Interweb Motley # 18

Christoph Gielen-Deer Crest Suburb CaliforniaBuilding the new surveillance state. And guess what? You’re doing it right now. Scary when it’s all laid out for you.

God-tricking super-max prisons in the U.S.? Or visually representing how prison design and architecture “reflect political discourse, economic priorities, cultural sentiments and social insecurities”—from above, of course.

Can the Calafate speak? Malvinas/Falkland Islands being devastated by invasive shrub from Argentina called Calafate.

LA-bound geographers behold the annotated map of The Big Lebowski! AAGs got you down? Celebrate the film’s 15th anniversary with a tour of the city (thx AT!).

The latest on that crazy Charter City idea in Honduras.

And this is what it’s like to have lunch with Noam Chomksy.

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Bureaucracy is Beautiful? Or Death by Papelismo

Bureaucratics-Jan BanningKyle Grayson’s Chasing Dragons pointed me to this extraordinary gallery of photographs called “Bureaucratics” by photographer Jan Banning. I recognized one of them (left): it graces the cover of Akhil Gupta’s new book Red Tape: Bureaucracy, Structural Violence, and Poverty in India. My name for the rule of bureaucracy in Latin America is papelismo. I’ve definitely been in offices with teetering stacks of paper, but nothing like that captured by Banning in India or Yemen. His photos are beautiful, but bureaucracy? Not so much. Gupta and other scholars, e.g. Javier Auyero (Patients of the State: The Politics of Waiting in Argentina), make that much clear. Hannah Arendt defined bureaucracy as “rule by Nobody,” a form of government with such systematic unaccountability that she said it was “clearly the most tyrannical of all.”

Continue reading

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Hugo Chávez’s legacy: A more independent Latin America

Corazon Chavez-IconoclasistasMy column on Chávez’s death published in McClatchy-Tribune newspapers:

Hugo Chavez proved that Venezuela and the rest of Latin America could chart an independent path in the world.

The Venezuelan leader, who died on March 5, often assumed the role of court jester on the international stage, raising uncomfortable truths by poking fun at the powerful – namely, the United States. But, for Chavez, revolutionizing Venezuela’s political and economic system was a wholly serious matter. Continue reading

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Medellín: Who’s Afraid of Hip-Hop?


My article on hip-hop and violence in Medellín is now out:

Héctor Pacheco walked down the steep hillsides of his barrio in Medellín, Colombia to wish his aunt a happy birthday. Pacheco—a local rapper nicknamed “Kolacho”—had spoken at a public event the week before, calling on neighborhood youth to use hip-hop as an instrument for non-violence. As Kolacho began the slow climb back home, gunmen from a motorcycle riddled his body with bullets. He was 20 years old.

“That was one of the hardest blows I’ve ever had to deal with,” says Jeison Castaño, or “Jeihhco,” a fellow rapper and band mate of Kolacho. Since Kolacho’s death in August 2009, nine more young hip-hop activists have been murdered in Medellín. “Being young in this city is a risk in itself,” says Jeihhco. “And being a rapper—out in the streets all the time like we are—is even riskier.”

The violence against hip-hoppers demonstrates the lingering contradictions in a city that has gained global notoriety for its urban security makeover. In the 1990s, international press coverage labelled Medellín the “murder capital of the world,” but with a dramatic drop in violence over the years, headlines began touting the “Medellín Miracle.” Today, the city is nowhere near the violent depths of its past, but things have once again started to unravel and the miracle has lost some of its shine.

The rest of the story (with photos) is available on openDemocracy’s site.

Posted in Art, Boundaries, City, Drugs, Everyday Life, Frontiers, Insurgency/Counterinsurgency, Security, Spatiality, Territory, Terror, The State, Violence | Comments Off on Medellín: Who’s Afraid of Hip-Hop?

Althusser, Gramsci and Machiavelli – Us and Us

Couple (I)-Bela KadarDebate in the geograsphere. Jon Beasley-Murray published a riff on Louis Althusser’s Machiavelli and Us saying he detects a post-hegemonic streak in Althusser’s take on Machiavelli with an emphasis on the aleatory, contingent, and the conjunctural rather than a “telos of the nation state.” Adam Morton takes issue with the interpretation, saying it veers too far from the text and ignores the conceptual methodology of the book, concluding that a “move towards a posthegemonic politics should be resisted.” Beasley-Murray responds saying that Morton neglects how aspects of the text are in “sync with the late Althusser’s aleatory materialism of the encounter” in an effort to dismiss posthegemonic politics altogether. Morton says that what’s in and what’s not in the texts is precisely the problem with posthegemony, arguing, for instance, that Beasley-Murray’s notion of “posthegemony” is based on a simplistic and incomplete understanding of how Antonio Gramsci theorized hegemony. And that’s really the rub here. Continue reading

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Likey Likey?

New Likey

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Interweb Motley # 17

9781844679522_Poorer_nationsMy friend Vijay Prashad’s new book is out with Verso. The Poorer Nations: A Possible History of the Global South, which examines the prospects of a global power shift from north to south, is a sequel to The Darker Nations, which is an intellectual history of the Third World. I love the stencil motif for the cover of the new book.

Gabriella Coleman has been my go-to academic for satisfying my hobby-obsession with Anonymous. Her new book, Coding Freedom: The Ethics and Aesthetics of Hacking, is now out with Princeton University Press. And guess what? It’s appropriately licensed under Creative Commons with a PDF available for free download.

The anthro-sphere is again aflame over the Napoleon Chagnon controversy. Chagnon just published an autobiographical new book and was admitted to the U.S. National Academy of Sciences (NAS), sparking adamant objections. Survival International has a good rundown of the controversy, plus links, including (OMG!) opinions from actual Yanomami.

An incredible photo essay in The Atlantic on the DIY weaponry of the Syrian resistance, including a machine gun-mounted armored vehicle fired with a Sony PlayStation controller.

The Center for Land Use Interpretation has a gamut of visually rich projects likely to get anyone’s geographic juices flowing.

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Narco-Geographies, Part III: Urban Speculation and Spectacle

1.1275256128.panama-city-skyline(Final post in a three-part series, Part I, Part II

The policies that have made Panama into a commercial and financial global entrepôt have also made this small country into an ideal beachhead for entrepreneurial narcotraffickers. The seemingly ethereal nature of underground economies and high finance becomes staggeringly concrete in this offshore paradise. It’s written on the landscape. The city of Panamá has been the site of an unprecedented construction and real estate boom, a speculative bubble buoyed by narco-dollars. Speculation and spectacle become symbiotic in this tropical metropolis as they comingle with hyper-urbanism, money laundering, and circuits of capital at multiple scales. The same thing happened in the Miami of the 1980s—watch Cocaine Cowboys, an amazing documentary. I think one trafficker in the film even says, “We built this city.” Continue reading

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Cities in Conflict

Stanislas Guigui.-Le MondeThe news site has launched a special series on “Cities and Conflict.” With stuff on spatial resistance, warspace, security, military urbanism, and urban uprisings, the series should be of interest to geographers, urbanists, and the spatially inclined in general. Going back to my roots in urban studies, I am contributing an article on Hip-Hop and violence in Medellín later this month—just finished the reporting today. I’m happy to be part of this exciting project.

The Cities in Conflict series seeks to examine the manner in which cities are conceptualised, planned or contested as sites of conflict, security or resistance. With increasing public awareness of cities’ role in hosting globally significant conflicts and social upheaval, whether in Cairo, Athens or Mumbai, the series will look to examine the city as a key terrain of conflict and a politics of spatial securitization. In particular the series will scale down mainstream media security discourse to the urban/local level – examining the everyday, covert ruminations of urban conflict.

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Interweb Motley # 16

Arthur Tress-Flood Dream, Ocean City, NJWords Without Borders, a site that translates contemporary world literature into English, has a new issue out showcasing graphic novels on “topics ranging from the Spanish Civil War to the Shining Path, organized labor in France and broken homes in South Africa.”

From Wired: How the Mexican city of Cuernavaca’s bus traffic helps physicists model complex systems. Turns out, nature, math, and bus departures in Cuernavaca all exhibit a delicate balance of randomness and regularity known as the “universality principle.”

Rebecca Solnit examines how Google and other Silicon giants have created parallel infrastructures for their employees in San Francisco, making the city a gentrifying bedroom community for the world’s tech capital.

All my Internet ones and zeros are apparently routed (rooted?) through this building; just one hub plugged into 550,000 miles of undersea cabling that circuits the globe.

My new favorite Tumblr: WTF Evolution?

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