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THE CHAGALL POSITION: Tidy Words & the End of the World: LeRoi Jones Reads a New Yorker Poem
"Baraka nails the essential quality of the New Yorker poem in a compact formulation: a carefully put-together exercise published as high poetic art. And when it comes to literary standards nothing has changed in the half century plus since the poet shed tears over that alienating poem – New Yorker still puts a premium on carefully put-together exercises that it publishes as high poetic art. This is just as true of the magazine’s fiction, which represents the “quality” apogee of the MFA cookie-cutter “epiphany story.” Wrapped up in tidy packages of psychological realism, these stories reflect the spurious “humanism” of the liberal professional-managerial class that is really a form of fatuous, self-congratulatory narcissism and an apologetics for a racist, imperialist, and exploitative status quo. Such work is “well-crafted,” meticulous, careful, “clean,” and absolutely risk free – the literary equivalent of a gentrified neighborhood. It’s a neighborhood (Baraka even calls it, perceptively, a “place”) where people like the aspiring Black writer are not welcome, where they are the excluded Other.

In the yearning for social mobility that painfully inflects his response, the young poet of the autobiography implicitly realizes how this “high poetic art” functions as a marker of status, what Pierre Bourdieu calls “distinction.” New Yorker verse and fiction are indeed high-end consumer commodities, of a piece with the tailored clothes, pricey jewelry, and haute cuisine dining spots that share its pages. It’s a cultural “address”, but – as commentators such as Sharon Zukin and David Harvey have shown – one that is eminently available to be cross-mapped onto real space, in urban neighborhoods across the US and around the globe.


One way that this type of “cultural address” manifests itself in the contemporary urban arena is the phenomenon of “cultural districts,” specially designated clusters of arts and humanities venues which then become the focus of public-private investment partnerships. There are many such districts in Massachusetts already, including two here in Boston, the Fenway Cultural District and the new Boston Literary District. According to the Massachusetts Cultural Council, the state body that awards such designations, the ultimate goal of cultural districts is “enhancing property values and making communities more attractive” – i.e., gentrification."



"Social exclusion and symbolic violence inflict real damage and pain, the pain of marginality, invisibility, and muteness – cultural apartheid. It is precisely the type of pain that Amiri Baraka’s younger self experienced while reading that New Yorker poem. The passage from Baraka’s autobiography struck me because I encountered it at the very time I was writing about the Boston Book Festival’s failure, for the fifth year in a row, to select a local African American or Latina/o author for their flagship “One City One Story” program. One of the “Executive Partners” in organizing the Boston Literary District, the BBF states that this citywide “Big Read” event is supposed to promote literacy and “create a community around a shared reading experience.” Yet what kind of community are they creating? Boston is at least 42% Black and Latina/o, but in the 5 years of One City One Story’s existence they’ve chosen 4 white authors and 1 Asian-American author. The stories themselves, moreover, are very much of the same “carefully constructed exercises” (white and uptight) that continue to be published “as high poetic art” in the New Yorker.

I wonder how many minority youth in Dorchester, Roxbury, and Mattapan were assigned the book festival’s 2014 offering, Jennifer Haigh’s “Sublimation,” in their high school English classes. No doubt they were exhorted that they were participating in civic life, and that the story’s values and outlook were somehow “universal” and relevant to their own experience. And no doubt that many of them felt the same confusion and shame and anger that LeRoi Jones felt reading that New Yorker poem in San Juan over a half century ago.

I hope none of them shed tears over it, though – the story wasn’t worth it."

[via: http://botpoet.tumblr.com/post/103457338970/wrapped-up-in-tidy-packages-of-psychological ]
amiribaraka  leroijones  newyorker  mfa  writing  realism  narcissism  racism  imperialism  statusquo  gentrification  literature  edmondcaldwell  socialmobility  commodities  consumerism  mainstream  elitism  culture  sharonzukin  davidharvey  arts  art  humanities  marginality  invisibility  muteness  culturalapartheid  race  homogeneity  2014 
november 2014 by robertogreco
Liberalism and Gentrification | Jacobin
"Gentrification isn’t a cultural phenomenon — it’s a class offensive by powerful capitalists."



"Tying up your assets, your middle-class future, in home values does something to people. It alters their interests. It sutures a professional class, of liberal and even progressive beliefs, to the rapacious capitalist expansion into the city. The people who move to gentrifying areas tend to have liberal, tolerant, cosmopolitan sympathies. But they are aligned materially with reactionary and oppressive city restructuring, pushing them into antagonism with established residents, who do nothing for property values. Behind every Jane Jacobs comes Rudy Giuliani with his nightstick."



"The liberal discourse on gentrification has absolutely nothing to say about finance or prison, the two most salient institutions in urban life. Instead, it does what liberal discourse so often does: it buries the structural forces at work and choreographs a dance about individual choice to perform on the grave. We get tiny dramas over church parking lots and bike lanes and whether 7-11 will be able to serve chicken wings. Gentrification becomes a culture war, a battle over consumer choices: gourmet cupcake shop or fried chicken joint? Can we all live side by side, eating gourmet pickles with our fried fish sandwiches? Will blacks and whites hang out in the same bars? wonders Racialicious.

The problems of gentrification always boil down to those of mutual tolerance (and so, poor black people often become “racists” intolerant of yuppies); the solutions, therefore, reside in personal conduct and ethical choices. In “How To Be A Good Gentrifier,” Elahe Izadi offers such helpful pointers as saying hello to your neighbors and not crossing the street to avoid them. After all, if you’re going to participate in the expulsion of poor people from their communities, you might as well be civil."



"Marx called the violent expropriation of the poor from their lands “primitive accumulation.” The term conjures a one-time sin, in the distant past — Adam Smith called it “originary accumulation.” However, primitive accumulation accompanies capitalist development every step of the way, wherever valuable land meets valueless humanity.

In the early days of America, before Washington existed, nothing short of genocide would suffice. Today’s colonization requires little more than a low-interest mortgage and 911 on speed dial. In the face of this slow destruction of the urban poor, liberals have only one question: can’t we have fried chicken and cupcakes, too?"
capitalism  gentrification  ideology  homeownership  policy  politics  race  racism  2014  gavinmueller  brokenwindows  rudygiuliani  janejacobs  economics  money  sharonzukin  class  urban  urbanism  urbanplanning  carollloyd  sanfrancisco  washingtondc  nyc  richardflorida  creativeclass  frantzfanon  primitiveaccumulation  colonization  housing 
october 2014 by robertogreco
3-D print your way to freedom and prosperity | Al Jazeera America
"The appeal of this movement is readily apparent. What’s not to like with a revolution that — according to tech gurus, media and politicians alike — is seemingly so democratizing, empowering and profitable?

But there’s a downside, too. The maker movement is born out of, and contributes to, the individualistic, market-based society that has become dominant in our time. More specifically, the movement fits well into what, nearly 20 years ago, the media theorists Richard Barbrook and Andy Cameron called “the Californian Ideology.” According to this view, new technologies promise to create a class of high-tech entrepreneurs thanks to their ability to “empower the individual, enhance personal freedom and radically reduce the power of the nation-state.” All while allowing them to ignore or simply design their own way around the established political, economic and legal system. And thus clearing the way for the “unfettered interactions between autonomous individuals and their software” that perpetuate, rather than disrupt, that very system.

Makers and takers

The maker movement doesn’t, on the surface, appear to be particularly ideological. For those who lean to the right, the movement is representative of good old-fashioned economic values and entrepreneurial individualism. “Love the ‘makers,’ deride the ‘takers,’” goes their refrain. For progressives, the maker movement and its “hackerspaces” and “makerspaces” — workshops with tools and space for engaging in making — give an aura of grassroots community building and self-empowerment, from bowling alone (as political scientist Robert D. Putnam characterized our turn-of-the-century decline of social involvement) to making together. For libertarians, the maker movement fits into the common narrative of the “self-made man” who wields market power; only now self-making takes on a more literal meaning.

We’re not saying these elements don’t have kernels of truth to them. But this has led the maker movement to embrace a kind of naively apolitical, techno-economic, capitalist utopia that thrives on individualistic values and discounts the very public contributions to science, infrastructure and society that enable them to do what they do.

It’s not hard to see why so many different ideologies can incorporate the maker movement into their politics: It has one hell of a branding and marketing team. Maker Media — a spinoff company of O’Reilly Media, the technology publishing and conference empire — launched a widely circulated magazine, Make, produces the conference Maker Faire, and “also develops ‘getting started’ kits and books that are sold in its Maker Shed store as well as in retail channels.” All of this is in addition to glowing profiles in major outlets like BBC News."



"Maker technologies obscure the real labor and costs that are globally embedded in them. Today a small contingent experiences new opportunities to express itself creatively. But what emerges if this becomes the basis for a new economic development program? A society of makers would be one in which each worker internalizes the failings of the economic system by believing he or she is not sufficiently creative and ingenious. Others who fail can be assigned to this new class of noncreatives — again, “takers” instead of “makers.” And this is just for those with the privilege to try and claim a seat at the manufacturing table. What of the service workers today? Can maker ideology help, say, the hotel workers who struggle to keep their jobs? More likely, it becomes further cause for brushing aside labor issues, both domestic and abroad."



"There’s real collective democratic freedom to be gained from the maker movement. But it needs to shake off simplistic economic individualism and hypercapitalistic politics if makers want to represent a disruption of the existing economy. The interest by the White House illustrates how the maker community is less disruptive and more likely a new vein of social life to be incorporated in existing economic expansion. What the maker movement needs is to embrace more social views of the technologies’ potential — views oriented toward helping people do more than just play with tools and make personalized schlock."
3dprinting  culture  technology  ideology  californianideology  individualism  economics  society  2014  jathansadowski  paulmanson  policy  politics  markets  idealism  robertputman  sharonzukin  chrisanderson  corydoctorow  makers  makermovement  hackerspaces  makerspaces 
july 2014 by robertogreco

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