Collections of Publications affiliated with Global Urban Humanities and Future Histories Lab.
Embodying the Periphery is an interdisciplinary publication sponsored by the Global Urban Humanities Initiatives at the University of California Berkeley.
This book combines approaches from the design disciplines, humanities, and social sciences to foster interdisciplinary engagement across geographies around the identities embodied in and of peripheries. Peripheral communities bear human faces and names, necessitating specific modes of inquiry and commitments that prioritize lived human experience and cultural expression. Hence, the peripheries of this book are a question, not a given, the answers to which are contingent forms assembled around embodied identities. Peripheries are urban fringes, periphery countries in the modern world-system, Indigenous lands, occupied territories, or the peripheries of authoritative knowledge, among others.
Many current paradigms of world literature, aligned to world-systems theory or Casanova’s “world republic of letters,” assume a diffusionist model of literature that situates the origins of literary modernity in the West. This model has found particular favour in the privileged case of the novel, but how do things stand with other genres? This essay examines the physiology, a popular quasi-journalistic genre dedicated to the taxonomic description of mores, customs and social types. Popularly associated with the figure of the urban flaneur and subsequently critiqued by Walter Benjamin, the physiology peaked under the July Monarchy in France and gained unprecedented success in Russian letters where it served to generate the basis of a non-bourgeois public sphere, after which it was also adapted to the circumstances of Russia’s own imperial borderlands. This paper outlines the essential contours of the physiology as it arose in France, in terms of its internal poetics as well as its social currency, and compare its French life with its Russian metropolitan counterpart, where it was transformed from a paraliterary genre to one that would occupy the centre of the Russian literary life in the transition from romanticism to realism. Its subsequent life in the Caucasus region reveals the rise of a colonial urban aesthetics of the picturesque. Does this story confirm or confound the diffusionist model? The essay’s external trajectory confirms the European origins of the genre and its subsequent circulation throughout the Russian empire, from metropole to periphery. A discussion of genre, however, requires more than an account of its its immanent structural features or its subordination to a singular external socio-spatial logic. The social life of circulating genres points to their divergent role in different literary systems, and to the distinct formal and ideological solutions they propose within regional or local contexts. It would appear, then, that the diffusionist model is pertinent to the movement of some hegemonic genres in the modern era, but that the centre/periphery model needs to be complemented by greater attention to the trans/regional and the local as defining levels of geographic scale in the realm of cultural production. Only a trans-scalar analysis, moving between multiple spatial levels, allows us to honour what humanists celebrate as cultural specificity without sacrificing the global perspective offered by world-systems theory.
Looking to Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems (GIAHS) sites and traditional ecological knowledge-based infrastructures (Lo–TEK), we find nature-based systems that symbiotically work with the environment. This article suggests that by hybridizing Lo–TEK with high-tech systems, the GIAHS sites could offer designers a toolkit towards economically, ecologically, culturally, and technologically innovative systems that can improve productivity and resilience. Whereas urban development results in the erasure of history, identity, culture and nature, this idea explores how urbanization can be an agent for the migration and reapplication of agricultural heritage systems, rather than their greatest threat. Cities can leap-frog the typical Western model of displacing indigenous diversity for homogenous high-tech. Instead, catalyzing localized, agricultural heritage landscapes like those designated as globally important agricultural heritage systems, as scalable, productive and resilient climate change solutions and technologies. It requires a shift in the thinking about traditional agriculture and about the relationship to Nature, from superior to symbiotic.
Over the past 30 years, cities across the United States have adopted quality-of-life ordinances aimed at policing social marginality. Scholars have documented zero-tolerance policing and emerging tactics of therapeutic policing in these efforts, but little attention has been paid to 911 calls and forms of third-party policing in governing public space and the poor. Drawing on an analysis of 3.9 million 911 and 311 call records and participant observation alongside police officers, social workers, and homeless men and women residing on the streets of San Francisco, this article elaborates a model of “complaint oriented policing” to explain additional causes and consequences of policing visible poverty. Situating the police within a broader bureaucratic field of poverty governance, I demonstrate how policing aimed at the poor can be initiated by callers, organizations, and government agencies, and how police officers manage these complaints in collaboration and conflict with health, welfare, and sanitation agencies. Expanding the conception of the criminalization of poverty, which is often centered on incarceration or arrest, the study reveals previously unforeseen consequences of move-along orders, citations, and threats that dispossess the poor of property, create barriers to services and jobs, and increase vulnerability to violence and crime.
Read through its most visible characteristics, the neighborhood in the morro (hill) can be anywhere in the peripheries of São Paulo, Brazil, and cities of the global South. Its specificities might disappear within general frameworks used to study urban peripheries, including center-periphery dichotomies, informal urbanism, and the essentialized identity of the poor. This portrait, instead, is about the neighborhood as a landscape of multiple histories, where heterogeneity and difference have produced specific spaces, rhythms, and their sensory emanations. Such an ethnographic approach provides a deeper understanding of emergent forms of the periphery assembled around certain visibilities, practices, and subjectivities, and engaged in uneven patterns of democratic city-making.
With its all-female leadership and its balance of black nationalism, experimental art, and the politics of respectability, the Berkeley cultural center Rainbow Sign suggests some of the hidden complexities of the Black Arts Movement as it translated itself into the 1970s. Reflecting on their digital curation of the Rainbow Sign archive, the authors suggest that, while a computation-driven strain of digital history has broken much new methodological ground, another strain of digital history-oriented to a larger public and interested in dramatizing the complexities of primary sources through the affordances of digital media-can also yield fresh arguments through the pressure it puts on primary sources to speak to one another. We suggest that the work of digital curation is especially suited for dramatizing the often invisible curatorial work performed by black women such as Mary Ann Pollar, the founder of Rainbow Sign.
Populism on the far left and the far right is reshaping the contemporary city and the urban condition. In this special short-form section, we put forward populism, art and the city as a linked theoretical and methodological framework through the UC Berkeley Global Urban Humanities Initiative. Our conversations brought together new research in urban studies, art, architecture, public policy, and performance studies into what many people described as a decidedly populist age. Following a short introduction, we share a collection of four papers from such conversations that offer ‘focus sites’ from San Francisco to Palm Springs, Hong Kong to Mexico City, with a diverse set of theoretical proposals that branch from our discussions and shared readings in art, populism, and the city.
Student Articles include-• “Demanding the city: Traces of the UN 50 protests in San Francisco” by Jeff Garnard• “Is forensic architecture the new muralism of the Mexican state? A reflection on racialized violence and the construction of Mexican identity” by Tania Osario Harp• “All that is solid? Movement, repurposed lives and a cardboard citizenry” by Connie Zheng• “Gay desert modern: Sexuality, architecture and indigeneity in Palm Springs, California” by Xander Lenc
Borderwall Urbanisms: Dispatches from the US/Mexico Border is a publication produced by the Global Urban Humanities Initiative as part of the Global Urban Humanities Advanced Resaerch Studio, at the University of California, Berkeley, and supported by a generous grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for the Global Urban Humanities Initiative at the University of California, Berkeley. The opinions expressed herein are not necessarily those of the GUH, or of the board of the foundation.
On a misty afternoon in early 2014, you sail into San Francisco Bay under the Golden Gate Bridge, threading the passage between San Francisco’s steep urban slopes on your right and the green hills of Marin County on your left. Gliding between two of the wealthiest peninsulas in the world, you continue past Alcatraz Island on the diminishing swell until the Bay opens up to the north and south. Silicon Valley is a hazy presence on the horizon off to the south, and the peak of Angel Island pokes up to the north.
You spot the industrial shores of the East Bay. The four-legged, skyscraper-sized gantries of the Port of Oakland loom to the right, and the remains of the Richmond shipyards are off to the left.