Lisa Lowe, Immigrant Acts, Chapter 2 (via mrsonsai)
When I put “Lisa Lowe” into the tumblr search system, I kept getting pictures of white people: Someone should sort that out
Lisa Lowe! Immigrant Acts was the first time I read theory and realized how useful theory can be in analysis. I barely remember the basic contours of the book (proof of my own patchy memory, not the strength of her argument) so had to look up the description at Duke Press:
Lowe argues that a national memory haunts the conception of Asian American, persisting beyond the repeal of individual laws and sustained by U.S. wars in Asia, in which the Asian is seen as the perpetual immigrant, as the “foreigner-within.” In Immigrant Acts, she argues that rather than attesting to the absorption of cultural difference into the universality of the national political sphere, the Asian immigrant—at odds with the cultural, racial, and linguistic forms of the nation—displaces the temporality of assimilation. Distance from the American national culture constitutes Asian American culture as an alternative site that produces cultural forms materially and aesthetically in contradiction with the institutions of citizenship and national identity. Rather than a sign of a “failed” integration of Asians into the American cultural sphere, this critique preserves and opens up different possibilities for political practice and coalition across racial and national borders.
Re: Lisa Lowe not popping up in searches, while Tumblr is fine when looking to reblog the greatest hits of social theory (hello French philosophers), it’s kinda terrible as a repository of “mid-list” theory, especially when the text under question was published in 1997.
50% off AND free shipping. I too had to resist buying the entire catalog. I got those capitalism-related books because I wanted to learn more about its history! So which books did you end up getting?? I might go for another round before April 14th…
I ended up getting Marshall Berman’s On the Town, Chin-tao Wu’s Privatising Culture, and Juan González and Joseph Torres' News for All the People. As much as I love planning and geography books, sometimes I gotta go back to my first loves - arts and journalism.
As a companion to the podcast on how the apartment complex took over South Korea, I wanted to discuss Leslie Kern’s article, “Reshaping the boundaries of public and private life: gender, condominium development, and the neoliberalization of urban living” in Urban Geography 28.7 (2007).
This paper on gender and condominium development uses Toronto as a case study for how the shifting types of housing “may affect the nature of people’s attachments to, or engagements with, city life and local issues.” Much as in Honolulu, discussions about “smart growth” and sustainability have been framing ongoing projects to increase density and intensify urban land use, especially in areas formerly devoted to industrial or light-industrial uses. As Kern writes, “It is meant to serve as both a spatial and a social fix.”
Single women comprise the largest group of condominium owners in Canada (2001 census data showed that 10.7% of female one-person households own condos, double the rate for households in general) and are estimated to make up 40% (!) of condo purchases in Toronto in particular. The discourses of security and independence feature prominently in Kern’s in-depth interviews with women condominium owners. She concludes that while “emancipation” may be one desired goal/outcome for women owners, this freedom must be understood in a context where urban life and urban citizenship is increasingly defined by ideas such as privacy, autonomy, and consumption.
Excerpts from Kern’s article:
The social aspects of intensification have not received a great deal of public attention, although a recent article in the Toronto Star (Cotroneo, 2006) drew attention to both the social challenges of intensified living and the ways that condominium communities form and interact. Residents were attempting to translate the common ownership structure into a common social structure by setting up activities and events within their condominium community. However, the impacts of this privatized form of community in terms of the effects on broader engagements with the city requires further investigation. The common ownership structure and monthly fees mean that residents have a vested interest in their own amenities, and fewer requirements for open and accessible public space, public recreation, or entertainment, or public provision of family programs (Fincher, 2004). The question remains, does intensification facilitate the formation of healthy urban communities, or are these communities so narrow and exclusive that the scale of “local” citizenship practices is reduced from the city or neighborhood to the individual, private condominium building?
How do women engage with the neighborhoods in which their condominiums are located? In this study, several women articulated a sense of community within their buildings, but this did not seem to translate into attachment to the neighborhood as a whole. Indeed, the condominium lifestyle may make neighborhood connections redundant for many.
They [developers] also wanted to have an area where people could get together, and kind of entertain, and meet other people and socialize. So those were the big things for the facility, the rooftop garden, the barbeque area, and I think the way that they created it was very much like a common area, so you feel like you’re at home and you get to meet new people. (Jillian, age 30)
It hasn’t got a whole bunch of shops along there, so it doesn’t get a lot of foot traffic. It feels like your space when you get home, you’re not sort of sharing it with everybody. (Jennifer, age 29)
So without wanting all the responsibilities of a house, I still wanted it to feel a little bit like a community….We actually had a barbeque where it was like all the owners, kind of a seasonal barbeque kind of thing where everybody could get together and meet each other, which is I guess something that tends to happen at street parties. So I think it’s kind of nice to have that sort of feel in a building..
“Taking advantage” of urban amenities is a way of relating to the city that is not a straightforward form of gendered emancipation; rather, this process interlocks with class privilege to promote a mode of urban living where consumption is the new citizenship. Condominium dwellers are courted by the city because of their potential to bring economic benefits to the downtown core. These benefits of downtown living are premised on a definition of quality of life that focuses on spectacle and consumption, rather than on improving equitable access to the public realm.