The Digital Age – Ways of Seeing: Fragmented Perceptions of Sexuality in Art Through the Ages

Instead of posting weekly, I chose to compile all the ideas and research that I have carried out throughout the semester into a type of “visual essay.” Given the interdisciplinary nature of the Liberal Arts degree, and the freedom afforded with this final assignment, I took the opportunity to present all my material in what I hope is an engaging and innovative way. Furthermore, given the core text of our presentation, Ways of Seeing by John Berger, I thought it only fitting to introduce a new way of “seeing” or showcasing academic content through a more stimulating format.

I am including here the EXTERNAL LINK to the culmination of my individual portion of this research project, which forms the fourth and final case study for Fragmentation Group B. As we will be concluding in our presentation, my case study not only puts forward its own argument but simultaneously acts as the final part of our project as it sews together varied lines of argument explored by other case studies in order to deepen our understanding of key principles in Berger’s Ways of Seeing in relation to “art”.

Please get in touch if there are any issues with the link.

EXTERNAL LINK: https://escapadiera.cargocollective.com/my-research

Mapplethorpe Newspaper Clippings Analysis: a homage to Charles’ NPG adventure

1st section: before the library card
Lots of in-depth photo analysis

Mapplethorpe: the person
Trained as a sculptor
“The contemporary equivalent of a court painter to an American avant-garde rooted in new music and the visual arts”
“Reflects the values underlying New York intellectual fashion in the late 1970s and early 1980s”
Mapplethorpe: the art
Reflects

2nd section: the exhibition photos
Photos of the exhibition room/gallery 25/3 – 19/6/88 National Portrait Gallery (the layout of which apparently Mapplethorpe helped to design; photos of his choosing)

Mapplethorpe’s work connected with people; drew a human/emotional response
Dining table with two chairs beside and flowers on top, surrounded by a room of faces
Providing a very human experience of the gallery
It’s like you’re surrounded by others looking in while eating lunch at the table…

3rd section: the NPG poster and Observer Magazine
Very positive representations of Mapplethorpe; ‘elevative’

Portrayal/association with very flattering/caters to influential members of the high-art scene
NPG: very bold black/white poster, subject of a white, silver-haired male under a spotlight halo
Observer magazine 20/3/88 Headline photograph: Silver haired businessman with a two-piece suit; just the sort to frequent the high-art scene
Tagged: “MANHATTAN’S COURT PHOTOGRAPHER” – by appointment to the beautiful people; flattering indeed
Subjects: old man seated on expensive chair with expensive art in the background
Young men in their prime: Iggy Pop
Beautiful, youthful-looking, powerful women: Doris Saatchi
Mother playing with child: Susan and Eva Sarandon
Completely fails to mention his sexual orientation; instead glamorises him to a particular London audience (observer magazine readers!)
“Mapplethorpe has done portraits of porn stars, philosophers, rock singers, socialites and bodybuilders.”
Highlight those most famed in society; Manhattan’s court photographer, after all…
To be fair: ‘equally comfortable photographing the rituals of sadomasochism or capturing the flawless beauty of a white rose.’
Glamorises Mapplethorpe; positive light; appeals to the rich and influential; but what’s missing?
Flattering text written about Mapplethorpe:
“What cannot be denied is the power of Mapplethorpe’s images”
“Hardcore visionary, arch-darling of the New York art scene, inventor of the $15,000 platinum-on-linen print” – expensive!
Mapplethorpe doesn’t wish to be categorised; an amorphous being/entity
“I’m very difficult to categorise. That’s the way it should be. I never wanted one set of pictures to dominate the others.”

4th section – City Limits and Face magazine
Great City Limits analysis looking at both facets of his person

Face: photography guru
“I only wanted to make a statement and photography ended up being the vehicle.”
Sense of mystery
Mapplethorpe’s best photographs ‘retain a hint of amorality (not immorality). They make us nervous by confronting us with mystery.’

5th section – general news clippings

Timeout really does a great job

Ignorance/lack of consideration for the less ‘sexy’ aspects of Mapplethorpe; underlying censorship; only portraying his good side!
Lack of mention of HIV/AIDS with Mapplethorpe’s ‘fame’
Piece by Timeout 16-23 1988 on how HIV/AIDS not mentioned in BBC Arena documentary despite it being common knowledge
Programme-makers also silent on the ‘glaring oversight’
Outright rudeness towards the topic
Telegraph even jokes by asking for someone to write his obituary; distasteful, disrespectful, not taking seriously
“The sexual nature of Mapplethorpe’s work has always made him a difficult subject for the media and telly in particular.”
Photos: Black man and hands and naked female nude

Portrait of the Artist – Evening standard magazine 3/88
Written to appeal to the people
“For all you amateur photographers out there who tend to remove Aunty’s head, Dad’s left arm and most of the kids’ bodies from the prints in the family album, take heart.”
“Because even the pros can achieve the same results.”
Glamorising Mapplethorpe while hiding his homosexuality and AIDS/HIV
“One-man show by Robert Mapplethorpe, ‘undoubtedly one of the most brilliant photographers of his generation’…collection of high-flying subjects includes Andy Warhol, Debbie Harry, Iggy Pop, … and Lord Snowdon.”
Photo: Lord Snowdon

The bare facts on Mapplethorpe (‘exposing’ him, without HIV/AIDS) – The Times 18/3/88
Highlights his controversy; as an artist and not a homosexual
First paragraph: “America’s most controversial photographer.”
Evidence of many of his images being shown as blank spaces in Arena doc
“So controversial that many of his pictures are considered unsuitable for showing on television and we have to make do with a series of blank spaces, with just captions to feed our imagination.”
Good quote: “One strand of critical opinion claims that he has raised the male nude to the status it enjoyed in classical painting. To others, he titillates the art world with pornography (Independent!).”
Photo: leather jacket Robert with cigarette; rugged, cool, and masculine

Mapplethorpe Portraits – IMAGE 3/88
Addresses the politics of Mapplethorpe’s art
Clause 28 will effectively prevent certain photographic exhibitions (such as Mapplethorpe’s) from being shown in Local Authority funded galleries and public libraries
It would unlawful to ‘promote’ homosexuality – thus producing a censorship of the arts, which was presumably not intended when the bill was drafted.
Photo: white and black man; unity

A photographer in view – The Independent 18/3/88
It’s a briefing; good information and overview of views
NPG: play-safe portraits
Hamilton Gallery: still-lifes and nudes
Black model Ken Moody: “the gifts of his [Mapplethorpe] images to his subjects.”
Photo: leather jacket with cigarette, captioned “Robert Mapplethorpe: parodied self-image in a leather jacket.”

Analysing Capoeira schools’ websites

In order to add analytical rigor to our project we are conducting a research on the different Capoeira schools in London and analysing the ways in which they export and market Capoeira: either as a fitness trend or as an art that is bound to its cultural heritage and socio-politically laden history. We have chosen to adopt a number of qualitative research methods, ranging from interviews to survey, to understand the message that these London schools of Capoeira are trying to convey and to what specific audience.

As preliminary research, I have analysed the ways in which schools of Capoeira market and advertise the dance on their websites.

London School of Capoeira Heranca

  • The first official Capoeira school in the UK
  • Dedicates a whole webpage to the histories of the dance, its music, and exportation
  • However, little is said about the socio-political struggles in 19th century Brazil in terms of the dance being banned and the social unrest at the time
  • There is, however, a real effort to acknowledge the historical significance of the dance, and portray Capoeira as not just a sport but also as an art with a significant cultural heritage

Urban Kings Gym

  • Based on their website, the Urban King’s Gym couldn’t be more different than the London School of Capoeira Heranca
  • Given that Urban Kings Gym provides a wide range of combat disciplines, it is not surprising that the historical and cultural dimensions of Capoeira are not
  • Moreover, the term  ‘gym’ in the name is very telling: it suggests a penchant for sport and fitness rather than teaching and art
  • They advertise combat disciplines as a great ‘way to get in shape while learning a skill, which will increase self confidence and help manage stress.’
  • In sum, Urban Kings Gyms market and advertise Capoeira as a fitness fad; a modern trend that appeals to a wider audience. This is evident on their website, as pictured above.

First Impressions – Photography

Here are some initial impressions of the work a local photographer (Vera Zrubrügg) from Dalston did @Ridley Road market, in collaboration with our TAD project.

She decided to focus on the market sellers and show their everyday lives and behaviors. Furthermore, she took photographs of the unique and rare goods that are being sold at the market and that show its cultural diversity.

Contextual Introduction to ‘Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison’ and significance for our research purposes

To fully understand the cultural and socio-political significance of Johnny Cash’s first prison album, At Folsom Prison, for the artist himself, but (and more importantly for our present purposes) for the audience of those live-recorded concerts, the prisoners themselves, it would be necessary to consider the cultural and political backdrop that made the recording and public release of such a concert possible. The context of the album, released by Columbia Records in May of 1968, is comprised of two converging perspectives. On the one hand, we have the general, widespread feeling of civil (or, often, not-so-civil) disobedience brought about by protest against the Vietnam War and by the civil rights movement. With reference to seminal American free-thinkers like Emerson and Thoreau – especially the latter’s on “On Civil Disobedience” – the leaders of the movement tried to forge a path to freedom for the country’s enslaved. Martin Luther King – murdered just once month before the official release of Live at Folsom Prison –, for example, or Malcolm X – who had himself spent a significant number of years in prison – both played a part in forming this anti-slavery narrative of civil disobedience within the 1960s political sphere. On the other hand, this feeling of unrest simultaneously dominated the folk-song and blues tradition. The idea of confinement, of incarceration, is deeply imbedded in the folk-country songs of Hank Williams, Woody Guthrie, and is evidently prevalent in Leadbelly’s prison songs. Most of these blues singers, like Leadbelly, had actually served time. This is the tradition Johnny Cash emerged out of both as a performer and songwriter. And many of the songs Cash came to sing or be inspired by only become accessible in the first place when ethnomusicologist Alan Lomax began touring the south in the 1930s, visiting prisons and farmlands, and recording the songs he’d hear sung. Some of the performers Lomax discovered would later join the rooster of Columbia Records. Later the 1960s vocalised the protest to all sorts of confinements and gave this feeling of unrest at the heart of these songs much stronger political overtones – or at least, in facilitating the politicisation of all aspects of public and private life, allowed for politicised song to find a much wider audience. Thus, within the same context, Bob Dylan penned “I Shall Be Released”, one of the era’s defining prison songs. Under these conditions it would definitely make sense of a recording company like Columbia to cash in on this generalised sentiment and have an artist like Johnny Cash record a live concert in Folsom Prison.

However, none of this is done unambiguously. Within the civil rights movement, we find figures like Eldridge Cleaver, a polemic writer who later had a change of heart and become a Christian Republican. In January of 1968, when the album is recorded, we are just one year sigh of Nixon’s presidential inauguration. Mixed-race prisons, as Folsom is, have only just been introduced into an extremely problematic penal system. It is this problematic side we are interested in examining here. While all this is happening in the United States, across the Atlantic Michel Foucault is already developing his theories and critiques of penal systems for his 1975 book, Discipline and Punish.

 

The art of punishing […] brings five quite distinct operations into play: it refers individual actions to a whole that is at once a field of comparison, a space of differentiation and the principle of a rule to be followed. It differentiates individuals from one another, in terms of the following overall rule: that the rule be made to function as a minimum threshold, as an average to be respected or as an optimum towards which one must move. It measures in quantitative terms and hierarchizes in terms of value the abilities, the level, the “nature” of individuals. It introduces, through this “value-giving” measure, the constraint of a conformity that must be achieved. Lastly, it traces the limit that will define difference in relation to all other differences, the external frontier of the abnormal. (Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish)

 

Here Foucault helps understand the purpose prison concerts could serve in reference to the constant imperative to reform the American penal system. We can image how the album could, at least to a certain extent, intend to alter the public perception of imprisoned: at the end of the album Johnny Cash sings “Greystone Chapel”, a song actually written by one of the prisoners at Folsom Prison, Glen Sherley.

 

 

One fact is characteristic: when it is a question of altering the system of imprisonment, opposition does not come from the judicial institutions alone; resistance is to be found not in the prison as penal sanction, but in the prison with all determinations, links and extra-judicial results; in the prison as the relay in the general network of disciplines and surveillances; in the prison as it functions in a panoptic regime. This does not mean that it cannot be altered, nor that it is once and for all indispensable to our kind of society. (Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish)

 

Under this light, one finds special interest in looking at how the voice of the prison itself sips into Johnny Cash’s recording. The post-production sound-editing efforts aimed to partially muffle both the prisoners themselves and all-manner of prison sounds inadvertently heard on the record and to reinforce Johnny Cash’s outlaw image for obvious commercial reasons. In other words, Columbia Records finds ground within the afore-mentioned cultural and political context to cash in on the Cash’s public image as a kind of outlaw singer, emerging out of the deep roots of the folk tradition, who gives a liberating voice to the down-trodden, the imprisoned, the outlaws. The emphasis is put on how Cash can give a voice to them by an effort to eliminate their own voice, still so obviously present in the record, while creating a distorted quasi-nostalgic image of Ol’-America criminality.

The Value of Ways of Seeing as Our Theoretical Framework

Before my next post (which seeks to develop our research through other ideas in critical theory) I would like to make a clarification about the value of Ways of Seeing as the main theoretical framework for our study. Berger affirmed in Ways of Seeing that ‘we see these paintings as nobody saw them before’, he meant our specific material conditions of our time period allow us to experience (to “see” in the widest sense) art in a unique way, as these conditions are different to all historical periods before. Nowadays, art has the most democratic diffusion in history: mechanical reproduction, free galleries and museums, public education and, of course, the internet, create this condition. Before, probably only the elite could access paintings, and even when they were accessible to a wider public (for example, it was originally set in a public space) the fact that elite commissioned and paid for this art meant it was accompanied to a meaning imposed from these elites. In Ways of Seeing, Berger argues that we now have the conditions to break with historically imposed meanings from the elite, to stop with art mystification and start seeing art as humanity’s heritage and enjoyable and useful for every single individual, and society as a whole. 

Furthermore, Berger encourages everyone to experience art through their own perspective and individual way of seeing. In this sense, he implies that experience of a work of art (or of art in general) is related to other experiences of life. This is why our historical material conditions are so important, but also our personal experiences and knowledge. As he points out, ‘the way we see things is affected by what we know or what we believe. In the Middle Ages when people believed in the physical existence of Hell, the sight of fire must have meant something very different of what it means today. Nevertheless their idea of Hell owed a lot to the sight of fire consuming and ashes remaining – as well as to their experience of the pain of burns’ (8). I can’t help to relate this sentence to my case-study. Indeed, the third panel of The Garden of Earthly Delights is a lively and disturbing representation of Hell. How different that representation could have been interpreted in a period were Hell was a physical possibility to now, when we often think of it as a philosophical idea rather than a place. 

Imagine believing THIS is exactly what awaits in the after-life.

Experience of art according to Berger is so subjective that even ‘the meaning of a painting can be changed according to what you see beside it or what comes after it’. Again, in my case-study, interpretation of the main panel changes completely if you see it alone, or beside the Hell panel. In addition, if you use it as an illustration for a text about sex-positivity, it would have a very different meaning than if you use it as an illustration for a text about lust as sin. 

‘Lust allows a soul unable to confront the reality of life with a brief escape. Indulge in lust, and all of life’s troubles and worries disappear for a moment – only to reappear again unchanged, and with one’s soul in a state of peril. Indulging in lust of any kind has a kind of hollowing-out effect on the soul – it sells the person out for all they are worth, simply in order to feel good for a little while.’ (Source: https://www.catholicgentleman.net)

VERSUS

‘If everything goes well and sex is natural and flowing it is a beautiful experience because you can have a glimpse of the second through it. If sex goes really very deep, so that you forget yourself completely in it, you can even have a glimpse of the third through it. And if sex becomes a total orgasmic experience, there are rare moments when you can even have a glimpse of the fourth, the turiya, the beyond, through it.’ (Source: Osho, Talking Tao)

Indeed, this can be related to Berger’s claim that ‘reproduction makes works of art ambiguous’, since this separation of the panels is only possible due to modern forms of reproduction of the images, since the triptych itself always presented three consecutive and inseparable panels. Nevertheless, the most interesting idea I take from this is that ‘we never look at just one thing; we are always looking at the relation between things and ourselves. Our vision is continually active’ (9), we are continually participating in art just by viewing and interpreting.  And, certainly, this connects to our central argument that the perception of sexuality in art is inherently fragmented because it depend’s on the viewer subjective experience. 

In my following post, I will expand on spectatorship and the role of authorial intent in our ways of seeing by looking at critical theories about the topic. Furthermore, I will deal with the perception of sexuality in my particular case-study by referring to critical scholarship as well, and always inside the theoretical framework of Ways of Seeing

Conflict Group C: Theories on Gentrification (Summarized)

Imagined Theories vs Felt Realities in the Gentrification process of Dalston and Brixton:

1- Theories on Gentrification:

‘One of the reasons that stage models of gentrification were developed was to cope with the temporal variations in gentrification that were already apparent in the 1970s. Gentrification stage models were designed to represent gentrification in an orderly, temporal, sequential progression.’ (Loretta Lee, the birth of gentrification)

‘Gentrification in a nutshell: real pain of gentrification resides – the refurbishment that become de facto mass purging of poor residents, the choking off of the supply of social housing since the 1980’sm the granting of planning permission to new luxury blocks, the cynical redefining of ‘affordable housing’ to mean anything up to 80% of market rate (used to be 50%), developers buying their way out of their legal requirements to build affordable housing by paying cash to struggling councils, the eviction of poor families, most often people of colour or people with less fluent English’ (Dan Hancox, Inner City Pressure: The Story of Grime (p. 234))

-Ruth Glass:

-Definition:

– ‘Glass identified gentrification as a complex urban process that included the rehabilitation of old housing stock, tenurial transformation from renting to owning, property price increases, and the displacement of working-class residents by the incoming middle classes.’ (Loretta Lee, the birth of gentrification)

 – ‘the process by which working class residential neighbourhoods are rehabilitated by middle class homebuyers, landlords and professional developers’

 -Redevelopment ≠ Gentrification: ‘Redevelopment involves not rehabilitation of old structures but the construction of new buildings on previously developed land.’

-Hamnett and Randolph’s (1986) ‘value gap thesis’:

-emphasizes the political and institutional context shaping the actions of developers, landlords, buyers, and renters in central London at this time. It was the ‘value gap’ (the relationship between a building’s tenanted investment value and its vacant possession value, the former being a measure of the rented building’s annual rental income, and the latter a measure of the property’s future sale price when it is converted into owner-occupation—the landlord sells off the building when the gap widened sufficiently) and its attendant tenurial transformation that was the main producer – (Loretta Lee, The birth of Gentrification)

-‘the private landlords, who were to profit from the flat break-up in central London after 1966, when private rented flats were sold into owner occupation and gentrification’

-Rachmanism, and landlords taking advantages of lower classes.

-Stacey Sutton:

– ‘She says that gentrification is a process by which higher income/status people relocate/invest in low income urban neighbourhoods (which have typically been disinvested in by the public and private sector) typically to make the most of low property values, but by doing so they typically inflate property values, displace low income people and alter the culture and character of the neighbourhood.’ (Jake Glasmacher)

 -Tom Slater – Gentrification of the City  (From Jake Glasmacher’s notes)

-Smith and William debate over gentrification

-Production Perspective :  ‘emphasises the role of capital and its institutional agents in creating gentrifiable spaces.’ VS Consumption Perspective : ‘a consequence of the uneven investment of capital in certain land uses, its devaluation through use and systematic disinvestment, and the opportunities for profitable reinvestment created by these capital flows

-The new middle class: ‘Gentrifiers view living in the central city as “a mark of distinction in the constitution of an identity separate from the constellation of place and identity shaped by the suburbs – Pierre Bourdieu’s concept of cultural Habitus.

-The Costs of Gentrification: Displacement

(+ Cultural consequences, Artists are affected, Community sense impacted, Social Enclaves built…)

 -Loretta Lees:  – The Birth of Gentrification

-Definition:

-Classical gentrification (original term used by Ruth Glass): ‘disinvested inner-city neighborhoods are upgraded by pioneer gentrifiers and the indigenous residents are displaced. Working-class housing becomes middle-class housing.’

-When did gentrification start in London?

-Post-War reconstruction (Brutalism, Blocks, Internalization of the City of London…)

Ex: Abercrombie Greater London Plan (1944) / New Town Development Act (1952)

-The 1969 Housing Act (‘The act provided local authorities with the power to      allocate discretionary improvement grants.’ / ‘As the grants had to be met pound for pound by the improver, they automatically favored the more well-off improver or developer and aided the gentrification process’

-The theory of the Gentrification process as following stages:

-Early Stage Model (1970-80’s) – ‘explain the process and predict the future course of gentrification mirrored Glass’s definition of classical gentrification’

-Stage 1: Group of people move in and renovate properties for own use.

No displacement yet, vacant housing taken or part of market.

Artists or people having skills to undertake renovation

Small areas concerned

-Stage 2: More people move in and fix properties for own use.

Capital for investors scarce, only a few may renovate for resale.

Promotional activities, some displacement, media interest in area,   neighborhood’s name may change, Renovation spreads…

-Stage 3: Focus of media on area – Urban renewal and developpers move in

Individual investors may renovate for own use still.

Prices escalates, physical improvement more visible

Displacement continues and may increase

Middle-class residents freshly arrived: housing as investment and place to live

Demand for public resources and promotion of area

Tension between local and gentry emerge

Police activity – reduce crime

Bank interest: reinvestment and loans to mid-class

 

-Stage 4: Mid-class moving in, Business and managerial middle-class

Measures to reinforce the private investment taking place (public controls…)

Buildings appear on market (speculation)

Commercial activities emerge

Price rise àDisplacement intensified, concerning renter and owners

New neighborhoods concerned to supply demand of mid-class

 

-Gale (1979)

-‘formulated a classic gentrification model that underlined class and status distinctions between old and new residents in a gentrifying neighborhood. Gale’s model of classical gentrification emphasized population change in terms of the displacement of former working-class residents.’ (Loretta Lee, The birth of gentrification)

-The Gentrifier Type :

-Late twenties or thirties adults, childless, numbering 1 or 2 by household

-Educated, professional or managerial

-The Gentrifier Type by Loretta Lee:

‘The pioneer gentrifier works in the cultural professions, is risk oblivious, wants to pursue a nonconformist lifestyle, wants a socially mixed environment, and rehabilitates his or her property using sweat equity. Then more risk-conscious mainstream professionals move in, some with young families. Realtors and developers start to show an interest, and as property prices increase the original residents might be pushed out. Over time, older and more affluent and conservative households move in, attracted to what is now a safe investment. Eventually, gentrification is seen to stabilize at an endpoint of mature gentrification.’

 -Rose (1984)

-One of the first to question the conceptualization of gentrification and its process:

-She ‘criticized stage models for lumping together different processes and effects; she preferred to see gentrification as a ‘chaotic concept’ in which different actors, housing tenures, motives, and allegiances coexisted. For Rose, ‘the terms “gentrification” and “gentrifiers” … are “chaotic conceptions” which obscure the fact that a multiplicity of processes, rather than a single causal process, produce changes in the occupation of inner-city neighbourhoods from the lower to higher income residents’  (Loretta Lee, The birth of gentrification) 

-Dan Hancox – Inner City Pressure: The Story of Grime (London: William Collins, 2018)

-Is Gentrification inevitable?

-‘Urban change is not like the weather, and gentrification is not organic, inevitable and natural.’

-When did Gentrification start? Who planned it?

-2000’s and New Labour government’s (Ken Livingstone elected Mayor, Tony Blair’s government): urban regeneration plans hatched to ‘make the inner city the engine of bourgeois modernity, cosmopolitan culture and aspiration – the New Labour project’

-The LDDC ‘was the flagship of the hyper-gentrification that would follow across British cities, legitimizing New Labour’s urban renaissance, of which renovating and demolishing of council estates was also a vital part’

-1991 One Canda Square completed – ‘A bankers’ skyscrapers that watched over the grime kids’

-New Labour Urban Task Force (1998)– ‘promote a lasting urban renaissance to stem urban decline’

-Richard Rogers appointed architect – 1999 report Towards an Urban Renaissance

-The New Deal (1998) – Aiming to reduce unemployment, which actually ‘made it much harder for artists to live on the dole while honing and improving their craft’

-What aim the gentrification targeted?

-Gentrification – ‘would create new neighbourhoods with a mix of tenures and incomes, including opening up council housing to more of the population’

-Through what means was it implemented?

-Faster Compulsory Purchase Orders – to get people out of the blocks they wanted to demolish.

-Plan to use estate renewal using private finance initiative

-The consequences of Gentrification:

-Tensions, Protests, Displacements, Rise in prices…

-‘urban regeneration is almost always a zero-sum game: for some people to ‘come back’ to the inner city, others have to leave’

-Social enclaves: ‘gated communities had proliferated in east London around the turn of the millennium, especially in developments aimed at the wealthy new arrivals working in the City of London or Canary Wharf’ – Lack of integration and interaction with local communities

-Cultural impacts: ‘Artwash on iconic blocks by council, Legendary record shops replaced with boutique coffee shops, Blocks replaced by luxury flats…’

-Cut in funding: no youth clubs, activities…

-Wiley: ‘the market culture of the Roman Road had weakened considerably as a community hub. That market culture was massive. The difference today is people go to flipping Westfield or Bluewater’

-‘Working-class people were being decanted from the estates of inner London in the name of urban renaissance’

– ‘[ …] the urban renaissance is also making life harder for those who remain, in the inner city’s increasingly isolated social-housing blocks

– ‘With this process – not to mention Tory cuts to benefits, youth services and the removal of EMA – has come a further narrowing of opportunities and horizons for young people from poor backgrounds, and a further intensification of postcode wars, youth violence and territorialism’

-The areas concerned : neighborhood nationalism, consequences and causes

-Sociologist Les Back – ‘neighbourhood nationalism: a positive identification with the local area and the people in it, one that often transcended racial divisions, sharing slang and culture, to create a sense of civic harmony, even while racism and hostility remained commonplace in the city and the nation at large– the idea that ‘if you’re local, you’re all right’.

-‘The consequence of neighborhood nationalism, of outward pride and inward claustrophobia, was that anything beyond the boundaries of the neighborhood felt at best an alien landscape, and at worst like enemy territory’

-Post-code wars

-Lack of money to travel, confined in an area – London public transport most expensive in world

-‘While capital must be allowed to move around the world unhindered by the state, the same freedom does not apply to poor people in the west’s ‘global cities’’

Distribution

  1. Our motivations for the project
      • All
  2. Setting out our argument with key readings and theorists
      • All
  3. Explaining the focus on various modes of movement
      • Gina
      • NOTE: Explain 3 key modes and why we decided on these. Explain hypothesis with all 3. Why we didn’t do walking. Remember readings.
  4. Topophilia theory, an explanation of space/ place distinction
      • Constance
      • NOTE: Remember quotes and readings.
  5. Explanation of hypothesis. How do we test it?
      • Katie
      • NOTE: Breaking down what results we think we will get, according to our argument.
  6. Introduce focus groups and reasoning for the chosen method to test hypothesis. Focus on maps
      • Stephanie
  7. Discussion of 4 areas of enquiry that relate to each step in our argument
      • On London and mode of movement + zine / scanning images
          • Gina
      • On people and communities
          • Katie
      • On space/place and topophilia
          • Constance
      • On uncertainty
          • Steph
      • NOTE: Make sure to note opposing views on both sides, contrast is interesting and fruitful. Contrast with our hypothesis and readings is important. Note different definitions of uncertainty.
  8. Findings from the focus groups – Topophilia links to an uncertain conception of the city
      • All
      • Katie – make charts out of responses (let’s make sure our reactions to them are qualitative and go into detail!)
  9. Concluding our findings. What have we discovered? How would we further the project next? What is left undiscovered?
      • All

 

Basic outline of Québec contribution

My section would come after Emmanuelle’s study on Two-Spirit people in Canada. It deals with transgender/transsexual activism and linguistic imperialism. More precisely, it addresses the influence and impact, an imposed language can have on the recognition and representation of a certain group.

My case study focuses on Canadian transgender activists and their attempts to protect transexual/transgender people before the law. I will examine these political interventions in light of Canada’s linguistic specificity: Canada has two official languages, English and French – especially spoken in Québec-. To do so, I will rely on:

  1. The testimony of Canadian transexual artist, sex worker, and activist Mirha-Soleil Ross (who grew up in Montreal, Québec), in which she expresses her disillusion after having joined an English-speaking activist group: ‘now I see how circular, how narrow-minded, and how skewed anglo activism can be. I see how dangerously imperialistic it can be in terms of requiring that activism around the world adopt its analysis and political strategies’.
  2. Viviane Namaste’s Sex Change, Social Change: Reflection on Identity, Institutions and Imperialism (2005, 2011). In her work, the Canadian feminist scholar shows how the adding of “gender identity” to human rights codes, throughout the 21st century, has been made without taking into account Québec’s cultural and linguistic specificity. She then analyses the impact of such linguistic imperialism.

FOCUS GROUP SESSIONS

On Friday 1st March and Tuesday 5th March, we organised and held two focus group sessions. Due to people’s schedules and availability, the number of participants was slightly different from our initial plan. Combined, we had nine participants, three of which used cycling as their main mode of transport, three of which used the tube and three of which used the bus which still enabled us to have an equal representation of perspectives from the three modes of movement we were interested in exploring. The two sessions were audio recorded for the purpose of being able to listen back to the responses for analysis. All participants provided verbal consent to being a part of this project.

During the focus group sessions we were able to build a rapport between the participants themselves as well as with our group members. We appointed Gina the role of leading the session by asking the questions throughout the session while Constance, Stephanie and I clarified questions and concepts, giving prompts when needed. The sessions had a relaxed, conversational-style manner atmosphere which I feel put the participants at ease and made them feel comfortable to discuss topics in-length with us. Throughout the sessions the participants answered our questions with thoughtful, in-depth responses of their experiences, thoughts and personal anecdotes which was all very interesting.

The drawing activity (we asked the participants to draw their perception of London, with no parameters – we wanted them to use their imagination and knowledge) which we conducted fairly early on in the sessions did a good job of breaking the ice between the groups, but also provided us with a range of visual responses to interpret later on.

Here is an example of one of the drawings from a participant who used the tube as her main mode of transport.

We are feeling motivated by the success of our focus group sessions to continue developing our project towards our final presentation! Our next step is to analyse the responses that we received from the focus group sessions to see how they expand, differ from and contribute to our project’s line of argument.