Camilo José Vergara | Harlem: the unmaking of a ghetto

In this talk at CUNY Chilean photographer and writer Camilo José Vergara presents the graphic material and stories that went into Harlem: The Unmaking of a Ghetto (University of Chicago Press, 2013), his fascinating photographic record of the transformation and gentrification of the neighborhood during four decades. The book was a follow-up of Vergara’s earlier, broader exploration of the landscapes of decay and renewal in The New American Ghetto (Rutgers University Press, 1995).

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Kristin Ross on the political ecology of ZADs and free communes

Here is the video of a recent talk by Kristin Ross at an event organized by the Critical Theory Workshop in the University of Pennsylvania. Ross focuses on the experience of the ZAD (Zone à défendre, Zone to be defended) in Notre-Dame-des-Landes—a self-managed camp against the development of a new airport near Nantes—and explores the connections with other liberated sites dating back to the 1871 Paris Commune, emphasizing their political ecological implications.

There is plenty of material about the ZAD-NDDL and similar initiatives on the website of the Mauvasie Troupe Collective, which also published a book on this experience and struggles against the high-speed railway between Turin and Lyon with a preface by Ross last year: The Zad and NoTAV: Territorial Struggles and the Making of a New Political Intelligence (Verso, 2018). You can also see the documentary ‘Notre Dame des Luttes’ (Jean-François Castell, 2012) here with lots of interviews and footage of earlier attempts to evict the entire community. The camp was razed in 2018 after the cancellation of the airport project, but the movement is still active and new autonomous projects for the site are currently in progress.



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Stanek | Architecture in Global Socialism

Łukasz Stanek’s Architecture in Global Socialism: Eastern Europe, West Africa, and the Middle East in the Cold War will be out with Princeton University Press early next year, and is already available to pre-order on the publisher’s website. The book is a much-anticipated development of Stanek’s groundbreaking forays into the connections of socialist Europe and strategic regions of the Global South after World War II through the lens of architectural design (see e.g. here and here).

In the course of the Cold War, architects, planners, and construction companies from socialist Eastern Europe engaged in a vibrant collaboration with those in West Africa and the Middle East in order to bring modernization to the developing world. Architecture in Global Socialism shows how their collaboration reshaped five cities in the Global South: Accra, Lagos, Baghdad, Abu Dhabi, and Kuwait City. Łukasz Stanek describes how local authorities and professionals in these cities drew on Soviet prefabrication systems, Hungarian and Polish planning methods, Yugoslav and Bulgarian construction materials, Romanian and East German standard designs, and manual laborers from across Eastern Europe. He explores how the socialist development path was adapted to tropical conditions in Ghana in the 1960s, and how Eastern European architectural traditions were given new life in 1970s Nigeria. He looks at how the differences between socialist foreign trade and the emerging global construction market were exploited in the Middle East in the closing decades of the Cold War. Stanek demonstrates how these and other practices of global cooperation by socialist countries—what he calls socialist worldmaking—left their enduring mark on urban landscapes in the postcolonial world. Featuring an extensive collection of previously unpublished images, Architecture in Global Socialism draws on original archival research on four continents and a wealth of in-depth interviews. This incisive book presents a new understanding of global urbanization and its architecture through the lens of socialist internationalism, challenging long-held notions about modernization and development in the Global South.

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Hadjimichalis, ‘Crisis Spaces’ in paperback edition

Costis Hadjimichalis’ Crisis Spaces: Structures, Struggles and Solidarity in Southern Europe (Routledge, 2017), is now available in paperback. The book is a fundamental, illuminating comparative study of the impacts of the 2007-8 crisis and the ensuing recession and EU austerity programs in Greece, Italy, Portugal and Spain.

The financial malaise that has affected the Eurozone countries of southern Europe – Spain, Portugal, Italy and, in its most extreme case, Greece – has been analysed using mainly macroeconomic and financial explanations. This book shifts the emphasis from macroeconomics to the relationship between uneven geographical development, financialisation and politics. It deconstructs the myth that debt, both public and private, in Southern Europe is the sole outcome of the spendthrift ways of Greece, Spain, Italy and Portugal, offering a fresh perspective on the material, social and ideological parameters of the economic crisis and the spaces where it unfolded. Featuring a range of case examples that complement and expand the main discussion, Crisis Spaces will appeal to students and scholars of human geography, economics, regional development, political science, cultural studies and social movements studies.

A review symposium was published in European Journal of Urban and Regional Studies last year, with contributions by Ray Hudson and Bob Jessop, amongst others. My review can be dowloaded here.

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Marx’s “Dangerous Classes”

Andy Merrifield’s rich, meandering reflections on Marx’s ‘dangerous classes’ and ‘shadow citizens.’

andy merrifield

Most Marxists know that Marx infamously dismisses the lumpenproletariat — those band of “vagabonds, criminals, prostitutes,” “the demoralised, the ragged,” swindlers and tricksters, ragpickers and pickpockets, tinkers and beggars (all Marx’s words). These ruffians, he says, “dwelling in the sphere of pauperism,” are nothing but “the deadweight of the industrial reserve army,” trapped in the Lazarus layers of society and generally not, nor ever likely to be, a progressive political force.

In Capital, Marx’s bad faith in the lumpenproletariat only redoubles what he’d said some fifteen years earlier. In Class Struggles in France, 1848-1850, he’d written about the rise of Louis Bonaparte’s Second Empire, and how a lumpenproletariat had helped crush the June 1848 workers’ insurrection in Paris. Without this lumpenproletariat, Marx insists, there wouldn’t have been any coup d’état, nor any Louis Bonaparte. The latter’s banditry were recruited from the most desperate lumpen elements, bought off (for…

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Housing Justice in Unequal Cities | Antipode in Barcelona

Antipode’s 8th Institute for the Geographies of Justice will be held in Barcelona next summer. The week-long event will focus on struggles around housing justice in cooperation with local movements (including La Hidra Cooperativa) and UCLA’s Institute on Inequality and Democracy, which has organized two important conferences on this topic this year. You can find more information about the event in Barcelona here.

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Balibar, Fraser and Mbembe | Lectures at the Institute for Critical Social Inquiry

Étienne Balibar, Nancy Fraser and Achille Mbembe met in July for a series of talks and seminars at the New School’s Institute for Critical Social Inquiry. The lectures are now available through the Institute’s YouTube channel. For some reason the titles of the videos do not correspond to those given at the event; the headings below show the original ones.

Balibar, Fraser, Mbembe

Balibar, ‘Socialism before the catastrophe? The new dilemma’

Fraser, ‘What should socialism mean in the 21st century?’

Mbembe, ‘Technology and eschatology in the computational age’

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