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Paris-Amsterdam Underground

Paris-Amsterdam Underground: Essays on Cultural Resistance, Subversion, and Diversion

Christoph Lindner
Andrew Hussey
Copyright Date: 2013
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  • Book Info
    Paris-Amsterdam Underground
    Book Description:

    The postwar histories of Paris and Amsterdam have been significantly defined by the notion of the "underground" as both a material and metaphorical space. Examining the underground traffic between the two cities, this book interrogates the countercultural histories of Paris and Amsterdam in the mid to late-twentieth century. Shuttling between Paris and Amsterdam, as well as between postwar avant-gardism and twenty-first century global urbanism, this interdisciplinary book seeks to create a mirroring effect over the notion of the underground as a driving force in the making of the contemporary European city.

    eISBN: 978-90-485-1820-3
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. 1-4)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. 5-6)
  3. Acknowledgements
    (pp. 7-8)
    Christoph Lindner and Andrew Hussey
  4. Foreword
    (pp. 9-12)
    David Pinder

    In one of the many striking images in this book, a figure scrutinizes the earth through a giant magnifying glass. A painting by Jean Dubuffet, it is one of many that he composed from the mid-1940s that depict the ground and what lies beneath. Readers of the book are often invited similarly to look downward, to consider spaces that are literally under the ground of Paris and Amsterdam. Our attention is directed to what is under the paving stones, asphalt, and concrete on which so many people daily tread. What may be found there unseen, buried, sequestered, and forgotten? How...

  5. 1. Concepts and Practices of the Underground
    (pp. 13-20)
    Christoph Lindner and Andrew Hussey

    The post-war histories of Paris and Amsterdam have been significantly defined by and frequently encounter each other in the notion of the ‘underground’ as both a material and metaphorical space. The underground traffic between the two cities has most often occurred in avant-garde movements. For example, the CoBrA movement, although centered in Amsterdam, Brussels, and Copenhagen, also exerted a strong influence on the ParisianNouveaux Réalistesin the 1950s. Throughout the 1960s, the work and activities of the Situationists, Constant, and the Provos were an important part of the counterculture in both Paris and Amsterdam, often in parallel or simultaneous...

  6. Part 1: Projections

    • 2. Metromania or the Undersides of Painting
      (pp. 23-36)
      Sophie Berrebi

      Overhead driveways and their sprawling, spaghetti-like networks have come to exemplify in the collective visual imagination the archetypal motif of late capitalist urban dystopia. The underground railway system, by contrast, speaks of an earlier modernity, one that was born in the industrial age, and developed in the early-twentieth century, producing in that course the now classic dialectic of alienation and progress analyzed by Georg Simmel (1998).

      Stepping down into the Parisian metro in the mid-1940s to paint its commuters, the French artist Jean Dubuffet (1901-1985) seemingly avoided those themes. Neither was he much concerned, in the sinister years of the...

    • 3. Mapping Utopia: Debord and Constant between Amsterdam and Paris
      (pp. 37-48)
      Andrew Hussey

      Halfway down Spuistraat, one of the main arteries of central Amsterdam, at number 216, there is a relic of the recent radical past of the city, now fading fast from memory into history. This is the Squat Vrankrijk, one of the most iconic of the remaining squats in the city left over from the squatting boom and police confrontations of the 1980s. The busy cultural life of the Squat Vrankrijk these days is for the most part the fairly standard amalgam of hip-hop, anarchism, and skate punk. The graffiti on the exterior facades tells, however, a different, older story.


    • 4. Amsterdamʹs Sexual Underground in the 1960s
      (pp. 49-62)
      Gert Hekma

      Amsterdam witnessed a radical shock in the late 1960s when it changed from a rather sleepy provincial town into a vibrant city that became one of the main centers of the occidental sexual revolution. The Netherlands had been one of the more conservative countries of Western Europe where Christian parties set norms and laws, and it suddenly developed a worldwide reputation for being among the most free and tolerant. In Amsterdam in the 1950s, a sexual underworld served local people and, as a harbor city, sailors and other foreign visitors, including American soldiers on leave from occupied Germany. Jacques Brel...

  7. Part 2: Mobility

    • 5. Detours, Delays, Derailments: La Petite Jérusalem and Slow Training in Culture
      (pp. 65-76)
      Sudeep Dasgupta

      In his essay ‘Travelling Cultures’, James Clifford emphasized the mobility of cultures in opposition to the anthropological tendency to localize and fix its location. Critiquing the tendency in ethnography to ‘privilege relations of dwelling over relations of travel’ (99), Clifford rightly problematizes oversimplified localizations of culture, yet his casting of culture as travel risks moving too fast in the opposite direction. The essay opens with a quote from C.L.R. James: ‘it’s not … where you are or what you have, but where you come from, where you are going and the rate at which you are getting there’ (qtd. in...

    • 6. Underground Visions: Strategies of Resistance along the Amsterdam Metro Lines
      (pp. 77-96)
      Ginette Verstraete

      The association between Amsterdam and the underground is rather ambiguous to say the least. On the one hand, the Netherlands, and Amsterdam in particular, are proud to present themselves as hospitable vis-à-vis alternative ‘underground’ cultures – a legacy from the 1960s and 1970s when feminist, gay, hippy, student, and squat movements were dominating the social and cultural scenes. The global tourist reputation of Amsterdam as the capital of sex, drugs, and rock ’n’ roll has largely been built on the legacy of a 1960s underground culture that was leftist and avant-garde.

      At the same time, however, the other notion of...

    • 7. Underground Circulation: The Beats in Paris and Beyond
      (pp. 97-112)
      Allen Hibbard

      Upon my return to the United States from Amsterdam in November 2010, after the first of two symposia on the ‘Paris-Amsterdam Underground’, I found myself once again, as so many times before, winding through customs and passport control lines. In one line, trained dogs, obviously in the employ of the state, though without badges or uniforms, sniffed around arriving passengers’ feet and luggage. One of the dogs circled the passenger in front of me – a young man in his early thirties, it seemed, dressed in T-shirt and jeans. The pace of the dog’s sniffing increased, and the young man’s...

  8. Part 3: Visibility

    • 8. (In)audible Frequencies: Sounding out the Contemporary Branded City
      (pp. 115-132)
      Carolyn Birdsall

      The notion of the urbanunderground– in contrast to earlier associations with political and countercultural movements – has gained currency in an era of intensified city-marketing and cultural entrepreneurship. With this development, subcultural artforms and arts festivals are often deployed to hype and generate cultural capital for the city. This commodification of the underground is accelerated by contemporary trendspotting and cool hunting, whether in informal networks and social media, or by the marketing and advertising industries.

      In the contemporary ‘conquest of cool’ (Frank), one of the artistic forms that has received undue attention and reproduction is that of graffiti...

    • 9. Red Lights and Legitimate Trade: Paying for Sex in the Branded City
      (pp. 133-146)
      Joyce Goggin

      As the articles in this volume all in some way argue, the ‘underground’ is an ambiguous concept. On the surface, the word itself has a number of meanings and can refer to location, as in ‘the Paris metro’ or catacombs; to sketchy and sometimes illegal practices, such as drug dealing and prostitution; or to the avant-garde, as in ‘The Velvet Underground’. And the ‘underground’ can move in and out of its marginalized position over time and under various conditions. For example, as an expression of the avant-garde, the underground can cross over into the mainstream, and underground activities like prostitution...

    • 10. Visibly Underground: When Clandestine Workers Take the Law into Their Own Hands
      (pp. 147-158)
      Anna-Louise Milne

      The underground I am interested in is not a space sought out or cultivated in opposition to the law. Rather it is a situation of clandestinity either generatedbyor in some sensedespitethe law. Yet this does not mean to say that this underground is devoid of any political charge. On the contrary – although it is frequently the case that this zone ofnon-droitis framed as ahumandisaster, rather than as an issue of both political and ontological consequence. The humanitarian frame for much discussion of illegal migration around the world reflects the fact that...

    • 11. Archaeology of the Parisian Underground
      (pp. 159-170)
      Stephen W. Sawyer

      In his bookLaboratory Life, Bruno Latour asks how it is possible to build a ‘bridge’ between the sciences and social experience. He then writes:

      The word ‘bridge’ is not quite right … the social world cannot exist on one side and the scientific world on the other because the scientific realm is merely the end result of many other operations that are in the social realm. (13)

      When applied to our contemporary urban experience in general and theundergroundin particular, Latour’s claim suggests that a certain self-consciousness may be necessary to apprehend key aspects of contemporary urban life...

  9. Bibliography
    (pp. 171-182)
  10. Illustrations
    (pp. 183-184)
  11. Contributors
    (pp. 185-188)
  12. Index
    (pp. 189-196)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 197-197)