Eco-urbanism and the Eco-city, or, Denying the Right to the City? - Caprotti - 2014 - Antipode - Wiley Online Library -
Aaaah. Must not read all the things. But definitely bookmarking this new article by urban geographer Federico Caprotti on eco-cities to read later.
This paper critically analyses the construction of eco-cities as technological fixes to concerns over climate change, Peak Oil, and other scenarios in the transition towards “green capitalism”. It argues for a critical engagement with new-build eco-city projects, first by highlighting the inequalities which mean that eco-cities will not benefit those who will be most impacted by climate change: the citizens of the world’s least wealthy states. Second, the paper investigates the foundation of eco-city projects on notions of crisis and scarcity. Third, there is a need to critically interrogate the mechanisms through which new eco-cities are built, including the land market, reclamation, dispossession and “green grabbing”. Lastly, a sustained focus is needed on the multiplication of workers’ geographies in and around these “emerald cities”, especially the ordinary urban spaces and lives of the temporary settlements housing the millions of workers who move from one new project to another.
[Union Point Park in Fruitvale, Oakland]
Two landscape architecture professors whose work I find both critical and optimistic are Jeffrey Hou and Michael Rios. Below are excerpts from their article, “Community-Driven Place Making: The Social Practice of Participatory Design in the Making of Union Point Park.”
Emerging from the civil rights movement as a response to the lack of public involvement in decision making, participatory planning and design has been the primary means for responding to community issues. Over the past forty years, a sophisticated repertoire of participation methods has been developed. Specific techniques of participatory design now include computer simulations, gaming exercises, design charrettes, visioning, and a host of feedback instruments, ranging from visual preference surveys to focus groups and citizen polling. In addition, consensus building, conflict resolution, and organizational participation have served as tools to combat problems associated with public process. Despite these positive developments, however, there is still room to ask: Is the current participatory design practice adequate in confronting the changing public process of place making?
Increasingly, many design professionals who utilize a participatory approach are expressing skepticism over the prevalent participatory design model. Randolph Hester, a prominent participatory practitioner, argues that participatory design and planning is so institutionalized and parochialized that it no longer meets many of its original goals. He further argues that, although community participation has become more mainstream in professional practice, it is more productive in defending exclusionary groups than in promoting the public good. Contrary to its original moral purpose, participation is often used to satisfy mandated requirements and is not intended to fully engage the community. As a result, public participation has become a highly bureaucratic and standardized process. This institutionalization has resulted in narrowly defined boundaries and problems to avoid conflict and make channels of control clear. In addition, because many projects take a considerable time to be implemented, citizens often lose interest and commitment. Similarly, frustration grows when commitments to public priorities are not implemented due to cost overruns, backroom deal making, or de facto decision making.
These and other experiences raise fundamental concerns about public participation when narrow interests benefit from project outcomes and when it is unclear whose voice is being represented. The problems of participatory design reflect the limitations of the current model, one that emphasizes a “neutral” framework for decision making and that privileges rational discourse over conflict and difference. By taking on an increasingly narrowed scope and by focusing primarily on the interaction between professionals and users, the dominant participatory model has overlooked the broader cultural, social, and political dynamics in the changing institutional framework and public processes. By adhering to procedural appropriateness rather than seeking opportunities outside given problems, the outcomes of participation have often become irrelevant in the face of social and political forces. Together, these inadequacies have greatly limited the effectiveness and legitimacy of participatory approaches and the role of design professionals in engaging with grassroots efforts.
It is this task which a revolutionary approach to theory must first accomplish. What does this task entail?
Let me say first what it does not entail. It does not entail yet another empirical investigation of the social conditions in the ghettos. In fact, mapping even more evidence of man’s patent inhumanity to man is counter-revolutionary in the sense that it allows the bleeding-heart liberal in us to pretend we are contributing to a solution when in fact we are not. This kind of empiricism is irrelevant. There is already enough information in congressional reports, newspapers, books, articles and so on to provide us with all the evidence we need. Our task does not lie here.
Nor does it lie in what can only be termed “moral masturbation” of the sort which accompanies the masochistic assemblage of some huge dossier on the daily injustices to the populace of the ghetto, over which we beat our breasts and commiserate with each other before retiring to our fireside comforts.
This, too, is counter-revolutionary for it merely serves to expiate guilt without our ever being forced to face the fundamental issues, let alone do anything about them.
Nor is it a solution to indulge in that emotional tourism which attracts US to live and work with the poor “for a while” in the hope that we can really help them improve their lot.
This, too, is counter revolutionary—so what if we help a community win a play ground in one summer of work to find that the school deteriorates in the fall ? These are the paths we should not take. They merely serve to divert us from the essential task at hand.
This immediate task is nothing more nor less than the self conscious and aware construction of a new paradigm for social geographic thought through a deep and profound critique of our existing analytical constructs. This is what we are best equipped to do. We are academics, after all, working with the tools of the academic trade. As such, our task is to mobilize our powers of thought to formulate concepts and categories, theories and arguments, which we can apply to the task of bringing about a humanizing social change. —
David Harvey, Social Justice in the City (p 144-5).
I’m not in total agreement (there’s an incrementalist in me who believes even small projects are worth doing) but I do think that Harvey has a point about how simply documenting social injustice is not enough and is in fact distracting us from the main project… though the construction of a new paradigm is a bit over-ambitious for me at this point.
I was also delighted when I came across this passage because it reminded me of lowendtheory's post:
I believe that there’s a difference between producing evidence of oppression, explaining oppression, and fighting oppression. One can produce evidence of oppression without being able to explain why oppression happens. My problem with the Jezebels and Racialiciouses of the world, as well as with a lot of stuff I see around here, is that they glorify their own capacity to produce evidence about oppression without explaining it. Or if they do explain it, the explanation tells us very little: it relies on the fact that we know oppression is bad and the fact that it feels good to know that.
In reality, the activity of reading has on the contrary all the characteristics of a silent production: the drift across the page, the metamorphosis of the text effected by the wandering eyes of the reader, the improvisation and expectation of meanings inferred from a few words, leaps over written spaces in an ephemeral dance. But since he is incapable of stockpiling (unless he writes or records), the reader cannot protect himself against the erosion of time (while reading, he forgets himself and he forgets what he has read) unless he buys the object (book, image) which is no more than a substitute (the spoor or promise) of moments “lost” in reading. He insinuates into another person’s text the ruses of pleasure and appropriation: he poaches on it, is transported into it, pluralizes himself in it like the internal rumblings of one’s body. Ruse, metaphor, arrangement, this production is also an “invention” of the memory. Words become the outlet or product of silent histories. The readable transforms itself into the memorable: Barthes reads Proust in Stendhal’s text; the viewer reads the landscape of his childhood in the evening news. The thin film of writing becomes a movement of strata, a play of spaces. A different world (the reader’s) slips into the author’s place.
This mutation makes the text habitable, like a rented apartment. It transforms another person’s property into a space borrowed for a moment by a transient. Renters make comparable changes in an apartment they furnish with their acts and memories; as do speakers, in the language into which they insert both the messages of their native tongue and, through their accent, through their own “turns of phrase,” etc., their own history; as do pedestrians, in the streets they fill with the forests of their desires and goals. —
Michel de Certeau. The Practice of Everyday Life (xxi)
The other skill I am trying to cultivate is the ability to extract the intended main argument from a text instead of incoherent snippets of half-theories and truncated ethnographic descriptions.
[Image adapted from Hyperbole and a Half’s “clean all the things!”]
I have an absurd and near unshakeable compulsion to read all the things RIGHT THIS VERY SECOND. Since taking my comprehensive exams is my primary project this semester, I am trying to squash my urge to read all the things and just stick to reading/synthesizing the things I am actually supposed to read.
However, when I read an article (on my reading list of course) with an extensive literature review or an annotated bibliography, I have to clutch the chair and refrain from getting all the articles and hoarding all the books to read them all right now.
Huxley, Margo, and Oren Yiftachel. “New paradigm or old myopia? Unsettling the communicative turn in planning theory.” Journal of planning education and research 19.4 (2000): 333-342.
• Mark Long’s (1981, 1982) studies of the history of planning and urban reform as social regulation, and of the genealogy of planning history that applies Foucauldian analysis to the taken-for-granted stories of unproblematic progress;
• Lewi and Wickham (1996) similarly trace the histories of urban reforms as social control and management of urban populations;
• Christine Boyer’s Dreaming the Rational City (1983), while largely materialist in approach, is an attempt to unpack “the myth of American city planning,” using some Foucauldian insights;
• Paul Rabinow’s (1989) study of French colonial planned cities demonstrates the moral and governmental programs embodied in built form;
• Judith Allen’s (1996) work on public consultation procedures as forms of dominant agenda-shaping is a salutary lesson about the limits to participation;
• Bent Flyvbjerg’s (1996, 1998) exposition of the realrationalitat by which real-world planning draws on Nietzschean critiques of Enlightenment rationality;
• Huxley’s (1989, 1994, 1996) studies of the utilitarian genealogy of the discourse of planning uncover the social regulatory effects of zoning;
• Fischler’s (1995) examination of the dominant discourses and representations contained in planning documents and maps shows how alternative discourses are suppressed;
• Similarly, Ola Sodastrom (1996) shows how maps, bird’s-eye-view projections, and social surveys are all technologies of power and regulation employed by planning;
• Richardson (1996) analyzes the nexus of power and knowledge present in regional policies;
• Yiftachel’s (1992, 1998) work implicates planning in projects of ethnic territorial and cultural domination in multiethnic societies.
The Fordist societal paradigm offered a conception of progress which itself rested upon three pillars: technical progress (conceived as technological progress unconditionally driven by ‘intellectual workers’); social progress (conceived as progress in purchasing power while respecting the constraint of full employment); and state progress (the state conceived as guarantor of the general interest against the ‘encroachments’ of individual interests). And this triple progress was supposed to weld together society, by advancing goals worthy of collective pursuit.
This model entered into crisis throughout the entire advanced capitalist world in which it was established. It was certainly an economic crisis: a crisis of the model of labour organization based upon the fragmentation of tasks, the division between ‘conception’ and ‘execution’ and ever costly mechanization; it was a crisis of the ‘welfare state’, and it was a crisis of the nation state, incapable of regulating an increasingly internationalized economy.
But in France, for example, this crisis was exacerbated by another one which preceded the economic crisis: a crisis of the societal paradigm, in its adherence to the dominant conception of progress. While the common programme of the Left merely took Fordism’s ideal of democratization (from above!) to extremes, new working-class and popular struggles (workers, peasants, employees) and the new social movements - regionalist, feminist and ecological - which flourished after May 1968 rejected the very model. A new star shone forth above the old tripolar progressivist constellation, expressing an ideal at once very old and very new: the desire for autonomy and initiative, individual and collective; and the ambition to ‘take control’ of one’s own affairs, to ‘see things through’. This ‘fourth pole’ contributed to breaking up the old triangle where modernists of the Right and Left met, and it posed new fundamental questions. Technical progress? Perhaps, but not at the cost of the impoverishment of work. Social solidarity? Perhaps, but not in the anonymous, bureaucratic mould in which the welfare state cast it. A state synthesizing social aspirations
and obligations? Perhaps, but not a state of technocrats imposing their conception of the good and the beautiful, including sending in the army to enforce ‘progress’.
Alain Lipietz (p 342) in Amin, Ash, ed. Post-Fordism: a reader. John Wiley & Sons, 2008.
After this week’s plunge into theoretical anarchism via James C. Scott’s visit and seminar, my brain (which ricochets between a conviction in representative democracy and a desire to impose my own benevolent dictatorship of justice and fully funded public libraries) is trying to think through other conceptions of the state’s role beyond “Come back, Keynesian welfare state! We miss you!”
How is it that in the twentieth century virtually all Americans came to think of themselves as “middle class”? In this cultural history of real estate brokerage, Jeffrey M. Hornstein argues that the rise of the Realtors as dealers in both domestic space and the ideology of home ownership provides tremendous insight into this critical question. At the dawn of the twentieth century, a group of prominent real estate brokers attempted to transform their occupation into a profession. Drawing on traditional notions of the learned professions, they developed a new identity—the professional entrepreneur—and a brand name, “Realtor.” The Realtors worked doggedly to make home ownership a central element of what became known as the “American dream.” Hornstein analyzes the internal evolution of the occupation, particularly the gender dynamics culminating in the rise of women brokers to predominance after the Second World War. At the same time, he examines the ways organized real estate brokers influenced American housing policy throughout the century.
Hornstein draws on trade journals, government documents on housing policy, material from the archives of the National Association of Realtors and local real estate boards, demographic data, and fictional accounts of real estate agents. He chronicles the early efforts of real estate brokers to establish their profession by creating local and national boards, business practices, ethical codes, and educational programs and by working to influence laws from local zoning ordinances to national housing policy. A rich and original work of American history, A Nation of Realtors® illuminates class, gender, and business through a look at the development of a profession and its enormously successful effort to make the owner-occupied, single-family home a key element of twentieth-century American identity.
Cities of the Present, Cities of the Future: The Future Skyline (NYT Science Podcast) -
What have we learned so far about how cities function — and how they don’t? What is the role of that most symbolic of city features, the skyscraper? And is it possible to “break” a city? Five experts offered their perspectives on the use of data to solve urban problems, the ways in which the skyscraper is venerated and misused, and their best guesses on what the cities of the future might look like. They are: William F. Baker, a structural engineering partner at Skidmore, Owings and Merrill; Wiel Arets, architect and dean, Illinois Institute of Technology College of Architecture; Virginia Parks, associate professor, School of Social Service Administration, University of Chicago; Saskia Sassen, a professor of sociology at Columbia University; and Antony Wood, the executive director of the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat.