Conversational interview inspired by scholar Araceli Masterson-Algar’s article “Juggling Aesthetics and Surveillance in Paradise: Ecuadorians in Madrid’s Retiro Park,” published in the International Journal of Iberian Studies (26.1-2, 2013). Mixing ethnography on the ground with Ecuadorian immigrants to Madrid with cultural analysis and discussion of urban planning, topics range from urban parks (the Retiro Park [the section known as La Chopera now home to the 11-M memorial and Forest of Memory], the Casa de Campo…) to Manuel Delgado’s urban anthropology and the dynamics of migration as tied to urban processes of tourism and capital accumulation. [LINK TO ORIGINAL PUBLISHER]
Barcelonan Okupas: Squatter Power! is the first book to combine close-readings of the representations of Spanish squatters known as okupas with the study of everyday life, built environment, and city planning in Barcelona. Stephen Vilaseca broadens the scope of Spanish cultural studies by integrating into it notions of embodied cognition and affect that respond to the city before and against the fixed relations of capitalism. Social transformation, as demonstrated by the okupas, is possible when city and art interrelate, not through capital or the urbanization of consciousness, but through bodily thought. The okupas reconfigure the way thoughts, words, images and bodily responses are linked by evoking and communicating the idea of free exchange and openness through art (poetry, music, performance art, the plastic arts, graffiti, urban art and cinema); and by acting out and rehearsing these ideas in the practice of squatting. The okupas challenge society to differentiate the images and representations instituted by state domination or capitalist exploitation from the subversive potential of imagination. The okupas unify theory and practice, word and body, in pursuit of a positive, social vision that might serve humanity and lead the way out of the current problems caused by capitalism.
Atlas Obscura has a fascinating look at the Torre de David in Caracas. This is a 45-story skyscraper that was originally intended to be finance industry office space, but construction was abandoned in 1994. Squatters moved in and today it’s the world’s tallest slum. Here’s the documentary:
Rest assured, a copy of that book is now making its way from Switzerland to the Southland. Shipping is free, so it only cost 45 euros (whatever the hell that is). If the current going price for City of Darkness on Amazon is any indication, maybe you should pick up a couple extra copies as an investment.
(Please see below a call for papers for the forthcoming Latin American Studies Association (LASA) Congress in Chicago, May 21-24, 2014)
Assembling the Contemporary Latin American City: South-South Circuits, Planning Exchanges, Policy Mobilities
In the wake of structural adjustment programs and region-wide reforms to democratize and decentralize central government authority, several Latin American cities became sites of increased experimentation and innovation in urban planning, urban development and public participation. Municipal authorities throughout the region reinvented land use, transportation, housing, and public space as planning tools to address a range of new and long-deferred infrastructural, social, and environmental issues. In this context, urban planning became a highly contentious and experimental arena where a range of actors –from public sector planners to NGOs to social movements to organized private actors- seized opportunities to push and legitimize new models of urban planning and development. Although North-South policy exchanges and circuits persisted, Latin Americans increasingly began to look at cities in the region as legitimate and alternative models beyond North-originated paradigms.
We think that the increased South-South urban exchanges in Latin America as well as the new ideological alignments and urban experiments in the region (Davis 2013, Goldfrank and Schrank 2009, Baiocchi 2005) offer a platform to explore and craft new concepts and approaches in Latin American urban studies and planning. In recent years, urban scholars in a variety of disciplines have highlighted the potential of Continue reading →
My undergraduate students are busy making iMovie video final projects for a non-traditional literary survey class and I figured I might give it a try (theirs are much better I assure you). I’ve done this as a 10-15-minute video version of the argument I make in a recent article. Maybe it is more like a research article trailer… Anyone else out there making video articles? [It helps that youtube (at least for my account) allows video uploads of up to 15 minutes.]
The article is:
Fraser, B. “A Biutiful City: Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Filmic Critique of the ‘Barcelona model.’” Studies in Hispanic Cinemas 9.1 (2012): 19-34.
Benidorm — a planned resort city on Spain’s coast between Alicante and Valencia — has long been a destination for tourists. I can’t say I’ve been there, but references to the city abound in Spain and in Spanish literature and culture since the 1970s. For example: the opening/intro sequence to each and every episode of the Spanish ‘social science fiction’ show Plutón BRB Nero, which aired in 2008 and 2009 and was directed by filmmaker Álex de la Iglesia, includes a gratuitous/humorous reference to Beniform (see here for an article on the series and on Spanish sci-fi in general) alongside such ‘world class cities’ as London and New York. I remember seeing a Spanish novel titled simply “Benidorm, Benidorm, Benidorm” and — as Álvaro Sevilla Buitrago recently pointed out to me — there is a British sitcom called Benidorm from 2007, which seems to be unavailable in the US but can be ordered on region 2 DVD from the UK. The list likely goes on and on…
The deal is:
that Spanish Sociologist Mario Gaviria — who helped to popularize Henri Lefebvre’s ideas in Spain and who edited/introduced a number of Lefebvre’s books in Spanish versions (The Right to the City, From the rural to the urban [collection]) during the 1970s — also helped to design the resort city that is regarded by many as a blight if not also a victory of consumer society over the landscape. [article here] While I have looked through Gaviria’s books at Spain’s Biblioteca Nacional in Madrid, they haven’t been republished and are unavailable if not also uncatalogued (I asked around at more than a few chain and independent / even architectural-urbanist bookstores). He did some great work on tourism and urbanism, anthropological work, ecological work, but it still seems strange to me that a supposed Lefebvrian had a role in designing Benidorm, much less in touting its advantages over the years…
To watch video, click above or go here: http://vimeo.com/50215247
Thanks again to the Department of Hispanic Studies there. The prezi itself can be seen in the background on the screen, but as announced before can also be viewed here. See also this previous post for more general information about the talk.
Submissions are invited for an edited book on Marxism and Urban Culture that has received initial interest from an international publisher known for their strength in Marxian-themed series and titles.
While all abstracts using a Marxian framework to approach culture in urban contexts are welcome, it is anticipated that submissions will conform to one of two subtypes reflecting the division of the book into Continue reading →
I came across an interesting blog titled PLACEBLOG, with a link to a series of Urbanista columns written by Linda Carroli, begun in 2009 and running through 2011 (not sure it the column has stopped or if it just hasn’t been updated in a while).
I reproduce her column on Istanbul which you can read in the original context here.
Istanbul :: cultural heritage in a changing city by Linda Carroli
Arts Hub, March 2011
Graffiti in Beyoğlu, Istanbul
During the opening remarks of the Sea of Marble Symposium at the repurposed warehouse Antrepo 5 in Istanbul, one of the speakers declares “the city is being erased right now”. This conversation, which addressed considerations of culture and the sea, repeatedly folded back into anxieties about the state of cities, particularly their waterfronts and ports, encroached upon by ‘neo-liberal’ reclamation of the land for privilege and profit in the name of urban renewal entangled in the rhetoric of creative cities. As another speaker asserts, this idea of the ‘creative city’ is false because the powers that drive these forces of change “steal our imagination”. Istanbul’s mayor, Kadir Topbaş, has said, “Istanbul should shed its industrial profile … Istanbul should, from now on, become a financial centre, a cultural centre, and a congress tourism centre.” Reflecting the wintery sky, the waters of the Bosphoros, buoying a chaotic flotilla of fishing boats, tankers and freighters, are like liquid steel lapping against the shores of the walled city. In the parks and crevices around those walls, the city’s homeless and destitute gather.
Teeming with nearly 13 million people, there is unsettlement in this city that seems perennially jostled in the tensions between destruction and creation, past and future, east and Continue reading →
Clicking on the above link will take you to the prezi that accompanied the talk, which includes video and audio clips, although it leaves out the first 15-20 minute set-up which was devoted to the academic spat between C.P. Snow and F.R. Leavis in their 1959 and 1962 lectures (see an earlier post). The talk was a form of organized rambling at a general level about Lefebvre’s insights into cities, the timeliness of urban cultural studies, interdisciplinary issues in general, David Harvey, city rhythms, and so on, so a lot is left out of the prezi alone, but it may still be interesting to watch. Given that I was pitching the talk so broadly, I was thrilled that so many non-Hispanic Studies faculty/students were able to make it.
If you haven’t seen or used prezi before (higher functionality/privacy free for educators with an .edu email address) I can say that it may blow your mind as a presentation format (I was blown away when I first saw this used at a conference last year). After watching a prezi (many are ‘public’/freely available on the site to view) it becomes clear just how much power point presentations are linked to the cultural moment in which I grew up–which revolved around linear slideshows of non-digital photography (didn’t you hate it when that one slide got stuck in the projector?).
Special thanks to U Kentucky Professors Susan Larson and Aníbal Biglieri in particular, and also to many other faculty members from both the Department of Hispanic Studies there (and its fantastic graduate students) and beyond, for making it such a great experience!