Circulation and the City

Circulation and the City: Essays on Urban Culture

Copyright Date: 2010
Pages: 313
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  • Book Info
    Circulation and the City
    Book Description:

    A series of rich case studies examine a range of topics, including neighbourhood gentrification, subway busking, yard sales, electronic waste, and language, refining the touchstone principle of circulation for the study of urban culture, both materially and theoretically. Contributors employ a variety of disciplinary approaches to create a richly varied picture of the multiple trajectories and effects of movement in the city. An engaging work that considers city planning, urban culture, and social behaviour, Circulation and the City adds a new dimension that revitalizes the ways we have commonly looked at – and thought about – the city.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-8101-2
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-2)
  3. Introduction
    (pp. 3-20)

    For the theme of its April 2005 issue, the fashionable European art magazineFriezechose the concept of “circulation.” In his programmatic contribution to that issue,Frieze’s editor, Jorg Heiser, offered “circulation” as one way out of the impasses of contemporary cultural analysis. Too many artists and cultural observers, he suggested, remain fixated on end points in the lives of cultural artifacts, on those moments in which artworks and consumer goods are produced or consumed (Heiser 2005). More insight might be gained through a new attention to the intermediary phases of an artifact’s life, to those phases marked by its...

    • 1 Language in the City, Language of the City
      (pp. 23-47)

      That linguistic variation stands in relation to the city, to its very foundation, and in essence to all its forms, is an ancient idea. Genesis 11 takes up the failed project of building a great city and offers the story of the Tower of Babel, the biblical version of the origins of linguistic variability. This story reflects a vivid awareness of the multiplicity of meanings contained within language and the movement of these meanings about the world. The story of the aborted tower is inextricably linked to the varieties of human speech and the dispersion of idioms. “Nimrud’s tower was...

    • 2 Telepathically Urban
      (pp. 48-63)

      The urban ether swims with a multitude of invisible particles: the residue of ash and aerosols, signals and light. Circulating through the city is the dust of industry, a pixelated material history. But dust also circulates through the urban and technological imagination as a potentially “smart” material that shapes wireless sensor communication. In the wireless city, communication technologies have been described as “utility fogs” and “pervasive networks” as well as “smart dust” in order to capture the possibly miniscule yet ubiquitous extent of wireless infrastructures. While smart dust in particular has developed as much as a technology of conjecture as...

    • 3 The Imaginary of Self-Satisfaction: Reflections on the Platitude of the “Creative City”
      (pp. 64-96)

      I want to consider the imagined quality or value of the city, certainly creative in its way, against the discourse on the “creative city” that has become almost an orthodoxy among the policy sciences and certain academics in North America. For example, Richard Florida’s book on the creative city (2002) formulates its problem as one of “producing” a normal life (a “common world”) in part by making the city into an association that joins what he calls the “mainstream” and the “fringe.” His project understands quality, exemplarity, and individuality in very specific ways – quite differently, for example, from the way...

    • 4 Absence, “Removal,” and Everyday Life in the Diasporic City: Anti-Detention/Deportation Activism in Montreal
      (pp. 99-117)

      On Montreal’s Ste-Catherine Street in the winter of 2004, there was a spray-painted stencil on a block of concrete that read “Ramenez Cherfi” – “Bring back Cherfi.” Mohamed Cherfi is the Algerian-born Montreal resident who was dragged out of church sanctuary that March to be detained in the United States, his point of entry into Canada, while us authorities decided whether or not to send him back to Algeria. Cherfi had been ordered “removed” (deported), deemed unassimilable in Quebec – due in part to his involvement with Montreal-based activist group the Action Committee for Non-Status Algerians – and ineligible for refugee status in...

    • 5 The Spirit of Traffic: Navigating Faith in the City
      (pp. 118-137)

      Multiple popular religions and non-institutional spiritual practices exist side by side with the more formal architectural structures of the churches, mosques, temples, and synagogues of Montreal. Unlike the immutable facades of the buildings of institutional religions, “unofficial” religiosity often appears in a more ambulatory form. In the residential neighbourhoods of Montreal, as in many North American city centres, Jehovah’s Witnesses and immaculately suited Mormans, often from the United States, go door to door, negotiating language barriers and cultural difference in an effort to bring their faith, literally, to the home of the city dweller.

      These same city dwellers browse “white...

    • 6 The Ephemeral Stage at Lionel Groulx Station
      (pp. 138-154)
      Amanda Boetzkes

      Montreal’s subway was built in 1966, just in time for the city to accommodate the influx of tourists expected to attend Expo 67. To assume its status as an international city, Montreal constructed a massive public transportation system. The metro’s network, now sixty-four kilometres long, with four lines and sixty-five stations, joins the city’s main arteries to its more residential districts. Unlike those of many other cities, however, Montreal’s metro is entirely underground; travel from one destination to another involves a descent into the city’s subterranean passages. The intricate circuitry of pedestrian traffic within these passages is governed by the...

    • 7 Cities of Rhythm and Revolution
      (pp. 155-190)

      A revolution happens somewhere: in a city, a springtime revolt, the unexpected uprising, the insurgency of the city against its occupiers, whether military or monetary – these are all the classic forms. In the violence, boredom, and exhaustion of the 21C,¹ there are revolutions in product design, software, advertising, and taste, while the upheavals that remake the world are rarely granted the dubious privilege of ‘revolution.’ Despite its broad application, or rather, the attempt to render its force banal by subsuming it to the language of consumption, ‘the revolution’ nonetheless maintains an exclusive meaning when it comes to the remaking of...

    • 8 Spectacles of Waste
      (pp. 193-213)

      In her bookAtlas of Emotion: Journeys in Art, Architecture, and Film, Guliana Bruno points to various currents within contemporary cultural analysis that have converged to address what she calls the “shifting grounds of socio-cultural mobilities” (2002, 15). This convergence is an interdisciplinary development, extending beyond the boundaries of what John Urry has labelled a “mobile sociology” (2001, 186). Across the study of the visual arts, cinema, literature, architecture, and communications media, one finds a broadly shared concern with the experience of heightened movement and speed, and with the birth of this experience in the emergent modernity of the nineteenth...

    • 9 Places of Global Shape: The World of Consumption in Divided Berlin
      (pp. 214-239)

      In his early monographsLe système des objets(1968) andLa société de consommation(1970), Jean Baudrillard develops the powerful heuristic device of a “system of objects” to interpret the dynamics of consumer society.¹ Since he published these accounts, the consumption of goods in industrial, urban societies has become a prominent theme of scholarly work within a number of disciplines. Some monographs have focused on the department store of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries as emblematic of a “classical age” in the development of consumer culture.² The empirical dimensions of this work, however, lag behind its theoretical advances.³...

    • 10 Modern Heroics: The Flâneur in Adolfo Bioy Casares’s El sueño de los héroes
      (pp. 240-257)

      Theflâneurof Charles Baudelaire and Walter Benjamin – the idle urban walker of mid-nineteenth-century Parisian modernity, the male observer whose gaze deciphers the multiple impressions of the city – has been reconceived by Elisabeth Wilson as “invisible,” indeed “impotent.” In an influential work, Janet Wolff (1985) has contrasted the supposed power and visibility of thisflâneurto the invisibility of the unrecognized female urban dweller, the “invisibleflaneuse,” dwelling amidst the shadows and labyrinths of the city. For Wilson, however, the maleflâneurhimself exists within the Benjaminian labyrinth of the city, subject to an attenuation of his masculine power: “The...

    • 11 Temple Bar, Density and Circulation: The City as a Terrain of Many Voices
      (pp. 258-280)

      Simmel opens his essay “Metropolis and Mental Life”: “The deepest problems of modern life flow from the attempt of the individual to maintain the independence and individuality of his existence against the weight of historical heritage and the external culture and technique of life” (1971, 324). He concludes: “It is the function of the metropolis to make a place for the conflict and for the attempts at unification of both our “general human quality” and the struggle to maintain and develop our “qualitative uniqueness and irreplaceability.” The “peculiar conditions” of the modern metropolis, he says, are the “occasion and stimulus...

  7. Bibliography
    (pp. 281-302)
  8. Contributors
    (pp. 303-306)