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(Un)seen Seas

Technological Mediation, Oceanic Imaginaries, and Future Depths

Stephanie Ratté

Remote technologies and digitally mediated representations now serve as a central mode of interaction with hard-to-reach sea spaces and places. This article reviews the literature on varied scholarly engagements with the sea and on the oceanic application of technologies—among them geographic information systems, remotely operated vehicles, and autonomous underwater vehicles—that allow people to envision and engage with deep and distant oceanic spaces. I focus on the extension of a digital and disembodied human presence in the oceans and the persistence of frontier fictions, in which the sea figures as a site of future-oriented possibilities. Finally, I ask what the emphasis on “seeing” through technological mediation means for how we imagine vast spaces, and consider how these elements of the oceanic imaginary can be productively complicated by drawing attention to the materiality of the oceans and the scalar politics of dynamic spaces.

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Unbuilt and Unfinished

The Temporalities of Infrastructure

Ashley Carse and David Kneas

Infrastructures have proven to be useful focal points for understanding social phenomena. The projects of concern in this literature are often considered complete or, if not, their materialization is assumed to be imminent. However, many—if not most—of the engineered artifacts and systems classified as infrastructure exist in states aptly characterized as unbuilt or unfinished. Bringing together scholarship on unbuilt and unfinished infrastructures from anthropology, architecture, geography, history, and science and technology studies, this article examines the ways in which temporalities articulate as planners, builders, politicians, potential users, and opponents negotiate with a project and each another. We develop a typology of heuristics for analyzing the temporalities of the unbuilt and unfinished: shadow histories, present absences, suspended presents, nostalgic futures, and zombies. Each heuristic makes different temporal configurations visible, suggesting novel research questions and methodological approaches.

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The Urban Politics of Mega-Events

Grand Promises Meet Local Resistance

John Lauermann

This article reviews recent scholarship on the urban politics of mega-events. Mega-events have long been promoted as drivers of urban development, based on their potential to generate beneficial legacies for host cities. Yet the mega-event industry is increasingly struggling to find cities willing to host. Political arguments that promote mega-events to host cities include narratives about mega-event legacy—the potential for events to generate long-term benefits—and mega-event leveraging—the idea that cities can strategically link event planning to other policy agendas. In contrast, the apparent decline in interest among potential host cities stems from two political shifts: skepticism toward the promises made by boosters, and the emergence of new kinds of protest movements. The article analyzes an example of largely successful opposition to mega-events, and evaluates parallels between the politics of mega-events and those of other urban megaprojects.

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Derek Edyvane and Demetris Tillyris

‘The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing’. -Archilochus quoted in Berlin, The Hedgehog and the Fox, 22

The fragment from the Greek poet Archilochus, quoted in Isaiah Berlin’s essay ‘The Hedgehog and the Fox’, serves as a metaphor for the long-standing contrast and rivalry between two radically different approaches to public ethics, each of which is couched in a radically different vision of the structure of moral value. On the one hand, the way of the hedgehog corresponds to the creed of value monism, reflecting a faith in the ultimate unity of the moral universe and belief in the singularity, tidiness and completeness of moral and political purposes. On the other hand, the way of the fox corresponds to the nemesis of monism, the philosophical tradition of value pluralism, to which this collection of essays is devoted. This dissenting countermovement, which emerges most clearly in the writings of Isaiah Berlin, Stuart Hampshire, Bernard Williams and John Gray, is fuelled by an appreciation of the perpetuity of plurality and conflict and, correspondingly, by the conviction that visions of moral unity and harmony are incoherent and implausible. In the view of the value pluralists, ‘there is no completeness and no perfection to be found in morality’ (Hampshire 1989a: 177).

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What Makes a Megaproject?

A Review of Global Hydropower Assemblages

Grant M. Gutierrez, Sarah Kelly, Joshua J. Cousins and Christopher Sneddon

This article reviews how global hydropower assemblages catalyze socioecological change in the world’s rivers. As a quintessential megaproject, massive dams and the hydropower they generate have long captivated the modernist development imaginary. Yet, despite growing recognition of the socio-ecological consequences of hydropower, it has recently assumed a central role in supporting renewable energy transitions. We highlight three trends in hydropower politics that characterize global hydropower assemblages: mega-dams as markers of nation-state development; river protection by territorial alliances and social movements opposed to hydropower; and transitions from spectacular, centralized hydropower installations to the propagation of small and large hydropower within climate mitigation schemes. We offer insights on how global hydropower assemblages force examination beyond traditional categories of “mega” through more holistic and grounded analyses of significance.

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Smita Yadav

Sites of pilgrimage and heritage tourism are often sites of social inequality and volatility that are impaired by hostilities between historical, ethnic, and competing religious discourses of morality, personhood, and culture, as well as between imaginaries of nationalism and citizenship. Often these pilgrim sites are much older in national and global history than the actual sovereign nation-state in which they are located. Pertinent issues to do with finance—such as regimes of taxation, livelihoods, and the wealth of regional and national economies—underscore these sites of worship. The articles in this special issue engage with prolix travel arrangement, accommodation, and other aspects of heritage tourism in order to understand how intangible aspects of such tourism proceed. But they also relate back to when and how these modern infrastructures transformed the pilgrimage and explore what the emerging discourses and practices were that gave newer meanings to neoliberal pilgrimages. The different case studies presented in this issue analyze the impact of these journeys on the pilgrims’ own subjectivities—especially with regard to the holy sites being situated in their imaginations of historical continuity and discontinuity and with regard to their transformative experiences of worship—using both modern and traditional infrastructures.

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Indian-Jewish Shrine Hopping in Israel

The "Multisensoriality" of Religiously Defined Practice, Emotion, and Belief

Gabriele Shenar

Focusing on the aesthetic, moral, and affective economies of one-day multisite pilgrimage tours of Indian-Jewish Israelis to the tombs of tzaddikim (“righteous persons”) as well as venerated sites of biblical figures in Israel, the article explores how the neoliberal idea of entrepreneurial competitiveness assists in mobilizing and sustaining culturally valued moral and aesthetic inclinations. Furthermore, it foregrounds the “multisensoriality” of religiously defined practice, emotion, and belief and their role in the production of an Indian-Jewish ambiance and the narratives that it elicits. Clearly, throughout their pilgrimage, Indian-Jewish Israelis carve out their own spaces in which they author the sacred sites and cultural landscapes that they visit through aesthetic engagement, embodied ritual, and, more generally, sensory enactment. However, in order to achieve the desired ambiance, Indian-Jewish pilgrims must to some extent become entrepreneurs or consumers in Israel’s flourishing market of folk veneration both with regard to homegrown and imported saintly Jewish figures.

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Marc Roscoe Loustau

Why do post-pilgrimage slideshows help Transylvanian Hungarian Catholics perform domestic devotional labor? There is growing interest in breaking open pilgrimage research, and scholars have recently begun studying rituals of return—including pilgrims’ practice of using photographs to narrate their journeys after returning home. I contribute to this effort by sketching out the general characteristics of Transylvanian Hungarian Catholics’ post-pilgrimage slideshows about the Medjugorje shrine. I then give a detailed description of an exemplary case: a married couple’s presentation for their children gathered around the family computer. Although we might expect pilgrims to routinize stories and images from a chaotic journey, many slideshows were quite disorganized and impressionistic. This disorganization helped travelers tailor their stories to the diverse spiritual interests of guests in a changing Transylvanian Hungarian Catholic religious landscape. Family members’ conversations also dramatized how neoliberalism in Romania has emerged alongside new global pilgrimage sites like Medjugorje. Medjugorje appeals to pilgrims because it is a privileged site for advertising national wares on the global market.

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Reassembling the Lucky Gods

Pilgrim Economies, Tourists, and Local Communities in Global Tokyo

Tatsuma Padoan

This article intends to analyze the emergence of new subjectivities and economic discourses, and the semiotic construction of sacred places in global Tokyo as inventively constituted within the popular urban pilgrimage routes of the Seven Lucky Gods (shichifukujin). While a specific neoliberal discourse in Japan linked to tourism and the media has promoted the reinvention of traditional pilgrimage sites as New Age “power spots” informed by novel forms of temporality and subjectivity, urban communities living in those places, with their specific concerns and problems related to the local neighborhoods, often generate pilgrimage spaces that are radically different from those of the “neoliberal pilgrims.” I will thus argue that the pilgrimage of the Seven Lucky Gods emerges as a double discourse through which religious institutions and urban collectives semiotically assemble themselves not only by rebranding older sites as neoliberal power spots through media and tourism practices, but also by creatively producing hybrid subjectivities, sacred places, and alternative ontologies that are set apart from neoliberal economies.

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Rebuilding, Remembrance, and Commerce

Perspectives on the Economic Revitalization of Lower Manhattan

Kate DeConinck

The 9/11 attacks claimed the lives of thousands of New Yorkers and also devastated the economy in Lower Manhattan. Many local businesses and restaurants were forced to close, and thousands of residents were displaced from their homes. For more than a decade, the neighborhoods surrounding the World Trade Center site struggled to stay afloat economically. However, recent years have witnessed the revitalization of this area as developers have built new office and retail spaces as well as museums and memorials that attract visitors from around the globe. Drawing from fieldwork conducted between 2010 and 2017, this article analyzes the significance of these rapid economic developments for individuals who were personally affected by the attacks. Some persons condemned the changes as immoral, believing that money and respectful remembrance cannot coexist. Others viewed the revitalization as redemptive, the product of the communitas that had united citizens after the tragedy.