Diversity and Disability in Restaurant Criticism in D.C.

Last month, the Kojo Nnamdi show aired a piece on the lack of diversity in food criticism in Washington D.C and featured the following people:

Among the things discussed in the show were the differences between food critics and food writers, the lack of diversity in restaurant criticism, the democratization of restaurant reviews sparkled by the internet, why should universal design and cultural appreciation be part of a restaurant critic and/or review, and why is it important to have diversity among food critics.

The show was inspired by Laura Haye’s article in the Washington City Paper, The D.C. Region Doesn’t Have Full-Time Food Critics of Color. Why That Matters.

The conversation revolves around the benefit that diverse race and ethnicity bring to the table when evaluating a restaurant. Underlying the discussion is always present the unspoken fact that food critics are not perfect and, for that reason they can also not give a perfect evaluation of a restaurant or a dish. As objective as a critic may be, there is always going to be a filter depending on that person’s previous experiences and conceptions of particular foods and restaurants/ These conceptions are directly affected and molded by factors such as race, ethnicity, disabilities, social class, among others and it is naïve to thing that having a professional training will eliminate all those bias, especially when food critics have such different experiences at restaurants depending on, among other things, their skin color. This is specially true when critics evaluate things like service at a restaurant. I think this is a valuable discussion for any type of evaluation that involves the possibility of human bias (notice that this also applies to Machine Learning and AI evaluations based on human-generated data). Definitely a very interesting show which I fully recommend.

You can read the show notes and transcription here and listen to the piece here directly from your web browser..

You can subscribe for free to The Kojo Nnadmi Show on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Himalaya, or wherever you listen to podcasts. While you are there, remember to check out our own podcast: UCS Podcasts – urbanculturalstudies, by Professor Benjamin Fraser from the University of Arizona.

There Goes the Neighborhood: Urban Coyotes in Pennsylvania and California

Cities for coyotes? We also have coyotes and other interesting wild fauna in Arizona. This makes me think about Timothy Morton’s Dark Ecology all over again. Great blog post from https://inhabitingtheanthropocene.com/

See the full post here: https://inhabitingtheanthropocene.com/2018/08/22/there-goes-the-neighborhood-urban-coyotes-in-pennsylvania-and-california/#more-4635

Call for abstracts: On_Culture: The Open Journal for the Study of Culture

Call for Abstracts for Issue 10 (Winter 2020)

Metaphors of Migration

Guest editors: Jörn Ahrens, Axel Fliethmann

This guest-edited issue of On_Culture focuses on migration, one of the most pressing issues that contemporary societies currently face. The lived reality of migration is fundamentally framed by discourse formations, where metaphors can function as creative devices to establish a reality of what migration could or even should mean. Seen from this perspective migration and imagination are closely tied as two subjects of central interest and core concern in both the Humanities and the Social Sciences.

Although at a first gaze both topics seem to be quite unconnected, “migration” playing a central part of current research in the Social Sciences, “imagination” being traditionally discussed in the humanities and arts, obviously both fields are strongly related to each other. Both, the social perception and the political discourse about migration, but also its very practice from refugees to modern nomads, refers to and stems from particular forms and techniques of imagination through which migration is approached and labeled as social reality. The “ways of worldmaking” (N. Goodman) as much as “society as an imaginary institution” (C. Castoriadis) speak to what has become the social reality of migration on a global scale. We will not be able to understand the processes and phenomena of migration accurately without acknowledging that, although it is a real problem, which often yields tragic consequences, migration is nurtured by tropes of imagination. More than other subjects today, migration seems to fill a gap in the production of cultural meaning and socio-political imagination. Thus the phenomenon of migration should accordingly be analyzed as depending on social practices and imaginations, which eventually equip the political discourse with cultural meaning and provoke demands for particular forms of management. 

The cultural perception of processes of migration is massively communicated by the use of metaphors by which migration as a distinct phenomenon is embedded into a particular frame of cultural codes and meaning. The cultural poetics of metaphors as social practice help to identify migration as something which is distinct part of an as normative as coherent Weltbild. At the same time, the social perception and construction of a social reality of migration massively refer to practices of cultural imagination. Migration as a phenomenon clearly connects to a long standing history of cultural memorization that is, in large parts, laden with imaginative topoi. That way, migration as cultural imago refers to figures in mythology, prose, ideology, etc. The reality of migration within society is only emerging within the frames of performative cultural practices of imagination in various ways.

Migrating plants, animals, and people are subject of massive restrictions and, if successful by migration, often object of campaigns and activism with the aim to reverse this process. Also, we can observe the migration of ideas, images, or art—all of which unfolding massive influence on possible transformations of a seemingly given social and cultural reality. Capital is as much migrating—legally as illegally—as objects ranging from food to weaponry with often enormous consequences for their destination societies. Eventually, abstract threats to the life of humans and others are constantly migrating—bacteria, virus, disease, radio activity, etc. In the digital realm, migration seems to be an illusion when any website only seems to be one click away.

If migration is pointing to social practices of imagination as genuine social practices, migration cannot separate notions of disturbance and disruption, practices of othering, and exclusion, or assimilation from forms of signification and any crisis of ‘making sense’. Adequate understanding of migration therefore warrants interdisciplinary collaboration within the Humanities and the Social Sciences. Competences from philology and literature studies, art history, philosophy, media studies, etc., must be taken into account alongside with the expertise from sociology, political science, anthropology, criminology, and psychology. 

If you are interested in having a peer reviewed academic article featured in this issue of On_Culture, please submit an abstract of 300 words with the article title, 5-6 keywords, and a short biographical note to content@on-culture.org (subject line “Abstract Submission Issue 10”) no later than February 28, 2020. You will be notified by March 15, 2020 whether your paper proposal has been accepted. The final date for full paper submissions is June 15, 2020.

Please note: On_Culture also features a section devoted to shorter, creative pieces pertaining to each issue topic. These can be interviews, essays, opinion pieces, reviews of exhibitions, analyses of cultural artifacts and events, photo galleries, videos, works of art … and more! These contributions are uploaded on a rolling basis, also to previous issues. Interested in contributing? Send your ideas to the Editorial Team at any time: content@on-culture.org

About On_Culture: The Open Journal for the Study of Culture 

On_Culture: The Open Journal for the Study of Culture (ISSN: 2366-4142) is a biannual, peer-reviewed academic e-journal edited by doctoral researchers, postdocs, and professors working at the International Graduate Centre for the Study of Culture (GCSC) at Justus-Liebig-University Giessen. It provides a forum reflecting on the study of culture. It investigates, problematizes, and develops key concepts and methods in the field by means of a collaborative and collective process. On_Culture is dedicated to fostering such engagements as well as the cultural dynamics at work in thinking about and reflecting on culture.

The journal consists of three sections: peer-reviewed academic _Articles, _Essays, and the aforementioned _Perspectives. On_Culture brings new approaches and emerging topics to the (trans)national study of culture ‘on the line’ and, in so doing, fills the gap ____ between ‘on’ and ‘culture.’ There are numerous ways of filling the gap, and a plurality of approaches is something for which the journal strives with each new issue.Please note: as a commitment to the open access to scholarship, On_Culture does not charge any Article Processing Charges (APCs) for the publication of your contribution!

Visit the website for more information: www.on-culture.org


Amazon in Arlington

An interesting topic in today’s world is the influence that large corporations have in urban areas. Amazon is present in many locations around the world. Amazon jobs were advertised: 210 at the time of writing. Mostly (if not all) are cities. Recently, the Kojo Nnadmi show featured this week its piece on Arlington called Amazon’s $20 Million Housing Deal. It talks about the pros and cons of Amazon’s presence in this city and how inevitably Amazon is changing some of the fundamental components of its makeup. A very interesting topic, indeed.

You can subscribe for free to The Kojo Nnadmi Show on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Himalaya, or wherever you listen to podcasts. While you are there, remember to check out our own podcast: UCS Podcasts – urbanculturalstudies, by Professor Benjamin Fraser from the University of Arizona.

"J'ai perdu mon corps" dans Paris

Photo by Heike Mintel on Unsplash

“This film is an urban, modern fairy tale about destiny and resilience; it tells us that to change things, we must surprise ourselves, dare do something unusual, stray away from the straight and narrow.” – Jérémy Clapin for La Semaine de la Critique

Two weeks ago in the US, Netflix released the critically-acclaimed movie J’ai perdu mon corps (“I Lost My Body”). It is the story of an animated hand that makes its way through the streets, subways, and rooftops of the 1990’s Paris all the while dreaming/remembering of its previous life with its body. At its core, it is a movie of contrasts: youth and death, love and heartbreak, fear and wonder. The movie was directed by Jérémy Clapin and written by Jérémy Clapin and Guillaume Laurant (Amélie). According to the director, it is “loosely” based on the novel “Happy Hand” by Guillaume Laurant

What most impressed me of this movie is the way that urban space is represented. The whole city acquires a different, more dangerous (and marvelous) presence when viewed from the hand’s perspective. The hand, in order to complete its journey, must remain unseen and avoid the many challenges that the metropolis poses. In order to do this, the hand has to be fast, stealthy, and even athletic. In this sense, urban space is an essential component of the movie.

Back in May this year after its premiere, the movie won the Nespresso Prize (The Critics’ Week Grand Prix) and it has been acclaimed ever since. Rotten Tomatoes gave it a 97% score in the tomatometer. I recommend it to everyone. Here is the official trailer:

“Anyone who’s willing to meet this movie on its own terms and roll with the dream logic it requires will be rewarded with a resonantly cathartic saga.” – David Ehrlich, indieWire

Resources

RE: Future Tenochtitlan?

Thanksgiving with both eyes on the future and my feet in the present.

– Samuel Collins’ 2012 entry on alternate futures is relevant today because, on the verge of a global catastrophe, we need to keep imagining alternate versions of reality not only in fiction but also in practical issues like Dr. Jonathan Jae-an Crisman’s imminent speculation concept (https://urbanculturalstudies.wordpress.com/2019/10/14/reimagining-the-city-a-talk-by-dr-jonathan-jae-an-crisman/).

On a side note, while I was unable to find for you an electronic version of The Jaguar House, in Shadow referenced in Dr. Collins’ entry, I learned that the same author, Aliette de Bodard won a Nebula award for best novella. Here are some powerful words from her (you can visit her website and blog here: https://aliettedebodard.com/):

“The truth, of course, is that writing matters. It is frivolous, it is self-indulgent, but it is also necessary. It is breathing space and act of resistance and escapism on my own terms. Stories shaped me as a child and continue to shape me as an adult. And it is a great and potent reminder of how far this particular one has gone to be accepting this award, now.”

Happy Thanksgiving!

urbanculturalstudies

File:Tlatelolco Marketplace.JPG Tlatelolco Marketplace, Wikimedia, Joe Ravi, Creative Commons License CC-BY-SA 3.0

There’s an interesting piece in this year’s Nebula Awards Showcase, a lively short story about an alternative future premised on Aztec culture, “The Jaguar House, in Shadow,” by Aliette de Bodard.  One of the biggest challenges to those of us trying to imagine and evoke alternative futures is precisely what animates de Bodard’s story: can we come up with futures that aren’t already colonized by Western modernity?  As she writes (185):

“Part of the challenge (and what had frustrated me with the earlier attempt) is making sure that “modern” doesn’t end up equating “twentieth-century Western culture”; and equally making sure that the Aztec culture doesn’t turn out to be an ossified version of what the conquistadors saw.”
De Bodard struggles with this premise, ultimately sketching a future Tenochtitlan that is at turns archaeological speculation and Aztec steampunk.  Maglev stations, nanotechnology…

View original post 1,128 more words

Concrete & Destruction @ The Guardian

Concrete – Photo by Shivanshu Gaur on Unsplash

As part of its Concrete Week campaign, The Guardian published an article on March this year titled Concrete: the most destructive material on Earth. The article refers to the U.S., Japan, China, and Brazil as study cases relating the production of concrete with environmental, political, and economic issues we currently face all over the world. The article recognizes human activity as the driving force behind the global impact on landscapes, nature, and the environment.

“Chatham House predicts urbanisation, population growth and economic development will push global cement production from 4 to 5bn tonnes a year. If developing countries expand their infrastructure to current average global levels, the construction sector will emit 470 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide by 2050, according to the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate.” – The Guardian

For the full article follow this link. I fully recommend reading it since it is full of links to other intereting information: https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2019/feb/25/concrete-the-most-destructive-material-on-earth

It is a lengthy article, so if you prefer, The Guardian has also made it available as a podcast as part of its “audio long reads” series: https://www.theguardian.com/cities/audio/2019/mar/15/concrete-the-most-destructive-material-on-earth-podcast