New York City and Italy have a great deal in common, starting and ending with self-destructive electorates; voters who are intent on putting into office people who, in one way or another, hold them in contempt. In both electoral democracies, We The People are generally too ignorant and self-absorbed to notice that the pain we feel is self-inflicted. How does this happen? Again and again….This is the second of a two-part series at I-Italy.org. The first was on the last Italian parliamentary elections and this is about the incredibly embarrassing buildup to the the mayoral election in the fall.
The photo archive will be offline for a while on Friday as we are upgrading the server software. Everything should be up and running by Saturday morning.
This is my take on the Italian National Elections taking place as I type. It might be instructive for the forthcoming mayoral elections in New York City. Political Suicide in New York City and Italy: Part I - Italy
New York City and Italy have a great deal in common, starting and ending with self-destructive electorates; voters who are intent on putting into office people who, in one way or another, hold them in contempt. In both democracies, The People are generally too ignorant and self-absorbed to notice that the pain they feel is self-inflicted. How does this happen?
Since Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado in April 29, 1999, a seemingly endless stream of senseless mass murders have taken place across our nation with only one thing in common —- the use of the National Rifle Association’s Weapons of Mass Destruction.
A real Patriotic Act would end the deluge of target practice in which America kills its own people.
I’ve been trying my darndest to come up with a simple metaphor to explain why President Barack (Hussein) Obama should be re-elected and thereby save our country from being cut up into little pieces and sold off to the People’s Republic of China by one or another vulture-like hedge fund like Mitt’s Bain Capital…. The simple facts of the matter are that the Republicans started the fire and when Obama tried to put it out they not only tried to cut off the water supply, they also poured gasoline on the flames. Now that the fire is almost under control, but still smoldering, the arsonists are blaming him for not doing enough to put it out. For the whole essay click here.
“See Naples and Die” is a cryptically ominous, aphorism attributed to Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe he is said to have uttered about the magnificent opulence of Naples in the late 18th century. I can only guess that had Goethe lived long enough to visit Naples, Florida for the Republican National Convention he would have made a similarly cryptic comment about the political fortunes of Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan. If he had watched the first decidely unPresidential debate with Jim Lehrer at the helm in Denver, Colorado he might have thought Jim had taken his cryptic advice literally.
In any case, this piece is merely a nonpartisan (a)musing over my recent week-long trip to Naples. I went there with my wife Suzanne in order to participate in the Commission on Urban Anthropology’s International Conference on “Entrepreneurial Culture, Corporate Responsibility and Urban Development,” that took place at the Mostra d’Oltremare in Fuorigrotta. Click here for the link for the visually enhanced essay on I-Italy.org.
Here’s the link to my recent missive about a small collection of conservative American Roman Catholic Bishops who are making it difficult for nuns and other Catholic women to do the work they have been called to do. The disarray in the Vatican is another, related, example of how things go wrong when women are left out of the picture, not to mention the hierarchy.
Photographs from the May Day march in New York City. I was part of the PSC contingent.
I just added photos to a new album in the gallery of images from my recent photo survey of London’s Chinatown, part of an ongoing research project, “Drifting in Chinatowns.”
The World in Brooklyn: Gentrification, Immigration, and Ethnic Politics in a Global City, is a collection of scholarly papers which analyze demographic, social, political, and economic trends that are occurring in Brooklyn. Brooklyn, as the context, reflects global forces while also contributing to them. The idea for this volume developed as the editors discovered a group of scholars from different disciplines and various universities studying Brooklyn. Brooklyn has always been legendary and has more recently regained its stature as a much sought after place to live, work and have fun. Popular folklore has it that most U.S. residents trace their family origins to Brooklyn. It is presently referred to as one of the “hippest” places in New York. Thus, this book is a collection of demographic, ethnographic, and comparative studies which focus on urban dynamics in Brooklyn. The chapters investigate issues of social class, urban development, immigration, race, ethnicity and politics within the context of Brooklyn.
As a whole, this book considers both theoretical and practical urban issues. In most cases the scholarly perspective is on everyday life. With this in mind there are also social justice concerns. Issues of social segregation and attendant homogenization are brought to light. Moreover, social class and race advantages or disadvantages, as part of urban processes, are underscored through critiques of local policy decisions throughout the chapters. A common thread is the assertion by contributors that planning the future of Brooklyn needs to include multi-ethnic, racial, and economic groups, those very residents who make-up Brooklyn.
We at BrooklynSoc have been very busy. My new book Seeing Cities Change is out. Here’s the blurb: Cities have always been dynamic social environments for visual and otherwise symbolic competition between the groups who live and work within them. In contemporary urban areas, all sorts of diversity are simultaneously increased and concentrated, chief amongst them in recent years being the ethnic and racial transformation produced by migration and the gentrification of once socially marginal areas of the city.
Seeing Cities Change demonstrates the utility of a visual approach and the study of ordinary streetscapes to document and analyse how the built environment reflects the changing cultural and class identities of neighborhood residents. Discussing the manner in which these changes relate to issues of local and national identities and multiculturalism, it presents studies of various cities on both sides of the Atlantic to show how global forces and the competition between urban residents in ‘contested terrains’ is changing the faces of cities around the globe.
Blending together a variety of sources from scholarly and mass media, this engaging volume focuses on the importance of ‘seeing’ and, in its consideration of questions of migration, ethnicity, diversity, community, identity, class and culture, will appeal to sociologists, anthropologists and geographers with interests in visual methods and urban spaces. I have discussed some of the “Italian and Italian-American bits on my I-Italy.org Traces blog.
Walking in the City: Quotidian Mobility and Ethnographic Method
Edited by Timothy Shortell, Ph.D., and Evrick Brown, Ph.D.
Department of Sociology, Brooklyn College CUNY
Local politicians, protesters, busy commuters, tourists, flâneurs, urban ethnographers. These social actors and many more work the city streets as an essential part of their quotidian routines. Everyday mobility on the streets and public spaces of urban neighborhoods is such an ubiquitous part of urban life and culture that it is often overlooked. Though sociologists have long noted that dynamism is an essential part of the urban way of life, walking as a significant social activity and crucial research method has not received the scholarly attention it deserves. This volume will consider walking in the city from a variety of perspectives, in a variety of places, with a variety of methods. Contributors will address the nature of quotidian mobility in contemporary global cities, how it relates to other significant social institutions and practices, as well as a method for studying urban life.
Among the questions this volume seeks to address:
- What does walking reveal about the spatial distribution of urban cultural activities?
- How does quotidian mobility reinforce and challenge stratification and segregation?
- How does walking as an everyday practice relate to more spectacular forms of walking, such as protest marches, which have lately occupied urban spaces?
- What does walking reveal about normative forms of social interaction in urban public space?
- Are there distinctive social types that occupy public space in contemporary cities through walking? If so, what are they and what is their significance?
- What is the relationship between quotidian mobility and power?
- How is urban walking a gendered or racialized activity?
- How does quotidian mobility relate to global population flows?
- How is quotidian mobility being incorporated in the New Urbanism model of city planners and what does it reveal concerning the politics of space? How is visual design conceptualized in this method to foster pedestrian friendly environments?
- How do individuals in ethnically diverse pedestrian friendly cities negotiate the stranger phenomenon in public space in comparison to those characterized by motorized urban sprawl?
- What is the role of walking in urban research methods?
- What can theorizing about quotidian mobility contribute to contemporary urban theory?
The editors seek chapters of 8,000-10,000 words addressing questions such as these. We welcome contributions from a variety of social science disciplines, theoretical perspectives, methodological approaches, and focuses on a variety of urban locations.
Send abstracts (200-400 words) to email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org by April 1, 2012.
To try to make meaning out of 9/11, every year since 2001 I have retraced my steps to re-photograph how my neighbors displayed their feelings about the tragedy. As time has passed it has become clearer to me what can and can’t be seen in the gentrified landscapes of Park Slope, Brooklyn. I am grateful that the pain we all felt then has, visibly at least, slowly faded away. Here is the link to my visually enhanced blog at i-italy.org
Last week I was asked to sign an online petition in support of demonstrations against Mubarak in Cairo. So, I wrote this message and sent it to some friends. “I am sitting here at my computer listening to coverage of the “million people” demonstration in Cairo and have to painfully remind myself that we have heard so much loud racist nonsense in recent years about how Arabic, Moslem and other non-European cultures and religions abhor democracy that the brave demands of our sisters and brothers in Tunisia and Egypt must come as a shock to so many in the west. of course I will sign the petition for those activists in Egypt, but let’s redouble our efforts as educators to show our students that the longing for and the possibility of democracy are not culturally and racially bound.”
Yesterday I asked Insha’Allah that Mubarak would leave. Today he said yes. Today I ask Insha’Allah that he stays away.
I received an important message from Peter Dreier, which I have pasted below.
Dear Friends and Colleagues,
For several years, Glenn Beck has been spewing hateful lies about Frances Fox Piven, the distinguished political scientist and sociologist, on his TV and radio shows. He views Piven (along with her late husband, sociologist Richard Cloward) as the architects of a socialist conspiracy to destroy America, and claims that President Obama is a follower of Piven and Cloward’s strategy. Although Beck’s views are lunacy, his followers believe him. In recent months, Beck has escalated the rhetoric against Piven, which has led to a growing chorus of death threats against her, as I explain in my article today on the Huffington Post website: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/peter-dreier/glenn-becks-attacks-on-fr_b_812690.html.
It is time to challenge the right-wing forces like Fox News and the Tea Party, the Darrell Issa wing of the Republican Party, and the billionaires like the Koch brothers who are funding them. To learn more, and find out how, read on…
In the wake of the Tucson massacre, Beck’s rants must be taken seriously. On Thursday, the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), a public interest law firm, issued a written appeal to Beck’s boss — Fox News chairman Roger Ailes — to put a stop to the increasing threats against Piven incited by Beck tirades. The letter, asked Ailes to distinguish between First Amendment rights, of which they are “vigorous defenders” and an “intentional repetition of provocative, incendiary, emotional misinformation and falsehoods [that place that Piven] in actual physical danger of a violent response.”
Beck’s influence is frightening, not because he has a large audience, but because he is able to incite his relatively small niche audience to action. Beck’s influence may eventually implode, similar to what happened to his fictional predecessor, Lonesome Rhodes, a charismatic con man in the amazing 1957 film “A Face in the Crowd,” whose hubris led to his downfall. This may already have started happening with Beck. Two years ago, a group called Color of Change organized a campaign to pressure advertisers to drop their sponsorship of Beck’s show. It had some success, as described in this article (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/advertisers-deserting-fox-news-glenn-beck-2009-08-14), but not enough to force Fox News to take Beck off the air. Earlier this month, however, WOR (710 AM), one of New York City’s two biggest talk radio stations, dropped Beck’s syndicated show.
But as of now, Beck remains the most influential cheerleader of America’s right-wing movement, having replaced Rush Limbaugh for the top spot.
Fox News is part of a network of conservative bloggers, publications, columnists, think tanks, and activists like the Tea Party that have gained enormous influence within the Republican Party. Knowing this, big business lobby groups have forged an unholy alliance with these right-wing forces. Corporate lobby groups may not share the same views as Beck and the Tea Party, but they recognize the strategic importance of these right-wingers. Business provides campaign contributions to conservative candidates and the Tea Party and its ilk provide the ground troops to help them get elected.
These conservative forces have taken over the leadership of the Republican Party. And they and their business allies have a very clear agenda. It is to dismantle government policies that require corporations and banks to be socially responsible, including protections for consumers, workers, families, and the environment. They also want to slash the social safety net, including Social Security, Medicare, financial aid for college students, and aid to the poor. They want to reduce taxes on the rich (but retain subsidies for corporations, particularly military contractors). They want to destroy unions, environmental groups, and other components of the progressive movement.
And they have a plan. It is now obvious that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and its Republican allies in Congress are using the accusation “job killer” the way Sen. Joseph McCarthy used the word “Communist” to stigmatize any organization and policy they disagree with. For example, the Republicans titled their effort to overturn the law the “Repealing the Job-Killing Health Care Law Act.
As my Cry Wolf Project colleague Donald Cohen and I documented in an article in Huffington Post two weeks ago, the “job killer” claim is hardly new. Business groups have been using it for over a century – whether the issue was food safety, seat belts, the minimum wage, the Clean Air Act, workplace safety laws, or any other liberal/progressive initiatives. As we reported, newly emboldened as chair of the House’s key investigative committee, Congressman Darrell Issa, a right-wing California Republican, recently sent letters to more than 150 business lobby groups, asking them to identify government rules that they want eliminated. (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/donald-cohen/with-new-congress-crony-c_b_805003.html). And as Ryan Lizza reveals in an article in the current issue of the New Yorker, Issa’s goal – like that of Senator Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Fox News, and others – is to destroy Obama’s presidency and, with it, the agenda and self-confidence of liberals and progressives. (http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2011/01/24/110124fa_fact_lizza)
In a brilliant column in the Washington Post two weeks ago, Steven Pearlstein exposed the corporate “job killer” mantra for the lie that it is. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2011/01/06/AR2011010605889.html
Donald Cohen’s new Huffington Post column, “Another Job Killer Lie Exposed,” also shows how business “cried wolf” about impending economic disaster during the 2002 debate over California’s landmark Paid Family Leave Law. (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/donald-cohen/another-job-killer-lie-ex_b_812203.html). In a newly-released study, , authors Ruth Milkman, a sociology professor at City University of New York, and Eileen Applebaum, an economist at the Center on Economic Policy Research, found that the California law has not turned out to be the costly “job killer” that big business warned about. To the contrary, the Paid Family Leave law has actually helped employers and produced significant economic, social and health benefits for both male and female workers. http://www.cepr.net/index.php/publications/reports/leaves-that-pay
So long as they think they can get away with it, corporate lobby groups and their Republican friends will continue to demonize any government policy they dislike as a “job killer.” The political climate is so rancid that even President Obama felt compelled to join the “job killer” chorus. In a column in the Wall Street Journal last week, Obama announced plans to “remove outdated regulations that stifle job creation and make our economy less competitive. …”
There is more than a semantic resemblance between the death threats targeted to Frances Fox Piven by Glenn Beck’s followers and the “job killer” mantra espoused by big business, the Republican leaders, the Tea Partiers, and the right-wing echo chamber led by Beck. They want to destroy liberal and progressive ideas and undermine the credibility and reputations (and in some cases, the livelihoods) of the people who espouse them.
I have no doubt that the CEOs of most major Fortune 500 corporations disagree with most of what Glenn Beck and the Tea Party believe. But they are convenient allies, or what some call “strange bedfellows.”
That said, some of the wealthiest Americans share the views of the right-wing lunatic fringe. The most prominent of this group are the Koch brothers, oil industry billionaires who are the largest funders of the Tea Party, the right-wing Cato Institute, and other key parts of the extremist movement. Last August, Jane Mayer wrote a brilliant expose of the Koch brothers in The New Yorker magazine. (http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2010/08/30/100830fa_fact_mayer).
Next week, on January 30, the Koch brothers have invited a group of billionaires and millionaires who support the Tea Party and right-wing Republicans to a behind-closed-doors meeting at the Rancho Las Palmas Resort in Rancho Mirage (close to Palm Springs) to plot their strategy for the 2012 elections. Here’s is Think Progress’ background research on the political influence of this shadowing group of billionaires: http://thinkprogress.org/2010/10/20/beck-koch-chamber-meeting/
The New York Times ran a story in October about this meeting under the headline: “Secretive Republican Donors Are Planning Ahead.” http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/20/us/politics/20koch.html. Here’s the story’s opening paragraph:
A secretive network of Republican donors is heading to the Palm Springs area for a long weekend in January, but it will not be to relax after a hard-fought election — it will be to plan for the next one. Koch Industries, an energy and manufacturing conglomerate run by the billionaire brothers Charles, left, and David Koch operates a foundation that finances political advocacy groups, but is protected from having to disclose much about what they do. Koch Industries, the longtime underwriter of libertarian causes from the Cato Institute in Washington to the ballot initiative that would suspend California’s landmark law capping greenhouse gases, is planning a confidential meeting at the Rancho Las Palmas Resort and Spa to, as an invitation says, “develop strategies to counter the most severe threats facing our free society and outline a vision of how we can foster a renewal of American free enterprise and prosperity.”
Fran Piven and many other activists believe that liberals and progressives should be in the streets protesting the right-wing Tea Party and the rest of the extremist conservative movement. So here is one opportunity to do this. A coalition of progressive/liberal groups – led by the Courage Campaign, Common Cause, HCAN (Health Care for America Now, the labor/consumer/liberal coalition that led the fight for health care reform), unions, community organizing groups, and others – is planning a protest action at the Koch brothers meeting. It will take place from 1-4 pm on Sunday, January 30. Buses will be leaving from all over Southern California. More information about the event and the bus locations can be found at www.commoncause.org/Kochbuses and at http://www.calaborfed.org/index.php/site/event/809 The rally location is 41-000 Bob Hope Drive, Rancho Mirage, CA 92270.
E.P. Clapp Distinguished Professor of Politics
Chair, Urban & Environmental Policy Department
1600 Campus Road
Los Angeles, CA 90041
Phone: (323) 259-2913
I am beginning to get tired of hearing about the incompetence of the American Diplomatic Corps and US Intelligence Agencies as it seems to me that I have already heard (and written) enough unflattering comments about them, as well as of Silvio Berlusconi, so I ask “What’s the real meaning of all this WikiLeaks blather?” Perhaps it is an attempt by the BIG media to keep us from noticing that the world, about which they are supposed to be reporting, seems to be coming to an end. But then again, we heard that before beginning with “The Book of Revelation.” To read the rest of my most recent “Traces” post on I-Italy.org go to WikiLeaks Revelation: the More Italy Changes… You Can Guess the Rest at: http://www.i-italy.org/bloggers/16225/wikileaks-revelation-more-italy-changes-you-can-guess-rest
As I do every time I am “away” at a conference, I walk with my camera to see what the locality offers in the way of interesting people and places. Having the opportunity to revisit Atlanta during the ASA meeting in August and participate in the creation of our new ASA Human Rights Section I strolled from the meeting venue in not so beautiful downtown Atlanta over to “Sweet Auburn”. Sweet Auburn was for decades the vibrant center of Atlanta’s distinguished African American community. Most people know it as the birthplace and home of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. who, in my humble opinion, was the leading exponent in the 20th Century of “human” rights for all Americans. The term used for “human” rights in the USA was “civil” rights to falsely separate the ills of American society from those suffered in the rest of the world.
Atlanta is the “home” of the Martin Luther King National Historic Site that among other things features his birthplace, The MLK Visitor Center, Ebeneezer Baptist Church, and the MLK Peace Center.
Unfortunately, most of the vibrant community of people that surrounded Dr. King is gone. There are some indications of some building preservation but a “home” is a place filled with people, not merely an assembly of construction materials.
On the way there, early in the morning, I passed by many people who looked as though they were in need in various ways. The downtown parks and public spaces were almost filled with folks. I was following a tourist map but needed more direction so I asked several people for help. When I got to Auburn Avenue, the commercial heart of the historic Black community, I was fumbling with the map and my camera when a fellow came over to me and offered to give me tour of “his” neighborhood and pointed out all the important places, including where “Martin” used to go for ribs.
We walked for a while as he recounted how the neighborhood used to be. At the end of his tour, in appreciation for his expertise and efforts, I offered him a few dollars which he politely accepted. I note that he did not ask for anything but was happy for the payment for his expert services rendered. I asked him where he lived and he said “around here.” I continued on my way and discovered an area that was undergoing intensive gentrification which gave me a another clue, besides the many vacant lots, as to why there was no longer much room for him in his own neighborhood. Below is a photo of Dannemann’s Cafe which was featured in an upscale city magazine as a proud example of how new people were “taking over” the Fourth Ward.
On my way back to the hotel walking on a different route, he called from across the street holding up a bag of groceries. He then walked down to the interstate highway underpass near where I had taken the photo below. It reminded me once again that all over the world most of the people we call “homeless” once had homes that were taken away from them. It also demonstrates the power of people to create new homes out of virtually nothing and, despite adversity, to maintain their dignity by showing visitors like me around what is left of “their” community.
According to Patricia Cohen recently in her front page The New York Times article, the ‘Culture of Poverty’ is making a “Comeback” complaining that “For more than 40 years, social scientists investigating the causes of poverty have tended to treat cultural explanations like Lord Voldemort: That Which Must Not Be Named.” As partial explanation for shy social science she offered that: “The reticence was a legacy of the ugly battles that erupted after Daniel Patrick Moynihan, then an assistant labor secretary in the Johnson administration, introduced the idea of a “culture of poverty” to the public in a startling 1965 report. Although Moynihan didn’t coin the phrase (that distinction belongs to the anthropologist Oscar Lewis, his description of the urban black family as caught in an inescapable “tangle of pathology” of unmarried mothers and welfare dependency was seen as attributing self-perpetuating moral deficiencies to black people, as if blaming them for their own misfortune”
On one of what The Times might characterize as a left-leaning website discussion there was a call to arms to devise a “disciplined” counter to this perceived right-leaning more and less-informed, but nevertheless intentionally provocative commentary. After all The Times actually tries to be “fair and balanced” as opposed to other organs for which the claim is sufficient.
Frankly speaking, I don’t think a ‘disciplined’ response is the only thing that is needed from us. I am concerned just as much now, as I was then, when Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s purposely misunderstood work ‘The Moynihan Report’ was first published (1965). I justifiably feared that it would be used (as it was) for (neo-conservative) political purposes. My sense is that its re-emergence at this moment in time is related to the well-financed media trend toward ignoring the causes of poverty in America and re-blaming its victims. The current depression in America (perhaps world-wide) was caused by the greed of global financial institutions and yet it is the less affluent public that will suffer the consequences. As it was in the past depressions, one major aspect of this offensive defensive strategy is to create scapegoats such as the (remember the term) “undeserving poor”?
Right now the newspapers (mass media in general), including the allegedly liberal The New York Times, is filled with more and less reasoned attacks on decently paid public and private workers, hard-earned pensions and health care benefits, and well-funded public education, and just about anything else that hints of the dreaded “socialism” which lurks behind the curtain of left-leaning elected officials… beginning with Obama. The current juggernaut of moneyed interests funding rabid political candidates and campaign ads in vulnerable democratic legislative districts is another part of the strategy.
The long-term strategy of the Right was to create large deficits in order to argue that government (except for invading countries with important oil fields) was too large and too costly. One trap almost everyone fell prey to was tax reductions which created enormous wealth for those at the top and pin and pocket money for the rest of us. One odd case in point is the fact that until a few years ago New York State and New York City were giving tax rebates as the economy was tanking.
Sorry for the ramble, but we sociologists never ignored the power of culture as it is, after all, the flip side of social structure but we also didn’t fall for easy answers to difficult problems.
I should mention at the same time that the mass media is rediscovering culture, the modern structuralist par excellence, Claude Levi-Strauss, is also back in vogue — just in time for the demise of post-modernism as well as post-structuralism. Go figure.
For the 2010 annual conference of the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion, in Baltimore.
As noted by Krase and Hum (2007), visual sociology of changing urban neighborhoods is not merely an aesthetic exercise of finding images to illustrate sociological concepts. Rather, it is an increasingly important way to investigate social change. Cities on every continent have been deluged by the rapid influx of large numbers of people and products from cultures different from native-born residents. Because of globalization, “cultural strangers” share common environments. Although these “strangers” frequently live within the same large-scale political boundaries, the real test of community takes place during the course of everyday life on the streets, in the shops, and public spaces of neighborhoods. At present, examination of the visual semiotics of difference is especially important as American and European cultures interact with Islamic cultures. Visual representations of Islam are common in the US and EU; these are generally negative and often derogatory, as a quick Google image search reveals. Using a spatial semiotic analysis, we investigate how the presence of expressive and phatic signs of recent Muslim inhabitants change the meaning of vernacular neighborhoods in global cities. Visual data from urban neighborhoods in the US and Europe will be presented as examples of different functions of semiotic markers, and exemplars of the data we collect using a neighborhood photographic survey technique. We discuss how these different functions interact with local policy to create interpretive landscapes which can lead to dramatically different outcomes in terms of social conflict.
Krase, Jerome and Tarry Hum. 2007.“Ethnic Crossroads: Toward a Theory of Immigrant Global Neighborhoods,” Pp 97-119 in Ethnic Landscapes in an Urban World, edited by Ray Hutchinson and Jerome Krase. Elsevier/JAI Press.
For the 3rd ESA Sciology of Culture RN Mid-term Conference in Milan, Italy.
Although urban communities in global cities appear quite different, particularly at first glance, spatial semiotic analysis reveals similarities in ‘glocalized’ spaces. People change the meaning of social spaces by changing the way these places look, through their activities and by their presence. Understanding how this meaning-making happens is critical to the study of urban places and cultures. Because of globalization, diverse people frequently live within the same political boundaries, but the real test of community takes place during the course of everyday life on the streets, in the shops, and in public spaces of neighborhoods. Class, racial, and ethnic hierarchies mark urban space with differential meanings. Though disadvantaged in conflicts with elites, ordinary urban dwellers express their agency in the ways they challenge and sometimes subvert the ‘official’ uses of social space. This entails, in part, remaking the space to look familiar in order to make the space their own place. Through their social interactions and their material traces, urban dwellers fill social space with expressive, conative and phatic signs of their collective identity. The spatial semiotic perspective, we argue, offers a way to transcend the usual global/local dichotomy of globalization research. Immigrant urban cultures produce spaces of mixture, where both similarity and difference co-exist. We present data from urban neighborhood communities in US and European cities. Our spatial semiotic analysis reveals how micro-segregation and group interactions produce urban culture, constrained by and challenging existing power arrangements, at the beginning of the twenty-first century.
Timothy Shortell and Jerome Krase, Department of Sociology, Brooklyn College CUNY, USA.
Photo: Banner for the Manchester Art Gallery, 2009. By Timothy Shortell.
For the 2010 IUAES Inter-Congress in Antalya, Turkey.
This paper employs a visual sociological approach to better connect the ordinary practices of the people who live, shop, or simply travel along a commercial thoroughfare, Coney island Avenue, in Brooklyn, New York to the often too abstract theories of globalization and multiculturalism that purport to explain what it is they are doing. Toward this end, the author offers demographic data, urban journalism, and a small sample of 16 photographs selected from 550 taken with a digital camera while riding the B 68 bus along Coney Island Avenue as a re-presentation of a quotidian multicultural panorama. It concludes with a selective review of some pertinent theories about diversity in urban life. As a result of the global circulation of people and cultures, urban neighborhoods in global cities are increasingly diverse. In the social spaces of these neighborhoods, cultural strangers must negotiate the various forms of quotidian interaction. Simmel famously noted the importance of ‘visual impressions’ in making sense of the urban environment. Using spatial semiotics,one can investigate the ways in which urban spaces are both the context of and product of ethnic and class transformations. Starting with a phenomenological insight, that people change the meaning of social spaces by changing how the spaces look, one can develop an interpretation of visual markers that reveal the visual basis of multicultural, multiethnic neighborhoods.
Jerome Krase and Timothy Shortell, Brooklyn College CUNY, USA
Photo: Mosque in Cape Town, 2000. By Jerome Krase.
I’ve just added another paper to our What’s New? page:
* T. Shortell and J. Krase. 2010. On the Visual Semiotics of Collective Identity in Urban Vernacular Spaces. Paper presented at the XVII ISA World Congress of Sociology, Gothenburg, Sweden.
We’ve got a couple of new presentations coming up, one in Turkey and the other in Milan. I’ll post those after the respective conferences.
Photo: ‘Democracy in Iran’ protest in Piccadilly Gardens, Manchester, 2009. By Timothy Shortell.
Photo: Court Street, Brooklyn, 2003. By Jerome Krase.
This site is for public scholarly discussion of urban communities and culture, semiotics, and visual sociology.
Our photo archive contains collections from urban neighborhoods in many global cities. Check out the albums for Little Italies, Chinatowns, and neighborhoods in global cities by following the links in the right margin. We are adding new photographs regularly. If you have a collection of photos from a city not in the gallery and would like to contribute, please contact us.
We have a collection of learning modules available also. If you teach sociology, take a look to see what we offer. If you have additional materials you would like to share, please contact us.
We also maintain an archive of scholarly works on urban communities, urban semiotics, and visual sociology. In the right margin, you will also see links to some of our special exhibits.
Questions? Email us at <webmaster AT brooklynsoc DOT org>.