Tag Archives: night off

This is the only season I know at the moment.  It is neither festive nor cheerful.  It is full of americanos and sleeping too late and feeling guilty for sleeping too late.  It is full of counterbalancing narratives and tragic re-reading sessions and terrible realizations about the theoretical incompatibility of ideas.  It is also full of light (and life) at the other end.

Right now I am working on an essay for ‘Matters of Nature’ the course for which I read Kipfer (on Lefebvre) and Swyngedouw (on Rancière).  I am trying to consolidate and rework material that I had gathered for my MA.  I am also trying to use this paper as a stepping stone to my 2012 AAG (American Assoc. of Geographers) paper to be delivered on a ‘Plant Geographies’ panel.  The subject/object: New York’s High Line.

At the moment I am trying to consider the problem of agency.  There are multiple ways of thinking about how the High Line (HL) came to be.  I am interested in who and/or what enacted the transformation of the space over time.  I am also interested in whether or not it would have been possible to deal with the HL through a politics or a strategy of human inaction; what is the politics of ‘doing nothing’?

The HL was constructed between 1929 and 1934 as a public safety intervention to deal with deaths being caused by trains that had been crossing at ground level along the West Side of Manhattan.  It functioned for nearly five decades to deliver raw materials to the doorways of factories and firms through which the structure ran.  My scope is not so large; what I am interested in is the period beginning around roughly 1980 when the structure was no longer being used for rail traffic.  This is when it began to be inhabited by ‘vagabond plants’ – industrious species of grass and wildflower that wandered around New York and found themselves taking up residence on the rocky, seemingly inhospitable terrain of the HL.  There are multiple other accounts of what else might have been going on at that time in, on, and around the HL.  These include: Sex in the shadows beneath, raves up top, drugs on the top, drunken parade goers sneaking up top and getting stuck…not to mention the migration of SoHo galleries up to Chelsea, one of the neighborhoods through which the HL passes.

As in my previous research on the west side waterfront of Manhattan, I am interested in understanding that which or who becomes enfolded (enrolled) in the reinvention of  ‘derelict’ spaces.  In this case, it begins (at a minimum) with two gay men – Robert Hammond and Josh David, founders of Friends of the High Line (the organization that would eventually become responsible for converting the structure into a publicly accessible ‘park’) – and a landscape of plants which helped them to capture the imaginations and the contributions of New York’s fashion, political, and economic elite.

My essay begins with the images taken by landscape photographer Joel Sternfeld in order to explore the enfolding of ‘wildness’ in the city and the taming of the unwieldy politics of neighborhood transformation gentrification.  And since this is where my essay begins, it is where this post ends.  See you on the flip side, lovers.

From the series "Walking the High Line"

Joel Sternfeld's "A Railroad Artifact, 30th Street, May 2000"

Well the urban politics is going to get displaced by Sunday Linkage II, itself abbreviated.  Back this week with more reports from the field, including new-found inspiration from Elizabeth Grosz’s Space, Time, and Perversion.  It’s a 90s classic and a damn fine read so far.  But, without further promises I give you this week’s favorite links:


More from Nico with my photo replica below:

This exciting dance set from the (very bitchy) Morgan Geist on Beats in Space, hosted by the (very bougie) NYU radio host Tim Sweeney:


No words for this one.

I hope to see this performance this coming week, by Toronto’s second oldest contemporary dance company.


All of America is now on its way to being defined as a battlefield per this bill which passed the senate 93-7.

Fantastic compilation of links on Occupy from the Berkeley Journal of Sociology.


And a little preview of this week’s reading and posting on Elizabeth Grosz, from the theorist herself:

Yesterday’s post has spread like wildfire; thanks for the comments, reposts, tweets, and all the goodness.  #OccupyStudentDebt is close to my heart, even, and perhaps especially, if disagreement about the ‘appropriate’ action continues.  More to come on this topic as the movement and the pledge unfold.

I’m taking tonight off to do some much needed resting and reflection.  Back tomorrow with fresh processing of Stefan Kipfer on Henri Lefebvre and Antonio Gramsci and Erik Swyngedouw on the ‘postpolitical city’ via Jacques Rancière.  Both were subjects of heavy discussion in my “Matters of Nature” course today; I’ve got to let that settle before I try to convey why I think they are a powerful pair to support a full-throated attempt to analyze and speculate on some aspects of the #occupy movement related to spatiality, hegemony, and the ‘properly political’.  Here’s a taste from each.

From Kipfer’s (2008) “How Lefebvre urbanized Gramsci”:

The differential claims of 1968 and its aftermath…now live on in the culturalized neo-racisms and commodified centralities of metropolitan life.  More explicitly than during Fordism, the minimal differences of the current postmodern ‘era of difference’ are central for hegemonic projects in a neo-imperial world that is otherwise characterized by a shift from consent to coercion (unilateralism, militarism, repression, exclusion). Tackling both consensual and coercive aspects of neo-imperial capitalism requires a protracted, dialectical urban strategy to link spectacular protests or promising subterranean practices with each other.  Otherwise, radical spaces of experimentation risk being confined to the acutely segmented experiences that mediate the rapidly urbanizing world order today (207).

From Swyngedouw’s (2009) “The Antinomies of the Postpolitical City: In Search of a Democratic Politics of Environmental Production”:

The political arises when the given order of things is questioned; when those whose voice is only recognized as noise by the police order claim the right to speak, acquire speech.  As such, it disrupts the order of being, exposes he constituent antagonisms and voids that constitute the police order and tests the principle of equality. The proper democratic political sequence, therefore, is not one that seeks justice and equality through governmental procedures on the basis of sociologically defined injustice, but rather starts from the paradigmatic condition of equality or égaliberté, one that is ‘wronged’ by the police order.  Such procedure brings into being a new symbolic ordering, one that transgresses the limitations of police symbolization…Democratic politics is, therefore, always disruptive and transformative (607).


Tonight, I think it’s worth checking out Jan Clausen’s blog, which documents her fantastic project of reading poetry – daily, yes, every day – at Liberty Plaza.  She is a poet, author, activist, community organizer, and extraordinary person; we used to organize together in Prospect Lefferts Gardens, Brooklyn.  I had the privilege to read and to #occupy with her when I was in New York in November.  I hope to meet her again when I return in February for the Association of American Geographer’s (AAG) conference.

’till tomorrow.


Kipfer, Stefan. 2008. “How Lefebvre urbanized Gramsci” in Space, Difference, Everyday Life: Reading Henri Lefebvre. Edited by Kanishka Goonwarenda, Stefan Kipfer, Richard Milgrom, and Christian Schmid. Pp. 193-211. New York City: Routledge.

Swyngedouw, Erik. 2009. “The Antinomies of the Postpolitical City: In Search of a Democratic Politics of Environmental Production”. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research. 33(3):601-620.

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