Category Archives: culture

Salvador da Bahia

As the first capital of Brazil in 1549 and one of the oldest colonial cities in the Americas, Salvador da Bahia is all about its heritage. The city is the result of the Portuguese colonization, the slave trade for almost 400 years and, of course, everything that comes from this bittersweet history.

Located in Bahia, in the northeastern region of the country, Salvador has many faces and titles – third largest city in Brazil (2017 pop. over 3 million with approx 4 million in the metropolitan area), Africa in America, part of the Caribbean, Home of Capoeira, Land of the Axé, UNESCO’s creative city for music, Carnival City, Bay of the Orixás, etc. However, even combined, all of these adjectives aren’t enough to capture the wild complexity of the city.

Salvador is known for its blended culture and religions, but also marked by its racial and class segregation. Both cases take us back to the city’s relation with Africa and the African diaspora. The port of Salvador was the door to one of the biggest slave markets in the world, and the African diaspora is an important factor in shaping the city’s spatial and cultural character.

Historic Centre of Salvador © Our Place The World Heritage Collection UNESCO

The multicultural factor is everywhere in the Bay of All Saints – food, languages, slangs, dances, rituals and many other moments in day to day life that mix the Yoruba, European and Brazilian cultures. From the Carnival in February or March to New Year’s Eve celebrations, the streets play an important role in Salvador’s routine, whether if it’s with the street food such as Acarajé, the tourism at the Historic Centre, the Carnival blocos, the trio elétrico followings, the Capoeira rodas, the Candomblé celebrations or the Catholic processions.

Continue reading Salvador da Bahia

Book Review: Simone on Jakarta, between near and far

AbdouMaliq Simone, Jakarta: Drawing the City Near, University of Minnesota Press: Minneapolis, 2014; 320 pp.: ISBN 9780816693351 (hbk), 9780816693368 (pbk)

In Jakarta: Drawing the city near, AbdouMaliq Simone offers imagean inside-out perspective to understand the unknown realities of conventionally known urbanization process and everyday life of urban common in cities. Based on his meticulous ethnographic field study in three districts in Jakarta, Simone has produced a new spatial language from ‘within’ the city to read the distinctive trajectories of urbanization of the metropolis in the global South.

The book is structured around four inventive concepts: Near South, Urban Majority, Devising Relations and Endurance. Near South is introduced as a provisional devise to indicate how major metropolises of the non-West are moving toward or away from each other. In that sense ‘near South’ is an ‘interstitial space’ that is neither of the North nor of the South. Simone locates most metropolises in the near South to critique the binary opposition between the ‘developed’ North and the ‘underdeveloped’ South. He stretches ‘nearness’ beyond the comparison between cities and highlights that ‘certain residents have the opportunity to build specific ways of life (p. 35).’

Among the proliferation of mega-developments and emerging middle class in contemporary Jakarta, Simone draws attention to the ‘urban majority’, the residents who really bring the ‘nearness’ and shape the city by occupying and changing its spaces in their everyday practices. The urban majority is not a demographic fact or a political identity but refers to the residents who live in between strictly poor and middle class (p. 85-86). Instead of pursuing the aspirations of middle-class status, Simone shows that how the urban majority transforms urban spaces through ‘incremental’ initiatives, the actions of the residents that do not aim definitive results, but to make ‘something’ happen such as expanding a house to rent out rooms or construct a mosque in the neighborhood. Although such efforts seem simple or mostly negligible in mainstream urban theory, they are, Simone convincingly demonstrates as the ‘machines of support’. That generates not only income and opportunities but also multifaceted social, cultural, and economic networks and negotiations among residents in the city (p. 111 -114).

Yet, the close proximity or increasing density of buildings, objects, and bodies in cities do not necessarily guarantee relations. Simone thus brings the concept of ‘devising relations’ to examine the dynamic relations between inhabitants, materials, and particular spaces in Jakarta. Then he introduces metaphors such as ‘the hinge’ and ‘the hodgepodge landscape’ to emphasize how these relations allow the city to follow global urbanization trajectories when the heterogeneity of their urban spaces remain same in terms of their social composition and use.

The concept of ‘endurance,’ denotes the way in which the majority of residents continue their lives while dealing with extreme uncertainties – both dangers and opportunities – in their everyday urban life in Jakarta. Instead of being very conscious on their identities, residents focus on the possible opportunities of their daily routines and employs deception as a method of endurance in everyday urban life.

Ultimately, Simone connects his learning from an inside-out perspective in Jakarta with contemporary urban theory and policy. He necessitates the integration and enrollment of residents’ views, aspirations, and the way in which they shape spaces, in urban policy making to ensure the long run of cities. Instead of relying upon the contemporary urban theory, Simone has theorized Jakarta. His work profoundly validates the residents’ life and their contribution to continue the heterogeneous urban life of the city.

Pradeep Sangapala (Urban and Regional Planning Program, University of Alberta)

Lining up for iphone 7

Iphone 7 had an initial launch in 28 countries on September 16th. Though I’m not a fan of Apple products, but since the price of iphone 7 is much cheaper in Canada than in China and my friends and I are leaving for China, we decided to buy iphone 7 for our families.

One of my colleagues said that the iphone 7 would be very popular according to the experience in the previous years. She suggested that I line up for the iphone 7 in West Edmonton Mall as early as possible. At first, I took this as a joke, because the iphone 7 seems have no big difference from iphone 6 or 6s, most of the fans would be waiting for iphone 7s or 8. However, what made me change my mind is the picture of the queue in front of the Shanghai branch of the Apple Store.

The queue in front of Shanghai Apple Store

(http://news.china.com/hd/11127798/20160916/23562627_3.html#photos)

So I decided to line up for the phone and went to WEM at 8PM on September 15th. However, there were only a few people waiting. To my surprise, two girls brought blankets and pillows, as well as snacks and drinks. “Professional!” I said to myself. Behind the two girls were two heavily-bearded men. They said they work for Telus. After a short time chatting, we waited together, watching films or playing phone games separately.

Two well-prepared girls

At about 2AM, there were still a few people waiting, which made me really disappointed. Suddenly, four men cut in the queue right in front of me. I asked politely and said “Please line up behind us”. But the bearded men said that the four guys are his friends and they just wanted to play games together. If they get the only phone, they would give it to me immediately. I believed them and let them jump in, which I regretted later. They were playing and chatting so noisily that I couldn’t sleep the whole night.

At 7.45AM, some Apple staff came out and asked for our request. I wanted a 128G matte black iphone 7. But the guy right in front of me ordered this one. And what I got from the staff is there was no 128G matte black 7 and I must change my request to a gold one. “That’ not fair!” my friends and I were angry. We tried to negotiate with them because they promised us they give us the phone if they got it since they jumped the line. However, they pretended they didn’t say that. I was so stupid that I trusted these people. What the worst thing was that after one of the men got the ideal one I wanted, he asked me how much I would like to pay to get the phone. Then I was keenly exasperated! What a scalper! “Lair! I won’t pay anything!” I said to them. And finally I got a gold one reluctantly. But the staff said that I can swap if there would be some models on stock after a few days.

That was a really unhappy experience. But I’m really appreciate the help I got from the Apple staff, Jonathon. Without his help and patience, I would not have a matte black iphone 7 now.

Ziru Deng (East China Normal University, Shanghai)

Fünf und Neunzig Wiener Würstel Stände: 59 Viennese Sausage Stands

Review: Sebastian Hackenschmidt,Stephan Olah (eds). Fünf und Neunzig Wiener Würstel Stände. Stalzburg: Verlag Anton Pustet.

Why review a survey of 600 currently existing, “typically Viennese” sausage kiosks other than to say that this copiously illustrated book in German and French provides an exhaustive survey of the history and architecture of the food kiosk?

More significantly is the light that this local culinary tradition sheds on the public culture of Vienna’s streets and squares, a topic under-researched in Vienna (where the focus is on interior cafe culture, for example) and over-looked or poorly indexed by the city’s archives which focus on addresses rather than streets or squares, with the exception of the royal park, Prater.

“In Vienna, we have the paradoxical situation that sausage stands are considered a topographical peculiarity and regarded as leisure venues, while at the same tie forming part of the omnipresent traffic-, consumer- and communication-spaces — places of accelerated transit… “non-places”…. the sausage-stands convey far more convincingly the fleeting nature of the meals consumed there, than a convivial eating culture characterized by interpersonal relationships or a common history…” (p.18)

They are barometers of social change in the public spaces of the street.

“…achieving acceptance at a particular sausage-stand can turn into a regular rite of passage… Authenticated in the vernacular and amply represented in literature…”

-Rob Shields
University of Alberta