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Beyond the Anthropocene

Un-Earthing an Epoch

Valerie Olson and Lisa Messeri

As “the Anthropocene” emerges as a geological term and environmental analytic, this paper examines its emerging rhetorical topology. We show that Anthropocene narratives evince a macroscale division between an “inner” and “outer” environment. This division situates an Anthropocenic environment that matters in the surface zone between Earth's subsurface and the extraterrestrial “outer spaces” that we address here. We review literature in the sciences and social sciences to show how contemporary environmental thinking has been informed by understandings of Earth's broader planet-scaled environmental relations. Yet, today's Anthropocene conversation draws analytic attention inward and downward. Bringing in literature from scholars who examine the role of the extraterrestrial and outer environmental perspectives in terrestrial worlds, we suggest that Anthropocenic theorizations can productively incorporate inclusive ways of thinking about environments that matter. We argue for keeping “Anthropocene” connected to its spatial absences and physical others, including those that are non-anthropos in the extreme.

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Transformative cities

The three urban commons

Ida Susser and Stéphane Tonnelat

Drawing on Lefebvre and others, this article considers contemporary urban social movements with a selective review of urban research and suggestions for future ethnographic, cultural, and sociological questions. Under a generalized post-Fordist regime of capital accumulation, cultural workers and laborers, service workers, and community activists have all participated in urban movements. We consider such collective action, generated in the crucible of urban life, as a reflection of three urban commons: labor, consumption, and public services; public space (including mass communications and the virtual); and art, including all forms of creative expression. We suggest that the three urban commons outlined here are not necessarily perceived everywhere, but as they momentarily come together in cities around the world, they give us a glimpse of a city built on the social needs of a population. That is the point when cities become transformative.

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Introduction

Understanding Mobilities in a Dangerous World

Gail Adams-Hutcheson, Holly Thorpe and Catharine Coleborne

The mobilities framework offers a particularly informative and potent paradigm through which to draw together interdisciplinary scholarship about the present world. In this introduction—and indeed, derived from a symposia on mobilities in a dangerous world—we explore the dynamics of contemporary mobilities through a critical focus on “dangerous” spaces and places. We discuss the potential of a sustained dialogue between mobilities studies and our focus on risk, adversity, and perceptions of danger. Although disasters link to four of the articles, ideas are expanded to draw on the multiple scales of risk and danger in everyday life within and across an array of international contexts. In this special issue, dynamic mobilities are facilitated by ships, skateboards, buildings, art, and cities; they are also encountered in darkness, in light, and through bodies as well as physical and imagined movements.

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Spatialising university reform

Between a centre and a periphery in contemporary Finland

Sonja Trifuljesko

This article investigates contemporary attempts to reform the institution of the university according to neoliberal ideological influences and oppositions to them. It employs Doreen Massey’s concept of space to focus on relations and separations made in the process. My ethnography of the University of Helsinki’s 375th anniversary celebration, which turned into a public spectacle of various visions of higher education, constitutes the main empirical material. Finland’s ambivalent position in the world renders the spatial work of forging connections and disconnections particularly conspicuous. It enables specific neoliberal aspirations (such as to be among ‘the world’s best universities’ amidst global competition) to become very strong but also allows additional trajectories, like the one about higher education as public goods, to present themselves as legitimate alternatives. The centre-periphery relations are therefore critical sites for analysing the contemporary university transformation, since they appear to be key drivers of the reform but also the primary source of resistance to it.

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Language Hierarchies

Visualizing Linguistic Space in Modern Travel Writing

Anjali Pandey

This article focuses on the travelogue of the twentieth century. Deftly using the spaces of city/country to situate language and people Miranda France, in Bad Times in Buenos Aires: A Writer's Adventures in Argen tina (1999), presents a hierarchy of linguistic value and poignancy of place by semantically conflating English, Spanish, and indigenous Latin American languages with a different spatial positioning relative to the Other in the bustle of Buenos Aires. The consequence is the building of a hierarchical edifice—which metaphorically as it literally centers English, and places its speakers atop the city— situates Spanish and its speakers at a street level; and relegates indigenous peoples to the lowest metropolitan reaches—unseen and underground—marginalized to the periphery of her literary geoscape. This conflation of linguistic code with the synecdoche of space introduces another way in which to examine the politics of travel writing in a globally connected, multilingual world.

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Eamonn Slater and Michel Peillon

This article argues that the physical structure of the front garden and its ecosystem is determined by an ensemble of diverse social and natural processes. The essential social form is that of visuality, an abstract compositional force that provides conventions for assessing objects as well as for reshaping their surface countenance and establishing their location within the garden. Accordingly, the social processes of visuality are materially realized in the labor processes of gardening, while their consumption is mediated through the concrete process of gazing. The identified social processes include the prospect, aesthetic, and panoptic dimensions of visuality. Labor conceives and creates them, while the physical structures and the natural processes reproduce and maintain them beyond the production time attributed to gardening. But they are increasingly undermined by the natural tendency of the plant ecosystem to grow. Consequently, the essential contradiction of the front garden is how the laws and tendencies of the plant ecosystem act as a countertendency to the social forms of visuality. This article demonstrates that beneath the surface appearance, there exists complex relationships between nature and society in this space we call the front garden.

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Zeina Abirached

Zeina Abirached, born in 1981 in Beirut, is a cartoonist who studied at the Académie libanaise des beaux-arts [Lebanese Academy of Fine Arts] (ALBA) in Beirut and the École nationale supérieure des arts décoratifs [National Graduate School of Decorative Arts] in Paris, France. In this artist's statement, originally written for a keynote lecture given at the American Bande Dessinée Society conference held at Miami University (Oxford, Ohio) on 3 November 2012, she presents her four comic books published to date, all of them autobiographical: [Beyrouth] Catharsis [(Beirut) Catharsis] (2006), 38, rue Youssef Semaani [38 Youssef Semaani Street] (2006), Mourir, partir, revenir: Le jeu des hirondelles (2007), published in English as A Game for Swallows: To Die, To Live, To Return (2012), and Je me souviens: Beyrouth (2008), published in English as I Remember Beirut (2014). She focuses especially here on the dimensions of time and space, history and geography, and memory and autobiography in her work. She also discusses the influence of OuLiPo, and especially the writings of Georges Perec, on her comics.

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Claiming Space

Documenting Second-generation Iranian Americans in Los Angeles

Amy Malek

In 2009–2010 I collaborated with four Iranian documentary photographers to document everyday lives of the second-generation Iranian-American community in Los Angeles (LA). This article offers an overview of that project and exhibition, along with a selection of images, and presents interview data that suggests several impacts of place and of representations of Iranians on second generation Iranian-American identity. Youth experiences of geopolitical, community and familial struggles have motivated many in this generation to re-mould the image of ‘LA Persians’ by claiming space in diaspora for themselves and their children, the growing third generation.

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Sex Talk Online

Sexual Self-Construction in Adolescent Internet Spaces

Eszter Szucs

The teen-targeted website gURL. com is committed to providing educational information about sexuality and sexual health to young girls. In this article, I analyze girls' conversations posted on the site to explore how girls mediate the factual information presented, and how they challenge the borders of the scientific discourse on adolescent sexuality. Without overvaluing the freedom of online environments, I assume that the relatively unregulated space of the Internet encourages young women to create their narratives about sexuality and to imagine themselves as sexual beings. My assumptions are informed by the analyses of Susan Driver (2005), Barclay Barrios (2004) and Susannah Stern (2002): in contrast to the disempowering and alienating effects of institutional policies, I call for the recognition of less regulated sites, which imagine youth not as passive recipients but as active agents who strategically work on developing their understanding of sexuality, and on exploring their sexual selves.

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Liam Leonard

This article examines the nature and trajectory of various conservationist campaigns in Ireland that have focused on the integrity of the landscape and the protection of public space. “Issue histories” of disputes over Ireland's natural and built heritage such as protests at the historic Viking site at Woodquay in Dublin and at the ancient site of the High Kings at Tara are used to show how conservation advocacy is part of a much wider movement that contests dominant notions of development. This paper conceptualizes “rural sentiment” as a reflexive form of conservation, which has shaped many heritage campaigns in a changing Ireland where rapid economic growth and unchecked property development have threatened the integrity of many rural and urban environments.