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Connecting the idea of the “distribution of the sensible” to Tyler’s case study, what is the distribution of the sensible in the rural vs. in the urban? What do we lose, sensibly speaking, if we give in to the increasingly irresistible pull of the city? If we lose touch with a particular (rural) distribution of sensibility for a generation, what else might we lose?
I’m thinking about other artist-practitioners who use the city to get at a challenge to the range of the sensible, particularly Terayama Shuji and his theatre company Tenjo Sajiki and their work in Japan and the European festival circuit in the 1960s and 1970s (not long after the SI). We could put the SI’s approach to “enlarging life” through their techniques of city encounter alongside Terayama’s “dramaturgy of encounter”. In his writing about theatre he returns again and again to language of escape and dissolution of boundaries, but especially to the possibility of shared experience. “Encounter” might sound benign enough, but in Terayama it takes on an invasive, even violent cast. Terayama’s drive for sustained encounter between self and other is an agonistic proposal that in performances like Knock (more than thirty performance actions taking place on the streets of Tokyo over the course of several days in 1975) literally takes to the streets. Terayama’s own theoretical writing regularly deploys spatial language and metaphors based on objects that divide space into inside and outside, like walls and doors. He ponders the problem of bringing drama cultivated in a sealed room out into the streets. Maybe dissolving walls, he writes in his book of theoretical and practical theatre writings The Labyrinth and the Dead Sea, will entice people into a “dramaturgy of encounter, resulting in an assembly of individuals formerly isolated at home, of lonely people lacking identity, of people cut off from others”. See Carol Fisher Sorgenfrei’s recent book on Terayama, Unspeakable Acts, as well as Miryam Sas’s monograph Experimental Arts in Postwar Japan.
Laura Levin’s Performing Ground: Space, Camouflage, and the Art of Blending In (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014) offers an approach to space that, in shifting the eye to the background, might provide a counterpoint to this construction of users vs. representors, maybe even a way into understanding how users of space could be repositioned as active rather than passive. Pushing beyond the common understanding of camouflage as a temporary technique to hide the self from predators or danger, Levin’s approach emphasizes camouflage as a strategy that embeds the self in its environment; it is not about disappearing, but about connecting. In returning agency to site, and to (typically subaltern) subjects who are associated with ground rather than figure, Levin also is able to discuss what the live presence of a site means for a performance: the site resists its own representation, a resistance thrown into relief by any representative performance taking place. Thinking through how a site can resist its own representation might suggest routes for “space-user” dissent.
“Incorrect” use of space might be seen as a “queering” of space (per Ahmed).
One thing I really want to draw out from all of these case studies is that atomization does not only happen through cutting up urban space and thus separating bodies from one another in a simultaneous field, but also through cutting up time and disconnecting bodies from a lived knowledge handed down from body to body.
The fight for public space is also the fight for public history and public memory.
I love the idea of putting power and resistance to power in the same analytical field. I wonder if a connective line might be drawn between the two through the lends Sara Ahmed develops in Queer Phenomenology (2006), which reads the orientation in sexual orientation as a spatial metaphor that governs what is within a particular body’s reach, and suggests that queerness entails a very real dis- and reorientation.
In a sense, it seems to me that Barber is advancing his “ethic of moral voicing” as a kind of rehearsal for the process of dismantling oppression. It’s a Theatre of the Oppressed ethic, where the actual content of the solution is less important than the search for the solution and the act of trying to find answers (see Augusto Boal, Theatre of the Oppressed (London: Pluto Press, 1979)); and it is important that this searching not stop, that there is continuity.
Barber makes his own lived history visible in public discourse, importing a lineage of lived histories with it.
It would be interesting to consider why revealing what’s behind the discourse is such a difficult task from the perspective of bodies that experience directly what underlies the discourse, and how this difficulty is constructed by a Habermasian conception of the public sphere as a space of rational, reasoned argument with the goal of consensus. What comes to mind is the emergence of “microaggression” as a conceptual term to help legitimate and make socially/rationally real the way that race or gender subtly but meaningfully alters the trajectory of bodies through social spaces. If we can’t name it, it isn’t real.
Awareness (or the loss of awareness) of the repetition of this action across time in the same place is the kind of thing Doreen Massey is getting at when she talks about the “throwntogetherness” of place in For Space. Not only must time be re-introduced to space; a new approach to the definition of place as oppositional to space is necessary, too, to challenge the timelessness often associated with place. Accepting place as timeless leads directly to the erasure and/or historicization of a place’s past.
I am fascinated by the primacy of bodies in this movement and the way the movement seems to have virally propagated across space. What role does media play in this, I wonder? Does the ability to see, with some degree of liveness, the workings and effects of protests even at a physical distance help the movements to spread more quickly? Can a public or counterpublic “train” itself by watching other publics? There is a mimetic element here: protest imitates protest imitates protest.
Further to mimesis: in performance studies we understand the mimetic to contain both mimicry and difference; sameness is its central question. I think that identifying the mimetic in protests helps to understand how protests make room for many different groups and sub-groups that may have many points of disagreement but are able to feel like a unified front through common physical action and the repetition of tropes (like chants, bus-flipping, etc.). The forum on the 2011 revolt in Egypt in American Ethnologist (special issue 39(1), 2012) provides some interesting examples of this process, particularly in those articles that explore the way various populations felt connected to the physical center of the revolution.
This speaks to the importance of figuring a movement as transhistorical in addition to spatially expansive (again, re-introducing time into space).
Interesting to connect this to Misty’s case study, as they are two examples of what discourse makes possible or available. You might look to J.L. Austin’s speech act theory for another approach to the idea that speech can be active, can really do something.
How does the “commodity vs. right” distinction compare to, in Misty’s paper, the distinction of “privilege vs. right” for voting rights?
Is it possible that there is anything to learn from the approach of the SI (see Mette’s case study) in terms of this “right to the city” idea? Can we see the MPL’s approach to the struggle for control in terms of the distribution of the sensible, for example, or the idea that by working against the grain of the city we might reclaim control of it? The workers are attempting to effect a re-orientation (I’m referring to Sara Ahmed again) of themselves, their bodies, in space; they are countering and resisting their positioning as passive users of transportation. Are they becoming producers of space?
The global extension of the urban works to make the rural (its needs, structures, histories, everyday realities) invisible. In her book Disappearing Acts: Spectacles of Gender and Nationalism in Argentina’s “Dirty War,” Diana Taylor advances the term percepticide to describe the act of seeing without seeing, of refusing to see, and describes the way that percepticide returns violence to the unseeing seer: “To see, without being able to do, disempowers absolutely. But seeing, without even admitting that one is seeing, further turns the violence to oneself. Percepticide blinds, maims, kills through the senses.” Power acts to hide the rural but users of the urban space participate in this disappearance by refusing the reality of the rural. The MST is insisting on being seen.
I’m attracted to this phrase “disjunct fragments” and the way it helps me to understand the way the rural has to struggle against being uncoupled both from contemporary life and its own trajectory/evolution across time.
The necessity of this provocation from elsewhere ties in with my comments on Rafael’s case study, but what I’m particularly interested in here is what happened in the initial meetings (which sounds a great deal like Paolo Freire’s techniques in Pedagogy of the Oppressed, techniques that have a rich history of use in activist performance from Augusto Boal’s Theatre of the Oppressed system to story circles developed by Junebug and used by community-based companies like Cornerstone). This story-sharing or consciousness-raising reconnects the individual to her own lived experience and affirms her as part of a group with shared experiences: a repertoire that is silenced or taken for granted, and that therefore has little visibility or power. The density of bodies in cities amplifies the repertoire of embodied urban experience: urban bodies watch other urban bodies duplicate their own experiences day in and day out, thereby affirming them as real even if they are not articulated verbally.
The MST’s approach intertwines embodied (the repertoire) and textual (the archive) knowing, re-linking space/place with knowledge and time, and crucially arguing that neither has primacy over the other. The intrusion of the urban on the rural is a threat through bodies as much as it is through minds. The MST are as fearful that their children will lose touch with what is essentially the embodied (and evolving) rituals of rural living, what rural-ness means, their rural orientation.
In some way, our approaches below are all discussing space, and looking for ways that we can read the effect of space on bodies. Bodies, after all, are the building blocks of any public. Over and over, I am struck by the frequency with which performance and theatre, as metaphors, bubble up in theories of publics and of space, generally without a deeper engagement with theatre and performance theory or history. Certain texts are especially recurrent: Diana Taylor’s The Archive and the Repertoire is cited in anthropological and historical analyses with a level of casualness and decontextualization that often approaches cherry-picking. The spatial turn in the humanities is taken up critically by Doreen Massey in For Space (2001), where she points out the necessity to address what we mean when we apply spatial metaphors across disciplines and, crucially, what assumptions those metaphors obscure (for example, that space and time are distinct from one another). The performative turn similarly obscures assumptions when the language of performance is imported uncritically, but there is also great potential to apply theories of the body as developed in performance and theatre studies in other disciplines. From this angle, I comment on our case studies with an eye to where we might be favoring text over body, archive over repertoire. I highlight some places we might look in order to make the application of performativity to publics more complex, specifically through the way memory is maintained or interrupted through bodies across time and place. A major reference point for me in thinking through the way memory propagates through the body across time is the way dance approaches archiving and legacy. Dance companies have a history of organizing themselves as companies around choreographers who transmit their practice from body-to-body. Roles are created within bodies, and can be to some degree “archived” through notation and video documentation, but if the lived experience of a dance is interrupted (if there is no direct embodied line that can be drawn back to the choreographer: Dancer X learned the role from Dancer Y who learned it from Dancer Z, for whom the role was created by Big Name Choreographer) then something is irrevocably lost. Then again, we lose something else essential to the dance if we attempt to freeze it and perform it exactly as it was created, sometimes generations past. Carrie Noland’s article on the legacy of avant-garde choreographer Merce Cunningham, “Inheriting the Avant-Garde: Merce Cunningham, Marcel Duchamp, and the ‘Legacy Plan'” (Dance Research Journal 45, no. 2 (2013): 85–121, doi:10.1017/S0149767713000028), is an excellent thinking-through of all of this. How might we use this dancerly understanding of the simultaneous preservation and evolution of movement over time (in which mimesis plays a central role) to think about how publics form, maintain, and lose/regain touch with their identities? My comments below all nudge in this direction.
I like to think of Simone’s Leigh’s work as a form of public, archival inscription of an unheard and unseen community. By telling the story of Dr. English’s medical practice, Leigh, as I see it, calls attention to how art can function as an effectual counternarrative that can furnish a sense of hope and self-respect among those who aren’t heard or seen in ‘white,’ capitalist, social space. Through her work, I see emerging a certain democratic ethos that pushes back against the exclusionary terms of both a public sphere and space that do not afford black bodies the care and attention they need.
On the question of what art can ‘do’ — I think it interesting to think of Leigh’s work as a form of public education. I think here of John Dewey’s process-oriented education theory which stresses the need for the teacher to develop in the student the art of social seeing — the ability to find the common in the everyday as a shared experience.
Also, in Art as Experience, Dewey asserts that the experience of the artwork shouldn’t be confined to its physical state – what is given in perception – but that it should be understood as a process, something that establishes social relations between human beings. Dewey sees the value of an artwork as contingent upon how it encourages these dialogic powers — it seems to me that Leigh’s work might have done just that? By “reassembling the social,” to use Latour’s term, Leigh calls attention to how it is assembled in the first place, and this, I think, is what art or relational aesthetics can ‘do,’ as it were. In the process of ‘doing,’ such art creates a form of social consciousness through a process of empathy with the ‘other’ and in this way, engaging with art in itself creates sociality. The participants in Leigh’s work – the multilayered spectators, audiences, active participants, and collaborators – can be seen as evoking a call to the humanity of one another. Seen in the context of Dewey’s claim that there can be no real commonality until those in positions of power see that their humanity is constantly disfigured by the very existence of the power-less, Leigh’s dialogic work is potentially truly transformative of the very relations she problematizes through her particular interpretation and re-articulation of social space. See John Dewey, Art as Experience, (New York: Penguin, 2005).
The dimensional terms (widening scope, inclusiveness, additive) you use to describe dissent here are interesting from a spatial standpoint. It allows me to think of how dissent can be seen both in Rancièrian terms as an alteration of the sensible political ‘terrain’ – an alteration of the range of the police order – and also how dissent can be construed in Lefebvrian terms as a production in and through social space of a ‘social existence’ which aspires and claims to be ‘real’ and which succeeds precisely by producing its own space, thereby simultaneously negating and affirming the ideological and cultural hegemon. See Henri Lefebvre, The Production of Space, especially 53-158 (part of Lefebvre’s intro and the chapter on social space.
The MPL’s concrete challenge of the disconnect or discrepancy between a concept’s supposed meaning and its material implementation serves as an illustrative example of a scholarly issue that I always struggle with: do the concepts I apply accurately capture what they are supposed to signify? The MPL’s deliberate avoidance of the term ‘public’ proves the point, I think, of how important it is for social scientists and policy makers alike to always update and check the conceptual frameworks which are used to describe processes that unfold in real life. The concepts that we use to study the goings-on in the world around us have to be a continuously held up to the complexities of reality to see if they accurately capture what is, in fact, going on – it is good to keep in mind that concepts are not static and that they should be reinvented and fine-tuned continuously to avoid obscuring the facts
Neil Brenner, an urban theorist at Harvard, might be of interest to you if you want to delve more deeply into the question of urbanization. Brenner has a theory of urbanization that is similar to Lefebvre’s — he also sees urbanization as a process of sociospatial transformation which is mediated through capitalist forms of industrialization. His theory disregards the notion of the city as a ‘bounded unit’ and sees planetary urbanization as a method, not as a mapping of the world; it posits the process of urbanization as unfolding in diverse territories and landscapes – i.e., there is no singular “urban” morphology but many different processes of urbanization in different world regions and historical-geographical moments; the urban/non-urban divide is superseded – there is no “outside” to the urban condition. Brenner also operates with an interesting idea of ‘extended’ urbanization which he proposes as a key addition to the more traditional urban theory notion of concentrated urbanization (the moment of agglomeration and centralization) – ‘extended urbanization’ sees urbanization as a dialectic between concentrated and extended urbanization; that is, the societal, territorial, and environmental transformations that occur, do so in support of agglomeration – zones of resource extraction and connectivity infrastructures like railways, for example, are viewed as part of the urban fabric itself. See Neil Brenner (ed), Implosions/Explosions: Toward a Study of Planetary Urbanization (Jovis, 2014).
Just a brief comment here that I have been thinking about in my own work. What avenues does the use of social practice provide for those in the world and us as researchers? Does it bring different avenues of engaging with structures than discursive?
What does southern gentility index here? (I’m going to go down an anecdotal route here.)This is interesting because this personal style is often associated with identities that carry associations with racism. At least, this association is made by white progressives as a charge of ignoring and hiding the racism inherent in southern institutions. However, these arguments ignore the role of a “southern genteel” stance among black people and the ways in which whites and blacks in the south shared some aspects of identity construction, even when those has vastly different meanings. On another note, this all seems very chronotopic, from the Bakhtinian concept of a fusion of characteristics of time and space. I have noticed that the concept of the chronotope has been taken up by scholars of black cultural forms, like Paul Gilroy and Kristina Wirtz. This might be an interesting way to analyze these spaces. (Gilroy doesn’t get deeply into it, but see Gilroy, Paul. The Black Atlantic: Modernity and Double Consciousness. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2002. For a much more in-depth discussion, see Wirtz, Kristina. Performing Afro-Cuba: Image, Voice, Spectacle in the Making of Race and History. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2014.
In her analysis of a failed Cuban slave revolt, Ada Ferrer discusses knowledge not accessible to white authority figures. A leader of this revolt is questioned. Ferrer writes, “… unscripted gestures of defiance that suggested to the interrogators that they, black men, were privy to a knowledge that they would not share or clarify beyond a certain point. Nerey’s ignorance would stand, Aponte seemed to say. He understood how history rendered these images coherent, even if Nerey could not.” The meaning here that is not explicated or made obvious, the meaning that has to be made through interaction, the layers of understanding as a speaking back to a colonial effort to expose and classify… (See page 303 of Ferrer, Ada. Freedom’s Mirror: Cuba and Haiti in the Age of Revolution. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2014.)
I wonder about the ways that this parallels gentrification and heritage tourism. How are excluded meanings transformed for “consumption”? While Leigh worked with the institution, I wonder what the excesses of this new emplacement were. I think it’s interesting that she excluded the public in ways in order to maintain some control over this. She is making overt that exclusion always means inclusion of someone.
I am thinking of the tension between public (really, white) legibility and invisibility. I am thinking of the challenges in fighting institutional racism like voter suppression and police violence when so many of the “obvious” solutions (read: legible within a biopolitical framework of white supremacist norms) offer ways of being legible (ids, body cameras) when visibility is highly problematic for people who aren’t white. Leigh is tugging at the differences between legibility and visibility. Can we be officially visible while remaining illegible in ways that still allow political and social service access? Perhaps there are connections to work like Jane Hill’s on race and public space in which she thinks about the regimenting effects of discourse but also the potential to turn racist language on its head and give it altered meanings. (See Hill, Jane. “Language, Race, and White Public Space.” American Anthropologist 100 (1999): 680-689.)
This is the true dilemma that I think those trying to effect liberatory change all encounter eventually. It is interesting to note, however, that two discursive worlds can exist at once. Articulate while Black: Barack Obama, Language, and Race in the US by Geneva Smitherman and H. Samy Alim has been helping me think about this lately (also a great read for undergrads to start thinking about language, race, racialization, and the ways responses to black public figures is highly racializing). Because of a historical need that you point to in keeping black knowledge out of public sight, black language has been polyvocal in a way that allows it to traverse multiple messages, contexts, and meanings all within one utterance. There is argument in linguistics over whether the varieties of Black English are actually an anti-language, a concept developed by M.A.K. Halliday to describe a language meant to keep communication invisible while in plain sight. Whether it is or isn’t this (the arguments are based around whether Black English was formed as intentionally illegible to white masters and authority figures), we know for sure that Black English allows certain meanings to elude those who aren’t its speakers. My ultimate point (and hope) is that there are methods of subversion available even as groups must enter the world of rationalized (white) discourse and logic. But I am also pessimistic. Michael Silverstein shows us in work on language standardization that ultimately the very impulse to and structures of standardization are a Western imperial pursuit. But then, again, Silverstein in all his anti-racist intent is a white man of much prestige and not privy to the types of knowledge Ada Ferrer discusses that may contain the seeds of true revolutionary potential. (See Silverstein, Michael. “Monoglot “Standard” in America: Standardization and Metaphors of Linguistic Hegemony.” In The Matrix of Language: Contemporary Linguistic Anthropology, edited by D.L. Brenneis and R.K.S. Macaulay, 284-306. Boulder, CO: Westview, 1996; Smitherman, Geneva, and H. Samy Alim. Articulate while Black: Barack Obama, Language, and Race in the US. New York: Oxford University Press, 2012.)
I love Ann Stoler’s take on this as one of fixities and fluidities in racism(s). We can think about what stays the same and what changes. The semiotic economics of racism’s fixities and fluidities in gentrification is one example. Whites Only signs from the era of official segregation have been replaced by a particular construction of authenticity in gentrifying areas. The intentionally rustic look of places like cafes and bars indexes some vague sense of past Americana and allows whites claims to some unarticulated “culture” while obscuring the fact that all of these indexical relationships depend on a context prior to public acknowledgement of civil rights. And importantly, they beckon some to enter and whisper to others that they are not really welcome. (See Stoler, Ann L. “Racial Histories and their Regimes of Truth.” In Race Critical Theories: Text and Context, edited by P. Essed and D. T. Goldberg, 369-421. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 2002.)
Stuart Hall comes at this from a different angle. I am thinking of the quote I used from him in my case about the way the concept of the nation has been articulated along right-wing lines. While this line of thought is from his work on Gramsci, he also writes about policing and the “crisis” of mugging in Britain as racialized. For Hall, all this stuff (democracy, nation, exclusion) is tied up together. This reconfiguration you are discussing seems to me similar to what Moral Mondays is doing in NC by trying to challenge the terms and frameworks upon which political exclusion rests.
This reminds me of the current push back in media studies of the scholarly fascination with new media as the most, newest thing ever. Does new media actually have such new effects or do we in our use make it into something that is always already embedded and localized in practice? I think it is the latter much more than the former. This also makes me think of arguments over the affordances of technology. I find work in anthropology of infrastructure really productive for asking these questions of the logics and politics embedded in the material world. (For one example, and perhaps one of the earliest, see Winner, Langdon. “Do Artifacts Have Politics?” Daedalus, 109 (1980): 121-136. Also perhaps of interest might be Star, Susan Leigh. “The Ethnography of Infrastructure.” American Behavioral Scientist, 43(1989): 377-391.)
This relates to something I have been thinking about regarding the way space and the landscape communicate, the way they speak. I think it was Claudia that brought up in class the way the urban environment conveys a sense of safety or its lack. But also, certain people know where to go and where not to. It makes me think of the ways that communication (in general, semiotically) and affect and feeling go hand in hand. Installing additional lights is about the communication of safety as much as safety itself, it seems to me. At the same time, for protection, people often want their space to look “unsafe” to deter potential robberies, etc. I am seeing a melding of the way we speak to a general public moving through areas and what features of space are meant to accomplish. So perhaps, drawing from Judith Butler, space is performative. It both communicates and in so doing, it is.
In arguments like this one that encourage a level of conflict, or even methods of subverting neoliberalism like the method of co-writing being employed by our classmates in which they are avoiding giving credit or keeping track of who wrote what, I often find myself asking what other sorts of hierarchies are allowed to take hold. This is a sticky question that I have no answer for. If we undertake a project that encourages us not to avoid conflict, what power relations are active in these conflicts that we do not acknowledge? Perhaps it is beneficial for some groups to avoid conflict in this way (in public space) for their own safety. If we attempt to go the radical anti-neoliberal route by avoiding the measurement of individual contributions, who gets to contribute less and who has to contribute more simply to be allowed into the space? For example, teachers who are not white, male, straight, English as a first language speakers, from upper class backgrounds etc. often have to work much harder in academia to gain a fraction of the respect afforded to the person who matches the assumed ideal of the keeper of knowledge.
I was at an interesting talk the other day in which Don Robotham in anthropology critiqued an intense focus on dispossession. He said that capitalism can often profit from people right where they are and doesn’t need to move them. I don’t fall strongly on either side of the argument (and Robotham was not trying to say that dispossession is not a factor in profit), but I find his reminder important. One major theme in anthropology now is movement itself, concerning refugees, workers on ships, etc. What does this say about us that we are very focused on this now? And what different effects does the built environment have when we stand in one place for periods as opposed to moving with it? You mentioned spatial layers previously, and I wonder about the layers left as groups move out of spaces and are replaced by other groups. Are these residues or traces felt or missed out on as unseen registers of space?
Jean Anyon (previously at the GC) worked on education and class in the US. She wrote a piece that compared the types of activities and assignments given to students in schools in neighborhoods of different levels of affluence. She found that the types of assignments corresponded to the types of activities people would be doing in jobs. In poorer neighborhoods, students got rote memorization tasks with little to no explanation of why the answers were such. In upper class areas, students were allowed more freedom and were rewarded for displaying critical thinking skills. (See Anyon, Jean. “Social Class and the Hidden Curriculum of Work.” Journal of Education 162:1980.)
To complicate even more, that “private” space was providing a service that can be seen as “public,” a service that should be made available for all, but it is not. We should consider what the place means for the service. Private space can be a strategic place for vulnerable groups to learn and organize in ways to provide a public service.
In the same way, the public exposition helps to show the importance of private spaces for providing the basic needs to people who don’t have other access to them.
Privacy is not a synonym of private, nor it is necessarily opposed to public. In public services such as health service, the privacy of the patients is a requirement – or at least it should be. Also, there are a lot of private services that do not care or respect people’s privacy.
Another interesting aspect of “the wealthy and the powerful” being disproportionately represented, is that this unbalance comes from alliances involving different actors and institutions that claim to be neutral while they are taking sides behind the curtains. When protests and challenges to the dominant logic are done publicly and visible, be as in artistic interventions or in blocking the streets, they are forcing those coalitions to get out of the shadows and explicit their positions.
The idea of a space based on desire is useful to deconstruct a conservative view of needs. No one would argue against the idea that a city should take in consideration the people’s needs, but what is seen as “needs” reflects one’s ideological position. A city that prioritizes its functioning in making people go to work and shopping is a city that have a neoliberal notion of needs. That notion can be countered by a perspective that understand needs in other ways and take into consideration even the desire of people. Fulfill people’s desire’s can be considered as a need as well.
Does that mean that “voting as a right” should be discarded as a tool of transformation for counterpublics to use? Or is it an idea in dispute? Movements in Brazil have shown that the idea of transportation as a right can be a powerful tool to fight for free and universal transportation. People who oppose that and conservatives in general dispute the notion of transportation as a right to say that it does not mean free. In sum, neither of the opposite groups discarded the idea of right and made very different use of them.
I wonder how can we think of this case in terms of hegemony. Is the struggle for restricting voting participation a sign of weak hegemony? Why do certain countries can push a conservative agenda without doing this? For instance, in Brazil vote is universal and the conservatives don’t try to restrict access to it. However, they are very effective in guaranteeing their agenda through other means, including the media.
One of the problems the movement has to deal is that it is not only a matter of agrarian reform. Even when MST wins the battle and forces the government to recognize their right to the land, there is no way they will be able to develop their communities without subsidies and governmental support, like credits and other forms of investments. That is true for them and true for the large producers who own lands the size of small countries and rely in robust incentives from the government to make their business. Therefore, more than the right for the land, what is at stake is the dispute for resources. And in the same way that David Harvey proposes that the right to the city is a way of taking control of the resources that are collective produced, the “right for the countryside” can be a way to struggle for channeling the resources to a different logic of agrarian organization that privilege small communities, diversity of production and organic-based technologies.
The public character here is less important than the issue of control. Public schools can be both “an instrument of the capitalist state” or an instrument for resistance. If it is an institution that is controlled by the state, we can expect its ideals and practices to be consonant with hegemonic ideology.
But even that should be relativized. Those who fight for public education realize that the private system is even worst, and the public is the strategic place to struggle for a different education.
And it says something that when the MST decided to create a formal education institution, they went for a public, not a private one.
Public, for education, should be seen not as a goal, but as a tool for a different system, with communitarian control.
May 29, 2017 at 5:00 pm
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