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robertogreco : reconstruction   9

Coates and West in Jackson | Boston Review
"For my part, I see value in putting Coates’s and West’s perspectives in dialogue. To be clear, I am not interested in repeating or endorsing West’s critique here, and Coates needs no one to defend him, certainly not me. Readers of Boston Review know that I have taken issue with parts of his Between the World and Me (2015)—yet, even when I disagree, I find Coates’s writing generative, thoughtful, and startlingly honest, and he pushes me to think harder and deeper about the depth of racism in both the public and inner life of black America. Rather, I want to offer brief reflections on what I find valuable in both Coates’s recent book, We Were Eight Years in Power (2017), and in West’s insistence on the transformative power of social movements. I believe that the reconciliation of their respective insights might open new directions. My mother raised my siblings and me to be Hegelians (even if his 1807 The Phenomenology of Spirit is not exactly bedtime reading), and that means the purpose of critique is dialectical, to reach a higher synthesis, which in turn reveals new contradictions demanding new critique.

****

West’s position should not surprise anyone, nor should his ideas be reduced to a couple of interviews and a short piece in the Guardian. He has always combined the black prophetic tradition of speaking truth to power with what he identifies as the anti-foundationalism of young Marx—a critical observation central to West’s book, The Ethical Dimensions of Marxist Thought (1991). West’s Black Prophetic Fire (with Christa Buschendorf, 2014) consists of dialogues that consider the lives and work of black prophetic figures, including Frederick Douglass, W. E. B. Du Bois, Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, Ida B. Wells, and Ella Baker. His insights into these figures are acute and often original, and he refrains from hagiography. For example, he is sharply critical of Douglass, whom he castigates for his relative silence on Jim Crow once he became a fully enfranchised and powerful voice in the Republican Party. The book also contains a subtle indictment of President Barack Obama, implying that his two terms as president, and the emergence of a black neoliberal political class, represent a betrayal of the principles basic to the black prophetic tradition. His criticisms of President Obama are not personal but directed at policies that reflected both the neoliberal turn and the persistence of U.S. imperialism.

Coates found his calling during a particularly combative period for black intellectuals. In March of 1995, West was the target of a scurrilous attack by New Republic editor Leon Wieseltier, an essay promoted on the issue’s cover with the headline “The Decline of the Black Intellectual.” A month later Adolph Reed, Jr. followed with a piece in the Village Voice titled, “What Are the Drums Saying, Booker?: The Curious Role of the Black Public Intellectual” which names West, Michael Eric Dyson, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., bell hooks, and yours truly. In the essay, Reed characterizes us as modern-day minstrels and attacks us for being “translators” of black culture to white folks, and thus palatable to fawning white liberals. Reed’s piece left a deep impression on Coates. As he recalls in We Were Eight Years in Power, “I was determined to never be an interpreter. It did not occur to me that writing is always some form of interpretation, some form of translating the specificity of one’s roots or expertise or even one’s own mind into language that can be absorbed and assimilated into the consciousness of a broader audience. Almost any black writer publishing in the mainstream press would necessarily be read by whites. Reed was not exempt. He was not holding forth from The Chicago Defender but from The Village Voice, interpreting black intellectuals for that audience, most of whom were white.”

Those “feuds” of twenty-two years ago also generated an important Boston Review forum that centered on a provocative essay by Reverend Eugene F. Rivers III, “Beyond the Nationalism of Fools: Toward an Agenda for Black Intellectuals” (1995)"



"Importantly, Coates’s title is a reference not to Obama’s administration, as many seem to suppose, but rather to Reconstruction and the white backlash that followed its tragic overthrow. Coates quotes Du Bois’s Black Reconstruction (1935): “If there was one thing that South Carolina feared more than bad Negro government, it was good Negro government.” Du Bois’s insight is key here; he recognizes that it was the success of Reconstruction in creating arguably the world’s first social democracy that posed the greatest threat to white supremacy. History has a long life: the ways in which formerly enslaved people not only helped overthrow the Confederacy but immediately went to work building a new society—armed, organized, and fighting back—is the story that haunts and illuminates Obama’s presidency.

Coates is certainly attentive to the forces arrayed against the Obama administration, and to the extraordinary hope black people had invested in him, but he is no apologist for Obama."



"So what are the substantive differences between West and Coates?

At the end of his Guardian essay, West writes that we cannot afford “to disconnect white supremacy from the realities of class, empire, and other forms of domination—be it ecological, sexual, or others.” Coates would agree. He treats these forms of domination as deeply intertwined but not synonymous: “I have never seen a contradiction between calling for reparations and calling for a living wage, on calling for legitimate law enforcement and single-payer health care. They are related—but cannot stand in for one another. I see the fight against sexism, racism, poverty, and even war finding their union not in synonymity but in their ultimate goal—a world more humane.” He may not map out what that “fight” for a more humane world might look like, but I don’t think his perspective can be reduced, as West does, to “narrow racial tribalism and myopic political neoliberalism.”"



"This is where West and Coates part ways. It is not so much their understanding of history, though. West understands that U.S. “democracy” was built on slavery, capitalism, and settler colonialism. But he also recognizes its fragility or malleability in the face of a radical democratic tradition.

This radical democratic tradition cannot be traced to the founding fathers or the Constitution or the Declaration of Independence. Instead, it is manifest in the struggles of the dispossessed to overturn the Eurocentric, elitist, patriarchal, and dehumanizing structures of racial capitalism and its liberal underpinnings. It is manifest in the struggle to restore the “commons” to the commonwealth, which has been at the heart of radical abolitionism—or what Du Bois called the Abolition Democracy. West knows that social movements, or what he calls “our fightback,” have and will alter history. West believes that we can win. While I wouldn’t call Coates’s vision fatalistic, it is deeply pessimistic because his focus is on structures of race and class oppression, and the policies and ideologies that shore up these structures. He is concerned that we survive."



"So I propose that we turn away from the latest celebrity death match, turn our attention to Jackson, Mississippi. Read Jackson Rising: The Struggle for Economic Democracy and Black Self-Determination in Jackson, Mississippi (2017), edited by Kali Akuno and Ajamu Nangwaya, And revisit the work of West and Coates and others wrestling with the critical issues of our times. I stand with West and his unwavering commitment to the power of collective resistance, his optimism of the will. And I stand with Coates and his insistence on a particular kind of pessimism of the intellect that questions everything, stays curious, and is not afraid of self-reflection, uncomfortable questions, or where the evidence takes him.

And above all, I stand with the people of Jackson, who have built the country’s most radical movement, mobilized new forms of political participation, and elected a people’s government committed to building a socialist commonwealth. Free the Land!"
ta-nehisicoates  cornelwest  2017  robinkelley  jackson  mississippi  kaliakuno  ajamunangwaya  chokewlumumba  chokweantarlumumba  activism  democracy  capitalism  cedricrobinson  edmundmorgan  barbarafields  davidroediger  brackobama  imperialism  reconstruction  webdubois  slavey  reparations  patriarchy  eurocentrism  oppression  race  class  politics  abolitionism  history  karlmarx  jeremiahwright  shirleysherrod  empire  us  martinlutherkingjr  malcolmx  frederickdouglass  idabwells  ellabaker  penieljoseph  eugenerivers  adolphreedjr  michaelericdyson  henrylouisgatesjr  neoliberalism  mlk  chokwelumumba 
december 2017 by robertogreco
Battle Cry of the Android
"Black people cannot time travel. Every comedian has a joke about this.

On a July episode of the BuzzFeed podcast Another Round, hosts Tracy Clayton and Heben Nigatu play a game that, they joke, was clearly written by white people because of the multitude of time travel questions. “Only white people love time travel,” Nigatu says. In a standup bit, Louis C.K. calls time travel an exclusively white privilege. “Here’s how great it is to be white,” he says. “I can get in a time machine and go to any time, and it would be fucking awesome when I get there!” A recent MTV Decoded sketch imagines that in a black version of Back to the Future, the DeLorean would never have left the mall parking lot. “Nineteen-fifty-five?” black Marty McFly asks. “You know what, Doc? I think I’m actually good right here.”

I laugh at these jokes, although their premise is devastating: a vision of blackness where suffering is continuous and inevitable. We can imagine a fantastical world where time travel is possible, yet we cannot conceive of any point in the past, or even the future, where black people can live free. In this line of thought, the present is the best life has ever been for black people, and perhaps the best it will ever be.

Into this grim possibility arrives Janelle Monáe. Monáe first captivated me in her 2010 video “Tightrope,” where, in the bleakness of a notorious insane asylum, the tuxedoed and pompadoured singer glides like James Brown over funky horns. Although her sound and image harken back to classic soul, her music contains a mythology that looks toward the future. Her EP Metropolis and albums The ArchAndroid and The Electric Lady follow Cindi Mayweather, an android living in the year 2719 who falls in love with a human and is sentenced to disassembly. Cindi later rises as the ArchAndroid, a messianic figure who provides hope that androids may someday be liberated. The sprawling, multi-project narrative can be difficult to follow, but the futuristic world she imagines echoes our own. “When I speak about the android, it’s the other,” she told LGBTQ newspaper Between the Lines. “You can parallel that to the gay community, to the black community, to women.” To Monáe, the android—part human, part robot, never fully either—represents the outsider. To visit her futuristic world of Metropolis is to encounter characters who face discrimination, as well as to imagine their liberation.

For interviews, Monáe has frequently remained in character as Cindi Mayweather, visitor from the future. (When asked about her sexuality in Rolling Stone, she refused to label herself and insisted she only dates androids.) In February 2015, she announced her new label, the Atlanta-based Wondaland Records, which hosts a collection of eclectic black artists who, like Monáe, seem to exist outside of time. At the Wondaland showcase during the BET Experience, Monáe described St. Beauty as “flower children,” Roman GianArthur as “another Freddie Mercury.” Her best-known artist, Jidenna, dropped the hit single “Classic Man” earlier this year, but baffled audiences with his three-piece suits, ascots, and canes. To FADER, Jidenna explained that he was inspired by the style of freedmen in the Jim Crow South: “I wear a suit because I need to remember what’s happened before me.” In Wondaland, style is radicalized, fashion a form of political resistance.

What does it mean to borrow the fashions of Reconstruction, an era in which no sensible black person, given time-traveling technology, would want to visit? Or to imagine a futuristic world where an android faces bigotry similar to our reality? Wondaland’s music is melodic, funky, and fun, as well as undeniably political. At the showcase, Monáe repeatedly referred to her record label as a “movement” and spoke about the responsibility she feels toward her community. Similarly, Wondaland artists have been outspoken critics of police brutality, leading marches against police violence and, in August, dropping the protest anthem “Hell You Talmbout (Say Their Names).” Against urgent drums and a choir of voices, Monáe, Jidenna, St. Beauty, Roman GianArthur, and Deep Cotton chant the names of black victims of police violence, from Emmett Till and Sean Bell to Michael Brown and Sandra Bland. The song is difficult to listen to, a seemingly endless list of names that the Wondaland artists—voices strained with anger and grief—urge us to remember. Say their names. The song is a battle cry, and in a war against black suffering, memory is the weapon.

In Wondaland, time travel is never an escape from the plights of contemporary black life. Instead, by floating through time, by playing with the tropes of the past, by inventing new mythologies and new futures, Monáe and her artists expand the possibilities of black art and showcase the complexity of black lives, its struggles and its triumphs. Wondaland artists are in our time but not of it, and there’s something beautifully resistant about this. Black people liberated from time itself, imagining ourselves anywhere."
2015  afrofuturism  tracyclayton  hebennigatu  timetravel  janellemonáe  fashion  wondaland  reconstruction  jidenna  freedmen  south  jimcrow  romangianarthur  stbeauty  cindimayweather  future  futurism  srg  wondalandrecords 
january 2016 by robertogreco
reform toxicity bhopal india
“The scar is a deeper level of reconstruction that fuses the new and the old, reconciling, coalescing them, without compromising either one in the name of some contextual form of unity. The scar is a mark of pride and of honor, both for what has been lost and what has been gained. It cannot be erased, except by the most cosmetic means. It cannot be elevated beyond what it is, a mutant tissue, the precursor of unpredictable regenerations. To accept the scar is to accept existence. Healing is not an illusory, cosmetic process, but something that—by articulating differences—both deeply divides and joins together.”
—Lebbeus Woods, Radical Reconstruction
seams  scars  lebbeuswoods  reconstruction  regeneration  differences 
august 2014 by robertogreco
Learning From Legos - NYTimes.com
"WHEN I was a boy, my father, an architect, attempted a no-toy policy, with the significant exception that he’d buy my brother and me almost anything — any birthday, holiday or restless rainy Saturday — as long as it was Lego.

And so, if I needed a gun, I made it with Legos. The same with a walkie-talkie. And a lie detector. And all the life-size artifacts — let’s face it, mostly weapons — that were then my heart’s desire. Plus every scale-model spaceship, supertruck, planetary fortress, recombinant Tyrannosaurus and transforming robot.

These days Lego — with its namesake movie’s opening weekend box office of $69 million, and with global sales revenue tripling, recession-proof, between 2007 and 2012 — appears to be something more than just a Danish construction toy based on snap-together plastic bricks. Some of the film’s success comes from the charm of its intrepid construction worker hero and goth-ninja heroine, both remarkably expressive despite the limitations of Lego figurines’ cylindrical heads and hands.

But the film’s celebration of adaptive improvisation and spontaneous mythmaking also resonates deeply with our current moment of so-called maker culture. Thanks to new rapid-prototyping technologies like computer numerical control milling and 3-D printing, we’ve seen a convergence between hacker and hipster, between high-tech coding and the low-tech artisanal craft behind everything from Etsy to Burning Man.

Whether it’s Google’s first server rack having been made of Lego-like bricks (pragmatically cheap, heat-resistant and reconfigurable) at Stanford in 1996, or the programmable Lego bricks developed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Architecture Machine Group (later the Media Lab where, no coincidence, my father worked), Lego is literally built into the computational and architectural history of maker culture.

And it is, in a special way, an architectural history. “A small interior world of color and form now came within grasp of small fingers,” wrote Frank Lloyd Wright about his 9-year-old self in a 1943 autobiographical sketch. “These ‘Gifts’ came into the gray house” and “made something live here.” These were the famous Froebel Blocks, educational wooden building blocks in systematic shapes and sizes developed in the 1840s by Friedrich Froebel, the inventor of kindergarten.

“The smooth shapely maple blocks with which to build, the sense of which never afterward leaves the fingers; so form became feeling. These primary forms were the secret of all effects,” Wright recalled, “which were ever got into the architecture of the world.” Wright’s son John would complete the circle, inventing in 1916 the construction toy that came to be known as Lincoln Logs.

Architectural historians have sought origins for Wright’s innovative organic architecture — his long horizontals and pinwheel plans — in the geometries of his toys, even reconstructing his early house designs using the Froebel Blocks themselves.

I suspect that the connection isn’t that literal. But it is certainly primal, and visceral, to do with the idea of making and unmaking, and the complex relationships of parts to wholes, and brokenness to wholeness.

Once, detouring through a parking-lot flea market, I stumbled across some Froebel Blocks from Wright’s era, stacked as tightly and delicately as the dovetail joints of their original wooden box. Froebel Blocks are collectible antiques, but these were flea-market finds and not auctioneers’ goods because they had been methodically defaced by years of scribbled arabesques in Magic Marker, in a child’s hand.

I discovered that these lines traveled continuously from block to block, and that by carefully aligning the distinctly colored arcs and loops of the markings, I could reconstruct all the arrangements into which the blocks had been built — those magic marks the inadvertent blueprints for a forgotten memory palace.

I remember the fugue of that reconstruction, low on the ground below a flea market table. I remember the astonishing intimacy of visiting a stranger’s childhood, and how that intimacy somehow caused me to delay actually buying this treasure. I circled the flea market, and returned to find it gone.

Maker culture, like Lego, is about loss. All building-block toys are about appearance and disappearance, demolition and reconstruction. Maker culture, for all its love of stuff, is similarly a culture of resourcefulness in an era of economic scarcity: relentless in its iterative prototyping, its radically adaptive reuse of ready-made objects, its tendency to unmake one thing to make another — all in a new ecology of economy.

When my brother and I wanted a new toy, we cannibalized whatever we’d made before, which had been made of all the things we’d ever made before that. So of all those years of guns and starships, I have only that Wrightian feeling for form in the fingertips — and the sound, somewhere between rustling and clinking, of a thousand plastic pieces tumbling from an overturned bucket into a disorderly pile, rippling away from a seeking hand.

I remember the last thing I ever made of Lego, far later into adolescence than I should admit. It was a robot that, thanks to double-jointed hinges, could continually reconfigure itself without being disassembled. And in this sense it was anti-Lego, capable of being remade without being unmade. I knew that it was the most I could ever do in the medium, and the end of an era. It drifted back into that bucket.

A quarter-century later I saw the same bucket opened and overturned by a young nephew. And there, like a time traveler, was this same robot. Mostly just its legs, standing Ozymandias-like in a pile of bricks. I reached for it, but not faster than my nephew, who, recognizing an accretion of especially useful pieces, instantly dissolved it with his hands. One of Wright’s secrets of all effects must be this: Because nothing comes from nothing, and nothing goes entirely out of the world, you have to take things apart if you seek to put everything together."
2014  thomsdemonchaux  making  makerculture  resourcefulness  lego  invention  franklloydwright  froebelblocks  froebeltoys  building  construction  unmaking  dissolution  prototyping  adaptivereuse  reuse  scarcity  materials  toys  play  appearance  disappearance  reconstruction  ecology 
march 2014 by robertogreco
Fixing the Broken Parts: Can Schools Save New Orleans? - Cities - GOOD
"New Orleans's unprecedented building boom has schools as its centerpiece. With new construction—and new ways of teaching—revolutionizing education in the blighted city, one big question remains: Can a city be remade through its schools?"
neworleans  nola  schools  reconstruction  education  policy  schooldesign  recoveryschooldistric  katrina  learning  fema  rebuilding  ramseygreen  opsd  community  children  communities  money  collectivebargaining  corruption  charterschools 
april 2011 by robertogreco
Getting It Right: What Is Brad Pitt Really Doing for New Orleans? - Cities - GOOD
"When Brad Pitt showed up to help fix New Orleans’s Lower Ninth Ward, it raised hope—and eyebrows. Is his high-design, low-income green housing project what the neighborhood needs? GOOD investigates."
architecture  green  community  neworleans  williammcdonough  katrina  reconstruction  leed  ninthward  makeitright  design  housing  homes  nola 
april 2011 by robertogreco
In Tsunami's Wake, Tough Choices For Japan's Elderly : NPR
"The area of northeastern Japan hit by the tsunami is called Tohoku. It is largely rural, agrarian, traditional — and, in a country that already has the oldest population in the world, Tohoku is where you find the most seniors.

Soon, the government must decide whether to rebuild some two-dozen destroyed seaside cities and towns in the northeast, or move the residents to higher ground elsewhere. Relocation, if it happens, will be hardest on the elderly.

The fishing town of Yamada was in slow decline even before the epic tsunami swallowed it whole. In the past three decades, Yamada had lost 26 percent of its population, mostly young people who moved to larger cities in search of opportunity. Today, 28 percent of the city is older than 65, and the decisions they must make after the tsunami are wrenching."
age  aging  japan  demographics  change  reconstruction  tsunamis  2011  agewars  generations  classideas 
april 2011 by robertogreco
Forgotten Infographic Masterpieces by W.E.B. DuBois's Students Show Black History | Co.Design
"W.E.B. DuBois's sociology students hand-drew these charts plotting the plight of African Americans in the decades after the Civil War."
history  visualization  racism  statistics  infographics  webdubois  reconstruction  civilwar  classideas 
february 2011 by robertogreco
Detroit: Urban Laboratory and the New American Frontier | Newgeography.com
"troubles of Detroit are well-publicized...economy in free fall, people streaming for the exits, worst racial polarization & city-suburb divide in America, its government is feckless & corrupt, & its civic boosters, even ones that are extremely knowledgeable, refuse to acknowledge the depth of the problems, instead ginning up stats & anecdotes to prove all is not so bad. But as with Youngstown, one thing this massive failure has made possible is ability to come up with radical ideas for the city, & potentially to even implement some of them. Places like Flint & Youngstown might be attracting new ideas & moving forward, but it is big cities that inspire the big, audacious dreams. & that is Detroit. Its size, scale, & powerful brand image are attracting not just the region’s but the world’s attention. It may just be that some of the most important urban innovations in 21st century America end up coming not from Portland or New York, but places like Youngstown &, yes, Detroit."
detroit  cities  economics  food  urban  urbanism  farming  future  optimism  urbanprairie  gamechanging  housing  michigan  urbanplanning  geography  agriculture  innovation  architecture  change  futurism  environment  sustainability  urbanagriculture  planning  research  parks  reconstruction  glvo 
december 2009 by robertogreco

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