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).

 

CFP–new Journal of Urban Cultural Studies launched

Visit the new Journal of Urban Cultural Studies site here.

Call for Papers

The Journal of Urban Cultural Studies is a new peer-reviewed publication cutting across both the humanities and the social sciences in order to better understand the culture(s) of cities. The journal is open to studies that deal with culture, urban spaces and forms of urbanized consciousness the world over.

Although we embrace a broad definition of urban cultural studies, we are particularly interested in submissions that give equal weight to: a) one or more aspects of urban studies (everyday life, built environment, architecture, city planning, identity formation, transportation…) and b) analysis of one or more specific forms of cultural/textual production (literature, film, graphic novels, music, art, graffiti, videogames, online or virtual space…) in relation to a given urban space or spaces.

Essays of 7,000-10,000 words (including works cited and notes) should be sent by attachment to the Editor at urbanculturalstudies@gmail.com. JUCS is also open to proposals of special issues by guest editors working individually or in teams of two. All citations in other languages should be translated into English for the journal’s international reading public, in addition to including the original text.

While the journal does not publish book reviews, we do publish review essays—which should discuss 3-5 recent books on a shared topic or theme (or place) and run from 2,500 to 4,000 words. Review essays of urban-themed installations or other works of art are also welcome. These essays will be reviewed in house. Given our visual focus, we are interested in original, unpublished artwork on the topic of cities and in publishing articles accompanied by images where appropriate.

We encourage a variety of approaches to the urban phenomenon—the strengths of the editorial board run from urban geography to literature and film, photography and videogames, gender and sexuality, creative economy, popular music, Marxist approaches, fashion, urban planning, anthropology, sociology, Deaf culture, built environment, philosophy, architecture, detective fiction and noir, and more…

Review of 2 Books on Urban Culture in China

In volume 3 issue 1 of Reviews in Cultural Theory, Joshua Neves has reviewed these two books:

Yomi Braester. Painting the City Red: Chinese Cinema and the Urban Contract. Duke University Press, 2010. 405 pp.

Robin Visser. Cities Surround the Countryside: Urban Aesthetics in Postsocialist China. Duke University Press, 2010. 362 pp.

Read the review in the original context here

and click here for youtube discussion by the authors of those books.

 

 

Urban Forest (Public Installation) — Montreal

Continuing with the nature and the city discussion, here are some photos recently taken on a trip to Montreal of the Urban Forest outside the city’s McCord Museum.

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More information is available through links found here, visually intriguing in person for sure, and the museum itself has much to offer.

To Live under an Illuminated Tent: The City Dark (2011)

I just watched the documentary by Ian Cheney titled “The City Dark” (2011)–> another interesting perspective on the city and culture–light/darkness. A few minutes in, Ian states that living in New York is like living under an illuminated tent. An astronomer at City College Staten Island says he never saw as much of the sky as when the northeast was experiencing a blackout; interviews with an astronaut, neurologist, Med. school scientist, cosmologist, lighting designer, and of course Neil deGrasse Tyson, who says that (by his own admission “it is a sickeningly urban thing to say” [my emphasis]) the real night sky he sees when on mountaintops at times reminds him of the planetarium he experienced as a kid. The city is clearly a center of light, of brightness, that has aided in changing the natural rhythms experienced by human beings on the earth, and perhaps even obscuring, alienating us from the sky (here Lefebvre’s work on daily life, capital’s effect on rhythms and the lot seems to me to be deeply relevant).

Technology of Citizenship/Citizenship as Technology

A corporation known as Pegasus Global Holdings is building a city — named CITE — in the desert outside of Hobbs, NM for the purpose of allowing companies to run prototypes of their new technology. CITE will have no citizens, only scientists and developers who hope to test products in an empty space. As Emily Badger reports (you can read the article here), New Mexico is hoping for big gains by means of urban boosterism of their undeveloped land. Of course, technology companies capitalize by selling this citizen free city for big returns and, ostensibly, to make “dumb cities” smarter. Bob Brumley, a senior managing director of Pegasus, sells the space as one that he hopes will answer this question: “How do we effectively spend billions of public dollars needed to make our cities smarter, more efficient, and sustainable, if we don’t know for certain exactly which technologies will do the job?” (Badger, FastCompany 5-23-12). The questions remains: what will human citizens in the “legacy cities” that CITI is modeled on gain from the project? It would be helpful to know which problems companies already investing in CITI– google is one example — are hoping to solve for people in the lived spaces they inhabit, especially when the testing is done in an uninhabited space. Even though this project does seems to suggest a potentially positive partnership between private industry and public funds, without knowing the issues the companies hope to address — social justice or more efficient consumption — , it’s hard to not see this as part of the plot line of a post-apocalyptic sci-fi novel. In fact, it is the plot line of a post-apocalyptic sci-fi short story by Miguel de Unamuno, Mecanópolis (1913).

Robert E. Park’s “The Natural History of the Newspaper”

Doing some reading for a book project I’m working on I came across Park’s “The Natural History of the Newspaper” and had an idea. [The text is by Robert E. Park, who was associated with the famous Chicago School of urban sociology, and it was included in the edited volume of work by Park, Burgess and McKenzie (and Louis Wirth) originally published in 1925 (5th edition U Chicago P, 1968)]. Continue reading