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Making Place: Space and Embodiment in the City

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Space and place have become central to analysis of culture and history in the humanities and social sciences. Making Place examines how people engage the material and social worlds of the urban environment via the rhythms of everyday life and how bodily responses are implicated in the making and experiencing of place. The contributors introduce the concept of spatial ethnography, a new methodological approach that incorporates both material and abstract perspectives in the study of people and place, and encourages consideration of the various levels—from the personal to the planetary—at which spatial change occurs. The book’s case studies come from Costa Rica, Colombia, India, Austria, Italy, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

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1. Placemaking and Embodied Space

ePub

SETHA LOW

Within the field of space and culture there has been increasing interest in theories that include the body and walking as bodily movement as integral parts of spatial analysis. These concerns have been addressed partially through the historical analysis of the docile body to social structure and power in work of Michel Foucault, and sociologically in the notions of habitus by Pierre Bourdieu and “structuration” by Anthony Giddens, as well as the works of many others.1 Nonetheless, many researchers, architects, and landscape practitioners need theoretical formulations that provide an everyday material grounding and experiential, cognitive, and/or emotional understanding of the intersection and interpenetration of body, space, and culture.2 I call this material and experiential intersection “embodied space.” These understandings require theories of body and space that are experience-near and yet allow for linkages to be made to larger social and political processes.

 

2. Visualizing the Body Politic

ePub

SWATI CHATTOPADHYAY

The concept of public space in modern political theory is remarkably impoverished. It largely ignores the material attributes of space—its architectonics and physical-sensorial dimensions that enable habitation—and the process of social production that creates the “publicness” of public space. Such imagination of public space is disembodied in keeping with the disembodied, abstract imagination of the modern state. When it does consider material attributes and the bodies of citizens at work in shaping public space, it assumes a particular delimited imagination of the Greek polis. Both ignore the possibilities of a political vernacular that might enable us to expand the imagination of public space and its attendant materiality.

“To be embodied,” writes James Mensch, “is to be physically situated.” By that logic it is also to “exclude other persons from the position that one occupies in viewing the world.”1 This produces a plurality of viewpoints that we must accommodate, because we are also “dependent” on others to inhabit this world. To be embodied is to be aware of the vulnerability of the flesh. An embodied understanding of politics and public space thus requires attention to the conditions of our physical situatedness in relation to other bodies and objects. It involves an understanding of our position in a given space, our movement and ability to access space, what we can see, hear, feel, and touch: our vulnerability as well as our capacity to manipulate and change the aforementioned conditions. These states of vulnerability and capacity that actualize our political freedom set the parameters of our relation to fellow subjects. These material conditions (and their limits) are the bases of our political subjectivity and enable our political imagination.

 

3. Inside the Magic Circle: Conjuring the Terrorist Enemy at the 2001 Group of Eight Summit

ePub

EMANUELA GUANO

The arena, the card-table, the magic circle, the temple, the stage, the screen, the tennis court, the court of justice, etc., are all…forbidden spots, isolated, hedged round, hallowed, within which special rules obtain. All are temporary worlds within the ordinary world, dedicated to the performance of an act apart.

—Johan Huizinga, Homo Ludens: A Study of the Play-Element in Culture

Held in Italy shortly after the election of Silvio Berlusconi's second conservative government, the 2001 Group of Eight (G8) summit went down in history as the battle of Genoa due to the violent clashes and the extreme brutality of state repression. From July 20 through July 22 the leaders of the eight wealthiest countries in the world conducted their debates inside a militarized citadel—a magic circle—at the heart of downtown Genoa. In the meantime, the rest of the city became the theater of a guerrilla warfare and a police and army violence that had few antecedents in recent Italian history. While most protesters sought to hold their demonstrations peacefully, anarchists known as the Black Bloc carried out hit-and-run attacks on the police as well as on civilian targets, ravaging and burning down parked cars, banks, and small businesses. Instead of seeking to contain the Black Bloc's offensive, police and army corps responded by indiscriminately beating all of the protesters who happened to be in their way. Over three hundred of them were illegally detained; more than four hundred had to be hospitalized; and one young man, Carlo Giuliani, was fatally shot in the head.

 

4. Eating Ethnicity: Spatial Ethnography of Hyderabad House Restaurant on Devon Avenue, Chicago

ePub

ARIJIT SEN

In 2006 an item in the Chicago Tribune announced the closing of Hyderabad House, an ethnic restaurant located on Devon Avenue, a popular and crowded retail street on the northern edge of the metropolis. The heart of a diverse and ever changing immigrant community, Devon Avenue is well known for its Indian, Pakistani, and Bangladeshi stores. Frequent visitors know that ethnic restaurants appear and disappear with regularity on this retail strip, so the only remarkable thing about the Tribune's report was its vivid description of the health hazards in the establishment:

A restaurant on Devon Avenue, a stretch well-known for its global cuisine, was closed Thursday after inspectors found insects, mouse droppings and food held at dangerous temperatures.

The city's Dumpster Task Force visited the Hyderabad House, 2225 W. Devon Ave., after receiving complaints about rodents, but soon found it was a “minefield” of food safety problems, said Matt Smith, spokesman for the Department of Streets and Sanitation.

 

5. Urban Boundaries, Religious Experience, and the North West London Eruv

ePub

JENNIFER A. COUSINEAU

On the Jewish Sabbath of Saturday, February 23, 2003, a woman carrying her infant child walked out her front door, through her yard, and into the street.1 This seemingly unremarkable occurrence was an unprecedented act among Sabbath-observant Jews in London. After centuries of Jewish life in London, why should such a mundane gesture mark a significant departure in the experience of the Jewish Sabbath? The catalyst for ritual innovation in this case was a spatial device called an eruv (plural, eruvim). An eruv is a space whose disparate areas are regarded as forming a single domain by virtue of the contiguity of its boundaries. An eruv can be built in a single street, uniting several dwellings on that street, or on a much larger scale, uniting many streets, households, and even neighborhoods. All eruvim, however, require real, physical boundaries. These boundaries tend to be minimalistic and are usually well integrated into the urban built environment. It is often difficult, even for eruv users, to detect the boundary by sight.2 Where possible, preexisting features of the urban environment deemed acceptable according to Jewish law, such as fences, row houses, hedges, railway lines, embankments, major roads, and bridges, can be borrowed imaginatively to create a contiguous boundary for the eruv. Where preexisting urban features are not fully contiguous, under certain circumstances Jewish law can allow for the boundary to be “completed” by erecting poles and wires to close gaps. The erection of some eighty poles in this way permitted the creation of an eruv that now encompasses an area of 6.5 square miles in North West London, including large parts of Hendon, Golders Green, Finchley, and the Hampstead Garden Suburb, and encircling the majority of the Jewish population of North West London. This eruv is known as the North West London Eruv.

 

6. “Art, Memory, and the City” In Bogotá: Mapa Teatro's Artistic Encounters with Inhabited Places

ePub

KAREN E. TILL

A young woman wearing a pink formal gown walks through a recreated bedroom. Candles and spotlights illuminate her figure as she steps atop a bed and begins jumping on a mattress. Rather than speak lines, her performance—part of a collective interpretation of Heinrich Müller's Prometheus titled Project Prometeo: Acts I & II—is an embodied one.1 Her body is framed by her live-time performance as projected upon one of two very large screens (more than three-stories high); on the other screen we see historical and contemporary images and listen to sound recordings of the neighborhood that once existed upon the empty fields where she performs (figure 6.1). She continues climbing up and down off of the bed as other performers begin or continue to enact their own interpretations of the myth. We see a married couple sitting at a dining room table playing cards, a clown performing in a playroom, a man sitting at an imagined doorway lighting matches.

 

7. Jewish Memory, Jewish Geography: Vienna before 1938

ePub

LISA SILVERMAN

Alles aus Liebe (All for Love), one of the most successful cabarets in 1927 Vienna, was, according to a critic for the Neue Freie Presse, a show intended mainly “for the eyes.”1 Like the other cabarets that year, it featured an entertaining musical score and plenty of talented comedians, including the well-known Karl Farkas, who also wrote its more than fifty lighthearted sketches. Like much lowbrow entertainment, it poked fun at its audience by humorously reversing traditional gender roles and mocking class distinctions. But this revue also featured something different: a dazzling array of women in extravagant costumes that evoked all things Austrian and Viennese—from culinary favorites like Wiener schnitzel and Sachertorte (chocolate cake), to the castles and gently rolling green hills of the country's beloved provinces. Appearing toward the end of the first half of the show, this visual display culminated in a set of striking tableaux of women costumed as Vienna's iconic buildings: the Stephansdom (St. Stephen's Cathedral), Karlskirche (St. Charles's Church), Rathaus (city hall), parliament, Schönbrunn (the emperor's summer palace), and even the city's Prater district and its famous Ferris wheel. This panoply was not, however, simply a diverting spectacle; like the rest of the show in which it appeared, it too challenged Viennese assumptions about the seemingly self-evident, stable order of things.

 

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