Archive for August, 2010

Looklet Look of the Day: Oh the Plcaes We Will Go

Posted in Uncategorized on August 30, 2010 by thebibliophile

Glutton For Punishment

Posted in Uncategorized on August 18, 2010 by thebibliophile

Have a food allergy? Can’t eat gluten, nuts, seafood? Fill out a survey about it – share your woe, frustrations, tips. Check it out here.

Reading on the Rails

Posted in Uncategorized with tags on August 18, 2010 by thebibliophile

I came across a witty and short piece, on Arabic Literature (In English), observing how Western media is quick to label womyn writers who write in Arabic, as the “Carrie Bradshaw of […]” insert Middle Eastern/Arabic country. How can you not love a piece that contains the quote, “what I’d really like to hear is someone being called “the bare-headed Ghada Abdel-Aal.”

Dr. Laura Schlessinger

The Root shares that Dr. Laura Schlessinger will be leaving her radio show, purportedly because she wants her First Amendment rights back. Riight. The analysis of Dr. Laura’s behavior deserves its very own blog post. I don’t know why anyone is surprised by what Dr. Laura said – hasn’t she been saying crazy things her entire career? And by crazy, I mean comments about gay men being predatory and about her opposition to gay marriage – though last year on Larry King’s show she said commitment between two people was a “beautiful and healthy thing.”  So, really, why is anyone surprised? This is where single-issue politics get us in trouble..it’s ok when she says things about gay people, but we’re surprised when she turns that onto Black people. Side-eye to people being surprised by this one….someone pass Dr. Laura a bag of tea and let’s keep it moving.

The Root also has a piece comparing the treatment of Alicia Keys and Fantasia Barino, both of whom have been linked to married men. The analysis doesn’t go as deep as I’d like – to discuss class perceptions, perceptions of sexual orientation, and even the role or expectations of womyn – but it is worth checking out. What I would have really loved is if this had been a slightly longer piece that also discussed and put into context the fervor over Black womyn and their dating/romantic lives and the pressure to be coupled, and how that narrative changes, is affirmed, or challenged, when womyn do find partners – that is, other womyn’s partners. To me, Alicia Keys and Fantasia Barino complicate, challenge, and even serve as examples of what the kinds of choices we offer to womyn when we say, either be coupled or if not, be considered a “failed” womyn – a Black womyn who cannot be partnered of contained.

Recently, I’ve noticed that successful Black womyn have to be linked to men, or else…their sexuality and self seems uncontrollable and threatening. The narrative and expectation of being coupled has increased. And I wonder, who benefits from the pressure of Black womyn feeling they must partner?

Naomi Campbell and Rachel Zoe

And I know that Naomi Campbell is scary, with the cell phone throwing, camera pushing, and accepting of blood diamonds from murderous dictators, but isn’t it interesting how The Rachel Zoe Project  positions Naomi Campbell. Everyone is frightened, but from the clip, via Jezebel, to me at least, it looks like Rachel hasn’t gotten it together – and Naomi is handling business; and she didn’t even throw anything…

Michel Martin, host of "Tell Me More"

 The wonderful Michel Martin of NPR’s “Tell Me More,” had womyn on her show discussing being confused as the nanny of their biracial children. Check it out here.

And I love that Carleen Brice, on White Readers Meet Black Authors is having a Black author review Kathryn Stockett’s, The Help.

Revisiting Urban Imperialism

Posted in Uncategorized on August 18, 2010 by thebibliophile

The idea of urban imperialism or cosmopolitan imperialism is not new. In fact anthropologists and social geographers, not to mention historians, have long discussed the dynamics of urban displacement. I found a few definitions and thoughts that are helping me to refine what I mean when I say urban imperialism.  Carter Mackley,  who runs the blog Sound Politics, which focuses on issues in Washington State defines an urban imperialist as such,

By urban imperialist, I mean someone who treats rural areas as conquered provinces, as places to be managed and exploited — regardless of the desires of the inhabitants.  Many urban and suburban Democrats are urban imperialists, as are many journalists.

From Mackley’s perspective, urban imperialism and urban imperialist refer to individuals or practices that seek to “conquer” rural space. But I think Anders Lund Hansen, explains that the imperialism is modifying “urban.” In other words, the impulse to urbanize and develop rural areas, is in fact imperialistic, but calling it, and those who contribute to it, urban imperialist and urban imperialism respectively,  obscures the very real process of imperialism, displacement, and oppression within cities – which in the U.S. context has since thee 1970s been overwhelmingly of color. In his dissertation , Hansen explains that from his perspective urban imperialism is 

the concept of the global-local nexus of space wars, forging links between highly localized processes of urban transformation, competition between cities and global movements of capital and people. It shows how mental and material boundaries as well as ethnicity and class are central elements in space wars.

Mackley’s understanding fails to acknowledge that for much of U.S. history it was the land rich, but population poor rural areas that wielded a great deal of power. Throughout U.S. history land and space have been used to confer power – political and economic, and that has served to disenfranchise city residents, whose votes don’t necessarily carry the same weight as their space rich fellow citizens (see 2000 and 2004 election). What I appreciate about Hansen’s logic is that he notes that outlining who can use a physical space within a city, involves capital (economy), territorial/space conflict, and ideas about boundaries. That is a far more accurate definition than what Mackley offers, though Mackely is right to note that the imperialist urge around space is to treat the area as a “place to be managed and exploited – regardless of the desires of the inhabitants.” This is a key working principle of urban imperialism, regardless of the location to be managed, the voices and thoughts of the residents aren’t considered. 

Instead, the city or state endorses polices that push out “undesirables.” Henrik Gutzon Larsen, in his work, Gentrification – Gentle or Traumatic? Urban Renewal Policies and Socioeconomic Transformations in Copenhagen explains,  

due to ambiguous policies, the workings of the property market and the lack of sufficient deflecting mechanisms, middle-class inhabitants are now replacing the high concentration of socioeconomically vulnerable people that characterised Vesterbro before the urban renewal. This process may appear `gentle’, but it is nonetheless an example of how state and market interact to produce gentrification with `traumatic’ consequences for individuals and the city as a socially just space.

Larsen identifies the trauma of dislocation, rightly pointing out that “gentrification,” is often acted out upon “socioeconomically vulnerable people,” literally allowing middle-class residents to replace citizens deemed not worthy enough to occupy a given space – particularly if that space is deemed valuable. Gentrification, despite the quixotic mildness of the actual word, is in fact, a market interaction that exchanges capital, for the redefinition of space, and trauma of residents, excluding the opportunity to have a “socially just” space.

David Harvey, Professor of Anthropology, City University of New York, discusses the “New American Imperialism,”   as a Marxist, he goes into great detail explaining how geographical space, translates to capital and how that can, in turn, translates into a relationship of domination – where the market, not the community, gets to decide (and re-decide) who can live where and when. He says,

geographical processes whereby capital is creating landscapes, sometimes knocking down landscapes and building new landscapes. This leads in many instances to issues of domination. In the nineteenth century, it was Boston capital that dominated a lot of things, New York capital, and Chicago capital. So internally there’s often relations of domination. When it came to think about imperialism, in general, I wanted to locate the notion of imperialism against the background of those kinds of processes, of production of space by capital accumulation.

Harvey beautifully links capitalism and space.

The dynamic of our society, a capitalist society, is powered by the push always to accumulate capital, to make a profit. Profit means the system has to expand, because there has to be more at the end of the year than there was at the beginning. So we end up with the notion that, for example, growth is a significant indicator of the health of the system. A capitalist system must grow or bust, and it is that growth which I am talking about. Capital accumulation is the growth of capital.The dynamic of our society, a capitalist society, is powered by the push always to accumulate capital, to make a profit. Profit means the system has to expand, because there has to be more at the end of the year than there was at the beginning. So we end up with the notion that, for example, growth is a significant indicator of the health of the system. A capitalist system must grow or bust, and it is that growth which I am talking about. Capital accumulation is the growth of capital. The territorial logic is about trying to maintain the health and well-being of a particular space in the face of this capillary movement of capital moving left, right, and center, and everywhere.

He explains that the “dispossession” of space from those who live within the city, is done in order to maintain a system of accumulation and wealth; just not for all citizens.

Accumulation by dispossession is about dispossessing somebody of their assets or their rights. Traditionally there have been rights which have common property, and one of the ways in which you take these away is by privatizing them. We’ve seen moves in recent years to privatize water. Traditionally, everybody had access to water, and [when] it gets privatized, you have to pay for it. We’ve seen the privatization of a lot of education by the defunding of the public sector, and so more and more people have to turn to the private sector. We’ve seen the same thing in health care.

Carl Abbott provides the introduction to my evolving definition, outlining that urban imperialism is a 

historical-geographic framework for understanding the ways in which urban commercial networks organize and develop hinterlands through trade and investment. The concept has been applied successfully in other regions from Texas to California.

In the case of 21st century urban imperialism, it functions as a sociogeographical framework through which we can understand the global impetus to urbanize, whiten, and erase the presence of poor and working-class people, and their imprint on the places they have historically occupied, in order to redefine that space in the service of establishing markets that ultimately support a market economy that dispossesses, in a vicious cycle, those who have been dispossessed from their land.

Urban imperialism attempts to convey a unique cultural vibe, to celebrate the landscape and energy of a city, while simultaneously, minimizing the individuality of a given community. For instance, urban imperialism, supports the building of a large chain store, as opposed to a local store or neighborhood store. For example, in Columbia Heights, in Washington, DC, which sits in a constantly “gentrifying” neighborhood, amidst a largely Latino community, the city lobbied to have Chipotle, a McDonald’s owned chain, move to the neighborhood, despite the fact that there are several family-run and authentic restaurants in the area. The family-run businesses may be less appealing to the increasingly predominantly white residents.

Urban imperialism is not just about class, but it is also about race, gender, and sexual orientation; about who is deemed appropriate to occupy a space; about who can claim that space; and how space itself fuels the economy in ways that also must dispossess some citizens, while empowering others.

Dear Ms. Lincoln

Posted in Uncategorized on August 17, 2010 by thebibliophile

Abbey Lincoln passed away on August 14th.

Goodbye and thank you dear Ms. Lincoln.

Defining Urban Imperialism

Posted in Uncategorized on August 14, 2010 by thebibliophile

Columbia Heights in Washington, DC

Gentrification, according to www.dictionary.com, is defined as,

–noun 1.

the buying and renovation of houses and stores in deteriorated urban neighborhoods by upper- or middle-income families or individuals, thus improving property values but often displacing low-income families and small businesses.
 
The word gentrification is fairly new; it dates to 1975-80, so in the world of language, it’s a mere infant. As a word, gentrification, has come to stand in for an entire process, series, of actions, is expected to accurately describe  an extremely complex economic, socio-geographic, age, and racial and ethnic dynamics and processses.
 
The current definition of gentrication, is used in short-hand to outline an entire system whereby certain people are further disenfrachised – pushed beyond the metaphoric margins, to the very real margins of cityscapes, often in order to “make” space for those who are not working poor, those who are not of color, those who do not have ability issues, those who are not older.
 
Gentrification has a loose definition and meaning. What’s so bad, after all, if middle class people return to the city, bringing back their considerable financial power? What’s so bad about a new grocery store being build in an area that has languished without access to fresh foods for decades. For this reason, gentrification no longer, to me describes the comprehensive realignment of both physical and psychic space in urban cityscapes.
 
Instead, I choose to refer to the complex dynamics at play as urban imperialism, because I believe it more accurately describes the nuances, practices, and processes at play when a middle-class landscape and model is imposed upon an urban cityscape.
 
Imperialism is defined as (again according to www.dictionary.com) as,
 
–noun 1.
the policy of extending the rule or authority of an empire or nation over foreign countries, or of acquiring and holding colonies and dependencies.

Harlem New York

By entering working class communities, often communities of color, creating or reconstituting space for middle-class families or singles, and establishing institutions that meet the needs of the middle-class, cities – through developers, urban renewal, and programs that are specifically designed to reward to certain class alignments over others,  are often endorsing a series of policy actions that extends the authority of government to desginate who can occupy what space and when.

It’s true that governments often do just this: decide who can use space, when and how. We have state parks, federal land, imminent domain. But for people of color, or those who are colonized, the government’s claims to space and who can be in that space, harkens to systems of oppression which allowed governments to wield unreasonable and unethical power over poor people and people of color. 
 
In a neo-colonial age, how is the urge toward “manifest destiny” sublimated? Where and how does the compulsion to colonize go? I submit that in an age where concerns over “green” living exist, and at a time when certain resources – and the infrastructure to provide those resources (water, energy) is limited, that the colonial impulse has been turned toward cities. Thus, urban imperialism has evolved. To be sure, the urban imperialism of the 2000s, is not so very different than the move in the 70s and 80s to rid cities of “blight,” but I do believe the dynamics are far more complex.
 
 

The Book as Sculpture: Jacqueline Rush Lee

Posted in Uncategorized with tags on August 12, 2010 by thebibliophile

Jacqueline Rush Lee creates sculpture using books – among her many other talents as an artist. It’s quite lovely. The below piece is in the collection of Ms. Inger Tully, and is titled, Red Cube.