Creating New Worlds For Us to Exist

By Sarah, Anna, Lisa, Cathleen and Devon

sphinxThis week, we are addressing the theories of some scholars that have attempted to create new worlds for us to exist. Elizabeth Wilson’s chapter “Into the Labyrinth,” provides a critique of post-modern urban life – discussing how the city has traditionally been a place of both liberation and persecution towards women and re-tracing the history of anti-urbanism to highlight its historical linkage to a distrust, or distaste, for the female gender. Wilson argues that the
popular sophisticated urban consciousness of the 20th century, that of Walter Benjamin’s Parisian Flaneur, was an essentially male state of being – rendering a  woman’s presence within the cityscape foreign, unwelcome and even politically dangerous. Wilson rejects the mythic notion of the city as a labyrinth: a winding path with only one beginning and end, at the center of which is a frightening spectacle – a spectacle which Wilson argues has traditionally been associated with stereotypical feminine characteristics (sexuality, hysteria, instability etc.) Instead, Wilson asserts that the city is always in a flux, offering different layers of meaning and experience depending on the individual.

cyborgIn the same order or ideas, through “A Cyborg Manifesto”, Haraway attempts to create a different world; a space where gender would be absent. This new space would help to re-articulate and to regenerate the existing structures of our society; the structures that have been in place for so many years and that keep perpetuating the same order. This manifesto is an attempt to disarticulate these discourses and provide a new space (mostly in the feminist discourse) for the re-articulation of ideas in relation to gender, sexuality and space. She touches upon the concept of the cyborg – a human with machine components that help to extend past human limitations – and argues that we are all cyborgs. Indeed, using technology as extensions of the mind, rather than tools as extensions of the body, cyborgs are seen as allies to humans. We believe that Haraway’s manifesto can be extended to Lefebvre, in a way that our sense of being in the world comes from our ideologies, our politics, and cyborgs. This sense of being in the world has been oppressive thus far for women and other marginalized groups; but there is hope for possibility of moving past Freudian mythologies.

Finally, the film Sun Ra, Space is Place (1974) personifies how white stereotypical beliefs of Black People living on Earth are dealt with. In the film they say that Black People are the myth of the Earth and should be taken away.  The characters and music in particular demonstrates the use of culture as fuel to move things forward and ahead in time; a way of moving. Music is a way of creating a body in time and also in space; an identity which we believe can be comparable to the student protests of 2012 and how people formed an identity in space through the sounds and coherent music of pots and pans.     

 

Questions:

1) Do you think there is such thing as a modern day Flaneur – an entirely neutral individual who can travel through space and time inconspicuously, or have modern technical constructs (google maps, social media etc.) and urban planning made it impossible to go anywhere unnoticed or entirely unplanned.

2) Haraway says that “the entire universe of objects that can be known scientifically must be formulated as problems in communications engineering (for managers) or theories of the text (for those who would resist)” (162-63). The whole thing seems to be about challenging domination and oppression. But aren’t those theories of text just another form of inherent domination since they are produced in English which is considered to be a language of international communication – isn’t that a domination, a heritage of the colonial past?

3) As an element of culture that is deeply sewn into our everyday lives; do you think music has a way of shaping the world and everything that goes into it?

Sources

Haraway, Donna. (1991). “Cyborg–Manifesto.” IN SIMIANS, CYBORGS AND WOMEN: THE REINVENTION OF NATURE. New York: Routledge, 149-181.

Lefebrve, Henri. “The Production of Space.” In Gieseking, Jen J. And William Mangold, (Eds.), The People, Place, and Space Reader. (289-293). London: Routledge.

Sterne, Jonathan. (2012). Quebec’s #casseroles: on participation, percussion and protest. Theory & Event 15(3), The Johns Hopkins University Press. 4pgs.

Sun Ra, Space is the Place (1974)

Wilson, Elizabeth. (1991).  The Sphinx in the City: Urban Life, the Control of Disorder, and Women. Ch.1- Into the Labyrinth. (1-11). Berkeley: University of California Press.

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2 comments

  1. In researching Wilson’s chapter, I went searching for a modern day manifestation of the Flâneur – ideally a far more inclusive,adaptable and gender neutral model than that of Benjamin and Levi-Strauss. I found this article in my searching, which proclaims the death of the “Cyberflâneur” – a concept associated with the early age of the internet which I was not familiar with, but now find myself mourning.

    Here’s a few quotes from the article that I felt summed up the concept:

    “What the city and the street were to the Flâneur, the Internet and the Superhighway have become to the Cyberflâneur.”

    “‘The Cyberflâneur Strolls’ through information space, taking in the virtual architecture and remaining anonymous.”

    The author claims that “everything that made cyberflânerie possible — solitude and individuality, anonymity and opacity, mystery and ambivalence, curiosity and risk-taking — is under assault by social media companies” who have shaped the way the internet is used and experienced – driving the Cyberflâneur to its distinction.

    Although we will not be discussing this article in class due to time restrictions, I felt that this concept tied into our first question about whether a modern day utopian Flâneur , a model open to all interested parties regardless of race, class, gender, or ability, can truly exist – on or offline.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/05/opinion/sunday/the-death-of-the-cyberflaneur.html

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Following up upon the presentation – here is Eva Kail’s interview in which she gives a good overview of her personal involvement in urban planning with gender perspective. She talks about the emergence of gender mainstreaming in Vienna, its practical and cultural realizations, for instance gender-sensitive design of parks and playgrounds or Compact City concept. At the heart of these projects there is always an early statement from 90’s women: “It’s time to occupy ourselves not only with housing and the apartments, the women’s traditional sphere, but with the whole city”.

    http://www.laciudadviva.org/blogs/?p=18503

    Liked by 1 person

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