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American anthropologist (2009)
I use the concept of “engaged anthropology” to frame a discussion of how “spatializing culture” uncovers systems of exclusion that are hidden or naturalized and thus rendered invisible to other methodological approaches. “Claiming Space for an Engaged Anthropology” is doubly meant: to claim more intellectual and professional space for engagement and to propose that anthropology include the dimension of space as a theoretical construct. I draw on three fieldwork examples to illustrate the value of the approach: (1) a Spanish American plaza, reclaimed from a Eurocentric past, for indigenous groups and contemporary cultural interpretation; (2) Moore Street Market, an enclosed Latino food market in Brooklyn, New York, reclaimed for a translocal set of social relations
rather than a gentrified redevelopment project; (3) gated communities in Texas and New York and cooperatives in New York, reclaiming public space and confronting race and class segregation created by neoliberal enclosure and securitization.
PoLAR: Political and Legal Anthropology Review (2000)
International Journal of Urban and Regional Research (2006)
Anthropology & Education Quarterly (2002)
The World Trade Center site allows anthropologists and educators to reflect on the relationship of public space to culture, and to consider the symbolic importance of this site for imagining the public culture of the future. Public spaces in the city have the potential of being places of learning and democratic practice, but the trend toward increased surveillance and policing of these spaces, exaggerated by September 11, makes this potential difficult to realize. Anthropologists and educators interested in the nexus of education, place, and culture should consider becoming involved in this imagining process and insert themselves into the ongoing debate in order to preserve spaces for learning and democracy.
Urban Anthropology and Studies of Cultural Systems and World Economic Development (2006)
Privatized public space reflects a current moment in the ongoing negotiation of the relationship between the state and the market that is a central concern of liberalism. The configuration of this relationship has consequences for the nature of citizenship and democracy in theory and practice. Emblematic of a shift to the privatization of urban public space, California Plaza provides a case by which to examine the multiscalar interests and machinations of the neoliberal state in practice. Exploring the meanings of public and private that are produced by a corporate plaza enables an assessment of how privatized public space helps constitute contemporary citizenship. Institutional and legal frameworks serve as a foundation for the relative publicness of the corporate plaza. Techniques of exclusion and control through design features and security measures exclude errant bodies and regulate the seamlessness of the desired public. At the same time, counter practices indicate the emergence of spaces and subjects that destabilize presumed notions of public and private.
New media & society (2018)
In this article, I challenge a focus in digital anthropology on the integration of media into everyday life. Korean queer men’s experience on geosocial applications suggests that integration is not a neutral methodology but is rather a locally negotiated concern, a management of the connection between spaces. I use the example of the sauna to illustrate that the urban structure of Seoul is frequently orientated around semi-public rooms or bang that are imagined as insulated from the rest of society. The rise of geosocial cruising applications, with their tendency to connect and unite arenas that should be kept apart, have resulted in anxiety over the exposure of men to an uncontrollable totality of social relations.
Polar: Political and legal anthropology review (2016)
This article explores how indigenous migrants experience the sociopolitical and existential condition of “illegality” in the United States. Drawing on the experiences of Maya migrants from Yucat´an, Mexico, in the San Francisco Bay Area, I argue that the specter of state surveillance and the threat of law enforcement produce a particular politics of (im)mobility for indigenous migrants. This local politics of mobility takes form through spatial tactics of invisibility and visibility. Tracing migrants’ tactical maneuvers through public space, I show how their relations to space, place, and movement alter cultural sensibilities of tranquilidad (tranquility), and further instantiate “illegality” as a site of exclusion. This analysis of the experiential effects of anticipated surveillance provides a
deeper understanding of the power of the state to enforce migrant “illegality” even in cities that promise official sanctuary.
Economic and Political Weekly (2006)
Street hawking is generally considered as a "menace" or an "eyesore" that prevents the development of Mumbai as a world-class city. But this article explores the essential presence of hawkers in a city, which requires a critical understanding of the functioning of public space. The experiences of hawkers in Mumbai, as elsewhere in India, have taught them not to fear a regulatory state, but a predatory one, a state that constantly demands bribes and threatens demolition, against which a licence provides security.
Economic Anthropology (2015)
As one of 725 UNESCO World Heritage Properties, Antigua, Guatemala, is subject to local international regulations related to building codes and how streets and public places are occupied. These regulations are discussed within the theoretical framework of spatial governmentality to explore that relationship between governance and Maya street vendors’ economic practices. I situate the scholarly discussion of spatial governmentality within a specific economic context by highlighting how street economies are affected by what Foucault calls the “era of ‘governmentality,’” especially in an ethnographic context. In this article, I argue that horizontal and vertical forms of governmentality affect the economic practices of street vendors within Antigua’s sociopolitically constructed spaces. Understanding how spatial governmentalities work in a particular place helps explain why street economies persist and why new ones emerge. In Antigua’s case, a new mobile form of street vending emerged because of newly implemented municipal regulations and policing priorities.
The Cambridge Journal of Anthropology (2013)
The public sphere has been centre stage in celebrations of India's political triumphs. Leading commentators tell us that the astonishing post-independence surge of democracy has been contingent on the rise of a new kind of sociopolitical formation: the public sphere. This paper takes a closer look at the popular deliberative terrain in North India to question this claim. Drawing on research conducted in a provincial town in the North Indian state of Rajasthan, we see that where metropolitan political theorists see 'transparency' as promoting discursive and political possibilities, Rajasthani villagers see an exposure which prevents expression, communication and the making of political choices. In their view, it is secrecy and social seclusion that enable political interactions and elicit political judgments. 'The public sphere' is an unfit heuristic for locating popular politics within (and beyond) Rajasthan, where it obscures much more than it reveals.
City & Society (2008)
Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork in post-unification Berlin, this article examines the re-articulation of the problematic of “the social” in city planning. It juxtaposes the contrasting visions of city planners and youth workers for Alexanderplatz, a controversial square in Berlin’s eastern centre. I argue that the notion of “robustness” is helpful in understanding an important contemporary shift in thinking about planning and the social. In a sense, both planners and youth workers accused each other of taking insufficient notice of “the social.” While planners spoke of robustness as a technical, economic and aesthetic quality to which public space needs to aspire, the youth workers’ vision for Alexanderplatz was a proposal for a kind of “social” robustness where the social is, quite literally, built into the urban design. These ethnographic observations need to be understood in a context where city planning has been one of the most critical domains in which the tensions provoked by German unification are played out. Taking such socio-cultural specificities into account will lead to a more nuanced understanding of forms of neoliberal city
Polar: Political and legal anthropology review (2016)
This article investigates the relationship between political identity and public space in the communities of the Colca Valley, in Peru’s rural Andes, by examining two moments in which the built environment became a medium for formatting and engaging a local indigeneity. The first is the colonial invasion, during which the reducci´on plan condensed and dispersed “unruly” native subjects around a public square and a church. The second is the contemporary moment, in which that same space is used to stage audits, evaluations, and competitions in the context of a development paradigm shifting from service provision to investing in indigeneity by financing the promotion of entrepreneurial and agricultural practices that organizations classify as typically indigenous. This article offers two arguments: (1) in the colonial era, notions of indigenous identity configured efforts to improve and regulate daily life—or, to achieve development; and (2) through changing historical contexts, the built environment is used as a medium for defining Colcan indigeneity, deploying it to generate strategic knowledge and regulatory force, and investing it with the potential for various kinds of salvation. This approach suggests that transnational paradigms do not simply “touch down,” but also, adjust and push existing dynamics through the local media at their disposal.
Economic Anthropology (2015)
Urban public marketplaces in Global South cities host a vibrant mix of retail and wholesale trade. Yet local-to-national governments increasingly promote sanitized and privatized urban spaces by privileging modern retail outlets (malls and supermarkets) and discouraging “traditional” livelihoods (street vending and market stalls). These political decisions dramatically disrupt the public market trade that has provisioned urbanites for decades. To address this issue, this article analyzes how retailers working in the renowned Baguio City Public Market, northern Philippines, sustain their livelihoods given that Baguio City’s first phase of market redevelopment failed to meet their needs (e.g., insufficient store size and banning enterprises). Problematizing legal–illegal work and urban public space use, I argue that public marketers engage everyday and insurgent public space activism to protest their disenfranchisement. Although marketers generally have achieved selected demands, some have benefited more than others. Thus, I suggest that we consider not only marketers’ resistance but also the uneven political landscape within which they work—the power differentials among and between marketers and the state. The extent to which variously positioned marketers can realize livelihood rights highlights the unpredictability of civic engagement and “extralegality” when competing
ideologies clash over access to urban public space, legal–illegal practice, and appropriate urban provisioning.
City & Society (2013)
Based on ethnographic fieldwork in the cities of Jakarta and Yogyakarta, this paper investigates the recent surge in the production and circulation of street art through technology and media in post-New Order Indonesia. The global style of street art communicates how public space and the street have become emblematic of changing discourses of individual rights, urban aesthetics, and the practice of citizenship in urban Indonesia. While the history of Western graffiti as a form of defacement and resistance continues to exert a powerful hold on the imagination of Indonesian street artists, I argue that the vernacular meaning of street art and graffiti refuses an easy bifurcation of public and private spaces, while blurring the lines between commercial and cultural urban interventions.
City & Society (2006)
An actor-centered approach to the gendering of urban spaces demonstrates how individuals respond to competing ideologies in determining the rules that surround women’s presence in urban, Muslim spaces. This article examines how women in the Ville Nouvelle of Fes, Morocco draw on local conceptualizations of hospitality, kinship, and shame as they debate the gendering of four urban areas: the street, the café, a cosmopolitan exercise club, and cyber space.
Women’s tactics for occupying social space indicate the resilience of local culture in the face of ideologies that attempt to posit a specific vision of women in the Moroccan nation state.
American ethnologist (2000)
In the 1990s, the Georgian sculptor Zurab Tsereteli triggered a furor over the millions of tax dollars the Moscow city government paid him for his monumental art installations around the Russian capital. Critics have assailed such gross expenditure in a period of economic privation, questioned the propriety of Tsereteli's ties to power, and ridiculed his often cartoon-like aesthetics. In the embattled new Russian state, this infantilization of public space through government-sponsored art reprises a familiar discourse of timeless
innocence in the service of state power.
The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science (2004)
In 2003, for the second year running, the Paris municipality entrusted a young theater designer with the transformation of one stretch of the banks of the Seine River—normally congested with heavy traffic—into an open space evocative of the seaside. Paris in August is therefore Paris by the seaside. The objective of our study is to examine the entire operation, from the moment the political decision was taken by the municipality to the many and varied activities of all those who participated. Through this study, we attempt to highlight the different forms of material and symbolic (re)creation of Paris being undertaken today. We show that in a situation such as this, a reflection on the fieldwork undertaken and the production of ethnographic knowledge is in fact the key factor in the analysis.
American Ethnologist (2008)
In this article, I explore how the festive culture of mulids, Egyptian Muslim saints-day festivals, troubles notions of habitus, public space, and religious and civic discipline that have become hegemonic in Egypt in the past century and how state actors attempt to “civilize” mulids by subjecting them to a spectacular, representative order of spatial differentiation. I argue that habitus must be understood as a political category related to competing relationships of ideology and
embodiment and that the conceptual and physical configuration of modern public space is intimately related to the bodily and moral discipline of its users.
American Ethnologist (2012)
This article explores the links between social media and public space within the #Occupy Everywhere movements. Whereas listservs and websites helped give rise to a widespread logic of networking within the movements for global justice of the 1990s–2000s, I argue that social media have contributed to an emerging logic of aggregation in the more recent #Occupy movements—one that involves the assembling of masses of individuals from diverse backgrounds within physical spaces.
However, the recent shift toward more decentralized forms of organizing and networking may help to ensure the sustainability of the #Occupy movements in a post eviction phase.
City & Society (2009)
The 2002 government restoration of Suq al- Hamidiyya in Damascus led to disagreements between officials and merchants over acceptable spatial practice in the marketplace. Though both were vested in the Suq’s introduction to the historic Old City, they had different interpretations of this role. Officials emphasized a sanitized and ordered space whereas merchants focused on the commercial activities necessary in the marketplace over discipline. Eventually both interpretations, though at times contradictory, were included in the project. This article illustrates how the replication of modernity in a public space with inherent contradictions is a result of negotiations between formal and informal modernitites [sic].