Tag Archives: agonistic democracy

Deutsche, R. (1998). _Evictions: Art and Spatial Politics_. Cambridge: The MIT Press.

In this book, Deutsche looks at “cities, parks, institutions, exhibitions, artworks, disciplines, identities” (xi) and “the less visible and the therefore more pressing struggles that…produce and maintain all spaces” (ibid). She names this exploration the “urban-aesthetic”/”spatial-cultural” field, and divides the book into three sections. (All chapters with the exception of “Agoraphobia,” an examination into the various public spheres, were published in the decade prior to 1998).

“…beauty and utility: weapons of redevelopment” (49).

The first, “The Social Production of Space,” maintains the dominant urban-aesthetic discourse obfuscates the city’s use of art to legitimize urban redevelopment. She upholds Lefebvre’s (1991) “appropriation of space,” as well as his characterization of capitalist space as “abstract” since it’s “pulverized,” hierarchical, fragmented by/for commodification, and made homogeneous for easy use/exchange. She affirms that late-capitalism urbanism, with its emphasis on property and exclusion for others’ comfort, shunts to the side those residents no longer useful in the city’s economy (see Castells, 1998; Smith, 1996; Zukin, 1989, 1995, 2010). Deutsche wants a counterpractice to this valorization of public art (which can be monumental, functional, ephemeral, digital) for its “usefulness” (64).

The second part, “Men in Space,” engages with the neo-Marxist geography discourse for forgetting gender altogether. Soja’s (1989) Postmodern Geographies, Harvey’s (1989) The Condition of Postmodernity, and even Davis’s (1990) City of Quartz, despite his using the noir trope, are utterly absent women. In “Boys Town” (1990), Deutsche corrects Harvey’s several mistakes/confusions, particularly his assertion there “is always a politics of representation” (230).

The third, “Public Space and Democracy,” interrogates exactly what is it we mean when we say “public,” and asserts that site-specificity should in fact be a critique of modern art. It is not autonomous, never undocked from arts, social, economic, and political operations. She argues that had Serra’s Tilted Arc (1981) defenders moved past artist/work hagiography and instead demanded actual dialogue about democracy, they might have gotten further. Further, claiming art is transhistorical neutralizes the shift in contemporary art. “Urban space is the space of conflict” (278). There is no absolute social foundation, and the premise that there is one unitary concept of urban space is a conservative one (e.g. notion of appropriateness). When someone has the right to name, they assume the rights of property.

“Conflict, division, and instability, then, do not ruin the democratic public sphere; they are the conditions of its existence” (289).

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Filed under Annotated Bibliographies, Cultural Economy, Minor Field, Public Space, Research Fields

Kohn, M. (2004). Brave New Neighborhoods: The Privatization of Public Space. New York: Routledge.

Margaret Kohn, PhD in Political Science from Cornell University, is Associate Professor in the University of Toronto’s Department of Political Science. Her interests are the history of political thought, critical theory, colonialism, and urbanism. She is the author of Radical Space: Building the House of the People and Brave New Neighborhoods. Her new book Political Theories of Decolonization (with Keally McBride) was recently published by Oxford University Press.

Kohn discusses the impact of the proliferation of restrictions and privatization of public space in the United States. She says that while some say we need more civility (read, no homeless) in our public spaces, she advocates for diverse, heterogeneous actions, even civil unrest. Simply, the loss of public space is bad for democratic politics.

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Filed under Annotated Bibliographies, Community Development, Major Field, Planning Theory, Public Space, Research Fields

I reflected yesterday. It was hard.

“Media exerts a general influence on forms of perceiving space, objects, and time, and they are tied inextricably to the evolution of humankind’s sense faculties.”

Oliver Grau (2007, p. 140)

I regret to say that as often as not, I start sentences in the middle of my thought process. Generally speaking, I’m the only one not thoroughly confused. (Though not always – my third-gear-before-first approach sometimes gets the better of me, too.) My boyfriend rebukes me lovingly. My advisor assures me there’s plenty of time. Slow down. Think. And yet I persist in running headlong into ideas and projects before establishing the all-important introduction.

This website is no different. I realize now I should have stated explicitly that the annotated bibliographies herein are more descriptive and less analytical; that they’re here to serve as study guides for the late summer intellectual gauntlet that are my qualifying exams. So they’re thin on analysis (perhaps no less thin than my defense of their thinness). In all likelihood, I’ll persist in doing the “then the scholar said this” coverage for the rest of my major and minor field titles, but not today. Today I reflect. Component to this endeavor is a lot of introduction, as much to my intellectual intentions as to the paper itself.

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Filed under Community Development, Major Field, Media Arts, Minor Field, Research Fields, Scholarship