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: http://vimeo.com/50215247

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.

CFP-edited book on Marxism and Urban Culture

CFP-edited book on Marxism and Urban Culture

Submissions are invited for an edited book on Marxism and Urban Culture that has received initial interest from an international publisher known for their strength in Marxian-themed series and titles.

While all abstracts using a Marxian framework to approach culture in urban contexts are welcome, it is anticipated that submissions will conform to one of two subtypes reflecting the division of the book into Continue reading

Victor Serge and the Journey into Defeat: The Case of Comrade Tulayev

Delivering searing criticism on the psychosis of absolute power, Victor Serge’s fifth novel to be featured in my personal blog, For the Desk Drawer, is a masterly work. The Case of Comrade Tulayev was written in 1942 and is situated in the context of the Great Terror in Soviet Russia orchestrated by Joseph Stalin. In the sequence that constitutes the ‘defeat-in-victory’ trilogy (preceded by Midnight in the Century [1939] and succeeded by The Long Dusk [1943-5]), the novel intersects in several subtle ways with Serge’s other books. The Case of Comrade Tulayev is a chronicle of the Moscow arrests and show trials in the 1930s that pulls in a myriad of characters as well as the overbearing appearance of ‘the Chief’, Stalin himself. It does so by offering at least two intersections to aspects present in Serge’s earlier novels. First, it offers a set of intersecting elements linked to specific characters that appear in the earlier books; second, it offers direct intersections on the theme of space and the state. How the spatial logistics of the state, how the modern state organises space, and how the state engenders social relations in space are thus a quintessential feature of The Case of Comrade Tulayev.

Continue reading

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!

La ciudad no es para mí [The City Isn’t for Me] (Spain 1965; dir. Pedro Lazaga)

Directed by Pedro Lazaga and released in 1965, La ciudad no es para mí is a light-hearted melodrama that, not unlike other films of the mid-dictatorship, continues an existing cinematic tradition of using ‘the generic confines of a popular comedy’ to explore more serious aspects of urban life in the Spanish capital (Larson 2012: 123). Heralded as the ‘most commercially successful Spanish film of the 1960s’ (Richardson 2002: 72), it features noted actor Paco Martínez Soria in the role of a rural-dwelling Spaniard who, unannounced, comes to live with his successful and modern son and the latter’s family in Madrid. The first five minutes of the black-and-white film – while they do not even introduce the central paleto character – thrust the spectator into quite a dynamic representation of the nature of urban life (see also Richardson 2002: 76-77). The two buildings clustered around Madrid’s Plaza de España that can be seen in the clip are the Torre de Madrid (when it was built the highest building in Europe?) and Edificio España.

The script reads Continue reading

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…

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

Lefebvre-bot on the city: (1) Introduction

A robot possessing the urban knowledge of French philosopher and spatial theorist Henri Lefebvre (1901-1991) explores the multidimensional nature of the city.

[multi-authored project, submit your own…!]

Geography and Literature: Galdós “La novela en el tranvía” [in Spanish]

So I’ve been trying to have students do more technologically advanced projects for the classes I teach in Spanish, sometimes related to urban themes… This last semester I taught 18th & 19th-century Spanish literature, and included a number of literary essays/stories relevant to urban studies and I had them use iwork [a layout/magazine program for MAC] to create their own digital magazines on topics related to the class readings. In the future I’d like to assign a project where they make videos too, so I figured I’d better learn exactly how easy that would be for undergraduates. This video [in Spanish] on a short story by Benito Pérez Galdós titled “La novela en el tranvía” is the result (just a first effort, probably not ‘A’ material just yet…).

The Spanish City: 2012 KFLC Book Round Table

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Just back from Lexington where I took part in the following session featuring 5+ scholars with recent books out on the Spanish City (both Madrid and Barcelona were represented). I have to say that what I enjoyed most was the discussion format–I had never taken part in nor seen a session like this before (sad to say now, looking back), each presenter shared a concise 5-8 minute talk about the contents and approach of their book, and then a lively discussion followed, relating to larger issues in the field (well, better said, relating to the fields of both Hispanic Studies and Cultural/Urban Geography). Not sure if I can (or want to) go back to the traditional paper format. I had always been skeptical of the discussion format as advertised in other conference venues, but done right, it is much more interesting and productive than traditional papers by far. Kudos to Susan Larson and Malcolm Compitello for a great session. Although some of the books below are pending publication (those by Mercer and Santiáñez should be out soon), links are available below as appropriate:

HISPANIC STUDIES SPECIAL SESSION 5: THEORIES AND CULTURAL POLITICS OF REPRESENTING SPANISH CITIES (New Student Center, 211)

Organized by: Susan Larson, U of Kentucky; Chaired by: Malcolm Compitello, U of Arizona

Speakers: Benjamin Fraser, C of Charleston; Nil Santiáñez, St. Louis U; Carlos Ramos, Wellesley C; Leigh Mercer, U of Washington; Nathan Richardson, Bowling Green State U 

This roundtable brings together scholars who have recently published monographs on the cultural politics of Madrid [and Barcelona]. Each book will be briefly presented, whereupon there will be an open discussion of the different theoretical and methodological possibilities as well as the challenges of researching the representation of urban space.

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What I took away from the session was the energy of a geographical paradigm shift in the humanities. Discussions centered around the relevance of the humanities to urban planning, the possibility of resistance to capital, pedagogical approaches, the future of digital humanities research (particularly the hypercities project mentioned previously on this blog) and the potential for collaborative work (by undergrads, grad students and faculty) across disciplines. Of course the obstacles that limit these sorts of changes were also discussed, but energy and time can make all the difference.