CFP: Urban Theory’s Dirty Sweaty Little Others

Call for Participants: 5th International and Interdisciplinary Conference on Emotional Geographies

University of Edinburgh, June 10-12, 2015

http://emotionalgeographiesconference.wordpress.com/

Session Organizers: Heather McLean (University of Glasgow) and Leslie Kern (Mount Allison University)

Title: Urban Theory’s Dirty Sweaty Little Others https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/38607894/Urban%20Theory%27s%20Others%20CFP.pdf

Planetary urbanism, urban neoliberalism, creative cities, the precariat, gentrification, urban exploration, sustainability, community arts: contemporary urban theory has no shortage of concepts and topics with high levels of academic and popular currency. Falling under the broad umbrella of “critical [urban] geographies” (Blomley, 2006), these topics (perhaps ironically) form the basis of dominant – and intellectually trendy – conceptual models for understanding the city. Some urban scholars have added nuance to this work by calling for research that decentres a global north-south divide, engages more with post-colonial theories, addresses embodiment and emotion, and fosters a feminist ethic of care, reciprocity, and engagement with research ‘subjects’ (McCann and Ward, 2012; Nagar, 2013; Peake and Reiker, 2013; Robinson, 2011; Wright, 2014). But, as popular urban research topics are continually refined, repeated, cited, and re-circulated through particular scholar networks they may develop an increasingly abstract distance from the people, places, and contexts that are purportedly of concern. Moreover, too often the process and emotional/embodied labour of theory-making remains opaque and authorial subjectivity remains obscured within this canon. Our intention for this session is to contribute to discussions about what gets lost – and what happens outside of – these networks of dominant, western, abstract theorizing about cities.

As feminist urban geographers, teachers, artists, and activists, we argue that it is a feminist imperative to keep flagging the invisibilized labour of theory-making, the devaluation/appropriation of the (gendered and racialized) labour of the ‘subjects’ of urban research, the affective economy of cities, and the queer and embodied processes of thinking, playing, failing, blundering, wandering, and wondering that generate something Other than the current dominant ‘critical’ narratives of the city.

Drawing inspiration from Jack Halberstam’s (2011) notion of “queer failure,” Sarah Ahmed’s (2014) idea of “sweaty concepts,” and the longstanding feminist commitment to engage deeply with the everyday, the irrelevant, the banal, and the excessive, we ask the following questions in the spirit of playful and provocative critique:

  • · How does urban theory/research reproduce dominant narratives about the city? What structures (financial, institutional, social, etc.) facilitate this? Where does this production take place? Alone, in front of computer screens, in workshops attended by select individuals?
  • · What counts as theory? What counts as a concept? What counts as theory-making? Ahmed notes that some of us ‘litter’ our conceptualizing with anecdotes or personal experiences or embodied, emotional narratives (e.g. acknowledging the ‘sweat’ that occurs when we encounter a ‘place’ where we don’t fit); this ‘litter’ can be a generative starting point for theorizing. But it is often cut out of or devalued in academic writing. What makes us sweat?
  • · How can we put this ‘litter’ back in, or reclaim frivolous ideas and practices meant to “provoke, annoy, irritate and amuse” (Halberstam 2011)?
  • · Do pressures to engage with particular concepts or methodologies hold us back from taking risks, getting lost, blundering around with ideas, and maybe failing as we take twisty pathways that can open up doors and create further unexpected encounters?
  • · What can we learn from using what Halberstam refers to as “silly” archives, low theory (e.g. pop culture), the strange, the inconsequential, the micro, the irrelevant, the affective, and the everyday to examine urban politics?
  • ·What ‘sweaty concepts’ are there to work with in urban geography? (E.g. are there any concepts that “show the bodily work or effort of their making”?)
  • ·What would we like to have available to work with – conceptually, emotionally, politically – that is missing or underrepresented in the lexicon of urban theory?

Our hope is to put together an interactive session that will allow participants and audience members to explore these and other questions across their research interests in a space of collective, playful, and interdisciplinary thought making. We are therefore asking for ‘expressions of interest:’ Would you like to participate in such a session? What would you like to talk about? What other questions would you like to ask or explore? How would you like to participate?

Interested people can forward brief answers to these questions to: Heather.Mclean@glasgow.ac.uk or lkern@mta.ca by Friday, October 24, 2014.

Works cited

Ahmed, S (2014) “Sweaty Concepts,” Feminist Killjoys, available at http://feministkilljoys.com/2014/02/22/sweaty-concepts/

Blomley, N (2006) “Uncritical critical geography?” Progress in Human Geography 30(1) 87-94.

Halberstam, J (2011) The Queer Art of Failure, Duke University Press Books.

McCann, E and Ward, K (2012) “Assembling urbanism: following policies and ‘studying through’ the sites and situations of policy making” Environment and Planning A 44(1) 42-51.

Nagar, R (2013) “Desiring Alliance and Complex Translations in Activist Research: An Interview with Richa Nagar,” Class War University, available at http://classwaru.org/2013/07/25/desiring-alliance/.

Robinson, J (2011) “Cities in a world of cities: the comparative gesture” International Journal of Urban and Regional Research 35(1) 1-23.

Peake, L and Reiker, M (Eds) (2013) Feminist Interventions Into the Urban, Routledge.

Wright, M (2014) “Gentrification, assassination and forgetting in Mexico: a feminist Marxist tale” Gender, Place and Culture 21(1) 1-16.

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Michel Serres on Architecture, Urbanism, Space

This is my translation of a short article on some comments Serres made in September at an event on architecture and urbanism in Bordeaux (the translation is rough in places, but I am just learning; comments, corrections, are of course welcome). The original French article is here:

http://objectifaquitaine.latribune.fr/politique/2014-09-15/-architectes-foutez-vous-a-poil.html

“Architects, you’re fooling yourselves naked”

Michel Serres really does not like what architecture has become in recent years. And he said it publicly with the eloquence that we know in a moment of exchange organized by Adim Southwest, a Vinci Construction France company, at the last meeting of the Bordeaux biennale of architecture, urbanism, and design. The philosopher and historian of science called on the professionals to revolt, but with a smile.

To attend a talk by Michel Serres is often the occasion to take a deep breath of fresh air in the face. The smiling philosopher takes a sly pleasure in heckling his listeners. On Friday September 12th, in front of an audience of real estate professionals and urbanists, the philosopher did it again at panel dedicated to architecture and urbanism. Highlights:

On Dwelling

“When one speaks of dwelling, one evokes three profoundly ancient memories of man. The first is that we are animals. Our habitats are the geometric skeletons of a tree. We inhabit trees. The architect builds trees! He studies energy independence, to capture sunlight, to surround his work in leaves. It is the oldest idea in the world. So much for the first memory. The second: the paleoanthropologists know that the hunter-gatherers voluntarily chose to settle the treed savanna, near a water source. Today, the dream of the richest repeats this ancient dream. Our projects are not strong insofar as they recover something deeply rooted in our memory. Regarding the third memory: the place, it is the womb. If I were rich, I would call an architect and I would say to him or her: “Make me a woman!” We seek to find, in our dwelling, in our room, in our bed, the sensations that we experienced for nine months.”

On the death of the countryside

“Note that in 1820, only 8% of mankind inhabited cities! One day, I was asked by a journalist about what event I considered to be the most important of the 20th century. In 1900 in France, 65 to 70% of people supported themselves through agriculture or related occupations. In 2000, they were 1%. For me, the most striking event of the 20th century is the desertion of rural space. The city killed the countryside.”

On suburbs

“My suburb is the 9.3. Everyone says that it is dull, poor. But come on! It is infinitely richer than the towns of Creuse or Ariège. One lives near all parts of the social ladder. Our relationship to the neighborhood is, I believe, more successful compared to these agricultural towns where hospitals and schools have disappeared.”

On space

“My address changed. It was a space with statistics and letters, Cartesian, metric. A street, a number. I cannot get any more publications. However, on my email on my phone, is where I receive my most important messages. I have changed addresses. And our relationship to space has also changed. If I call an interlocutor for a friendly meeting, the space becomes otherwise, without distance, since I can telephone from anywhere. We live now in a space without topological distances. The donkey, the horse reduced distances. Information and communication technologies have deleted them.”

On Cities

“I was struck, on my arrival in the United States, by the ugliness of American cities, which had the significance of writing. This writing invaded France in the 1970s. When we arrive in a city, we enter into screaming ugliness. These entrances become the shame of France, and they take only written form. Architecture is dead, writing has killed the building. You do not build more than screens, pages. And yet, I am a man of letters, I have written 60 books. But this one kills your job, it is shit! Take off your clothes. Architects, you’re fooling yourselves naked. Naked, the architects. The first who restores building will have saved architecture.”

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Foucault Studies 18 now published – includes two translations of Foucault, all open access

Originally posted on Progressive Geographies:

cover_issue_568_en_US (1)Foucault Studies 18 is now published. A wide range of contents including a theme section on ‘Ethnographies of Neoliberal Governmentalities'; translations of Foucault’s 1979 version of ‘Politics of Health in the Eighteenth Century‘ and his review of Jacques Ruffié, De la biologie à la culture under the title of ‘Bio‐history and bio‐politics‘; and a review forum on Colin Koopman’s Genealogy as Critique. As ever, all articles are open access.

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Sonic Branding

Keith Harris:

I just wanted to bump this post forward following an excellent discussion in the research seminar I designed and am teaching, “Mapping Desire and Affect.” We read the Introduction and two chapters from Goodman’s aforementioned book, Michael Hardt’s (1999) essay “Affective Labor,” and Melissa Gregg’s chapter from The Affect Theory Reader.

Originally posted on My Desiring-Machines:

Two great resources I’ve uncovered during the final prep for my research seminar “Mapping Desire and Affect”:

First, a peek into Audi’s sonic engineering:

Second, here is a review of Steve Goodman’s excellent book, Sonic Warfare: Sound, Affect, and the Ecology of Fear. We will particularly be focusing on how affect theory can inform the study of attempts to create memorable advertising. These resources will be coupled with readings by Michael Hardt on affective labor, among others.

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Michel Foucault: “In a sense, I am a moralist.” (1980)

Originally posted on Museum of Education:

Happy birthday!

From www.critical-theory.com

This interview with Michel Foucault, titled “Power, Moral Values, and the Intellectual” dates back to November 3, 1980. According toStuart Elden, “because it was published after Foucault’s death, it was deemed to be a ‘posthumous publication’ and therefore not included in ‘Dits et écrits,‘” a compilation of Foucault’s shorter writings in French. It remains one of Foucault’s lesser-known interviews.

In it, Foucault speaks with then UC Berkeley  graduate student Michael Bess. Bess is now a professor at Vanderbilt University. Foucault distances himself from some common misconceptions about his work. Namely, that he’s an amoral anarchist (fun fact:Noam Chomsky once referred to Foucault as the most amoral person he’s ever met).

Reaf the full interview:

CONDUCTED BY MICHAEL BESS

SAN FRANCISCO (3 NOVEMBER 1980)

Question: You were saying a moment ago that you are a moralist. . . .

Foucault

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Audio and Transcriptions of Deleuze’s 1985-1986 Lectures on Foucault (in French)

Here you can find links to audio of Deleuze’s 1985-6 lectures on Foucault, as well as transcriptions of the lectures (in French).

NB: Anyone know where I can find a post-doc position to translate them into English?

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Columbia Center for Contemporary Critical Thought Launches (2014)

Originally posted on Foucault News:

Columbia Center for Contemporary Critical Thought Launches

New Center Will Be Directed By Critical Thought Professor Bernard E. Harcourt, Who Has Challenged Conventional Wisdom on Practices including Mass Incarceration, Free Market Economics, Broken Windows Policing, and Racial Profiling

Media Contact: Public Affairs, 212-854-2650 or publicaffairs@law.columbia.edu

New York, October 7, 2014—The roots of critical thought go back at least to French Renaissance writer Michel de Montaigne, but a new Columbia Law School and Faculty of Arts and Sciences initiative will apply the age-old interdisciplinary approach to a host of modern issues, including the use of surveillance as a mode of government power in the age of Big Data.

The initiative, launched this fall by Columbia Law School Professor Bernard E. Harcourt, is called the Columbia Center for Contemporary Critical Thought and will bring together scholars and students who are engaged in developing novel ways of understanding how legal and…

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