studying the city (Annette Koh)

Aug 25

bus boosterism

In honor of the 20,000 UH Manoa students who went back to school today, four things about The Bus. 

1) It makes me incredibly happy that I know two former city & county employees who had the idea to have a Bus Riders Appreciation Day and stood at the King & Punchbowl bus stop handing out donuts and saying thanks to commuters.

2) Having a bus pass makes riding the bus much more appealing (no need to count change or hoard transfers), but only bus riders buy bus passes. If various deep-pocketed environmentalists in town could subsidize week-long trial bus passes, I suspect some drivers (especially those who work near UH campus or downtown) can be tempted to make the switch.

3) And from Bianca Sewake’s transportation series at FLUX HAWAII (in which a single ride changes her mind about The Bus, a veteran rider dishes on sandy seats).

“We have a very loyal ridership in Honolulu for many, many years,” [Roger Morton, president of Oahu Transit Services] said. “Our ridership on a per capita basis is the fifth highest in the country, only succeeded by a few of the very large cities such as New York City, Boston, San Francisco and Washington D.C.” A large part of the ridership can be attributed to the seniors who use the bus. An estimated 36,000 seniors are bus card pass holders. Overall, however, Hawai‘i has a diverse demographic of riders who come from all facets of society—low income, high income, workers, students from elementary to the university level. In fact, at the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa, around 18,000 students receive a free bus pass (the cost is included in their fees) for the year. Even tourists use our buses, making up an estimated eight to 10 percent of the ridership.

4) The McGill University study that placed bus riding at the very bottom of the hierarchy of satisfaction for student commuters? (“Which Mode of Travel Provides the Happiest Commute?” at CityLab) Oh, Montreal with your snow and ice, I don’t trust your applicability at all. Also every time I catch a ride to campus, there’s a hot scramble for free street parking near campus. The walk from the car to my department is often longer than the bus ride to campus.   

Aug 24

[video]

the vanishing native

In their article “Decolonization is not a metaphor,” Eve Tuck and K. Wayne Yang elaborate on anthropologist (and former community planner!) Kim TallBear’s description on how “blood”-based identities can be racialized in very different ways*.[* as originally cited in the Boston Globe… remember the whole Elizabeth Warren is a Cherokee hullabaloo?]

Also, a reminder how statistics are state numbers. I had no idea about Virginia’s so-called “Pocahontas Exception” but now I know. WTF.

Tuck, Eve, and K. Wayne Yang. “Decolonization is not a metaphor.”Decolonization: Indigeneity, Education & Society 1.1 (2012).

Through the one-drop rule, blackness in settler colonial contexts is expansive, ensuring that a slave/criminal status will be inherited by an expanding number of ‘black’ descendants.

Yet, Indigenous peoples have been racialized in a profoundly different way. Native Americanness is subtractive: Native Americans are constructed to become fewer in number and less Native, but never exactly white, over time. Our/their status as Indigenous peoples/first inhabitants is the basis of our/their land claims and the goal of settler colonialism is to diminish claims to land over generations (or sooner, if possible).

That is, Native American is a racialization that portrays contemporary Indigenous generations to be less authentic, less Indigenous than every prior generation in order to ultimately phase out Indigenous claims to land and usher in settler claims to property. This is primarily done through blood quantum registries and policies, which were forced on Indigenous nations and communities and, in some cases, have overshadowed former ways of determining tribal membership.

In 1924, the Virginia legislature passed the Racial Integrity Act, which enforced the one-drop rule except for white people who claimed a distant Indian grandmother - the result of strong lobbying from the aristocratic “First Families of Virginia” who all claim to have descended from Pocahontas (including Nancy Reagan, born in 1921). Known as the Pocahontas Exception, this loophole allowed thousands of white people to claim Indian ancestry, while actual Indigenous people were reclassified as “colored” and disappeared off the public record.

Aug 23

…the government sees aboriginal justice initiatives (aimed at aboriginal offenders) and a national DNA database for missing persons as appropriate measures…Surely tracking indigenous girls’ DNA so they can be identified after they die is not the starting point for justice. Indigenous women want to matter before we go missing. We want our lives to matter as much as our deaths; our stake in the present political struggle for indigenous resurgence is as vital as the future.

So do we need an inquiry?

We need to stop the killing of 15-year-old native girls. We need to put an end to the abduction of indigenous women. We need to overhaul a justice system in which justice is so distorted that it is no longer recognizable. We need no more excuses, no more condolences, no more lists of missing women. We need an end to treating violence as mundane.

An inquiry will only help if it has action attached and if it shifts power into the hands of indigenous women, meaning it is led by indigenous women…Accountability means supporting existing anti-violence measures already being initiated by indigenous communities. These include rite-of-passage ceremonies to restore honour for young women, the Moosehide Campaign in which native boys and men take on culturally-relevant responsibilities to end violence toward women, and mentoring between girls and women which fosters the resurgence of women’s cultural roles at a local level…Accountability means supporting indigenous visions of justice, restoring our humanity and upholding girls’ resistance and leadership.

Treating our deaths as unremarkable is a form of violence that needs to stop along with the murders themselves. Taking steps to end the violence now is the only route to justice.

” —

Tina Fontaine’s Death Shows How Little is Being Done for Indigenous Women (via nitanahkohe)

This matters. 

In the nightmare of participation, political subjects become caught in the logic of an iconic participation, a representative participation that has been exaggerated to the point of hollowness.

The power of this participation is the power of the mesmerizing icon: It sustains the nightmare that we cannot wake up from, and it compels us to go on playing our assigned roles. Why has participation become a nightmare? The history is longer than we can tell here. Start looking a few decades back, to the 1980s, when the Western political model of participation as a legitimizing force emerged—a significant step in the evolution of late capitalism’s political theater.

It is participation as instrumentalized political practice. Participation becomes a scripted scenario of liberal democracy, into which you insert the necessary actors, props, lighting, cameras, and mechanized monsters.

” — Jeremy Beaudry and Bassam El Baroni, Postscript to The Nightmare of Participation, November 2010. (via post-carbon)

Aug 22


At a common sense level, research was talked about both in terms of its absolute worthlessness to us, the indigenous world, and its absolute usefulness to those who wielded it as an instrument. It told us things already known, suggested things that would not work, and made careers for people who already had jobs. ‘We are the most researched people in the world’ is a comment I have heard frequently from several different indigenous communities. The truth of such a comment is unimportant, what does need to be taken seriously is the sense of weight and unspoken cynicism about research that the message conveys. (p 3)

Linda Tuhiwai Smith's book Decolonizing Methodologies is a touchstone for many at the University of Hawai’i. I’m excited to be reading it for a seminar on methodologies this semester.

INQ13 | Linda Tuhiwai Smith & Eve Tuck “Decolonizing Methodologies” from JustPublics365 [Her talk begins at 10:25]

At a common sense level, research was talked about both in terms of its absolute worthlessness to us, the indigenous world, and its absolute usefulness to those who wielded it as an instrument. It told us things already known, suggested things that would not work, and made careers for people who already had jobs. ‘We are the most researched people in the world’ is a comment I have heard frequently from several different indigenous communities. The truth of such a comment is unimportant, what does need to be taken seriously is the sense of weight and unspoken cynicism about research that the message conveys. (p 3)

Linda Tuhiwai Smith's book Decolonizing Methodologies is a touchstone for many at the University of Hawai’i. I’m excited to be reading it for a seminar on methodologies this semester.

INQ13 | Linda Tuhiwai Smith & Eve Tuck “Decolonizing Methodologies” from JustPublics365 [Her talk begins at 10:25]

(Source: clickthecover)

I have the hiccups. That is all.

I have the hiccups. That is all.

Aug 21

[video]

Aug 20

Favourite tweets from "Shit Academics Say" -

gradstudentdrone:

There is a twitter account entitled, “Shit Academics Say,” which rings so true and which I love so much that I’ve been retweeting entries periodically.  Here are some of their recent entries that made me snort with laughter while hanging my head in shame:

1. “Email me to remind me to email you.”

2. “You had me at ‘hence.’”

3. “I am outdoorsy.  I look out the window when I work.”

4. “I’ll be there in just a minute.  I just gotta finish writing this one thing.”

5. “I will not work over the holidays.  I will not work over the holidays.  Except those reviews and revisions that should only take a few hours.”

6. “Praxis.”

7. “Nothing. I was talking to myself.”

8. “I had a dream that I cheated on my manuscript with another manuscript.”

9. “If you want it done right, don’t tell your co-authors until it is done.”

10. “I crossed my arms halfway through the talk to clearly express my displeasure with the speaker unjustifiably equating our lines of work.”

Seriously, fellow academics: run, don’t walk, towards this twitter site.  It gave me countless hours of amusement.

This recent tweet got passed around and made me giggle. A guide to interpreting faculty feedback, via @AcademicsSay. 

What They Say: Very interesting

What You Hear: They are impressed!

What They Mean: Clearly nonsense

[video]

Aug 19

strandedsaved:

People’s Climate March September 21st in NYC. Photo/ image by @jetsonorama


Some beautiful posters from the JustSeeds Artists’ Cooperative for the upcoming Climate Justice gathering in NYC. Downloadable pdfs here.


People’s Climate March poster designed by Crystal Clarity: “These Illustrations came from Hurricane Sandy. They focus on the horrible disparity that was amplified after the storm. Highlighted, the organized rescue efforts of community based organizers. ( the people’s lifeboats). During Sandy it became clear to a lot of us that our communities were not really a priority and that those with the means to afford alternative housing or had money and could afford to relocate were able to escape horrific tragedy. Those without this access were left behind in unlivable situations. It shows the struggle of those left without resources who then became resourceful.” 

strandedsaved:

People’s Climate March September 21st in NYC. Photo/ image by @jetsonorama

Some beautiful posters from the JustSeeds Artists’ Cooperative for the upcoming Climate Justice gathering in NYC. Downloadable pdfs here.

People’s Climate March poster designed by Crystal Clarity: “These Illustrations came from Hurricane Sandy. They focus on the horrible disparity that was amplified after the storm. Highlighted, the organized rescue efforts of community based organizers. ( the people’s lifeboats). During Sandy it became clear to a lot of us that our communities were not really a priority and that those with the means to afford alternative housing or had money and could afford to relocate were able to escape horrific tragedy. Those without this access were left behind in unlivable situations. It shows the struggle of those left without resources who then became resourceful.” 

politics of politeness

Last week’s Civil Beat Cafe on homelessness reminded me that one major frustration I have with public forums and discussions is our tendency to only accept efficient/rational/articulate/unemotional communication as legitimate. How do we create spaces for democratic discourse and participation when the only kind of participation desired is one that requires Speech & Debate rhetorical abilities. Is storytelling legitimate? Is swearing ever allowed? Can your personal history be foregrounded? Is anguish legitimate? How about rudeness? If you cry, will people listen more carefully or dismiss you more easily? 

image

[Gulf Coast residents at a public meeting re: BP Deep Water oil disaster]

I’m not immune to the feeling of “hurry it up and get to the point.” I will squirm during an endless “3-part question.” But in general, as long as the panel discussant or audience member abides by the implicit or explicit rules of meeting etiquette, we will just silently roll our eyes. In most cases, it is the people who violate those rules of polite politics who are dismissed as illegitimate.

In fact, facilitation techniques like the notecard Q&A session (hand out notecards for people to write down their questions, then the organizers or speakers consolidate or select questions in the interest of time) are often used specifically to manage potentially contentious or long-winded audiences. Though my efficient soul thrills to these types of time management tools, my community planning brain says "wait a second, what is the effect of taking the words out of an individual’s mouth and having those words spoken or even revised by a person on stage?" Notecards narrow down the kinds of possible communication even further. Written words only please! And nevermind language access.

This is an ongoing concern in community planning. Are public meetings actually accessible to all publics? How do you go beyond words to practice inclusiveness in a meeting?

So this article “This is how I want to live my life”: An Experiment in Prefigurative Feminist Organizing for a More Equitable and Inclusive City got me excited as a case study on how one organization, City for All Women Initiative (CAWI), attempts to bring the often neglected voices of poor women and immigrant women in city decision-making. They did this by not only demystifying City Hall for their members, but also by enacting the kind of inclusive politics they wanted city politics to become.

image

Siltanen, Janet, Fran Klodawsky, and Caroline Andrew.
“This is how I want to live my life”: An Experiment in Prefigurative Feminist Organizing for a More Equitable and Inclusive City
Antipode (2014).

Excerpts below, with images and emphases added. For some reason the CAWI website is down, so I’ve pulled images from multiple other sources.

Prefiguration* is an effort to bring desired futures actively into being in the present. It promotes valuing the quality of everyday experience, and the processes of achieving change, as central to the doing of politics. 

The work of prefigurative feminist politics, perhaps particularly at the local level, is in many ways an example of the spectacular of the mundane (Rowbotham 1989) and the “modest beginnings” and “small achievements” involved in “starting where you are” (Gibson-Graham 2006:195–196). It is in the mundane, minute, everyday decisions about how we speak with and listen to people, acknowledge their life experience, feed them, celebrate them, collaborate with them that the personal becomes political.

image

[Ottawa City Hall]

CAWI also consciously tries to keep a visible profile at City Hall and does so by making use of City Hall resources. One reason for doing so is to help its members feel more at home within City Hall premises—to be seen as, and to feel themselves as, insiders who know their way around. Another is to keep the presence of CAWI and its interests visible to city staff and councillors. 

…although CAWI works to keep a visible presence at City Hall, its heart is in the community. This is marked symbolically and practically by having its “office” in the home of the Executive Director. Finally, CAWI does not receive any form of core funding from the City. Although it is a struggle to remain so, it is financially autonomous, which brings it greater liberty in terms of its self-definition.

image

[A Houston resident testifies in support of an equal rights ordinance] 

In articulating CAWI’s effort to support the creation and expression of new subjectivities, a CAWI woman says of the organization “it’s a place to become someone”. A strategy CAWI adopts in order to encourage confidence and self-valuing is to always think carefully about how each meeting can communicate the worth of the participants. Food is usually offered and presented with care. Religious and other food requirements are addressed. Introductions—of everyone—are always made. Provisions to support inclusion—language translations, accessible meeting venues, covering the costs of child/elder care and transportation—are anticipated and provided as much as possible. The message aimed for is that you are welcome, you belong and your skills are valued. 

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[Ottawa City Council meeting from OttawaCitizen.com. Does this kind of meeting space welcome attendees from the community?]

Examples of this type of prefigurative political engagement are hard to capture, as they often involve a quality of interaction and public presence that is not easily conveyed. Quite often CAWI presents alternative possibilities visually, tangibly and creatively: speaking to a meeting as a group, when a single spokesperson is expected; singing their views to council, when a more formal presentation is the norm; requiring that attention be paid to cultural, religious, adaptive and language needs; engaging in pointed symbolic gestures, and using artistic media (spoken word poems, music, dance, poetry, video, theatre, drawing) as ways to generate and communicate ideas and sentiments.

* [I have to thank John for introducing the concept of prefigurative politics to me via a recommendation of Wini Breines’ book Community and Organization in the New Left, 1962-1968. So, thanks!]