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]
Conversational interview inspired by scholar Ben Jefferson’s article “New Jerusalems: Derek Walcott’s poetics of the Caribbean city,” published in the Journal of Urban Cultural Studies (1.2, 2014). Topics range from readings/analyses of specific excerpts of poems written by celebrated poet Walcott (Nobel Prize in Literature, 1992) to the ideas of Antonio Benítez-Rojo, Henri Lefebvre, V. S. Naipaul, North American and European city planning traditions and the relationship between rural and urban space specific to Caribbean modernity. [LINK TO ORIGINAL PUBLISHER]
Something’s up with cities, as recent articles in The Economist and the FT attest. In the rich world, for decades we’ve held the notion of cities as basket cases to be endured rather than enjoyed. Few really believed in regeneration, if pushed: tidying up old docks and factories was, most of us believed, a cosmetic exercise. Our future was inexorably suburban. That set of beliefs held true until about a decade ago, underlined by relentlessly gloomy demographics, nlot just for celebrated basket cases like Detroit (61% population loss), but otherwise wealthy and successful places like London (-25% from its peak). We read Joel Garreau on the exurbs and imagined, mostly with trepidation, a Californian future. Cities were what the developing world did – they weren’t for us.
Well, all that seems to have changed. The last set of population statistics for the UK were remarkable for what they said about…
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.
Despite the great progress made in the fields of island studies and urban studies over recent decades, little attention has been paid to island cities per se. Indeed, some may consider island studies and urban studies to be mutually exclusive areas of inquiry. Nevertheless, there is a strong correlation between islandness and urbanity: Over the course of human history, many important regional, global, and capital cities have developed wholly or partially on small islands or archipelagos and are almost invariably coastal (located near seas or along rivers). Physical separation from the mainland and spatial limitations along with a maritime tradition can encourage the transport of products and ideas, improved defence infrastructure, construction of social capital, consolidation of political power, formation of vibrant cultures, and concentration of population. Examples of cities that are largely contiguous with small islands include Abu Dhabi, Amsterdam, Hong Kong, New York, St Petersburg, Singapore, and Venice.
Another kind of island city is represented by the capital city or major population centre of larger, primarily rural islands or archipelagos. Each of these cities is affected not just by the dynamics at work in urban areas in general, but also by the special functions it gains from acting as a metropolis that provides goods and services to rural island hinterlands. Examples of this kind of city include Havana, Manila, Palermo, Reykjavik, and Taipei.
Nature is unevenly distributed in and across cities despite the fact that much else about cities scales with population. The City Nature project combines spatial analysis of parks and other natural areas in cities with text mining of planning documents and published historical narratives to explore why.
To extend the idea of the architectural uncanny to video games, one can imagine both the game environments and the confines of the game world itself as such spaces. For instance, what if, in light of the gothic horror elements of Bioshock, we view both Rapture and the Xbox itself as haunted houses?
View from the bathysphere in “Welcome to Rapture,” moments before the splicer tries to break into the bathsphere, and thus break down the barrier of the screen and box that separates us from Rapture.
The city of Rapture was an environment built to be a utopia, a site boasting the great achievements of modernity in its museums, libraries, theater, laboratories, hospital, and the spoils of genetic research in food and plant life. Yet, these environments are brought to ruin in Bioshock, as the city is flooded with violence and darkness, and left to fall…
“The artist Boris Sieverts is in Warsaw for the first time. In Cologne he runs his “Office for City Travels”. After Cologne, Duisburg, Luxemburg and Paris he now wants to offer the people of Warsaw a trip through their city as well. For weeks he is wandering with a backpack and a city map through areas of which everyone is claiming, that they are not worth a visit. He meticulously looks for anomalies, cracks and edges on topographical maps. In so doing he finds places that have eluded perception, the barren lands, the parking garages and the backyards. Ugly corners that nobody is proud of but still tell something intrinsic about a city.”