Archive for ‘Marginality/Inequality’

March 11, 2012

Response to: Food Delivery Workers- Jean

The article gives privileged readers a glimpse into the life of a marginalized person in the US. The two main areas that I want to focus on are: The appeal of the uncertainty of their jobs to the public eye, and what that means in relation to citizenship.

In the previous class, we talked about street vendors and how they enhanced the experience of a city. In the same vein, many food delivery workers help to make living in a city easier. We often take food delivery workers from granted, but Singer certainly attempts to change that. He carefully crafts his story, writing about the daily struggles of Mr. Lin, the food delivery worker that Singer follows. Mr. Lin has to work tirelessly from the time he clocks in, gets small tips, faces criticism from residents in the area he works in, and puts up with New York City’s traffic on a motorbike. Mr. Lin has been working as a food delivery worker at a Chinese restaurant for a year, the longest he has ever held on to a single job. Mr. Lin, as Singer describes, is a victim of circumstance, and as Singer knows, the public always likes a good story about a victim of circumstance. The appeal of the underdog is in and of itself, both a fascinating and beautiful aspect of American culture. When I first came to the US, I was surprised by how many people cared about this idea of human rights (there is no such major in any university in Singapore), and how many “liberals” fought for those who were marginalized in society. The class we had on street vendors was an excellent case in point about what I am talking about. Moreover, while I know that the number of people who are willing to support the rights of street vendors and food delivery workers is small in relation to the rest of the country, America has a stronger spirit of compassion than anywhere else I have ever been to.

However, all that being said, it is important to think about the impact of such passion on citizenship. In the last few paragraphs in the article, Singer writes about how happy Mr. Lin was to get a green card, and ends his article there. However, that issue is also fascinating. Mr. Lin, a victim of circumstance, was forced to come to America to find work, and even though he now has a green card, does this mean he calls America home? A green card means that he can stay and work in America for as long as he wants, but the key word there is: work. There is a fine line between those who want to be citizens and those who want to reap the benefits of being treated like a citizen. That boundary separating the two is complex, and I cannot wait to discuss it more in class tomorrow.

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February 21, 2012

Re-discovering a city through the creative use of its sidewalks – Anna

In response to Haley’s article about valuing walking as a mode of transportation(note the passivity of the verb to “transport” which in this case refers to “being transported”!): I read this interesting article a couple of years ago about the intervention of the association Creative Democracy in Strasbourg, (France) which started an interesting and creative way of utilizing the sidewalks of the city in order to re-discover their full potential. The project was basically to invite the residents of the city to come together and use polls, ramps, ladders and street signs of all type to use them in creative ways. Similar projects have already existed for a couple of years(at least in France and

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Italy) that I know of, such as bicycling and roller skating groups, usually organized by the city’s municipality to bring citizens together. Some are very public, and in that case the city’s administration provides safety measures, others are more exclusive, such as a roller-skating gay group which strolls around Paris at night with dance music on their back(possibly implying and promoting gay liberties and well-being). A fun and interesting way of rediscovering one’s own city and tightening the community while participating in healthy activities!

February 13, 2012

City in the Tunnels – Marina

Nearly every day I have spent in New York City I have rode the train. Being from the city I feel comfortable saying that the rides add up to hundreds and hundreds. I have always heard stories of people going into the train tunnels to explore, but I have never heard of anyone living in them until I came upon undercity.org. A team of two men, Andrew and Steve explore the underground city of New York and places around the world because of pure curiosity for lost urban space.

What intrigued me most about the city in the tunnels was the idea that for those living in tunnels, abandoned sewer systems, and under ground of bridges, their daily mental map differs entirely from people living above ground. They see NYC from different eyes and walk different streets that most people do not even know exists.

The upsetting part of this underground city is that these people are living there because they have no where to live other than the tunnels. When Giulianni focused on cleaning up the streets, he kicked out groups of 50+ people living underground and tried to find them city housing, which of course did not work for every one of those people. As a result they were homeless and wound up going back underground. Still today underneath our feet, people are living in a different world. Where they live is part of the lost New York, two hundred years ago before the skyscrapers and highways.

I thoroughly recommend watching this clip, but what this team does is also very dangerous, illegal and sometimes life threatening, so do not try duplicating their explorations on a whim. Otherwise, Enjoy!

December 13, 2011

Of Straphangers and Sexuality: Abroad and At Home- Myan Melendez

Sexual Harassment has always been a huge problem for women. It is impossible to prevent sexual harassment overall but, some countries have stepped forward to prevent it in at least one arena: public mass transportation. India, Japan and several other Asian countries have implemented women only trains to provide protection for traveling women from would be male gropers and harassers. In Japan groping on transit has evidently been a problem since almost the initial introduction of railways to the country in 1872. Just 40 years later in 1912 Japan’s first women only rail car was introduced only to be discontinued in 1972. By the 21st century the groping problem has become so severe in cities like Tokyo that there are even cell phone apps marketed towards Japanese women who are too shy or ashamed to speak out against gropers on their own. The app displays warning messages on the victim’s cell phone screen, phrases like: ” ‘Groping is a crime,” “Excuse me, did you just grope me?” and “Shall we head to the police?” are available to the user after pressing an “Anger” icon, and are accompanied by a warning chime.” Another weird way in which Japanese companies are targeting the unlikely consumer base of regularly harassed female commuters are the so called “ShotGuard Inner Shorts” which are made out of Infrared blocking fabric to prevent perverts with modified night vision cameras from successfully “up-skirting” them.

An actual UpSkirting Prevention Poster from Japan

The female only trains do make an exception for males that are: small children, elderly or disabled. In a turn table moment men who have been wrongly accused of sexual harassment/tempted beyond their level of resistance to grope a woman on public transportation have requested all male trains also run “in the spirit of gender equality.”

In New York City which has one of the largest subway systems in the world, sexual harassment is also a huge problem. Most of the women I know personally who live in New York have had at least one sketchy run in on the subway. Unfortunately, I have had multiple encounters with some of New York’s most indecent scoundrels if you will (though I have choicer words for them). The MTA came up with this little passive gem to prevent sexual harassment on the subway:

I honestly am a bit divided on the issue…I think that while keeping women safe and comfortable is an important and noble aim it also encourages a segregation of gender that I think can lead to even more compromising situations. I also fully recognize that for every super creepy degenerate there is a perfectly nice and (mostly) well adjusted male citizen. We need to make more of a point of spreading the message that it’s not just okay to be a victim but, that it is extremely wrong to be the perpetrator of these offenses.

December 5, 2011

Public Space Discourse and the Making of Vacancies-Felix

My presentation will be about the way we think about public space, and how a dominant discourse has influenced our urban planning tactics, personal interactional decisions, and our ideas about the successes and failures of public spaces. Perhaps we can also see a relationship between what spaces we like aesthetically and what spaces we think “work.”

First, I will talk about Jane Jacobs and her introduction of a new set of criteria for successful public space that would become dominant to this day. In what ways can we say that Jacobs is accurate in describing spaces we like to be in? Is it enough that Jacobs resonates with us? Who might a Jacobsian public space preclude?

Then I think I’m going to talk briefly about privatization of public spaces, and how even the most radical urban theorists tend to get hung up on the idea that this is somehow destroying our good ol’ public spaces. How important is this claim? How does it contribute to a public space discourse? Where does the anti-privatization argument locate injustice and change?

Finally, I will talk about our current idea of the public, and maybe ask some questions about how we might theorize about a public that is less exclusionary.

The first picture is the “which way would YOU walk?” experiment from earlier in the semester.

These are pictures of a park/plaza in my neighborhood in brooklyn that is considered dysfunctional for a number of reasons.

December 4, 2011

Kathy garzon, Victimization and Criminalization of the Hills

 

Key points

A. Favelas

  • What are Favelas? History!
  • What is the population
  • Where are they located in Rio?

B. Crime

  • Who are the actors?
  • How does drug play into this?
  • What is the role of the police?

C. 2014-2016

  • What is the Pacification plan?
  • What is this two dates going to benefit the favelas?

 

 

The “hills” is a world that has been neglected and forgotten throughout Brazils history. The resident’s most working-class humble people, are left in isolation by its own government, and thus they survive with the informal sector to get the basic services of electricity and water, and now a day also TV cable.

 

 

 

Favelas are rich in culture and community unity. Drug traffickers and their gangs have gained power in this community due to the alienation and lack of social-mobility of the country, as many youngsters have little education, poor infrastructure, and lack of job opportunity. We have to separated the worlds of the drug traffickers/gangs to the world of the Morros in the favelas. Criminalizing the poor class means more neglect and more barriers for them, now how is this stereotype going bring peace to the whole city?

 

 

 

With deadlines from two major dates in Brazil one been 2014, the other 2016. the government has been put in a spot to make ultimatums, and trying to get into the favelas, recognized their needs and help develop this population, that has increased in a larger rate than the rest of Brazil.

 

 

 

December 4, 2011

Presentation: The “Next” Neighborhood of NYC – Rosemary Ferreira

Key Points:

  • What is gentrification? What is it’s origin? Who is effected by it?
  • The neighborhood of Bushwick: Who currently lives here? What is its history?
  • Put simply, is gentrification good or bad? How have long term residents reacted to gentrification?

One of the many New York Times articles on Bushwick’s artistic scene and “hotness” (note the real estate classifieds included in the article. Also who is this article written for? Who is the you in “What you’ll find, What you’ll pay” etc.):

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/17/realestate/a-sprawling-neighborhood-in-transition-again-living-inbushwick-brooklyn.html?_r=1&scp=2&sq=bushwick&st=cse

Make the Road NY- a non-profit organizing low income long term residents against increases in rent and the construction of condominiums:

Websites on Bushwick’s real estate:

http://bushwickcondos.com/

http://areyoubushwick.com/

The above image was photoshopped (just the bottom half) but it is an actual real estate campaign advertising for $330,000 to $630,000 condos which is unaffordable to current residents, who by the way do not look like the individuals shown in the poster.

Lance Freeman author of There Goes the ‘Hood: Views of Gentrification from the Ground Up, who unlike many other urban scholars studying gentrification actually interviews long term residents in gentrifying neighborhoods such as Harlem, concludes in his research that generally residents are actually optimistic about the greater amenities that gentrification brings to the neighborhood but are also angry at the fact that these greater amenities are only brought to their neighborhoods once whites begin to move in.

“Though appreciative of neighborhood improvements associated with gentrification, many see this as evidence that such amenities and services are only provided when whites move into their neighborhoods.”

December 4, 2011

Jin Jun – CITY, Inc. Presentation

“As a private person, I have a passion for landscapes, and I have never seen one improved by a billboard”

— David Ogilvy, in Confessions of an Advertising Man, 1963

— Visuals:

(1) Model of Songdo IBD

(2) Rendering of Songdo IBD

(3) Screen Capture of Songdo IBD Development Website

(4) Page excerpt from the Songdo IBD Master Plan created by Gale International

(5) A Traditional Korean Dancer at Songdo IBD Opening Event

— Key Points:

<< CITY, Inc.: “Brand” New City, Between Heritage and Modernism >>

1) Concept of City Branding

Post-Industrial Industrialism points to the production of cities.  Just as it was/is in manufactured goods, brand-power becomes an important aspect of the city’s image.  From architectural structures built to attract and impress to the commodification of the city’s identity, the “future” cities are being crafted to be marketed, branded, and consumed.

2) Crafting the City: Songdo IBD

“Among the growing number of these “in-a-box” cities, one in particular has gained the media glory, deemed as the canonic model of the future city: Songdo International Business District in South Korea” (from my paper). Songdo International Business District is a city built on Korean land, by an American corporation, for the international audience.

[A] City as a factory, city as a product: Made-from-scratch city.

[B] Marketing Approaches

  • Main Concept: Aerotropolis
  • Environmental: “Sustainable City”
  • Economic: “Global Business Hub”
  • Equity: “A Master Plan Inspired by the World”

3) Discourse: What is lost and left behind?

[A] Between Heritage and Modernism

  • Does this city of the future neglect cultural heritage?
  • The question of value: what “sells” v. what is meaningful

[B] Staged Authenticity

  • City to be seen v. city to be experienced

[C] False Name of Sustainability

  • Sustainably-made city v. city of sustainable practice

“Sustainability as we speak of today is often a selfish mask that works to save our own asses from the “Day After Tomorrow” and neglects the immediacy of our cities’ internal “Crash.”” — My paper

  • Social sustainability

“The utopian ideals seen in Songdo International Business District, and other in-a-box cities alike, may point to the start of the dystopian future in the familiar cities around us.  The true “Day After Tomorrow” we should fear is not that of snow-covered metropolis, or urban volcanic eruptions, but a lost sense of cultural identity and heritage in the modern city concerned only with the brand-value attached to the repeating barcodes of glass skyscrapers.” — My paper

4) Further thought on ‘Branding’ as it relates to current issues

In thinking about the recent activities of Occupy Wall Street and/or the Atenistas Group (discussed during one of the EUS Colloquim lectures) within the spatial setting of a city, consider the following quotes:

“Branding is on the agenda of policy centers, transnational agencies, and think tanks, alternatively investigated as a strategy for international diplomacy, a matter of public policy and a source of institutional funding.”

— M. Aroncyzk and D. Powers (3)

“the role of advertising changed from delivering product news bulletins to building an image around a particular brand-name version of a product.”

— Naomi Klein, in No Logo, 2000 (32)

“in a striking reversal of No Logo’s Lessons, many anticorporate activists and their causes themselves became “brands,” taking the rationalized logic of brand management to the heart of their organization.”

— Melissa Aroncyzk and Devon Powers, in Blowing Up the Brand (2)

November 28, 2011

The Economic Politics of Safety vs. Public Space – Jess Lambert

A Red Light District doesn’t only attract people looking for sex, but also tends to bring in drugs and violence as a result of the lawlessness that already comes with prostitution and having to run businesses behind closed doors. As a result, most Red Light Districts don’t act as a celebration of sexuality, but instead have a negative stereotype that is multiplied by the drugs, violence and other illegalities, to the point where it becomes a social anathema. As we have discussed in class, the hours of the day affect our idea of safety greatly, and such a district, which operates fully at night – would threaten the perceived safety of the surrounding neighborhoods. As Solnit commented on in Walking After Midnight, female writer Sarah Schulman ‘explores the charms of East Side Manhattan in the 1980’s…”[to] walk the streets for hours with nowhere to go but where she ended up”. Solnit also capitalizes on the dangers for women walking alone, especially in urban areas. Although today dangers still exist, the ability for women to have that freedom is not taken for granted. However, in the case of residential areas near such districts that attract dangerous types, it serves to limit that freedom to walk around in your own neighborhood, and the freedom to live without ever present fear for safety.

           Specifically, my project focuses on the abolishment of the Times Square Red Light District, and how it affected the wealth in neighboring communities. Think of it this way: where you live is judged according to many factors, including safety and desirability. In the ratings scale, the higher rated, generally the higher property value. The higher the property value, the most desirable and expensive it will be, and the wealthier the residents. Therefore, with the ‘cleaning up’ of the Red Light District, the Upper East Side, and neighboring communities became more desirable and safe, inviting higher property values and contributing to the predominance of wealth in those areas. With the Red Light District in place, I can guarantee due to safety and overall social distaste compounded due not only to sexuality and lewdness, but mostly to the illegality of certain attracted cultures, that the area would be less desirable, and reserved for people who can only afford to live in areas listed as ‘bad neighborhoods’.

My project intends to deal with not only legality, sexuality, safety, gender, space, wealth, etc. – but is also focusing on how these decisions on spaces and use of public space have deeply impacted the city as we know it today.

November 28, 2011

Crafting the City: Le Corbusier’s Vision in Songdo IBD

My research is in city branding and marketing, and the effects of globalization breeding light into the idea of city as a product.  I decided and finally chose a new city that I want to use as my case study.  I chose to deviate from my initial plan, (1) because handful of like-research have already been done on the previous cities I’ve mentioned (Athens, Dubai, etc.), and (2) because I wanted to pick a city that better fit the idea of a “product city.”  So the new “city” I chose is Songdo International Business District in South Korea, which oddly enough is not a city yet.  It already has everything a city can ask for, except for the physical manifestation of it.  It’s been designed and fabricated from scratch, and the entire city is currently “under construction.”  (More information about Songdo IBD can be found here, or my paper in the near future 🙂 ).  Of course, when I first read about this development, I thought of Le Corbusier.

 

“Cities aren’t created by any one specialist or expert.”
— Excerpt from the description of the film, Urbanized by Gary Hustwit

I’ve noted on the blog earlier this semester on the quote above: what would Corbusier think of such statement?  As Jon commented, and as anyone who is familiar with Corbusier’s work would agree, he would probably hostilely disagree.  However, Songdo IBD on the other hand bears very much of the vision held by Corbusier, if not taking it another step.  Everything about Songdo is a fabrication.  From the land it (will) stand on, the infrastructure, the architecture, and even the people: it is designed on a man-made landscape with buildings and roads designed from a clean-slate for the international citizen.  For this project that Corbusier would have killed to do, a New York based architecture firm, Kohn Pedersen Fox, took on the job of coming up with the master plan for Songdo IBD.  In the process, Songdo is being shamelessly branded, marketed, and advertised, taking what have been a figurative idea of a “city as a product,” and making it literal.  We’ve moved from branding pre-existing cities for the tourist market, to crafting a city for the international-citizen market.  Furthermore, if college campuses work as intellectual capitals of the global nation, brining in different perspectives from all around the world for a more comprehensive discussion, Songdo proposes to be the same, but as an economic capital of the global market.

My Take on Songdo IBD

During my research, I’ve found that most discussions surrounding Songdo City is that of a positive one, praising its innovative and sustainable practice.  However, I’m taking a rather negative stance toward such development, along with Nicolas Lemann of the New Yorker, in asking: Are we thinking too much about the future that we’re leaving behind the present, and the past?

 

— What’s more important?

I plan on discussing the lost heritage of the nation and a skewed sense of sustainability bred by Songdo development.  For one, a modern city has taken its toll and breached far beyond the meaning of a city, to the point where a city is thought of as a place not made by the people but simply composed of.  The de-humanization of cities and the cultural heritage that follows is something to be thought of in light of these prefabricated cities.  On the other, the sustainability as we speak of today is a selfish mask that works to save our own asses from the Day After Tomorrow and neglects the immediacy of our internal Crash.  Sustainable practice today is a privilege, and it is not a choice for some, mainly lower-class, citizens.  I want to explore how a “sustainably-made city” may be different from a “city of sustainable practice” and the affects of each to the citizens of a city.

November 28, 2011

Kathy Garzon, From Lagos to Rio. Slum Control

Favelas in Rio represent the state of this country: marginality, inequality, discrimination. Favelas have just recently been put in the map by Brazil, as its government has always tried to make them invisible. However, how cans a government makes these settlements invisible to the public? Many of the favelas in Rio are located in the hillsides; thus, they are distinguished in the midst of the resorts and wealthy neighborhoods.  We have read in class, how slums and favelas are more an area of commerce and mobility, where the people are acquiring money to survive. The issue lays in the government negligence to this community and the members are left in their own. As the members of the favelas have not institutions and help from the state, the development of informal economy starts. Matthew Gandy explains how the informal economy developed in Lagos due to “micro-trading networks” (p 46), which creates rivalries over territories, and violence. The ones in control created the gangs, and as Gandy said, “[this criminal network] seek to exploit the vulnerability [of the community].” This problem of Gangs are also seen in the favelas in Rio. I am interesting in researching how the favelas are rule by the gangs and for many in the community is how they gained a lot of day-to-day resources, as this gangs are seen as the only alternative to gained protection and power.

November 28, 2011

Hallie Greenberg, City Project

For my project I am writing about ethnicity in Omaha, Nebraska. Omaha has always been a home away from home. Even though I grew up 1500 miles away, it has always been a special place with special memories. I knew that doing a project on Omaha and ethnicity would be educational for me. Although I have spent much time in Omaha, I have learned that my view of the city is biased, subjective, and limited. Before this project, I did not pay attention to Omaha’s economic disparities or racial divide. I did not know that Omaha’s percentage of black children living in poverty ranks first in the United States or that Omaha has the third-highest black poverty rate among America’s largest metro areas. The realities of these statistics were shocking.

When we spoke about Shrinking Cities (especially in the Midwest) I immediately thought of Omaha. Not because it is a shrinking city, but because it’s the opposite. Omaha is an over-performing city in the midwest. Omaha is a thriving city with a diversified economy.  Per-capita and median household income exceed and unemployment is well below the national average. So why are African Americans underperforming in an overperforming city?

This is the question I have tried to answer. I have enjoyed researching this topic, focusing on the history and how Omaha arrived at where it is today. The section of my paper that I enjoyed writing the most was about the future. I enjoyed organizing my thoughts and research into six action steps for the short and long-term in Omaha. I wrote them as if I had no spending limit, so they are extensive. But I think of them as an investment in society… and I wish more people did too!

November 28, 2011

Gabe Adels-Koolhaus the Skater

Virtually every article that deals with re-appropriation of urban space relates directly to the philosophical exploration of skateboarding. Street Skating is a means to invent a use for space generally designed for one purpose. Stairs lead to buildings, and handrails help to protect people from falling. By flying down a set of stairs on a skateboard, one is generally challenging the presumptions of the architect and maintainer of the space, who envision primarily function, and secondarily, aesthetics. You could do any number of combinations of flips and spins with the body or board, the possibilities have not been explored or invented yet. Skateboarding re-appropriates and invents spaces for athletic and creative expression amidst an urban landscape defined by singular utility and the conformity of economy.

Skateboarding covers the gamut of urban spaces, both public and private. It demonstrates that private spaces may be open to the public, and supposedly public spaces, like parks patrolled by security guards, are actually private is some ways, in that they are intended for specific use by specific people. It raises questions about property lines, which as Koolhaus states, are,”…originally a conceptual and abstract legal division design to divide, enclose, and exclude…” In addition, Koolhaus praises the informal city of Lagos, to which he attributes, “constant reassessment of urban property boundary conditions and of socially constructed space.” Both on 674.

November 28, 2011

Gurgaon Neo Liberal City – Armaan Alkazi

Gurgaon is part of a new crop of Neo-Liberal cities that have been exclusively built by private corporations. These cities provide huge problems for their economically disenfranchised citizenry, even more so than in regular cities because of the dysfunctional nature of the government they are allowed to develop under.

I am studying the creation and functioning of a suburb in India called Gurgaon. Gurgaon has been created in the past 20 years and is almost exclusively privately developed. Its  landscape is littered with offices of huge multinational corporation, large gated residential complexes and giant new entertainment venues. Yet in between these spaces we find scrubland, vast open spaces, and shanties which lack anything resembling basic infrastructure. The companies, houses and auditoriums are all gated and  have private security, private infrastructure connections ( bore wells for water and generators for electricity), and all the other physical amenities of a city ( cafeterias’s, gym’s, transportation). These miniature cities are walled of to specifically keep out the people who built them ie migrant workers. Moreover the little government development that has taken place has been often to remove these populations ( in lieu of the commonwealth games) along with aiding corporations in buying land from neighboring farmers.

By looking at this strange contradiction of a city I want to explore ideas of substantive citizenship and its link to wealth in Gurgaon. Moreover I want to ask the simple ( yet hard to answer) question Who has the rights to a city? Is it the companies that finance it or the workers that build it?. By exploring these power dynamics I also wish to show how the branding of Gurgaon as a ‘Technology Hub’ and a ‘Millenium City’ ignores the giant manufacturing sector that exists. This branding of Gurgaon has allowed a large working-class population to be ignored along with their grievances. They stand outside the ‘imagined landscape’ of Gurgaon and this allows massive exploitation under the very nose of the National Capital.

November 28, 2011

Barbara– Two Slums: Dharavi (Mumbai) and Kibera (Nairobi)

I’m focusing on the slums Dharavi in Mumbai and Kibera in Nairobi, looking into how they are distinct and similar, as both are labeled ‘slums,’ communities of squatters. One of the big issues that has jumped out at me is how much more symbolically and politically established the residents of Dharavi are in their place compared to the residents of Kibera. Their quality of life is far superior, and the struggle I read most often about is of being heard by the government which plans to redevelop the area, and is in active negotiation with them. I don’t mean that this is a small struggle by any means. But meanwhile, Kibera’s issues are of ethnic tensions between landlords and renters, lack of access to clean water and waste disposal, disease, rape, and violence, as well as other crime. There is also a government intention to “redevelop” there, but it clearly comes from a welfare perspective, because Nairobi’s slum inhabitants live in such inhumane, substandard conditions (Mumbai on the other hand is involved in what Liza Weinstein calls an effort at “top down globalization”). Part of this difference also comes from the fact that Dharavi is older and many of the residents have historical, legal ties to the land. This in addition to its central location in the city, which means that the government makes an active effort to reduce crime, etc. In contrast, Kibera is a product of one part Nubian settlers, and several parts land grabs made by the Kikuyu tribe (which has been put in power in Kenya by colonial officials when they exited the country) who act largely as landlords to the Luo tribe, with whom they have at war since colonial times (Kenya only gained its independence in 1963, so the slum is relatively new).

I’ve read a couple articles that discuss the tone of the government-slum dweller negotiation in Dharavi, and why it is taking place so effectively. Appadurai describes dire conditions for slum dwellers in Mumbai, who are mobilized and empowered by efficient, honorable organizations such as SPARC and the National Slum Dwellers’ Association. He argues that the structure of these federations is characterized by “deep democracy,” in that it is “highly transparent, nonhierarchical, antibureaucratic, and antitechnocratic.” However Weinstein argues that it is partly their ingenuity, but also partly the fact that the poor, non-bourgeois “political society” has always held a lot of power in India (she quotes someone who describes Indian cities as anarchist), and also that the government desires the transition to go smoothly from chaotic slum to prime real estate, so understands that they cannot merely squash opposition voices. And as suggested in the above paragraph, many factors may be involved in the Dharavi’s relative power to that of Kibera.

By exploring these differences in political power and living conditions in Kibera and Dharavi, much is exposed about the significance of the slums’ relationships to their cities as well as the historical origins of the communities.

November 14, 2011

Gabe Adels-The Future of Monuments

In his lecture, Michael Herzfeld identified the force of nationalism as a relatively recent phenomenon. Countries that have historically consisted of a collection of relatively autonomous localities, like Italy and Germany, have only come to identify as a single unit fairly recently. In the scheme of how people personally identify themselves, nationality has only been a dominant adjective for a brief period compared to religion, or occupation. Now, though, people relate to each other more in terms of nationality than religion: Americans of different cultural backgrounds have more in common than two Christians from other sides of the globe.

Even though nationalism is relatively new, Herzfeld associated monumentality, and its displacement of marginalized people, as a way to “reinforce the most exclusionary tendencies of nationalism.” Are monuments, like nationalism, a relatively recent construct, serving only to reinforce a national image? or instead, is nationalism a phase in the history of monuments, a recent phase that might already be on the decline?

Nationalism could be seen as a stage in the evolution of a globalized world. We identify as countries compared to other nationalities which we have some level of interaction with. However, as we interact more casually with other cultures via new information technology, the distinction could break down. Already, conglomerations like the European Union illustrate this politically. A European identity is replacing the national identities that arguably, never even fully developed (like Italy).

As we move towards a globalized identity, and a more global consciousness, the force of nationalism might lose its precedence. But what does this mean for the marginalized citizens that still exist all over the world? Will “Globalism” replace nationalism, or will these identities exist side by side? and will global monuments have an even more hegemonic effect on displaced people?

November 13, 2011

force displacement communities, kathy garzon

Have you every look around your house and appreciated all the little things that make it special? Have you gone outside your neighborhood and see all the people that make your community, the houses that you always pass by but become unaware off? How would you feel if one day, you don’t have your house anymore?

As we were talking in class about slums and ghettos, I keep thinking about the displaced communities in Colombia. Many of you know that Colombia has had an armed conflict for four decades. This has brought violence, torture, and war inside the territory. The actors in this “never-ending” war are the Guerrillas, the Paramilitary, and the national government, (we can also include drug cartels). Colombia geography has helped the conflict be kept in the forest and mountain areas of the country. However, these areas are highly populated with farmers, afro-Colombians, and natives. Many have flight their territories because they are afraid of their violence, but the problem rise when most are forced out of their houses, their farms, their property because their land would be used by the group in power within their territory.

In 2010 IDP stated that roughly 5.2 million were internally displace peopled in Colombia, indicating that 12% of the national population has been forced to leave their home. Although this has been happening for decades, the government has not help in any way to place the displaced population. They are put in buildings or parks where the houses are made of anything that they could find. With Zinc rooftops, and plastics bags as walls, the government has forgotten them, they don’t have the resources necessary to start over, and many are still in shock of how their whole life was taken from there. Human rights are no were to be found, as they don’t have running water, electricity, sewer system.

Is sad to know how the population is the one suffering from the mistakes and the neglect of the government. Is sadder to know how many of the displaced population are composed of children under the age of 18 and women. How is this reflected of the values in the country? how can agencies and organization construct a “deep Democracy” to help improve the living conditions of this community?

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November 7, 2011

Jin Jun – What’s Left Behind (Shrinking Cities)

The problem with assigning a city with the stigma of a “shrinking city” is that it fosters a discussion that focuses on the population that leaves, as opposed to the population that stays.  The success in rehabilitation of cities are then attributed to architects, planners, or politicians that bring “life” back to the city through new technology or progressive bills, where the remaining populations are presented as hopeless and helpless.  Here, what we discuss less about is the remaining populations in those shrinking cities that participate heavily in the revitalization of their neighborhoods through community development and empowerment.  We mostly talked about Detroit and Baltimore, but I wanted to bring New Orleans to the conversation, which is indeed a post-industrial city whose ‘shrinkage’ due to the impact of post-industrialization was masked by the detrimental effects of the hurricane and the flood thereafter.  Check out this article:

http://www.metropolitiques.eu/New-Orleans-as-a-Rust-Belt-City.html

 

During my internship with Neighborhood Housing Services (NHS) in New Orleans two summers ago, one of my main job was to assess the number of vacant properties in the neighborhood I was working in: Freret.  Freret is a mostly black neighborhood once famous for it Freret Street market, but also a result of a de facto residential segregation explained by what is known as the “white teapot.”  It has a weird socio-economic demographic where most of the neighborhood suffers from poverty, except for a small southwestern part surrounding a prestigious private school.  During my job, we went block by block, recording the building conditions of each property (as objectively as possible ranging from poor, fair, & good) and analyzed the progress of rehabilitation between 2008 and 2010 along several categories.  The result was deemed rather amazing.  The number of “poor” conditioned properties decreased from 13% to 7%, and the number of “vacant” properties decreased from 28% to 16%.  But what was more great about Freret was that it never given the light of the helping hands given by Habitat for Humanity or Brad Pitt’s Make It Right Foundation.  For the most part, they were autonomous rebuilding despite its poverty stricken populations.  For me, the question that arise from this was how did this happen?  Where did the incentive to rebuild come from?  Despite how shrinking cities are seen mostly as a economic problem, the answer seemed to be something totally unrelated:

Although the Freret was still left with 16% vacant properties (383 vacant out of 2363 total properties), the spirit was still there.  Covered beneath the myriad of blighted properties was the long history of community spirit, culture, and hope.  When I talked to the residents of Freret who had lived in the neighborhood since birth, they often mentioned the flourishing local economy of Freret Street that once existed and how they long to see that come back to life.  Shrinking cities mean shrinking jobs and shrinking hopes.  If a city loses its vernacular spirit and vivacity, it has lost everything.  Freret, and other neighborhoods in New Orleans, seemed to have held on to that spirit despite various numbers of obstacles.  In the wake of an economic downfall of the city (and natural disasters), if the culture and the spirit strongly tied to the physical land and street still prevail as an important commodity for the community, the remaining population would do anything necessary to bring back “life” to their street-corners.

When we talk about populations within in a city, the question of nativity rates (the number of people who were born in a city who stays in the city, or come back to it, through out their lives) often comes up.  Las Vegas, to my knowledge has the highest nativity rate.  New Orleans follows with 77.3% of its citizens staying in New Orleans throughout their lives (Data: Richard Campanella, Bienville’s Dilemma).  Even from the cold, number data, the sense of spirit tied to the city itself is apparent.

Today, the new shiny tourism industry replaced the now rusty shipping/oil industry in New Orleans.  As a direct response to the shrinking populations, the city started to redress itself as a place of interest, using its history, culture, or geography as a selling point.  However, the bigger question at hand in my opinion, is the very argument stated in the article above:

 

 The city as theme park is good for the visitors and the managers: but the only place in the country that a hotel room attendant (housekeeper/chambermaid) can send her child to college is Las Vegas – and that’s because it is a union town (Meyerson 2004; Flanders 2004). Urban planners and economic development gurus take note; most everywhere else in the US that casinos have promised urban uplift the poor have stayed poor.”

When a city focuses too much on the economic uplift, it often neglects the populations within the city that is most affected by poverty.  Behind the glimmering lights and flowing tourist money, the darkest allies are being shadowed once again, as if it wasn’t dark enough to begin with.

October 31, 2011

“Cities of Silence” ~ Chad Rosenbloom

In his Prison Notebooks, Italian Marxist and social theorist Antonio Gramsci offers some interesting insights on the origins of the modern capitalist enterprise and the nature of political power, attempting to explain why workers’ movements in Italy and Germany had so willingly capitulated to the rulings elites.  In the section of the book that focuses specifically on Italian history, Gramsci analyzes the complex relationship between town and country, describing how the political and socio-economic developments of the “Risorgimento” era (Unification of Italy) in the early 19th century caused an antagonistic relationship to crystallize within civic spaces between the “rural type” of person and the “self-styled urban type.”

The following is a quotation from the Quaderni:

“Does the agglomeration of the population in non-rural centers, which is almost twice as great as in France, demonstrate that Italy’s industrialization is double that of France?  Urbanism in Italy is not purely, nor ‘especially’ a phenomenon of capitalistic development or that of big industry.  Naples, which for a long time was the biggest Italian city and which continues to be one of the biggest, is not an industrial city: neither is Rome – at present the largest Italian city.  Yet in these mediaeval-type cities too, there exist strong nuclei of populations of a modern urban type; but what is their relative position?  They are submerged, oppressed, crushed by the other part, which is not of the modern type, and constitute the great majority.  Paradox of the ‘cities of silence’” (P. 91, Italics added).

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“Cities of silence” is a reference to a sequence of poems by Italian poet D’Annunzio describing the fading importance of twenty five different urban spaces in Italy during the course of the Risorgimento.  The “paradox” that Gramsci mentions concerns the shrinking significance of city-states which at one point in time were “glorious” or prosperous societies.  These spaces became mere villages of “secondary importance” to the growing industrial centers.

October 31, 2011

Braddock, Pennsylvania- Rosemary Ferreira

I first heard of Braddock, Pennsylvania through the work of Latoya Ruby Frazier, a photographer raised in the small town, who has projected a very strong sociopolitical message about the impacts of deindustrialization on her community. Braddock, a satellite town just off of Pittsburgh, is home to Andrew Carnegie’s first steel mill, which had attracted immigrants and African Americans to the town, causing its population to swell to 20,000.  Braddock now stands at a population below 3,000 with the majority of its resident’s African American woman and with one third of the population below the poverty line. While Braddock was never truly considered a big and bustling city like Detroit or Baltimore, it is a prime example of the horrifying impacts of what can ensue once capital decides to flee, living behind decaying infrastructure as well as people. In an interview for the Huffington Post, Frazier illustrates the impacts of the steel mill on her community and how those who have lived next to the steel mill in the row houses built by Carnegie have suffered tremendously from various chronic illnesses such as lupus, which Frazier has, as well as cancer and asthma. “The mill has made the whole town toxic.”

Braddock has recently come under the spotlight not only because of Frazier whose work has caught the eye of many, but also because of a new radical “hipster” mayor, John Fetterman, who has attempted to revitalize the town through the creation of community gardens, art studios and a community center. However, Fetterman has been criticized by some community members because of his exclusionary projects such as unaffordable farmers markets or the fact that everyone in town calls the projects as work done by John rather than work done by the community. Still, Fetterman’s job as mayor has even attracted the big denim business Levi’s who had built a campaign using the town of Braddock as their backdrop for their jeans in 2010.  Frazier felt that the Levi’s company and their slogans “Go Forth” and “Everyone’s Work Is Equal” was disregarding the realities of  the town and was exploiting Braddock to sell its jeans while the community continued to suffer from neglect, chronic illnesses, poverty and unemployment.  The first video is Levi’s campaign in Braddock while the second is on Frazier and her work  as well as her performance in front of the Levi’s studio the day of the campaign release.

Frazier’s photographs reflect these harsh realities still faced by many in Braddock within the confinement of the private home she was raised in as a child. Her photos are mostly of family members who have suffered from illness, poverty and unemployment. These are the realities faced by those who live in the “shrinking cities”. While the community gardens and the farmers markets are creating a nice aesthetic for the town, there are still some crucial issues that have yet been discussed such as sources for opportunities for those living in such harsh conditions for so long. I think this quote from the New York Times piece on Braddock sums it up, “Nothing that was happening in Braddock — not the green roof on the old furniture store, not the screen printing studio run by members of a socially-conscious arts collective, not beehives, not the Shepard Fairey art installation on a nearby wall, not the Levi’s ad campaign — has changed the most essential facts of his life: he is poor and without prospects.”

NYTimes article: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/13/magazine/13Fetterman-t.html?pagewanted=all