Society

DISCOURSE ON COLONIALISM

Aimé Césaire

A civilization that proves incapable of solving the problems it creates is a decadent civilization. A civilization that chooses to close its eyes to its most crucial problems is a stricken civilization. A civilization that uses its principles for trickery and deceit is a dying civilization. The fact is that the so-called European civilization—"Western" civilization—as it has been shaped by two centuries of bourgeois rule, is incapable of solving the two major problems to which its existence has given rise: the problem of the proletariat and the colonial problem; that Europe is unable to justify itself either before the bar of "reason" or before the bar of "conscience"; and that, increasingly, it takes refuge in a hypocrisy which is all the more odious because it is less and less likely to deceive.

Europe is indefensible. Apparently that is what the American strategists are whispering to each other. That in itself is not serious. What is serious is that "Europe" is morally, spiritually indefensible. And today the indictment is brought against it not by the European masses alone, but on a world scale, by tens and tens of millions of men who, from the depths of slavery, set themselves up as judges. The colonialists may kill in Indochina, torture in Madagascar, imprison in Black Africa, crack down in the West Indies. Henceforth the colonized know that they have an advantage over them. They know that their temporary "masters" are lying. Therefore that their masters are weak. And since I have been asked to speak about colonization and civilization, let us go straight to die principal lie that is the source of all the others. Colonization and civilization? In dealing with this subject, the commonest curse is to be the dupe in good faith of a collective hypocrisy that cleverly misrepresents problems, the better to legitimize the hateful solutions provided for them. In other words, the essential thing here is to see clearly, to think clearly—that is, dangerously—and to answer clearly the innocent first question: what, fundamentally, is colonization? To agree on what it is not: neither evangelization, nor a philanthropic enterprise, nor a desire to push back the frontiers of ignorance, disease, and tyranny, nor a project undertaken for the greater glory of God, nor an attempt to extend the rule of law. To admit once and for all, without flinching at the consequences, that the decisive actors here are the adventurer and the pirate, the wholesale grocer and the ship owner, the gold digger and the merchant, appetite and force, and behind them, the baleful projected shadow of a form of civilization which, at a certain point in its history, finds itself obliged, for internal reasons, to extend to a world scale the competition of its antagonistic economies. Pursuing my analysis, I find that hypocrisy is of recent date; diat neither Cortez discovering Mexico from the top of the great teocalli, nor Pizzaro before Cuzco (much less Marco Polo before Cambuluc), claims that he is the harbinger of a superior order; that they kill; that they plunder; that they have helmets, lances, cupidities; that the slavering apologists came later; that the chief culprit in this domain is Christian pedantry, which laid down the dishonest equations Christianity = civilization, paganism = savagery, from which diere could not but ensue abominable colonialist and racist consequences, whose victims were to be the Indians, the Yellow peoples, and the Negroes. That being settled, I admit that it is a good thing to place different civilizations in contact with each other; that it is an excellent thing to blend different worlds; that whatever its own particular genius may be, a civilization that withdraws into itself atrophies; that for civilizations, exchange is oxygen; that the great good fortune of Europe is to have been a crossroads, and that because it was the locus of all ideas, die receptacle of all philosophies, the meeting place of all sentiments, it was the best center for the redistribution of energy. But then I ask the following question: has colonization really placed civilizations in contact? Or, if you prefer, of all the ways of establishing contact, was it the best? I answer no. And I say that between colonization and civilization there is an infinite distance; that out of all the colonial expeditions that have been undertaken, out of all the colonial statutes that have been drawn up, out of all the memoranda that have been dispatched by all the ministries, there could not come a single human value. First we must study how colonization works to decivilize the colonizer, to brutalize him in the true sense of the word, to degrade him, to awaken him to buried instincts, to covetousness, violence, race hatred, and moral relativism; and we must show that each time a head is cut off or an eye put out in Vietnam and in France they accept the fact, each time a little girl is raped and in France they accept the fact, each time a Madagascan is tortured and in France they accept the fact, civilization acquires another dead weight, a universal regression takes place, a gangrene sets in, a center of infection begins to spread; and that at the end of all these treaties that have been violated, all these lies that have been propagated, all these punitive expeditions that have been tolerated, all these prisoners who have been tied up and "interrogated," all these patriots who have been tortured, at the end of all the racial pride that has been encouraged, all the boastfulness that has been displayed, apoison has been distilled into the veins of Europe and, slowly but surely, the continent proceeds toward savagery. And then one fine day the bourgeoisie is awakened by a terrific boomerang effect: the gestapos are busy, the prisons fill up, the torturers standing around the racks invent, refine, discuss. People are surprised, they become indignant. They say: "How strange! But never mind—it's Nazism, it will pass!" And they wait, and they hope; and they hide the truth from themselves, that it is barbarism, the supreme barbarism, the crowning barbarism that sums up all the daily barbarisms; that it is Nazism, yes, but that before they were its victims, they were its accomplices; that they tolerated that Nazism before it was inflicted on them, that they absolved it, shut their eyes to it, legitimized it, because, until then, it had been applied only to non-European peoples; that they have cultivated that Nazism, that they are responsible for it, and that before engulfing the whole edifice of Western, Christian civilization in its reddened waters, it oozes, seeps, and trickles from every crack. Yes, it would be worthwhile to study clinically, in detail, the steps taken by Hitler and Hitlerism and to reveal to the very distinguished, very humanistic, very Christian bourgeois of the twentieth century that without his being aware of it, he has a Hitler inside him, that Hitler inhabits him, that Hitler is his demon, that if he rails against him, he is being inconsistent and that, at bottom, what he cannot forgive Hitler for is not the crime in itself, the crime against man, it is not the humiliation of man as such, it is the crime against the white man, the humiliation of the white man, and the fact that he applied to Europe colonialist procedures which until then had been reserved exclusively for the Arabs of Algeria, the "coolies" of India, and the "niggers" of Africa. And that is the great thing I hold against pseudo-humanism: that for too long it has diminished the rights of man, that its concept of those rights has been—and still is—narrow and fragmentary, incomplete and biased and, all things considered, sordidly racist.

I have talked a good deal about Hitler. Because he deserves it: he makes it possible to see things on a large scale and to grasp the fact that capitalist society, at its present stage, is incapable of establishing a concept of the rights of all men, just as it has proved incapable of establishing a system of individual ethics. Whether one likes it or not, at the end of the blind alley that is Europe, I mean the Europe of Adenauer, Schuman, Bidault, and a few others, there is Hitler. At the end of capitalism, which is eager to outlive its day, there is Hitler. At the end of formal humanism and philosophic renunciation, there is Hitler. And this being so, I cannot help thinking of one of his statements: "We aspire not to equality but to domination. The country of a foreign race must become once again a country of serfs, of agricultural laborers, or industrial workers. It is not a question of eliminating the inequalities among men but of widening them and making them into a law." That rings clear, haughty, and brutal, and plants us squarely in the middle of howling savagery. But let us come down a step. Who is speaking? I am ashamed to say it: it is the Western humanist, the "idealist" philosopher. That his name is Renan is an accident. That the passage is taken from a book entitled La Reforme intellectuelle et morale, that it was written in France just after a war which France had represented as a war of right against might, tells us a great deal about bourgeois morals.

The regeneration of the inferior or degenerate races by the superior races is part of the providential order of things for humanity. With us, the common man is nearly always a declasse nobleman, his heavy hand is better suited to handling the sword than the menial tool. Rather than work, he chooses to fight, that is, he returns to his first estate. Regere imperio populos, that is our vocation. Pour forth this all-consuming activity onto countries which, like China, are crying aloud for foreign conquest. Turn the adventurers who disturb European society into a ver sacrum, a horde like those of the Franks, the Lombards, or the Normans, and every man will be in his right role. Nature has made a race of workers, the Chinese race, who have wonderful manual dexterity and almost no sense of honor; govern them with justice, levying from them, in return for the blessing of such a government, an ample allowance for the conquering race, and they will be satisfied; a race of tillers of the soil, the Negro; treat him with kindness and humanity, and all will be as it should; a race of masters and soldiers, the European race. Reduce this noble race to working in the ergastulum like Negroes and Chinese, and they rebel. In Europe, every rebel is, more or less, a soldier who has missed his calling, a creature made for the heroic life, before whom you are setting a task that is contrary to his race, a poor worker, too good a soldier. But the life at which our workers rebel would make a Chinese or a fellah happy, as they are not military creatures in the least. Let each one do what he is made for, and all will be well.

Link to complete text…

Urban sustainability: an inevitable goal of landscape research

Jianguo Wu

“Sustainability” has become the word of the day and the theme of our time. The word—which in essence means meeting the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own (WCED 1987)—tends to conjure bucolic images of landscapes with green hills and empty spaces, but that may be a mistake. Our world certainly is replete with environmental problems: biodiversity loss, ecosystem degradation, landscape fragmentation, climate change, just to name a few. Urbanization—the spatial expansion of the built environment that is densely packed by people and their socioeconomic activities—has often been held responsible for all these problems. In the recent serge of interest in sustainability, some think that urbanization is key to regional and global sustainability, whereas others regard urban sustainability as an oxymoron. Is urbanization a problem or part of the solution for sustainability? Why is it relevant to landscape ecology?

Open image in new window

The dualistic nature of urbanization

Year 2007 was a historic moment in human civilization: we have transformed ourselves from an agrarian species to a mostly urban species. Only 2% of the world population lived in urban areas in 1800, but this number jumped to 14% in 1900 and 30% in 1950. In 2007, we crossed the 50% mark—with no signs of slowing down. Clearly, urban areas have become the primary habitat for humans—cities, increasingly, are where people live and thus where we will have to make sustainability a reality.

The increasing urban nature of humanity has profound environmental, economic, and social implications for the world’s future. Urbanized areas account for about 80% of carbon emissions, 60% of residential water use, and close to 80% of the wood used for industrial purposes (Grimm et al. 2008; Wu 2008ab). Cities suck resources from ecosystems near and far. The “ecological footprint” of a city—the land (and water) area that would be required to provide the urban population indefinitely with all the energy and material resources consumed as well as to absorb all the wastes discharged—can be tens to hundreds of times as large as its physical size (Rees and Wackernagel 1996; Luck et al. 2001). Urbanization influences local climate by creating urban heat islands on multiple scales (Buyantuyev and Wu 2010); it leads to excessive consumption and frequent contamination of water; it creates major producers of greenhouse gases and air pollutants; and it is the most drastic form of land transformation, devastating biodiversity and ecosystem services. In many parts of the world, urbanization is also linked to increased social inequity and poverty—the problem of “urbanization of poverty”.

Yet, cities epitomize the creativity, imagination, and mighty power of humanity. Cities are the centers of socio-cultural transformations, engines of economic growth, and cradles of innovation and knowledge production. Cities are magnificent for the splendid architectures that symbolize them, inspirational for the fascinating stories of human civilization that enrich them, and attractive for the opportunities and comforts that they offer. And, perhaps most importantly, urbanization offers a number of things that are critical to achieving sustainability.

The most remarkable thing about cities is that, even with urban sprawl, they take up merely 3% of the earth’s land surface, but accommodate more than half the world’s population. Cities have lower per capita costs of providing clean water, sanitation, electricity, waste collection, and telecommunications, and offer better access to education, jobs, health care, and social services. Try to imagine a world with nearly 7 billion but no cities. How much intact habitat would there be left for other biological species? What would happen to the economy and society, locally and globally? Could that be a more sustainable world?

cont. reading…

Beyond the Mirror: Indigenous Ecologies and ‘New Materialisms’ in Contemporary Art

Jessica L Horton & Janet Catherine Berlo

BEYOND THE MIRROR

Many Native North American artists working today do not accept the terms of ongoing negativity. Recent works by Durham, Rebecca Belmore, Will Wilson and Jolene Rickard share a concern with the liveli- ness of matter that can provide the grounds – at times quite literally – for looking beyond the mirror. While there is evidence of the indigenous phi- losophical precepts that inform the work, the artists locate their practices in an extensive and shared contemporary landscape that includes the space of exhibition, thus short-circuiting a romantic gaze that might locate indigenous art or bodies in nature somewhere else. Their works issue an invitation to a wider audience – including us, a pair of non-Native, English-speaking scholars writing this article – to seriously consider the relevance of indigenous intellectual traditions to the contem- porary global challenges of co-habitation.

Certainly, the four artists’ work dovetails with a wider trend in eco-art that TJ Demos describes as ‘comprehending ecology as a field of interlink- ing systems of biodiversity and technology, social practices and political structures’.15 But a systems approach to the environment can still support forms of anthropocentrism, so long as humans are treated as privileged arbiters of the future. In each of the four projects we discuss, artists grant environmental entities the agency to push back, to punish or reward human activity, to remind people of their precarious position in a relational world where allies are essential to flourishing, as the quotes that open this article emphasize. In lieu of an exhaustive account of these works, we focus on a single material agent in each project, tracing its complex forms of movement and affiliation into spaces of exhi- bition. Seeking to bind viewers into a shared fate with material friends and foes, the following works raise the possibility of an ethics premised on mutual recognition and shared livelihood.

In stone, a substance that is indigenous to every place on the globe, Durham has found a material ally to match the mobility of contemporary art and commerce.16 In Encore Tranquilite ́ (2009), the artist staged an encounter between a giant boulder and single engine aeroplane in an aban- doned airfield outside Berlin. In a widely published story, the antiquated ex- Soviet plane was deemed unsafe by European standards and was slated for sale in Africa, tying its fate to the ethical failures of the neocolonial market- place.17 The boulder came out on top, nearly splitting the plane in two. The implied buoyancy of substrate worked against European metaphors that link it to inertia: ‘stone dead’, ‘stone faced’, ‘stone cold’. While Franke reads Durham’s many works with stone as staging the disruptive force of Europe’s repressed ‘other’, we emphasize an equally affirmative strain: the lively rock acted as an unexpected ally in a tale of global injustice, a potential saviour of countless undervalued human lives that demanded acknowledgement for its intervention before the eyes of viewers. When stone and splintered plane were relocated to the foyer of the Muse ́e d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris for Durham’s 2009 retrospective, ‘Rejected Stones’, the materials indexed an encounter that took place in the past.18 Visitors could only scan the scene for clues: Did the stone fall from above or sail through the air? Was it local to Europe or a hit man from Africa? Was the plane it targeted in motion, empty, defunct? Here, material evinced not only liveliness and ethical orientation, but also the ability to know things, marking the limits of viewers’ capacities to control their sur- roundings. Durham lets stone tell its own part in the story.

While relating to Durham’s work does not necessarily depend upon recognizing indigenous influence, highlighting such connections across the intellectual boundaries we have described can certainly enhance an understanding of its philosophical and political dimensions. Personified stones are a well-established feature of indigenous landscapes across the Americas, appearing at travellers’ shrines, in sentient architecture, or as people temporarily stilled: Durham has written of Indian pilgrimages to the sanctuary of Chalma in Mexico, during which ‘those who give up or try to stop or turn back become stones’, awaiting new life via the decisive kick of a future pilgrim. In a famous 1960 essay that we quote in the epigraph, anthropologist A Irving Hallowell likewise recounts Anishi- nabe peoples’ understandings of stone as ‘other-than-human persons’ whose animate potential can be latent or active. Anishinabe language grasps stones in a state of becoming – a concept communicated word- lessly in Encore Tranquilite ́, where resting stone threatens to spring back into action.20 Durham (who is Cherokee, but widely intellectually engaged with transnational indigenous materialities) articulated a politi- cal role for animate stone under colonial conditions in a poem published in 1983, following his involvement in the American Indian Movement (AIM). ‘They Forgot that Their Prison is Made of Stone, and Stone is Our Ally’ was inspired by the incarceration of AIM leader Russell Means.21 In it the stones spoke ‘the language of the Sioux; what other language could a South Dakota stone speak?’.22 Conversing with the walls allowed the jailed man to forge sustaining networks of communi- cation and alliance, thus keeping objectification at bay. While Durham’s early poem described the stones’ address in English, his work since the late 1990s foregrounds a materialist language of collision and debris – one in which the agency of stones no longer needs linguistic translation to be ‘read’ by international visitors.23 If befriending stone could help humans shed their shackles in what Michel Foucault deemed the quintessential architecture for modern surveillance, the prison, then why not also in the neocolonial marketplace – and the modern museum?

Jessica L Horton & Janet Catherine Berlo (2013) Beyond the Mirror, Third Text, 27:1, 17-28, DOI: 10.1080/09528822.2013.753190

Link to full article…

Patterns of Neighboring: Practicing Community in the Parochial Realm

Margarethe Kusenbach

NEIGHBORING AND COMMUNITY The worlds formed by intimate interaction and primary relationships have been thoroughly studied and theorized throughout the history of sociology. In recent decades, urban scholars have provided solid descriptions and analyses of the social sphere dominated by strangers, the public. In the past, sociologists have also investigated a third social realm quite extensively, one of “communal” or “parochial” interaction and relationships. However, theorizing in this particular area remains underdeveloped. In this article, I aim to advance scholarly understanding of this realm by investigating the normative patterns of neighboring.

The conceptual gap noted above is significant because communal interaction and relationships make up a substantial portion of everyday social reality. We all engage in communal interaction, for instance, neighboring; we all develop and sustain communal relationships, whether they are with neighbors, coworkers, or other kinds of acquaintances. Arguably, most of our life outside the home takes place in communal territories such as neighborhood streets, workplaces, coffee shops, and bars— the latter two niches carved out from public territory, aptly named “third places” by Oldenburg (1989). From Lofland (1973), we also know that people tend to transform public territories into more homey environments in order to maximize personal comfort and benefits. Far from being derivations of the private or the public, communal worlds are distinct, vital, and ubiquitous fixtures of everyday social reality, deserving of independent investigation and theorizing. One aim of such inquiry is to shift sociologists and others’ preoccupation with the dichotomy between “public” and “private” (Sheller and Urry 2003) toward a more complex and more accurate conception of social reality. Building on Hunter’s (1985) model of three social orders, Lofland (1998) provides a new “rudimentary geography” of the lifeworld as a composite of three social realms: the private, the parochial, and the public. She defines realms as social territories, each characterized by a distinctive “relational form” that refers to how individuals interact with one another. An intimate relational form indicates the existence of a private realm, a communal relational form suggests a parochial realm, and a stranger or categorical relational form corresponds with a public realm (p. 14). While, theoretically, any realm can appear anywhere, empirically, certain environments tend to anchor specific realms: “To oversimplify a bit, the private realm is the world of the household and friend and kin network; the parochial realm is the world of the neighborhood, workplace, or acquaintance network; and the public is the world of strangers and the ‘street’” (p. 10). Lofland’s new geography of the lifeworld is tremendously helpful in identifying and overcoming misconceptions in past studies of urban life. Most revealing is her observation in a footnote that Chicago school ethnographies, while routinely considered to be the quintessential body of research on urban and thus public life, are in fact rooted in neighborhood environments dominated by communal forms of interaction (p. 22; cf. Lofland 1983). Elsewhere, she suggests that most of what sociologists diagnose to be calamities of the public realm are actually social control problems pertinent to the parochial realm (Lofland 1994:30). In short, one payoff of a more-differentiated social geography is a better understanding of social territories— their boundaries, structures, functions, and problems—as expressed through interpersonal conduct. Perhaps even more important, by emphasizing social interaction, Lofland’s model can inspire a paradigm shift in the conception and study of “community.” Despite the legendary ambiguity of the concept of community, previous overviews (Altman and Wandersman 1987; Driskell and Lyon 2002; Hillery 1955; Hunter 1975; Karp, Stone, and Yoels 1991; Lyon 1987) largely agree on three basic components that have dominated definitions of community in the past: first, the presence of a shared territory; second, the presence of significant social ties; and third, the presence of meaningful social interaction. I argue that most scholars of community have prioritized the first and second elements—either separately or in combination— over the remaining one. Proponents of a predominantly territorial definition of community have long diagnosed and bemoaned the continuing “eclipse,” or “loss,” of community in our society (e.g., Nisbet 1953; Putnam 2000; Stein 1960; cf. Lyon 1987 for an overview). Over the last three decades, Wellman and other promoters of social network theory (Hampton and Wellman 2003; Wellman 1979, 1996, 1999, 2001; Wellman and Leighton 1979; Wellman and Wortley 1990) have developed an alternative approach that considers community to be “transformed,” “liberated,” or even “saved” instead of being lost. This definition virtually abandons a territorial understanding of community and provides for a radical despatialization and individualization of the concept. Between these two opposing positions stand the many urban scholars who embrace the conceptual gains the social network approach has made, yet who are not ready to fully retire the spatial reality of communities (e.g., Hunter 1974). Numerous empirical studies have substantiated the existence of functioning neighborhood communities. In fact, a recent shift toward community optimism and chronicling neighborhood success stories can be observed among urban scholars of various convictions (Hoffman 2003; Keller 2003; Putnam and Feldstein 2003). Compared with the scholarly attention paid to shared territory and social ties, the third definitional element of community, social interaction, has been relatively neglected. Beyond establishing the existence of parochial social relationships, few urban scholars have focused on examining the exact “nature of social ties” (White and Guest 2003:241) in neighborhoods or, in other words, the patterned social practices and interpretations that generate and sustain social ties. Lofland’s model, while resonating with previous work by urban scholars in the symbolic interactionist tradition (Karp, Stone, and Yoels 1991), provides a fresh impulse for such an investigation. Defining community as a genre of social conduct calls for microscopic analyses of the snippets and strands of communal interaction as the smallest building blocks of community “DNA.” Such a “community magnified” perspective will ground and hopefully invigorate ongoing debates. It will enhance the investigation of “interaction spaces and urban relationships” that Lofland (2003:949ff.) identified as one subarea of urban sociology that particularly benefits from symbolic interactionist scholarship. In more detail, such a perspective can advance theorizing and research beyond current limitations in at least two ways. First, it encourages the inclusion of seemingly nonsignificant interaction and relationships, thereby filling a noticeable conceptual void. Second, it allows one to problematize the nontrivial role of territory for community, not as externally fixed space but as places, that is, complex and layered chunks of environment ripe with individual and collective meanings. Yet of what does the work of neighboring actually consist? What is neighboring? In 1968 Keller offered a basic definition of the concept that is still useful today:

“Neighboring refers to the activities engaged in by neighbors as neighbors and the relationships these engender among them” (p. 29). Informed by Keller’s definition, and Warren’s (1981:73) reminder that neighboring actually follows rules, I define neighboring as a normative set of interactive practices that characterizes neighborhoods as one kind of parochial territory. Generally speaking, I view neighboring as a vital ingredient in the development of local community. Below, I analyze four distinct practices individuals enact to treat each other “as neighbors”: friendly recognition, parochial helpfulness, proactive intervention, and embracing and contesting diversity. In the following pages, I briefly review the literature, describe my research methods and settings, present my analysis, and conclude with a summary and some general comments.

Source: Symbolic Interaction , Vol. 29, No. 3 (Summer 2006), pp. 279-306 Published by: Wiley on behalf of the Society for the Study of Symbolic Interaction

link to complete paper

The power of urban street art in re-naturing urban imaginations and experiences

Claire Malaika Tunnacliffe clairetunnacliffe@yahoo.frJuly 2016

Abstract. Urban street art is a powerful tool in reflecting the experience of the urban, provoking an engagement of urbanites with their environment, and in re-socialising public spaces. En- counters with urban street art within the everyday create social interstices, opening up ways of seeing and feeling the world differently; allowing for a creative feedback loop between artist, individual spectator and society. Through the lens of environ- mentally engaged urban street art, this working paper explores how this artistic and social movement reconnects the natural and social worlds within an increasingly urban existence. By disconnecting from the world around us, we have forgotten the natural and social entanglements that make up the fabric of the urban context, and in doing so we continue to create irreparable damages to the environment. With environmentally engaged urban street art disrupting the mainstream experience of the urban, the spectator is provided with an alternative vision of the world at play within the everyday setting. As a result, it is proposed that at the crossroads between urban street art and everyday life, the spectator evolves from a passive to an active participant in the contemporary make up of urban cities. By awakening new understandings and raising consciousness, environmentally engaged urban street art provokes a re-engagement of urbanites with the environment, acting as a catalyst for transformative social change.

Cont. reading....