Category Archives: mobilities

Karl Marx 200: I contemplate… Thoughts by Nihal Perera

He has made an immense contribution to our understanding of the world. He expected us to know him through his work; to worship him is to lose his teachings. I am glad that I too learned a lot from him.

He is immensely popular, perhaps more than John Lennon who claimed to be more popular than Jesus Christ. Yet there is no one Marxism; it is quite diverse. As I crossed several cultural boundaries, I was fortunate to get exposed to a few variations.

As one of the greatest critical thinkers of our time, he questioned everything. Perhaps, he expects us too to be critical of his own work; i.e., to critically build on it.

He was the greatest European anti-systemic thinker, who thought outside the box. Transcending the theory-practice duality, he approached his work from the standpoint of praxis; he learned history in order to change it because it was unjust. He saw that the society is not one, but made of classes and is in conflict (than consensus). His work laid the foundation for social history.

He probably does not expect us to remember what is in Das Capital, an examination of 19th c. European capitalism, but to further develop the synthesis of his work: The Communist Manifesto.

To learn from a great person is not to import that persons time-, space-, and culture-specific findings (the model or the diagram), but to learn from her/his process of investigation and thinking; i.e., to carry out investigations inspired by her/his work, but within our own culture, time, and space, and find avenues to make a difference.

Despite violence caused in his name, his work was perhaps driven by the kindness that opted to liberate the exploited (than an animosity towards capitalists). His thinking was not limited to the working class too. He talks about many classes, especially during the French Revolution.

Most useful for my own work (especially People’s Spaces) is his understanding that the working class people (and the subjects of society) are not victims of capitalism, but “survivors.” They produce value and could change the system. They are agents of change.
Maybe our historic role -according to him- is to be partners of the revolutions that people carry out than look for people to follow our revolution.

Seeing the ongoing transformations perhaps requires a new vision (intellectual glasses). The (broader) agents of social change may not wait for outside leadership (the vanguard) and self-appointed representatives.

Nihal Perera is Chair and Professor of Urban Planning at Ball State University and the founder and Director of CapAsia, an immersive learning-by-doing semester in Asia based on collaborative projects with Asian universities.

Further Reading: https://marx200.org/en

 

The American Wall: Spatialization of Inequality

Laura Poitras, Academy Award winning Director of Citizenfour and others at Field of Vision stitched together 200000 Google satellite images to create Best of Luck with the Wall, a video of the US-Mexico border, where the American government proposes to build a wall to keep out Mexicans.

Over the last 15 years, Space and Culture has published multiple articles on the Mexico-US border as a division, a trade corridor and space of mobilities, a lived cultural experience, and as a liminal space betwixt and between the two countries.  These included Remembering Laredo (Mehnaaz Momen 2007), Road Signs on the Border (Lee Rodney 2011) and Speed and Space within a NAFTA Corridor (Jane Henrici 2002).

-Rob Shields (University of Alberta)

Together on Europe’s New Shore: Notes on a Migrant Drowning

Recently we have witnessed a media spectacle of old trawlers, their decks impossibly crowded with people. In videos and news images, swimmers clinging to wreckage and drowned bodies are cut with outraged advocates for children and human rights arguing that European values require a greater rescue effort. The BBC shows a coffin marked only as a numbered body being buried.  Solicitous news anchors divide up simplistic alternatives and politicians make dramatic proposals to drop bombs (that these will be in crowded civilian areas is not mentioned in the flurry of news-bites). These all contrast with the weighty, steady pressure of migration from countries that have up to 30 times lower per capital GDP than European countries, the imponderable causes and the slow, hidden deliberations that seem determined by bureaucracies focused on neoliberal economics that cannot contemplate expenditures by States on human issues unless forced to.

Continue reading Together on Europe’s New Shore: Notes on a Migrant Drowning

City as Bicycle Space

Genre de Vie is about the senses, urban experiences and transit.  It documents how urban life is enhanced and empowered by the bicycle — a simple interface to experiencing and accessing the city.  Bicycling becomes attractive when it is safe and the fastest way to access the city.   These two requirements involve providing separate infrastructure for bicycles: physically separated lanes, convenient bike rental/sharing and integrated networks of bicycle routes throughout the city.  By bicycle, I can get across Paris in under 40 minutes, impossible by almost any other mode of transport.

Genre de Vie, filmed in Copenhagen and New York by Jorri Spoelstra and Sven Prince of Photobooth Works and Faithful to the Subject, offers insights on how we can make our own cities immediately more livable and enjoyable for ourselves.

IMG_1234-Rob Shields (University of Alberta)