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

The Madrid that may never be

URBAN PLANNING

[reblogged from El País; original post here]

The Madrid that may never be

The capital has been transformed by some major building projects in recent years

But budget cutbacks have since put the brakes on many other developers’ dreams

Architects Espegel-Fisac’s designs for the new-look Mercado de Mostenses.
   –   –   –   –

It’s past 6pm, but the security guard who comes out to meet this reporter has beads of sweat rolling down his sideburns.

“There’s nobody here but me, building work has been stopped,” he says, informatively. “There’s nothing to see.”

Behind him loom the Cuatro Torres – the four towers. They are behemoths nearly 250 meters tall that watch over the north entrance into Madrid, on the Castellana boulevard. Between them and the security guard’s sauna-like cabin, there is a colossal hole in the ground. These 33,000 square meters of empty land are destined to one day hold the International Convention Center – if you look closely, you can dimly guess at its concrete foundations. “Madrid’s new architectural icon” is how then-mayor Alberto Ruiz-Gallardón defined it when he laid the first stone in 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…

Resistance, Cooperation and Cities as Craft: More on Sennett’s Trilogy

So I’ve posted before on Richard Sennett’s series that begins with 2008’s The Craftsman, continues with 2011’s Together and will end, he says, with a book on the construction of cities that will follow from his earlier looks at craft and cooperation.I’m open, of course, to the criticism of his perspective I’ve heard that cities are in fact not crafts — but I want to highlight a useful metaphor he establishes in Together, pp. 208-12 in a brief section titled “Working with Resistance”:

“The third embodiment relates the artisan’s encounters with physical resistance to difficult social encounters. The artisan knows one big thing about dealing with resistance: not to fight against it, as though making war on knots in wood or heavy stone; the more effective way is to employ minimum force.” (208)

“Resistance arises, then, in physical matter itself and also in making sense of matter, the second kind of difficulty often spawned by better tools. In fighting against resistance we will become more focused on getting rid of the problem than on understanding what it is; by contrast, Continue reading

Carabanchel Housing (Madrid)

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dosmasuno arquitectos – Ignacio Borrego, Néstor Montenegro and Lina Toro

I saw these photos on seattleinspired but wanted to seek out more information. The site archdaily had some data and architectural-speak–stating that “places need to express their own personality, to arise naturally, to construct themselves. And concretely this one is aligned against a green area, against the concatenation of public spaces that link the old Carabanchel district with its forest through the new neighborhood.” But where is the social angle? How does the development fit into the social fabric (and not merely the geometrical and abstract city)?

Can we imagine the “heavy from Carabanchel” character played by Santiago Segura in the cult film El día de la bestia [The Day of the Beast] (by director Álex de la Iglesia, 1995) growing up in these dwellings that are now called “machines for living”…

The search for more information continues… (I did find another project by the architects at Colmenar Viejo scheduled for 2013…)

The Contemporary City and Occupied Real Estate

This post is copied from Not An Alternative’s page http://notanalternative.org.
Not An Alternative is pleased to participate in Collective/Performative, the final exhibition of Exit Art’s influential 30 years as a non-profit gallery and cultural center. Please join us May 8th -12th for Occupied Real Estate, an installation and series of workshops.
Occupied Real Estate
Tuesday May 8 – Saturday May 12
@ Exit Art
475 10th Avenue
New York, New York
* Installation: 10am – 6pm daily
* Workshops: 2pm – 6pm daily
Production hours with Occupied Real Estate agents
* Presentations: 12pm – 2pm Saturday
With artist John Hawke and Occupy Town Square organizer Daniel Latorre
OCCUPIED REAL ESTATE Continue reading

Worth a Read: Andy Merrifield on Marxism and the City

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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]

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.