Taking Up Space: An Interdisciplinary Conference - Paper Abstracts
Friday, Jan. 29, 2010 - Duke Campus
9:30 – 11:00 a.m.
11:15 a.m. – 12:45 p.m.
Panel A-1: Migrant Constructions of Space
Elizabeth Baltes (Art History, Duke University)
From Roman Thoroughfare to Arab Suq: the transformation of Jerusalem’s Cardo
From childhood we are subtly trained to understand space as highly organized and often static. There are particular places or rooms to which eating, sleeping, and various “private” acts are assigned. Bike and walking paths are separated from roads, and highways are further divided into lanes, which are intended for driving in particular directions. Architecture divides cities into neighborhoods, buildings into apartments, houses into rooms, separating my space from yours and inside from outside. These divisions and assignments are not necessarily intuitive – they are products of habitus, and they must be learned. But how then are we to understand changes in the physical organization of space? Perhaps, as Lefebvre suggests, we may better understanding space as a product of human action, movement, and interpretation rather than exclusively as a structural framework which defines and prescribes our actions.
By engaging with theories of space, particularly those of Lefebvre, Deleuze and DeCerteau, I hope to show how and why the highly organized public space of the Roman Cardo in the Old City of Jerusalem became a teeming Arab suq comprised of a series of dark pathways, “overgrown” with shops and vendors. I argue that in dense urban environments like Jerusalem, inhabited for centuries, the built environment, considered stable and unchanging by those who use it, is actually dynamic and fluid. Though the Roman Cardo was originally a generous public space defining the movement of its population, eventually the activities and movement of the population changed the physical structure of the roadway, privatizing much of it. The use of the Cardo was not defined and restricted by its architectural ordering, established by the state. Rather, its form is a product of individual actions and interpretations of the space of the Cardo. The transformation from thoroughfare to suq was a physical manifestation of a conceptual shift in the understanding of public space by those who appropriated and used it.
Sarah Thomsen Vierra (History, UNC-Chapel Hill)
At Home Abroad: Turkish Guestworkers’ Use of Space in West German businesses, 1961-1990
When the Federal Republic of Germany began bringing in Turkish laborers to work in West German industry and agriculture in the mid 1960s, both the government and the workers assumed the arrangement would be temporary. Yet, in the years that followed, it slowly became apparent to the government, German society and the Gastarbeiter themselves that this provisional workforce was becoming a permanent population. The visibility of growing ethnic communities, particularly of Turkish immigrants, prompted intense debate at all levels of society about the desirability of these new residents and, above all, their ability or willingness to integrate into broader German society. In order to understand the dynamics of that settlement, I will look at the experiences of Turkish Gastarbeiter in the workplace, the space German society had brought them to occupy and where they began to make themselves at home.
This paper, part of a larger chapter on the experiences of first generation Turkish immigrants in the workplace, will draw on the writings of both Henri Lefebvre and Michel de Certeau in its use of everyday space as a means of understanding those experiences. I will use Lefebvre’s concept of the spatial triad to investigate the reciprocal influences between the Turkish Gastarbeiter and their workplace. Certeau’s theories of strategy versus tactics will be employed to examine the ways in which the guestworkers actively made a life for themselves in a place that had only intended to give them work. I will couple these notions of the use of everyday spaces with primary sources from the perspectives both of the Gastarbeiter and the companies who employed them.
In doing so, I will argue that the Turkish Gastarbeiter, both by their presence as well as their active negotiations and circumventions, created within the West German businesses transitional and transnational spaces that mediated their permanent settlement in a country that steadfastly maintained its non-immigration status.
Thomas D. Mitchell (Carnegie Mellon)
‘A Latino community takes hold’: Reproducing semiotic landscapes in media discourse
Pittsburgh has attracted relatively few immigrants in recent decades, but over the past 10 years more Latin Americans (“mostly Mexicans”) have arrived, many settling in a neighborhood called Beechview. Local media discourse represents the immigrant community there as “taking hold” of the neighborhood and in other ways that appear to overstate its influence, given that both census data and informal estimates cited by sources in these same media reports indicate that Mexicans in Beechview comprise no more than five percent of the neighborhood’s population.
With Blommaert et al. (2003), I am interested in how attitudes about immigrants are shaped by local people’s experiences of and with them. To explore a way this is currently playing out in Pittsburgh, I first analyze the representations of Beechview’s Mexican community in Pittsburgh’s major daily newspaper. I use discourse analysis (Bell 1991; van Dijk 1991) to demonstrate how a feature article, through subtle choices in language, reproduces a discourse of fear about the newcomers and foregrounds the negative perceptions of them among “traditional” residents. I then show how intertextuality in several different articles works to establish and reinforce a link between Beechview and Mexicans.
Having suggested explanations for the apparent exaggeration of Mexicans’ impact on the neighborhood based on generic and discursive constraints, I turn to a third possible reason: that Beechview’s semiotic landscape (SL) affects how a reporter experiences the neighborhood such that her perception and representation of the amount of immigration there are at odds with the numbers her sources report. I use quantitative data I collected on the visual and aural dimensions of the SL to discuss phenomenological interaction with Beechview.
This paper shows how discourse analysis can profitably be integrated with semiotic landscape research to link representations of place in discourse with individuals’ experiences of place. For example, it helps provide an account for Santa Ana’s (2002) findings about the level of fear expressed in media representations of Latin Americans in the US, reminding us that the relationship between circulating discourses and ideologies, on one hand, and how people see and hear the world, on the other, goes both ways.
Bell, Allan. (1991) The Language of the News Media. Oxford: Blackwell.
Blommaert, Jan, Anke Dewilde, Karen Stuyck, Katleen Peleman, and Henk Meert. (2003) “Space, experience, and authority.” Journal of Language and Politics, 2(2), 313-334.
Santa Ana, Otto. (2002) Brown Tide Rising: Metaphors of Latinos in Contemporary American Public Discourse. Austin: University of Texas Press.
van Dijk, Teun A. (1991) Racism and the Press. London: Routledge.
Panel A-2: Modernizing Rural Space
Camelia-Maria Kantor (Geography, Claflin University)
Tradition vs. Transition Living Spaces: “Creative” Destruction or Spatial Constitution of a New Modern Community in Rural Eastern Europe
Case Study: Ieud, county of Maramures, Romania
Abstract: With the advent of modernity, time is progressively vanishing from social space. Time, as measured in old wooden churches, houses, gates, traditional costumes and wooden crafts in rural Romania is fast replaced by a new social space, consequence of a historical liberation of the self and required by a new capitalist structure. Spatial alienation of the locals in search for better jobs and better lives in other countries coincides with the awakening of a new class consciousness easily identified in the new transitional or modern constructions they’ve built in their rural community. This paper tries to present two sides of the story while leaving place for an open ended question: should we have a negative eye on the way the rural space is loosing its distinctiveness through confrontation with new “values”? Or, on the other side, should we try to see this as more of an expected consequence of a long series of material depravation faced by the locals and their ancestors before and during the communist era? The capitalist structure tends to generate diversity as opposed to the former socialist homogeneity, maybe too much diversity in this particular case. Should we allow that such a valuable space be manipulated in ways so damaging for its future? And yet, can one limit the choice of people who have been limited for their whole life? As a high number of people living in rural areas in Maramures- land of a largely known woodworking tradition and pristinely preserved 17th century churches and houses - envision it more like a mental than a physical space while living and working most of the time in more developed Western countries, the “creative” changes they are performing might just be a measure of status and wealth while affecting the real richness of this space: its ancestral traditions.
Jennifer Atkinson (English, University of Chicago)
Back on the Map: The Rise of Literary Cartography in
Late Nineteenth Century Journalism
Despite agriculture’s dramatic decline as an American vocation, the geography of the farmstead remains a kind of touchstone for spatial legibility within the popular imagination. While average Americans may know nothing whatsoever about the proper soil chemistry for growing corn, most could doodle a portrait that depicts all the mnemonic elements of the classic barnyard scene. In fact, The New Agrarianism—a recent agrarian studies collection suggesting how standardized this spatial ensemble remains—opens with an inventory of the farm’s traditional features in order to situate readers in “familiar settings”: here the editors ritualistically name off “garden, orchard, barn, woodlot, toolshed, and yard” (xiv).
Yet in the past fifteen years, the literature of food and agriculture has increasingly taken as its starting point a radical dislocation and disorientation, setting out to guide readers across a bewildering landscape of global discontinuities and unmappable postmodern foodways (Michael Pollan and Eric Schlosser’s works may provide some of the most prominent contemporary case-studies, but their books ultimately make up a small fraction of the larger genre). My paper reconstructs the prehistory of such mapping operations in food and agricultural writing by examining a certain “cartographic turn” in Progressive-era accounts of U.S. farm industrialization. The study unfolds against the backdrop of revolutions in late nineteenth-century agriculture, when American business reorganized farming along the principles of manufacturing, transformed established labor structures, and created “bonanza farms” that grew to unprecedented dimensions in western states. Out of these spatial and social mutations, I argue, scale emerged as a central problem within Progressive-era journalism, popular gardening publications, and the farm fiction of writers like Frank Norris, Charles Chestnutt, and Willa Cather. My paper shows how both explicit and veiled scenes of mapping in these texts became tools for reestablishing spatial and cultural bearings in an iconic national geography that had grown alarmingly unfamiliar. Meanwhile, I outline ways in which many of these same texts reinvented the garden as a kind of “map” in its own right, a figure whose miniaturized operations preserved a sense of “navigability” against the abstractions and dislocations of industrial-scale agriculture.
Amy Elizabeth Curry (History, Millersville University)
Emancipation and Erosion on the South Carolina Piedmont: The Interconnectedness of Tenant Farming, Sharecropping, and Gully Erosion, 1860s-1930s
The land-use history of the South Carolina Piedmont, Union Co specifically, illustrates the tenuous balance existing between the natural environment and the will of humanity. When antebellum cotton agriculture and southern soils collided, the result was increasingly notable soil erosion. But, following the Civil War, with conversion to tenant farming and sharecropping, environmental effects were catastrophic. The once fertile Piedmont soils eroded by sheets and gullies dozens of feet deep, lost forever.
Economic forces and culture encouraged the wide scale adoption of “King Cotton” and led the desperately poor and cyclically indebted tenants to forsake soil amendments, crop rotation and fallow for the cotton scratched from the remaining soil. Topographical attributes of Piedmont farmlands and geological characteristics of their soils led to increasingly severe and inescapable erosion which brought the loss of nearly six cubic miles of topsoil from the Southern Piedmont. Exacerbated by oppressive labor institutions developed in the initial postbellum decades, soil erosion and erosive land-use activity peaked in the early 20th century. The customary occurrence of absentee landlords as well as the emigration and land abandonment by tenants established a mindset which viewed the land as a disposable resource. Erosion control methods which removed land from cultivation were viewed skeptically, fertilizers were depended upon, and foodstuffs were forsaken.
Early government soil surveys and Soil Conservation Service reports noted the impoverished state of the soil, Census Records regarding land ownership illustrated the poverty of the people, National Forest Service and Civilian Conservation Corps reports recorded the dire situation of those who still remained on the land. Additionally, investigation of the landscape revealed the enduring legacy of erosion which, despite best efforts of early agricultural societies, leading national figures, and, later, the SCS, CCC, and NFS continues relatively unabated.
Conceptually, arguing the connection between increases in soil erosion and the rise in tenant farming and sharecropping seems almost intuitive and clear, but the argument remains largely undeveloped in available literature and considerable interest has been expressed in this research. Challenges, however, have remained in finding primary documentation qualitatively demonstrating the connection which many, today, recognize but few postbellum tenants, land-owners, or creditors ever considered.
Panel B-1: Controlling Public, Urban Space
Leigh Campoamor (Cultural Anthropology, Duke University)
Public Bodies, Private Cities: Child Street Workers and Urban Space in Contemporary Lima
Over the last two years, poster campaigns aimed at eradicating child street labor, such as juggling and selling candy at busy intersections, have become integral to the landscape of middle-class and wealthy neighborhoods in Lima, the capital of Peru. Such campaigns reflect renewed attempts to create order and privatize space in the city of ten million inhabitants. They are also associated with efforts of the Peruvian government, in collaboration with transnational development agencies and local NGOs, to pass new legislation restricting child labor. Employing a language of moral values in which children who work on the street signify underdevelopment, disorder, and immorality, such campaigns have multiple effects. They not only garner support among middle-class and wealthy residents, but, in doing so, reproduce difference according to traditional hierarchies of age, class, race, gender, and space. Furthermore, as my ethnographic research shows, the discourses to which these campaigns correspond have embodied effects on their subjects, who live with the daily burden of having to prove their individual exceptionality within such ideologically loaded representations. In this paper, I argue that discourses about children who work on the street reveal the spatialized logics central to struggles over development and national belonging. In particular, I show how the idea of poor children as out-of-place on the street is linked to narratives that blame parents for letting their children escape from the confines of disciplinary institutions. As a result, these children’s bodies are marked as available for intervention. Such narratives date back to early twentieth century nation-building projects in which the poor family emerged as an object of concern amidst debates over national unity. Yet, in a context in which public space is increasingly claimed as private, and private bodies are repeatedly claimed as publically available by NGOs and the neoliberal State, what does it mean to continue to use the child as a site through which to articulate broader anxieties about the nation? Finally, how do the subjects whose bodies are at stake in these struggles respond in ways that both reproduce and reconfigure hegemonic notions of urban space, the poor family, and child labor?
Paul Ranogajec (Art and Architectural History, CUNY)
Virtue and Style in the Public Realm: The Space of Appearance and American Beaux-Arts Architecture
My paper will consider the Beaux-Arts architecture of the American Renaissance (ca. 1880-1940) as an example of the production of the “space of appearance.” The architects of the late Gilded Age and Progressive Era were concerned with enriching the public realm, a development parallel to and sharing many of the same principles of the Progressive reform movements in politics and society. Classical buildings of this period can be seen as “exemplary performances” of style, to borrow a phrase from the political theorist Ronald Beiner, in the Aristotelian sense of arete (virtue or excellence), an implicit but critical part of the architects' aesthetic paradigm. This exemplary performance aimed at creating the physical setting of the public realm. In this sense, the production of public space was a central aspect of the architectural culture of the turn of the twentieth century in the U.S., but the topic has received little attention from architectural historians.
In addition to Beiner, my paper will take up theoretical suggestions by Hannah Arendt and George Baird about the nature of the public realm as a space of appearance. The development of classical or Beaux-Arts style in the American Renaissance, I will argue, was rooted in a sense of publicity—of creating and contributing to a shared public world in Arendtian terms. If, as Beiner argues, politics is “architectonic” because it organizes the political life of citizens into a meaningful whole—architecture can be seen as a counterpart to politics in the drive to manifest that sense of wholeness physically in the city. Architects aimed to visually and experientially buttress the claims of citizenship’s political priority through the production of a shared public realm of virtuous architecture.
The architects and architectural critics of the American Renaissance were not political philosophers, and they did not set as their task the formation of a coherent and sweeping political theory of architecture or of public space. Nonetheless, they used classical style as a mode of discourse to engage the question of the setting of the public realm. They asked: What should it look like? What types of space—its contours, its forms, its facades, its symbols—are conducive to the permanence and sharedness that for Arendt, Beiner, and Baird are requisite to a vital public realm? How does excellence in architectural form contribute to this public realm?
Christa Tooley (Social Anthropology, University of Edinburgh)
Remembering and representing Edinburgh: An urban aesthetics of development
The directives of capitalist market logic seek to make the forms of urban architecture discernible to internationally mobile businessmen and women, with the effect that urban spaces directly modeled according to this logic become more physically and socially similar; they use many of the same signifiers and symbols and create the same spaces for social interaction. All of these place-making activities are subordinate to and judged by their ability to serve the end goal: creating a profit for the concerned parties in power. Some fascinating studies in geography and anthropology have examined the power relations involved in the implementation of urban capitalistic development schemes and the protests they have often inspired. In my own research on one such development proposed in Edinburgh, Scotland, I found a central rallying theme in these protests by local residents to be the inscription of histories in the space of their city-center neighborhood. Exploring the relationship between memory, public history and urban space, the local residents’ resistance to the plan for development proposed by members of the city council and chamber of commerce is revealed to reflect a complex aesthetics of memory, a central quality of which is the ability of local spaces to unfold the narratives of working-class lives. In the proposed transformation of these spaces to facilitate commerce and international business tourism, what is at stake for the residents past and present is not merely the loss of beloved structures, but the working-class history and identity of the neighborhood itself. The energetic protest movement with which I worked therefore made a central aim of their efforts the capturing and telling of the stories of former and current residents, in a strategically public act of inscribing these memories onto the contested space, as an attempt to counter the spatial reinscription attempted by the marketing campaign of the developers and certain city council members. In this essay I explore the spatial and aesthetic nature of remembering and its implications for city dwelling in an age in which urban development tends to “speak” in a translocal language of built forms which are accountable primarily to a logic of market capitalism.
Panel B-2: Colonial and Subjugated National Spaces
Yvonne Garrett (Draper Interdisciplinary Program, New York University)
Breaking Boundaries: a Study of Native American Literary Voice on & off the Reservation
Since their inception, Native American reservations have worked towards the constitution of the Native subject, their identities as a people and as individuals, their ability to speak, and their forms of receiving and disseminating knowledge. Reservations create individual, specific spaces within the larger space of the United States both allowing for sovereignty of those contained within the reservation and limiting their power, knowledge and opportunity within the larger space of the United States. In Sherman Alexie's fiction, Native characters exist both within the space of the Spokane Indian Reservation and in a hybrid or liminal position within the dominant Euramerican, white culture. In speaking of his recent work, Alexie has stressed that young Native peoples need to "get off the reservation." In direct contrast, critics such as Bird and Lynn-Cook have stressed the necessity of maintaining, nurturing the "Native voice" and the "authentic" in Native literature. Confronting the highly problematic idea of the "authentic" in Native voice and the role the space of the reservation has in creating this idea of authenticity, I will explore the validity of the reservation as a tool for measuring what is authentic and work towards a clearer understanding of the role both the physical and theoretical space (Owens' "reservation of the mind") of the reservation plays in creating the Native subject and, in turn, the role this space has in the creation of that which the critical community terms, Native American literature.
Debjani Bhattacharyya (History, Emory University)
The Politics of Dwelling: Notes towards a Spatial History of 19th and early 20th century Calcutta
The dominant nineteenth and early twentieth-century colonial imagination of Calcutta is that of abject poverty, stench, and squatters all over the city, the bastis (slums). Swati Chattopadhyay argues in Representing Calcutta (2005) that the failure of modernity in Calcutta is not about eradicating poverty but the failure of classifying and designating it into well bounded spaces. I would like to posit that underlying this classification and designation is a certain relation between official municipal discourse and the production of the various spaces under its jurisdiction, and this paper will explore how the space of the basti is produced in official discourse and how this production obliterates the being of the dwellers, whereby when they do come up in the colonial archive, they are the recalcitrant subjects of the state.
This paper will trace the trajectory of the space of basti in the colonial and postcolonial official archives in order to argue that the grammar necessary to engage with the space of basti would entail a resignification of the linguistic economy of the “urban”, since teleology of progression and utopic spaces are built into the very notion of the “urban”. Although it is easy to draw a continuous movement of the term basti through the archive through the repeated eviction laws, this paper will try to mark the breaks in its movement: basti first enters the archive as an uncanny “rural space” within the urban resulting a production of a certain moral topography of this space. With the repeated outbreaks of Cholera in the 19th century, the medicalised landscape of Calcutta produced the space of basti (already marked as the uncanny other of urban) as the site of decay and death. As the language of science organised this division in neater, tighter lines, extending the conceptual distance between what is “urban” and what is the temporally lagging non-urban basti, the basti transfigured into wasted space of the developmental state of the 20th century. In this production of the space, as rustic, as decayed, and as wasted, a moral landscape is produced and reorganised repeatedly. The paper will attempt to dwell upon these ruptures and the moral topography that circumscribes the space of the basti in its investigation into the uneasy relation between the governing and civic bodies of the city and the space it tries to discipline.
Mark Soderstrom (History, Ohio State University)
Enlightening the Land of Midnight: Peter Slovtsov, Ivan Kalashnikov, and the Placing of Russian Siberia
Few words suggest immensity of space as baldly as “Siberia.” Yet Siberia has carried radically different meanings since Russian Cossacks took the first steps toward its incorporation in the late sixteenth century. At that time, “Siberia” denoted the lands of the Irtysh river basin ruled by a descendant of Genghis Khan. After Russians toppled this khanate and moved eastward, they took the term with them, packing it with all the meaning they found between there and the Pacific Ocean. Meanwhile, for those who remained in Russia’s “interior provinces,” Siberia became both a byword for exile, cold, and misery, and a promise of freedom, bounty, and future glories. As Russians today woefully observe their country’s dramatic demographic tailspin, they ask how they can hold this resource-rich, yet people-poor expanse that constitutes the key to their prosperity. To understand the tensions involved, we must contemplate the process by which Siberia was “placed,” that is, how the dizzyingly diverse and expansive space of North Asia became a “Russian” place.
My dissertation, based on eighteen months of research in Russian and Siberian archives, addresses this question by examining the lives and works of Peter Slovtsov (1767-1843) and Ivan Kalashnikov (1797-1863), Siberia’s first historian and novelist, respectively. They lived during the “apogee” of Russian empire, a pivotal moment in the development of Siberian town life, transport, education, historiography, and literature. Kalashnikov and Slovtsov serve as excellent guides to the “placing” of Siberia, for they were well acquainted with Siberian realities as well as broader Russian and European currents. Slovtsov bumped across Siberia as director of its nascent school system, and Kalashnikov was a widely-read contemporary of Pushkin and Gogol, the giants of Russian literature’s golden age. Though often cited as precursors of the later Siberian regionalist movement, which called for Siberian autonomy, Slovtsov and Kalashnikov were loyal servants of the tsar, more representative of “public opinion” than the radical intelligentsia that has received most scholarly attention. They were among the first to formulate Siberia not as a colony, but as an organic component of Russia itself—a formulation largely taken for granted today.
2:15 – 3:45 p.m.
Panel C-1: Interrupting Representation: Spaces of Performance, Identity, and Community
Georgia Paige Welch (History, Duke University)
Over the course of the 1960’s, the Miss America Pageant drew ever-larger television audiences tuning into Bert Parks singing “There She Is, Miss America” and women competing in bathing suits in Atlantic City, New Jersey. But in September of 1968, Atlantic City became a stage for protest as well as pageantry. Seventeen women competed at the first-ever Miss Black America Pageant at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel to actively oppose the enduring exclusion of black women from the established pageant. Meanwhile, hundreds of women occupied the boardwalk outside the convention center hosting the Miss America pageant. Under the banner of “Women’s Liberation,” a term still obscure to most Americans, they picketed, performed skits, and sang songs satirizing the pageant. The Miss America Pageant at this moment was a space conspicuously immune to the upheavals civil rights, feminism, Vietnam, and the youth counterculture foisted on the rest of the nation. The ideal of American femininity the pageant broadcast into millions of households remained sacrosanct as a white debutant fantasy.
My paper will explore the strategies the feminist and civil rights movements employed to interrupt a space so resistant to social change. Through penetrating, surrounding and reframing, distracting, competing and appropriating the Miss America Pageant as it unfolded, activists contested the space of the pageant. Furthermore, the activists managed to make a spectacle of the contradictions of a changing society within the condensed space of Atlantic City on a single day. It is my hope my paper will enable us to think through the role of space and spatial strategies in constituting social practices, conflicts, and change.
Catherine A. Conner (History, UNC-Chapel Hill)
"As Long As I Have Not Lived in Vain": Lula Menefee, Black Women’s Activism, and Redefining Citizen
Participation in Birmingham, 1969-1974
The wave of civil rights-inspired legislation and policies, such as War on Poverty programs, in the mid to late 1960s gave black women more tools in which to assert their presence in public life. This paper looks at how the demand for “maximum feasible participation” created an entry way into municipal politics for black women in Birmingham, Alabama, throughout the 1970s, and how these women challenged white and black male conceptions of them. It also takes into account the rise of the black liberation movement, and how notions of “black power” were specific to gender, class, and space. In Birmingham after its local civil rights movement, “black power” loosely implied the representation of blacks in municipal government and boards, but the few African Americans who occupied these seats were male and middle to upper class. The city’s community participation program, however, elevated working and underclass black women into new positions of power. As elected presidents of their neighborhood associations, these women expressed their concerns about their neighborhood, from juvenile delinquency and crime to needed infrastructure improvements, directly to the Mayor and City Council and directly influenced municipal resource allocation. Their positions placed them in contact with white and black men who had long relegated black women to the side or shadows. Some of these women used such representations to their advantage as they negotiated and defined community concerns, and they often defined their concerns in maternal rhetoric that reified the notion of black women as caregivers. The public emergence of politically-involved black women in Birmingham further contributed to a myth of racial progress, such as when Bessie Estelle won a seat on the city council in 1975, but it also contributed to the still-burning resistance among whites who were unwilling to live in a city governed by any African American.
Justin Dieter Andres Perez (University of Notre Dame)
Pichanga de locas: Gay Gender, Language, and Volleyball in Callao, Peru
Peruvian men socialize with one another during the pick up soccer games that constitute the pichanga ritual. I will explain a situation in which gay men appropriate this ritual and transform it into a pichanga de locas, a public performance of pick up volleyball games played in very public spaces like streets and parks. I will describe the uniquely gay linguistic code that emerges in this particular space, as participants temporarily alter typical Spanish conversational rules and incorporate a different set of lexicon in their speech. Some words are direct conceptual appropriations from gay English. Others, like loca, which refers to an effeminate gay man, are autochthonous categories. The actual degree to which “gay men’s English” is homogenizing gay language and performances in Peru will then be measured. I will then analyze the correlation between gay language and gay gender, highlighting the performance of different gendered categories during the pichanga de locas. As they cheer the athletes, community spectators seem to embrace behaviors normally stigmatized by society. Certain characteristics of the ritual seem to elicit more tolerant attitudes. I will close by proposing strategies to reproduce these qualities off the temporary space of the court, to foster tolerance for diversity in Peru and elsewhere.
Panel C-2: Transmitting Space: Manuscripts, Books, and Digital
Asynith Palmer (English Language and Literature, University of Michigan)
Digitizing the Built Environment, Reifying Boundaries: Negotiations of Territory in Urban Exploration
In the past five years, “urban exploration” has been showcased in a variety of popular media—from The New York Times, to the Discovery Channel, to TV crime dramas such as Law and Order and CSI. Each of these forms portrays urban exploration as the active investigation—or infiltration—of disowned, unused, or restricted spaces of the built environment. These include shut-down factories, desanctified churches, and limited-access underground drains. Though the aforementioned media outlets share the same basic definition of urban exploration, or “UrbEx,” they frame UrbEx practices in distinct ways. Law and Order and CSI represent UrbEx as a form of deviance: frequenting physically dangerous spaces for the thrill of trespassing or the chance of sheltering illicit activities. In contrast, a documentary by the Discovery Channel valorizes UrbEx as form of material historical inquiry, while a New York Times exposé hails UrbExers as mysterious “children of darkness” relishing the aura of abandoned New York.
Whether they are censorious or laudatory, these conceptions of UrbEx are incomplete; they neglect key steps in the series of operations that constitutes urban exploration for thousands of self-proclaimed UrbExers, building hackers, and city spelunkers across the United States. For individuals such as “abandonedamerica,” “dsankt,” and “kowalski,” UrbEx begins with a firsthand experience of the material environment, but culminates in the manipulation of text and image in the digital world. We cannot critically examine the growing vernacular practice of urban exploration without first acknowledging this combination of material and virtual spaces navigated by America’s UrbExers.
My paper will revise and expand the mediatized definition of UrbEx to include its crucial digital valences. Urban exploration must be recognized as an experience of space predicated on photographic seeing and the subsequent dissemination of digital-visual reconstructions of this experience online. By locating the internet as both a discursive space and a site of interaction (and exclusion), I will investigate the ways in which UrbExers defy property laws and thereby “de-territorialize” the built environment—only to “re-territorialize” it online. Actively resisting spatial hierarchies in the material world, many UrbExers reinstate strikingly similar hierarchies on the virtual plane.
Alexandra Schultz (Art History, University of Wisconsin-Madison)
Iconography of a City: St. Denis, Paris and Athens in Bibliothèque Nationale Mss. fr. 2090-92
In the early 14th century, Philip IV commissioned a luxury manuscript from the monks of the abbey of Saint-Denis. This manuscript (Bibliothèque Nationale mss. fr. 2090-92, detailing the life and death of St. Denis, has attracted particular scholarly attention because of its distinctive representation of the city of Paris. Unlike other contemporary portrayals of cities, the Vie de Saint Denis manuscript artists did not simply paint a circular walled enclosure or towers. Rather, they painted the Seine, including Parisian citizens performing everyday activities on its bridges.
Scholars have generally agreed that the specific and repeated representation of Paris is a persuasive strategy to remind the king of his duties to the abbey and its patron saint. Paris is the most Christian city with the most Christian king, but only due to the spiritual intercession of St. Denis and the pious monks. However, it remains to be seen how the rest of the manuscript contributes to this agenda. In fact, very little scholarship has considered the substantial portion of the manuscript set in other places.
The purpose of this paper will be to consider how city identities are created for the fourteenth-century reader. The illuminations of St. Denis’ life in Athens offer a particularly interesting interpretive avenue. In Athens, St. Denis began his life as a holy man. It is an important location, both geographically and temporally, in the life of St. Denis. Additionally, the city of Athens is portrayed in a very specific manner which vigorously encapsulates the city for a fourteenth-century Parisian audience.
In some ways, the Athens in the manuscript is a symbolical Athens: an Athens of the pagan past in contrast with the new, lively Paris of the Christian present. In others, Athens and Paris are inextricably linked both ideologically and visually. As we shall see, these two cities provide a visual and conceptual layering of past and present through a common thread: the life and work of a saint.
Sean Parrish (History, Duke University)
Cartographic Culture and Medical Authority in Sixteenth-Century Venice
My paper examines significant contacts and intellectual exchanges between university physicians and geographers in the Veneto region of Italy during the early sixteenth-century. As an important center of trade and cultural transmission linking the Mediterranean Sea with both the Indian and Atlantic Oceans, the city of Venice and the nearby University of Padua played host to numerous internationally acclaimed experts engaged in novel cartographic mappings of both dissected bodies in public anatomy theatres and the global geographic features of the Renaissance theatrum orbis terrarum. To further explore the intellectual concerns binding these two domains of expertise in Venetian Renaissance culture, my paper highlights the career of Girolamo Fracastoro, an esteemed Paduan trained physician who coined the term for the venereal ailment syphilis and challenged Galenic conceptions of disease by advancing an unorthodox “seed” theory of contagion. My paper explores these medical ideas in light of Fracastoro’s abiding interest in the Portuguese and Spanish voyages, new geographic knowledge, and contacts with eminent Venetian geographers and ambassadors. Through a close examination of Fracastoro’s relationships with noted Venetian geographers, mapmakers, travelers, diplomats, and literary exemplars, I aim to illustrate how both local networks across “professions” and global developments across oceans remained embedded in novel theoretical inflections of the Galenic humoral tradition in sixteenth-century medicine.
Panel C-3: Spaces of Capital
Caley Horan (History, University of Minnesota)
The Post-WWII American Insurance Industry and the Production of Actuarial Space
Through massive investments in urban housing, suburban developments, shopping centers, and a variety of infrastructure projects, post-WWII insurance companies became key participants in a large-scale restructuring of the American landscape. This restructuring fundamentally altered the postwar economy and social life, transforming the living arrangements, consumption patterns, and daily movements of millions of Americans. As the primary funders of each of these projects, insurers exercised a large degree of control over their construction and organization, applying the actuarial logic of risk management at every turn. My paper examines the actuarial nature of spaces financed and developed by insurance companies and analyzes their impacts on social governance and subject formation in the United States during the second half of the twentieth century.
Between 1941 and 1952, American insurance companies built over 43 urban housing projects in cities across the nation. Made possible by an unprecedented wave of industry deregulation, these projects serve as important sites for reflection on the social factors influencing corporate investments and the ideological forces at work in the development of postwar private housing. Management struggles and bad public relations associated with discrimination lawsuits leveled against owners of segregated housing projects led many insurance companies to pull out of urban housing by the early 1950s. Commercial real estate, and particularly shopping malls, became key investment outlets for insurers during this period. In 1954 alone, life insurance investment in commercial real estate totaled over $1,200 million. The majority these investments were directed at spaces located in newly built, insurance funded, suburban developments.
Along with urban hosing and suburban shopping centers, infrastructure projects provided another major investment arena for insurance companies. My paper looks specifically at the postwar construction of natural gas pipelines, over 70% of which were financed by insurance companies. Questions of safety, security, and circulation defined the partnerships and interactions between insurers and natural gas firms. The story of natural gas pipeline and industry financing provides an opportunity to explore the increasing role of actuarial and risk management systems after WWII in shaping the infrastructure of the United States.
Thomas Finger (History, University of Virginia)
Understanding Economies as Ecologies: A Spatial Analysis of the North Atlantic Grain Trade, 1800-1900
Human spaces are not boundless or amorphous; they are constructed over time to meet a particular end. This construction only makes sense if we connect it to ideologies held by individuals and organizations. My presentation uses the growth of the North Atlantic wheat trade in the nineteenth century as a case study detailing ways in which modern economic systems create spaces of exchange. Money, energy, and nutrients all cycled through this system. Energy and nutrients in the form of wheat and flour flowed towards Great Britain from the American frontier, while money, in the form of credit and currency, flowed from the world’s financial center in London towards the capital-poor American West. Within this system – as with any economic system, I argue – money and energy tended to flow in opposite directions, pausing at certain intervals to collect in places we call cities. Contrary to the way many conceive of them, modern economic systems do not impose a one-way change on a single place. Instead, if we think about economies not by their place-based, local effects, but spatially – as the sum of interactions in a defined space over time – we begin to see that what has been taken from one place/ecosystem is simply being used in another form at another place. My case study will highlight (1) how a particular economic space was constructed over time out of a nineteenth century ideology that claimed nature knew no national bounds and (2) the ways in which thinking spatially about economies can highlight the (seemingly) invisible, but no less physical, exchanges between places. Thinking truly and honestly about the spatial relationships between “the environment” and “the economy” can lead scholars to reconceptualize modern economic systems as nothing less than large-scale ecosystems. After all, ecology and economy share the same root word - eco - which translates from Greek as “home.” My presentation will address the measures individuals and organization took to create the North Atlantic grain trade, at the same time it details how the system came to be seen as a defined space by those who inhabited it.
Stephen Nepa (History, Temple University)
“The New Urban Dining Room: sidewalk cafes in postindustrial Philadelphia”
Do sidewalk cafes make better cities? Between 1995 and 2009, more than 250 Philadelphia restaurants opened sidewalk cafés. Though first legalized by City Council ordinance in May 1979, very few restaurateurs took advantage of the opportunity until the late 1990s.1 This delay occurred for a variety of reasons. In preparation for the Bicentennial in 1976, the city of Philadelphia engaged in a bitter feud with its street vendors, arguing that unlicensed and unregulated retail operations conducted on sidewalks obstructed pedestrian movement, blighted the streetscape, and minimized the profits of the city’s licensed storefront merchants. Secondly, Philadelphia’s restaurant scene was in flux in the 1970s and 1980s, as “nouvelle” and ethnic cuisines were gradually replacing the supper clubs, luncheonettes, automats, and “grand hotel” dining rooms that dominated the city for much of the 20th century.
Thirdly, the cultural perceptions of Philadelphia in the 1970s and 1980s were decidedly negative as the postwar phenomena of deindustrialization, suburbanization, and racial tensions made the city unappealing to potential diners. With fears of the city, there was little demand for sidewalk cafes. Fourthly, those few restaurants that sought permission for sidewalk cafes between 1979 and 1995 erected enclosed spaces that clashed with the spatial guidelines of the ordinance, generating battles among the City Council, the City Planning Commission, the Mayor’s office, and restaurateurs.
After sidewalk cafes were legalized throughout Philadelphia by mayoral executive order in 1995, they increased exponentially; between 2001 and 2009, the number of sidewalk cafes increased from 69 to 243 with many more planned. In determining this late-bloom, I argue that sidewalk cafés flourished in Philadelphia after 1995 due to improved perceptions of the city among residents and visitors alike, a shift from a manufacturing to a service-based economy, a mayoral administration that recognized the image-enhancing potential of such cafes, the cultural consumption power of restaurants, and the recognition among restaurateurs and patrons alike that sidewalk cafes generate social activity and improve neighborhoods.