.

I have to take account of changing neighbourhoods and the abundant sociality of the street, the community and the suburb. The street is the place of sociality, and so of people Sidewalk by Duneier, Everyday Life de Certeau, or Lefebvre, but also exclusions, the banlieues, the barrio, the reserve army/dormitory suburbs, the commuters, from cleaners to office staff, to transport workers. I think of street culture and creativity, and the culture industry entrepreneurs and corporate opportunists that jump on it for packaging. Parafunctional spaces (an essay by Nikos Papastergiadis and Scott McQuire I have to dig out, given at an ArtSpace conference in Sydney), decay and renewal, from warehouse to gallery-zone…

The people of the street are quintessentially the crowd, the masses of festivals, street party (lights out in New York), café’s (Ash Amin), conviviality, the rows of shops, the enticements to buy, the seductions of commodification that grab us and make as part of the all consuming apparatus. The street market, with its connections and flows – commerce to the illicit trades, drugs, street people, organized crime.

Infrastructure of the street. Power supplies – underground cables, roadworks, traffic disruptions; a massive network of material labour still produces the street.Lighting – streets as avenues of neon (Scott McQuire), CCTV (Jeff Heydon). Security guards, doormen (Jane Jacobs). Taxis (Virinder Kalra, Biju Mathew). In Cairo I am greeted by a taxi driver who says without taking a breath: “in my taxi I will take you anywhere you want to go to my brother’s emporium”. Cars. Delivery vehicles. Trucks and buses. The street also as the site of accidents, car crashes, stalled or too fast, traffic.We watch them from bars, cafes, as we munch street food (Bhaskar Mukhopadhyay). Amusement arcades while away the boring hours.

Pollution – rubbish – detritus held up to the gloaming by Siegfried Kracauer. Pollution – sewerage, drains, the gutter – garbage disposal – Boy George, rag-pickers (Kracauer was not the least of these, whatever Benjamin says). Who makes and maintains the street? Monsieur Hulot has been mechanized, the steamroller more rapidly paves what took aeons before, a team of pavers pave the footpaths and painters paint the signage in rapid time.

This makes me think of Marx’s lists – describing the lumpen in the 18th Brumaire – the discussion I visited in Zizek’s slum (HERE), and echoing Derrida’s list iterations on the voyous that I plan to elaborate, having started HERE). Derrida does not quote Marx’s great text in Rogues, but I think its clear he has it in his head as he writes:

‘Voyoucracy is a corrupt and corrupting power of the street, an illegal and outlaw power that brings together into a voyoucraticregime, and thus into an organised and more or less clandestine form, into a virtual state, all those who represent a principle of disorder … a threat against public order … This milieu, this environment, this world unto itself, gathers into a network all the people of the crime world or underworld, all the singular voyous. All individuals of questionable morals and dubious character whom decent, law-abiding people would like to combat and exclude under a series of more or less synonymous names: big man, bad boy, player … rascal … good-for-nothing, ruffian, villain, crook, thug, gangster, shyster … scoundrel, miscreant, hoodlum, hooligan … one would also say today banger [loulou], gangbanger [loubard], sometimes even outside the inner city, in the suburbs, the suburban punk [loubard des banlieues]’ (Derrida 2005:66).

‘The word voyou has an essential relation with the voie, the way, with the urban roadways [voire], the roadways of the city or the polis, and thus with the street [rue], the waywardness [dévoiement] of the voyou consisting in making ill use of the street, in corrupting the street or loitering in the streets, in “roaming the streets”, as we say in a strangely transitive formulation. This transitivity is in fact never far away from the one that leads to “walking the streets”… Today the voyou sometimes roams the roadways [voies] and highways [voiries] in a car [voiture], that is, when he or she is not stealing it or setting it on fire’ [stealing or setting it on fire!– those rogues, note they are soon to be linked to greater rogues, in a strangely transitive formula -JH] … Voyous might also, on an international scale, and this gets us right into the problematic of rogue states, be involved in drug trafficking, in parasiting, or actually subverting, as terrorists in training, the pathways [voies] of normal communication, whether of airplanes, the telephone, email or the Web’ (Derrida 2005:65).

I just want to remark on these listings. The transitive next next next that escalates. It moves from the small metaphor to the hyperbolic of global connectivity. Even way back in his 1967 book Of Grammatology was a call for a meditation on the road and writing: ‘one should meditate upon all of the following together: writing as the possibility of the road and of difference, the history of writing and the history of the road, of the rupture, of the via rupta, of the path that is broken, beaten, fracta, of the space of reversibility and of repetition’ (Derrida 1967/1974:107).

And then – having to show that this is not just JD mouthing off – on to Marx, writing of how Boneparte gathered together in the society of 10 December, the riff raff of Paris:

On the pretext of founding a benevolent society, the lumpen proletariat of Paris had been organized into secret sections, each section led by Bonapartist agents, with a Bonapartist general at the head of the whole. Alongside decayed roués with dubious means of subsistence and of dubious origin, alongside ruined and adventurous offshoots of the bourgeoisie, were vagabonds, discharged soldiers, discharged jailbirds, escaped galley slaves, swindlers, mountebanks, lazzaroni, pickpockets, tricksters, gamblers, maquereaux [pimps], brothel keepers, porters, literati, organ grinders, ragpickers, knife grinders, tinkers, beggars — in short, the whole indefinite, disintegrated mass, thrown hither and thither (page 63 18th Brumaire)

So, my version of the street will include an expanding list, not all deviants or miscreants: but those who play the rackets, the numbers, the dealers, the look-outs, with scams, pyramid schemes, passport and visa forgers, job search entrepreneurs, denizens of the doorstep, visitors to the soup kitchens, survival strategies of the many, street-peddlers, organ-grinders (!), Iskon krisna consciousness devotees offering free vegetarian recipe booklets, muggers, petty thugs, street-smarts, wise-guys, the cleaner, the fixer, marabout (Simone 2004:41), criminal slumlords, drunks, musicians, money-changers, carum players and pan-handlers, Reclaim the night, dykes on bikes, the strip, at sunset, and after hours, sex workers, meter maids, hawkers, buskers, vendors of sweets and treats.

Vertical

Lists, though, are Flat – and the City is High. Rossolini was apparently asked if he would make a film of New York, and replied that he would not do so as long as screens were not also vertical.

Maybe at this register the street must always be the horizontal plane if we are to see people there – if we go up the lifts of the towers, even those in the Eiffel tower, we see the city as plan, as flattened space. But this view from the gods erases diversity and community in favour of a privileged and sanitized position. On the horizontal plane, the issues are about sanitary drainage and the cacophony of the crowd.

The class and racial hierarchies of the megacity are visible at street level as much, if not more, than in the high-rise and boardroom. An equally important but less uniform global heterotopia assembles at street level – in what Koolhaus called a culture of congestion – the urban jungle is worryingly described as a ‘potent yet troubling term’ (Cairns 2000:125 – ‘jungles’ 125-7 in Thrift, Nigel and Steve Pile City A-Z New York: Routledge) but there are reasons to both valourize and worry over this scene.

The ethnicity of the street scape is apparent, but cannot be adequately discussed without reference to shifting articulations of racial hierarchy, national chauvinism, communal politics and geo-imperial consequences such as the war on terror or economic restructuring. Los Angeles as city of migration is differently diasporic than the migrations that have swollen Mumbai or Shanghai

Immigrants – the megacity is always one of movement and babel

Street Pirates – the island in New Cross.

Later I want to write of street politics, the police and control. Of reading the word on the street on the side of the Buses. And of house-to-house street fighting, the Arcades and Benjamin on the street and war. Also, of course, the sci fi streetscape: those imaginary simplistic multiculturalisms at the bottom end of Bladerunner and Fifth Element that deserve a much more critical (all too exotic) argument…

NIMB – Shimokitazawa



Not in my backyard used to be the somewhat mocking slogan attributed to (but rarely adopted by) suburbanites and urban yuppies who were opposed to developments like, I dunno, the inner Sydney airport runway; the relocation of some prison/asylum/shopping centre; the technopolisation of some research and development Project. NIMBY protests then seemed to fade off my radar a little, except in England where asylum centres raised the same sort of vigilante hackles as did paedophiles or such like. Clearly the spectrum of anti-development and urban cleansing projects is wide and diverse, but the opposition limited and often cack-handed. [sorry, not a technical term, but you will know what I mean]. I do have a certain nostalgia for some of the more creative adventures that belonged to Left-wing versions of such NIMBy sentiments – protests by anarchists against urban yuppie fortress home renovations (anti-new architecture by any other name – it as funny to see things trashed with style) and the Reclaim the Streets actions when they transformed the city into a wild disruptive – no-sign-of-them-going-home-soon party zone (this was before 24 hour inner-city O’Neil’s style yob club/pubs took over the high streets, and before RTS became just a friday bike ride…). Something has faded for mine, since back then – oh nostalgia for the g.o. days – Reclaim the Streets used to be especially critical when they linked up with the Liverpool Dockers. I remember particularly how hard the Police thugs cracked down on that pointedly political alliance when it began.

So, I am keen to follow the campaign that’s emerged in Tokyo to save the playground of the trendiest of youth culture club scene creative types. Shimokitizawa is a place where I had the good fortune to be often invited several years back when I was Visiting Prof at Nagoya City Uni, and more recently last April I gave a big talk in a crowded club that had bizarrely stopped to discuss hip hop, politics and the war on terror. Strangely fluid simultaneous translation in Japanese by my good friends Toshiya Ueno and Yoshitaka Mouri, and a dynamic debate that was electric, critical, engaging and went on long past the alloted time – then a TRON type race across the city in Toshiya’s manga-style sports car. So I’d found it more than ironic that, at the talk, people in the audience brought up the plan to ‘redevelop’ the very area we were in by running a huge motorway through the centre of the suburb. I’d heard such things before – thought it was another tribal-youth type NIMBy concern, but was surprised to hear of a raft of RTS type actions in planning; plenty of energy amongst the activist set… (though there are other parts of Tokyo I also enjoyed – peculiar little bars left over somehow from the 40s, 50s, 60s – they are not in the way of a highway [yet]).

Today the campaign has hit the front page of the New York Times. Check it out. In the absence of much else newsworthy, I am pleased to see this make a splash, and hope it translates to renewed RTS-enthusiasm that can aslo plumb the activism of the old Tokyo airport campaign and the like. Something to learn, I still think there is much good to be said for what happened in the Anti-roads and Reclaim the Streets UK protests in the mid 1990s, even if they were reclaimed for capital in the end – for that I blame in part the opportunist prat George Moonbot, speaking this week at the Conservative Party conference where he and his Guardian reading friends belong. For insight into those times, check early issues of Aufheben on the Criminal Justice Act and Anti-Roads.
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