This site is an appendix to my blog on questions of space, agency, and everyday life. It brings together notes, images, and stories of contributory value to my interest in the spatialities of voice and social difference. All postings are selections from books, broadcasts, and other media, published with or without added comments — Kush Patel.
"I cannot think of giving back to the communities I worked in—it is a frame that denies the relationships that we built with each other and my ability to walk into Bawana even today with a sense of ownership and involvement after several years of physical absence. I continue to engage with and shape Bawana even when not physically in it. I do so through my own practices elsewhere: teaching, advocacy, and research (…) Engagement affords multiple ways of giving that are not just limited to giving back. It allows us to transform ourselves through our engagement with the communities in which we work. Instead of a finite moment, it enables on-going attempts at transformation within these communities. Engagement can also help us bridge seemingly unbridgeable gaps of inequality and privilege if those are constantly laid bare and made open to manipulation. It is to create collective imaginations where different individuals each have their own capacities and locations. It is to fight the hierarchies between these locations as far as possible, even as these hierarchies constantly try to assert and reproduce themselves.”
—Gautam Bhan on engaged research practice in India, “Moving from ‘Giving Back’ to Engagement," Journal of Research Practice, Volume 10, Issue 2, 2014.
Image source: Professor Maria Cotera’s Fall 2013 course blog on Chicana feminism at the University of Michigan titled: “Latina Practices of Oral History.” This course was part of an extensive archival project, “Chicana por mi Raza,” set up in partnership with Linda Garcia Merchant, a Chicana filmmaker from Chicago.
"(F)rom trips taken across the country, Cotera, Merchant, and a team of students have amassed 21 oral histories and a trove of documents from women’s personal collections (…) By bringing together scattered archives from attics, basements, and home offices into one identifiable collection, (Chicana por mi Raza) aims to reconstitute a network that was vast and reanimate it. Viewing the archive as a political tool in itself, Cotera emphasizes that it will be free and easily accessible. The site will contain interactive tools enabling users to organize the information in ways that respond to their own interests and even contribute their own stories and analysis of the information (…) By thus "democratizing" and "liberating" the archive, Cotera expects the site will generate the production, development, and dissemination of new scholarship on the history of women of color in the civil rights era."
”(…) We must walk to fill the widening hollows that pockmark our cities through which migrants, dissenters, queers, muslims, dalits, workers, the poor, and our infinite “others” keep disappearing. We must walk to reclaim empathy and love as the defining fabric of our cities even as we hold their frayed and torn edges in our hands. We must walk to take back the street, the maidan, the gali as spaces that cannot be bought or taken without a fight so that they may have other legacies, other dreams, other histories. We must walk for every eulogy left unsaid for the lives taken by hate and to drown out those that seek to honour both the living and the dead that stand by their prejudice and burn their beliefs on the bodies of others. We must walk for the only answer that stands the test of time against a politics of hate is a deep, guttural, full-throated, and unapologetic reaffirmation of love.”
- Gautam Bhan on Gay Pride, "A City’s Pride" (2012)
"The word ‘safety’ with regard to women has been used far too much — all us women know what this ‘safety’ refers to, we have heard our parents use it, we have heard our communities, our principals, our wardens use it. Women know what ‘safety’ refers to. It means – You behave yourself. You get back into the house. You don’t dress in a particular way. Do not live by your freedom, and this means that you are ‘safe’. A whole range of patriarchal laws and institutions tell us what to do in the guise of keeping us safe. We reject this entire notion. We don’t want it.” - Kavita Krishnan on moral policing of women (2012).
"Loitering is perceived to be risky because it is often cast as dangerous and anti-social in some way. Interestingly, it is also illegal in many countries; good citizens are expected not to loiter, but to go about their work in an orderly fashion. Good citizens are then rewarded with the promise of protection in public space which is denied to those who loiter. This is even more stringently applicable to women who are forbidden from taking risks of any kind. When women demand the freedom to take risks instead of the guarantee of safety, we are implicitly rejecting this conditional protection in favour of the unqualified right to public space.” - Shilpa Phadke, Sameera Khan, and Shilpa Ranade in “Why Loiter? Women and Risk on Mumbai Streets" (Penguin, 2011).
"If there is to be a "new urbanism" it will not be based on the twin fantasies of order and omnipotence; it will be the staging of uncertainty; it will no longer be concerned with the arrangement of more or less permanent objects but with the irrigation of territories with potential; it will no longer aim for stable configurations but for the creation of enabling fields that accommodate processes that refuse to be crystallized into definitive form…it will no longer be obsessed with the city but with the manipulation of infrastructure for endless intensifications and diversifications, shortcuts and redistributions – the reinvention of psychological space."
- Koolhaas, Rem; Mau, Bruce (1993). “What Ever Happened to Urbanism?”. S M L XL (Source: Landscape Urbanism)
Cartographies of Silence
The technology of silence
The rituals, etiquette
the blurring of terms
silence not absence
of words or music or even
Silence can be a plan
the blueprint of a life
It is a presence
it has a history a form
Do not confuse it
with any kind of absence
- Adrienne Rich, from “The Dream of a Common Language (1978)
“I am interested in the things that architects share in common, from the conditions of the practice of architecture to the influences, collaborations, histories and affinities that frame and contextualise our work. I want to take the opportunity of the Biennale to reinforce our understanding of architectural culture, and to emphasise the philosophical and practical continuities that define it…I want projects in the Biennale to look seriously at the spaces made by buildings: the political, social, and public realms of which architecture is a part. I do not want to lose the subject of architecture in a morass of sociological, psychological or artistic speculation, but to try to develop the understanding of the distinct contribution that architecture can make in defining the common ground of the city. This theme is a deliberate act of resistance towards the image of architecture propagated in much of today’s media of projects springing fully formed from the minds of individual talents. I wish to promote the fact that architecture is internally connected, intellectually and practically, sharing common concerns, influences and intentions.” - David Chipperfield
(Source: 2012 Venice Architecture Biennale | Common Ground, an interview with David Chipperfield | via polis 012512)
Vanessa Parlette: "What does it mean to do community-driven research? This seemingly innocuous question is overlain with conflicting politics, tensions and ethics along with the potential for social change that attracts many activist-scholars to this form of research in the first place. During this seminar, I will attempt to conceptualize a reflexive assessment of praxis by drawing on five years of participatory action research with community groups, organizations and residents in the inner suburban region of Southeast Scarborough.
My entry to this community, and to this talk, begins with a failed struggle to prevent the demolition and displacement of public space through policy-supported demolition of a community mall. But next I tell the story of how this loss has segued into a grassroots attempt to re-spatialize the barriers of inequality between city and inner suburbs in response to processes of gentrification and suburban decline. With an emphasis on change, I focus on the imbrications between politics, research and activism through exploration of three key questions: How do we, as researchers, maintain long-term commitment to an evolving community development project? How do we build and maintain effective relationships with communities that support residents as experts? How do we deal with struggles, conflict and transition? Through reflection on shared struggles, successes and failures over the course of a long-term community development project, I hope to spark discussion over how we can best position ourselves and evaluate our work as scholar-activists.” (emphasis mine)
(Source: Cities Centre, University of Toronto)