Benidorm and Spanish Sociologist Mario Gaviria

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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…

 

More links for Spanish readers:

http://elpais.com/diario/2002/08/03/babelia/1028329573_850215.html

http://elpais.com/diario/2007/12/13/sociedad/1197500401_850215.html

http://www.google.es/imgres?q=costa+iberica+mvrdv&um=1&hl=es&biw=1920&bih=882&tbm=isch&tbnid=UBLCTxV_9wRxJM:&imgrefurl=http://lasumablog.wordpress.com/2010/05/23/costa-iberica/&docid=7a6g8ufMy8BgUM&imgurl=http://lasumablog.files.wordpress.com/2010/05/costa-iberica1.jpg&w=500&h=500&ei=CU6rUN-1J4SWswaZ74CoAg&zoom=1&iact=rc&dur=396&sig=112046836172689491766&page=1&tbnh=142&tbnw=153&start=0&ndsp=46&ved=1t:429,r:0,s:0,i:66&tx=115&ty=35

URBAN – Journal – Polytechnic University of Madrid / School of Architecture

In Madrid I was able to talk with Álvaro Sevilla Buitrago — who runs the multipliciudades blog [for readers of Spanish] and is also editor of the journal “Urban” [web site in Spanish and English here]. Urban has recently published a number of interesting pieces, here is the list of the last four issues in the ‘new series’ of Urban [which was originally launched in 1997]–note the special issue on Henri Lefebvre…

urban NS04
Doreen Massey / Carlos Jiménez Romera, Jorge Leon Casero, María Mercedes di Virgilio & María Soledad Arqueros Méjica & Tomás Guevara, Jesús Leal & Miguel Martínez & Antonio Echaves & Enrique García / Alexandre le Maître / Estíbaliz López de Munain & Leire Romero & Victoria Vázquez
September 2012

urban NS03
Los conflictos de la ciudad contemporánea / Conflicts of contemporary cities
Don Mitchell / Alain Bertho, Fabrizio Bottini & María Cristina Gibelli, Cristina Fernández Ramírez & Fernando Roch Peña, Imanol Zubero, Luis Miguel Valenzuela Montes & Julio Alberto Soria Lara, Clara Irazábal & Gabriel Fumero
March 2012

urban NS02
Espectros de Lefebvre / Spectres of Lefebvre
Grégory Busquet / Jean-Pierre Garnier, Laurence Costes, Cynthia Ghorra-Gobin, Kanishka Goonewardena, Peter Marcuse, Andy Merrifield, Thierry Paquot, Claire Revol, Carlos Sánchez-Casas, Łukasz Stanek / Christian Schmid 
September 2011

urban NS01
Los futuros de la planificación / Planning Futures
John Friedmann / Neil Brenner, Jamie Peck & Nik Theodore / Erik Swyngedouw / Frank Eckardt / Jordi Borja / Stuart Elden & Derek Gregory 
March 2011

Rhythm of Capitalism (Lefebvrian video project/blog)

I stumbled across this project by a group of Amsterdam University-based students of new media who are putting together videos and Henri Lefebvre’s remarks on rhythmanalysis.

They write that:

“Our videos employ main themes of Lefebvre’s book such as rhythm and capitalism, critique of everyday life, rhythm, sound and the city, flows of capital and flows of crowds etc. The videos are not meant to illustrate the book but rather to engage into the theory of Lefebvre in depth through practice, through observation and art. Moreover, the blog contains several additional readings to the topic and other activist/artist projects based on the same themes.”

The site is here:

http://rhythmofcapitalism.wordpress.com/about-henri-lefebvre/

Toward an Urban Cultural Studies [video posted online]

For anyone interested in watching it here is a link to the lecture–or rather to the exercise in organized rambling–I gave at the University of Kentucky, now on UK vimeo:

“Toward an Urban Cultural Studies: Henri Lefebvre, Space and the Culture(s) of Cities”

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.

CFP-edited book on Marxism and Urban Culture

CFP-edited book on Marxism and Urban Culture

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

Victor Serge and the Journey into Defeat: The Case of Comrade Tulayev

Delivering searing criticism on the psychosis of absolute power, Victor Serge’s fifth novel to be featured in my personal blog, For the Desk Drawer, is a masterly work. The Case of Comrade Tulayev was written in 1942 and is situated in the context of the Great Terror in Soviet Russia orchestrated by Joseph Stalin. In the sequence that constitutes the ‘defeat-in-victory’ trilogy (preceded by Midnight in the Century [1939] and succeeded by The Long Dusk [1943-5]), the novel intersects in several subtle ways with Serge’s other books. The Case of Comrade Tulayev is a chronicle of the Moscow arrests and show trials in the 1930s that pulls in a myriad of characters as well as the overbearing appearance of ‘the Chief’, Stalin himself. It does so by offering at least two intersections to aspects present in Serge’s earlier novels. First, it offers a set of intersecting elements linked to specific characters that appear in the earlier books; second, it offers direct intersections on the theme of space and the state. How the spatial logistics of the state, how the modern state organises space, and how the state engenders social relations in space are thus a quintessential feature of The Case of Comrade Tulayev.

Continue reading

Originally posted on Path to the Possible:

Like many universities, the University of Washington is being systematically defunded by the state and is scrounging for new revenue wherever it can find it.  Of course the main strategy, as elsewhere, is to increase the burden on students and their families by raising tuition and fees.  But there is another piece to that strategy, and it is becoming very apparent in the space of the city.  Over the last few years, all over the University District, the university’s Housing and Food Services division has built new dorms complete with grocery stores, health clubs, restaurants, etc., all of which are intended to function as new-and-improved machines to extract money from students and their families.

I am struck by how useful Lefebvre’s concept of “habitat” is in this context.  He argued that the capitalist city stores its inhabitants in sterile, meaningless spaces, almost like warehouses, in order to keep track of…

View original 116 more words

Toward an Urban Cultural Studies [prezi]

I just returned from delivering an invited lecture at the University of Kentucky, which I titled:

Toward an Urban Cultural Studies: Henri Lefebvre, Space and the Culture(s) of Cities.

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!

The New Ruralism [new book]

Henri Lefebvre did work in rural sociology before turning fully to urban matters (does the urban even exist ‘outside of’ the rural?)…

This new edited volume by Joan Ramon Resina and William R. Viestenz “The New Ruralism: An Epistemology of Transformed Space” seems to look at new stages in the dialectical relationship between the city and the country (mentioning Raymond Williams’ book by that title in its introduction) You can download the pdf of the introduction to The New Ruralism for free from the publisher’s site here.

Resina, Joan Ramon; Viestenz, William (eds.)
The New Ruralism: An Epistemology of Transformed Space.
Madrid / Frankfurt, 2012, Iberoamericana / Vervuert, 220 p., € 22.00
ISBN: 9788484896562
Presents new ways of understanding the old dichotomy city vs country in an effort to think through the epistemological and artistic implications of the modern antinomy’s demise, whereby the non-city ceases to be the city’s absolute other.

Zola’s The Squares: City, Country and Work

In the Introduction to Against Architecture: The Writings of Georges Bataille by Denis Hollier (trans. Betsy Wing; MIT 1989) there are some interesting remarks:

“In 1867, Emilie Zola, a young journalist, dedicated one of his articles to the upcoming inauguration of a public space. The piece is entitled ‘The Squares.’ It begins: ‘The gates to the new Parmentier square, built on the site of the former Popincourt slaughterhouse, will soon be opened to the public.’ Then come two pages of sarcasm directed at the absurdity of urban landscaping, where lawns try to recall nature for consumptive city dwellers. ‘It looks like a bit of nature that did something wrong and was put in prison.’ A square is not a museum, but it too is a place for soft expenditure, it is an enclave through whose gates Parisian workers escape the implacable law of labor: they take the air (regenerate their lungs just as do the museum visitors observed by Bataille). For lack of an animal they kill time.” (xv)

“Despite his sarcastic remarks about squares, a mere detail in Haussmann’s overall plan, Zola is vigorously in favor of the modernization of Paris. [...] In the modern city, the capital of the world of work, everyone is busy. Everything found there has its function, a physiological justification. [...] Zola is allergic to the squares because the city takes its rest there, or, more precisely, because these idleness preserves are urban. Not that Zola is opposed to stopping work (workers have a right to recreation), but he is opposed to this happening in the city. If one is not working one should leave.” (xvi)

Although I’ve read more of Chilean writer Baldomero Lillo and Spanish author Emilia Pardo Bazán (both influenced by Zola) than Zola himself, I was reminded of the role of the country in the French writer’s Germinal (a great read) where the forest serves as a safe space for organizing against the evils of mine-work. Given that nineteenth-century and early twentieth-century reactions unfolded against industrialization and mechanization rather than against urbanization proper (e.g. see Lewis Mumford), it makes sense to see authors of that time upholding such a strict city-country dichotomy instead of seeing (as some have suggested) capitalist industrialization as a first step toward capitalist urbanization (much easier in hindsight)–in both cases, of course, the city and the country are part of an evolving and dynamic relationship, which renders Zola’s view on squares somewhat humorous if not also absurd from today’s perspective.

“if one is not working one should leave”–I’m not sure how well this statement represents Zola’s view, but it certainly supports a reifying perspective on city and country that itself anticipates the post-war uneven development of leisure and work spaces taken on by Lefebvre (e.g. The Production of Space).