The Journal of Urban Cultural Studies is pleased to announce the content of issue 1.2, now published [podcast interview with Ben Jefferson is already available on this site here, interview with Maja Klausen is forthcoming, free content from issue 1.1 available here]
[full abstracts follow the short content list]
New Jerusalems: Derek Walcott’s poetics of the Caribbean city [BEN THOMAS JEFFERSON, University of Essex]
Re-enchanting the city: Hybrid space, affect and playful performance in geocaching, a location-based mobile game [MAJA KLAUSEN, University of Southern Denmark]
The projection on the wall: What audiovisual architectural mapping says about Catalan identity [STEPHEN LUIS VILASECA, Northern Illinois University]
Richard Price’s Lower East Side: Cops, culture, and gentrification [THOMAS HEISE, McGill University]
Colonial modernity and urban space: Naguib Mahfouz’s Cairo [BEDE SCOTT, Nanyang Technological University]
The London 2012 Olympics: The cultural politics of urban regeneration [MICHAEL SILK, University of Bath]
Temporalizing urban space: The making of place by three Hong Kong writers [WINNIE L. M. YEE, University of Hong Kong]
Teaching urban: Reflections from hispanic studies [MATTHEW I. FEINBERG, Oberlin College]
Jane Jacobs and the problem of the city [CARLTON WADE BASMAJIAN, Iowa State University]
Reclaiming the city through archive and activism: An interview with the Museum of Reclaimed Urban Space (MoRUS) [SUSAN DIVINE, The College of Charleston]
New Jerusalems: Derek Walcott’s poetics of the Caribbean city
BEN THOMAS JEFFERSON, University of Essex
In his poetry of Castries, Saint Lucia and Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, Derek Walcott both interrogates and appropriates colonialist and modernist utopian discourses. By appropriating these discourses, Walcott defines the Caribbean city as an inherently modern space, and in doing so redefines Eurocentric conceptions of modernity and cultural prejudices. Although he utilizes utopian discourses, and argues that the cities’ smallness, incorporation of rurality, cultural mixity, and technological innovation are ideal aspects of the modern city, Walcott is also perceptive regarding issues of spatial power relations and inequality. Walcott portrays town squares, parks, and other enclosed areas as zones of exclusion, and reads these from the peripheralized perspective of shantytowns. Furthermore, Walcott criticizes the spatial coloniality and political corruption of the postcolonial city. Ultimately, Walcott’s concern is the everyday and embodied place(s) of the city, and it is from such a phenomenological perspective that the poet can draw artistic inspiration and sustain a poetic vision.
Re-enchanting the city: Hybrid space, affect and playful performance in geocaching, a location-based mobile game
MAJA KLAUSEN, University of Southern Denmark
This article presents an empirical analysis of the location-based mobile game (LBMG) geocaching – a worldwide scavenger hunt enabled by Web 2.0 and global positioning system (GPS) technology. The analysis is informed by a non–representational approach (Thrift, 1996, 2008) in which the urban space where the game is played and the use and performance of information and communication technologies (ICTs) are grasped as mutually constitutive processes. This approach sheds new light on the phenomenon of geocaching, as it prioritizes the embodied performances through which the player relates the hybrid game space with the contingency and affective potential of urban space. This relation is partly constituted through the notion of a ‘player gaze’, through which the player appropriates her surroundings. The analysis also demonstrates how the game expands the edges of the ‘magic circle’ of play (Huizinga  1955; Montola 2005, 2012) hereby merging the ‘serious’ spaces of everyday life with the playfulness related to the game. Previous studies on geocaching have mainly focused on the sharing of places and ‘local knowledge’ within the game, and thus paying little, if any attention to the role of the player and the ways in which she enhances the playability of the game through playful improvisations invoked by affective encounters with non-players. The article suggests that these embodied performances intertwine with the urban fabric and technological affordances hereby sparking a potential ‘re-enchantment’ (Jenkins 2006) of the urban space. The analysis draws on a qualitative fieldwork conducted from 2011–2012 amongst practitioners of geocaching in Copenhagen, Denmark.
The projection on the wall: What audiovisual architectural mapping says about Catalan identity
STEPHEN LUIS VILASECA, Northern Illinois University
Audiovisual architectural mapping transforms the façades of buildings into something completely different. Projectors and speakers coordinate computer-controlled images and sound in order to impose a visual and audio remapping of the surface. Through the projection of simulated shadows, fixed architectural elements can be made to appear to move. The practice of superimposing dynamically changing information over city space offers a new way to write and tell stories that inextricably links architecture, technology, public space, and urban planning. Drawing on recent studies that have linked urban spectacles, screens and public space (Gotham 2005; Manovich 2006; McQuire, Papastergiadis and Cubitt 2006; Struppek 2006; Broeckmann 2009; Jaschko 2009), this article explores the relationship between audiovisual architectural mapping and the production of identity in contemporary Catalonia.
Richard Price’s Lower East Side: Cops, culture, and gentrification
THOMAS HEISE, McGill University
This article interrogates the dominant cultural narrative of gentrification and its deployment and resignification by Richard Price’s novel Lush Life (2008), set in the historic immigrant neighborhood of the Lower East Side in 2002. Drawing upon theories of urban development and urban history by Neil Smith, Liz Bondi, Christopher Mele, and Richard Lloyd, this article argues that Lush Life dramatizes the violent underpinnings of gentrification. At the same time, Price’s text ironizes contemporary urban redevelopment strategies that resignify and market gritty subcultural and ethnic differences as style in the service of real-estate speculation. What Price’s novel endeavors to show is that in the midst of disorienting social and physical change, urban subjects construct psychogeographies that reinforce personal and social boundaries. They gravitate toward residual signifiers of history and ethnic identification, which capitalist development itself unearths and reanimates, believing they might hold the key to establishing a stabilizing geographical rootedness at the very moment that dominant cultural and physical meanings of place are being upended.
Colonial modernity and urban space: Naguib Mahfouz’s Cairo
BEDE SCOTT, Nanyang Technological University
This article explores the spatial dimension of colonial modernity in Naguib Mahfouz’s 1947 novel Midaq Alley. I begin by discussing the way in which modernity reconfigures urban space in Cairo so that the radical disjunctures and discontinuities it initiates become encoded within the topography of the city itself. I then address the impact this reconfiguration of space has on the inhabitants of Midaq Alley, forcing them to engage with modernity as a concrete presence in their daily lives. In other words, to use Mikhail Bakhtin’s terminology, modernity in the novel takes on a chronotopic quality – fusing time and space, history and geography – and as a consequence, those characters who aspire to move from one temporality to another are required to do so by following a particular spatial trajectory. They must traverse a number of significant boundaries and interstitial zones, before entering those chronotopic sites whose function it is both to signify and shape colonial modernity: in this case, specifically, the brothel and the bar.
The London 2012 Olympics: The cultural politics of urban regeneration
MICHAEL SILK, University of Bath
Located within the broader urban shifts and transitions under the auspices of neoliberal political and economic rationalities, this article holds together the mutual constitution of people/place through the London 2012 Olympic Games. Through addressing the regeneration of select pockets of the Olympic boroughs and the discursive constitution of belonging through the opening ceremony, I raise questions about who belongs, who is welcome or (dis-)connected, and who constitutes the ‘active’ and ‘responsible’ (and thereby abject and ‘other’) neoliberal citizenry within ‘productive’ places. With ‘useful’, ‘productive’ and acquiescent minorities reconstructed as citizens and moral subjects of responsible communities (Rose 2000), conclusions centre on the tensions over civil liberties and the anticipation of risk within a multi-ethnic London and the on-going processes through which urban populations, urban spaces, and citizens become bifurcated in ‘scary cities’ (England & Simon 2010; Kern 2010).
Temporalizing urban space: The making of place by three Hong Kong writers
WINNIE L. M. YEE, University of Hong Kong
The formation of a place and community involves both a spatial definition and a coherent narrative of its historical existences. If a cohesive nation relies heavily on a unified and linear narrative of itself, then the acknowledgement of diverse and multiple temporalities would challenge and disturb that nation’s political discourse, which would, in turn, render its identity fluid and provisional. The three works discussed in this review touch upon different issues concerning Hong Kong and China. In various ways, the three writers put temporality on centre stage in order to challenge the notions of cohesive political discourse and fixed identity.
Teaching urban: Reflections from hispanic studies
MATTHEW I. FEINBERG, Oberlin College
While the ‘urban’ as both a site for research and a theoretical concept has become a central interest to scholars in a wide range of fields, its role in the classroom has often been unclear. As a result, this article looks to explore what it means to teach about urban space and the urban experience. In particular, it explores the challenges and possibilities for ‘teaching urban’ within the context of Hispanic Studies. Using discussions from a recent seminar entitled ‘Teaching Urban’ that took place at the Eleventh Annual Conference of the Cultural Studies Association as a point of departure, this article reviews some recent scholarship regarding the incorporation of urban theory and the study of urban space into the classroom. It argues that foregrounding the role of changing communication technologies in producing urban space while asking students to participate in those networks of communication might be one approach to developing language and cultural proficiency while engaging with contemporary discourses of urbanism.
Jane Jacobs and the problem of the city
CARLTON WADE BASMAJIAN, Iowa State University
This article reviews three recent edited volumes devoted to exploring the legacy of Jane Jacobs. Including a wide variety of voices, the topics covered in the books range from urban planning to economics to philosophy to literature. They examine the full range of Jacobs’s output, as a journalist, an activist, and scholar. More than five decades after the publication of The Death and Life of Great American Cities, the volumes speak to Jacobs’s profound and lasting influence on the study of cities.
Reclaiming the city through archive and activism: An interview with the Museum of Reclaimed Urban Space (MoRUS)
SUSAN DIVINE, The College of Charleston
[DIRECTOR BIOS:] Laurie Mittleman and Bill Di Paolo are the co-directors of the Museum of Reclaimed Urban Space (MoRUS) in the East Village in New York City. Laurie Mittelmann is the Director of Administration. She graduated from Sarah Lawrence College and Oxford University, and worked as an ethnographic researcher in Christiania, the largest squat in Europe.Bill Di Paolo has been a community activist since the 1970s. The museum opened in 2012 and is dedicated to preserving and archiving the activist spaces of the Lower East Side in New York City. On Saturdays and Sundays the museum gives tours of sites of activism including such places as Tompkins Square Park, where the community rioted against gentrification in the late 1980s, as well as current sites of demonstrations that include squats and community gardens. The museum also hosts musical and other artistic performances in their storefront at 155 Avenue C in New York City.