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:

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.

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!

Worth a Read: Andy Merrifield on Marxism and the City

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I read Andy Merrifield’s book Metromarxism  back in graduate school and found it a great primer for thinking about the city, space and capital–as he writes in the introduction:

“Thinking about the city from the standpoint of a Marxist, and about Marxism from the standpoint of an urbanist, is fraught with a lot of difficulties. For Marxist urbanists, this double movement runs the danger of tugging one in opposite directions or else having one fall between two stools. The present offering tries to reconcile these two political and intellectual imaginations.”(2002: 1)

The book consists of relatively short but (direct?)action-packed chapters on specific figures–there’s a great balance between large scale issues/other voices and specific information about the named subject: Ch1. Karl Marx, Ch2. Frederick Engels, Ch3. Walter Benjamin, Ch4. Henri Lefebvre, Ch5. Guy Debord, Ch6. Manuel Castells, Ch7. David Harvey, Ch8. Marshall Berman (what a great reading it would be for an Intro to Urban Studies course…). Plus, great writing style, brisk pace that doesn’t sacrifice depth. He’s also got a great book on Lefebvre alone (Henri Lefebvre: A Critical Introduction) and also Guy Debord (in the Critical Lives series with Reaktion Books–which I think I picked up in a used book store in Atlanta… no good used book stores in Charleston, as with many places I imagine). I still have to get a copy of Magical Marxism (above in gallery–if anyone’s read it share your thoughts…).

See also his work for The Nation, & his recent piece in the New Left Review is also worth a read (although a word of caution: I saw it advertised in the NYRB as part of a NLR spread as an essay on “indignado politics”–which it was–but it is more globally focused than a piece concentrating on Spain itself…), still, it’s…

Worth a Read

[Call for “Worth a Read” postings–Reading something interesting related to Urban Cultural Studies? Post about it here!! The more voices the merrier! see the “About” and “How to Post” pages]

Science Fiction and the City

Critic Fredric Jameson–perhaps more well-known for his book Postmodernism: Or the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism (and the essay that inspired the book) has also written on sf (Science Fiction), noting that it is a ‘spatial genre’:

“We thus need to explore the proposition that the distinctiveness of SF as a genre has less to do with time (history, past, future) than with space”.

—Fredric Jameson, “Science Fiction as a Spatial Genre,” 1987, 58

With implications for urban cultural studies, he also notes that:

Many SF cityscapes and utopias seem to me to participate in this curious paradox: that what signals the constructed, invented, artificial nature of SF as a genre—the palpable fact that an author has strained her or his invention to contrive some near or far culture’s city (and to make it somehow distinctive and different from those of rivals or predecessors)—that very lack of ontological density for the reader, that very artifice and unbelievability which are surely disastrous in the most realistic novels, is here an unexpected source of strength, feeding into the more traditional SF estrangement effects in a curiously formal, reflexive and overdetermined way. (54)

See also an online paper titled “Architectural Representations of the City in Science Fiction Cinema” and the blog Science Fiction & the City (from which the above image is taken).

Urban Voices: Georg Simmel (on urban movement)

Georg Simmel (1858-1918) was a sociologist of the urban environment who wrote (among other essays) the essay “The Metropolis and Mental Life,” where he in effect describes the modern urbanized consciousness: “The psychological basis of the metropolitan type of individuality consists in the intensification of nervous stimulation which results from the swift and uninterrupted change of outer and inner stimuli” (original emphasis).

Simmel continues: “Lasting impressions, impressions which differ only slightly from one another, impressions which take a regular and habitual course and show regular and habitual contrasts–all these use up, so to speak, less consciousness than does the rapid crowding of changing images, the sharp discontinuity in the grasp of a single glance, and the unexpectedness of onrushing impressions. These are the psychological conditions which the metropolis creates.”

–in a sense, Simmel was an early forerunner of more contemporary urban theorists who define the city in terms of movement and mobility (of which there are too many to count–maybe start with these two journals):



Transfers: Interdisciplinary Journal of Mobility Studies