Teaching new module on Geography, Theory & Practice in Turin

 

I am happy to begin teaching today on a new introductory module that I have designed, on Geography, Theory & Practice in Turin, with a focus on the colonial roots of the discipline, discussing critical grammars of genderised, racialised & uneven spatialities.
 
Looking forward to trying it out, and then to expand and share the syllabus in the coming years.
I am thankful to my dear friend and colleague Ana Vilenica for helping out with the preparation of this module. Program is below – cheers!

 

 

Geography, theory and practice

Programme and calendar 2021-2022

 

Michele Lancione, Full Professor of Economic and Political Geography

michele.lancione@polito.it

 

Objective

The course offers an introduction to critical geographical thinking, with particular reference to how it developed in the past decades in Anglophone Geography. The aim is to provide a concise, yet rich, introduction to a number of key concerns related to the critical understanding of space, place, scale and related processes. Key notions and approaches derived from political economy, relational spatial thinking, critical gender and race studies, political ecology will be presented and discussed. The course mixes frontal lectures with moments of in-depth reading of academic texts, as well as discussion of contemporary societal issues at the global scale. The final part of the module provides a glance at some of the most common qualitative research methods in Human Geography, analysing their ethical implications and the role of Academics (including students) in the (re)production of unjust spaces.

 

Learning outcomes

Knowledge and understanding. The students will acquire understanding of the main aspects of contemporary critical geographical thinking, its evolution and main debates. They will also acquire specific knowledge on debates related to urban inequalities, gender and racial injustice, critical relational thinking the use of qualitative methods in human geography.

Ability to apply knowledge and understanding. At the end of this course the student will be able to: analyse contemporary social and spatial phenomena intersecting multiple critical perspectives; they will be able to move within the international academic literature in the broader field of critical Human and Urban Geography; and they will acquire the basic skills set to write essays analysing contemporary social and spatial issue critically.

Autonomy of judgement. Students will learn how to question mainstream narratives related to key issues of our times including, but not limited to, uneven spatial development, entranced gendered and racialised violence, and the role of the Academy in both questioning and reproducing injustice.

Communication skills. At the end of the course students will acquire the basic conceptual grammar, in the English language, needed to investigate space and spatial processes critically.

Learning skills. Students will acquire the capacity to independently work with critical theories and methods in Human Geography.

 

Teaching modality

The course lasts 54 hours (9 CFU), structured along 10 weeks, including frontal lectures, seminars and workshops. Please note that sessions will be live streamed, but not video-recorded. Slides will not be shared, unless for students with proven learning difficulties.

The different sessions are characterised as follows:

· Core lectures (three-hour long each): To provide foundational understandings around critical theory and practice of geographical thinking

· Seminars (two and three-hour long each): Guided reading sessions, to offer the opportunity of engaging with key geographical writings and documentary taken from international scholarship. Seminars will be based on the provided key readings, and an additional reading list will be provided to students who are willing to expand on the subjects

· Workshops (three-hour long each): To reflect, on a workshop-style fashion, on contemporary news, using the conceptual toolkit offered by the course

 

Examination modality

For attendees

You are expected to read all key readings, suggested for each lecture, which will be discussed during the live seminars. Alongside what is presented during the lectures, the readings will serve the basis for the two components of your examination:

· A 1.500-2000 words written essay, which will count for the 30% of the final grade, to be focused on one of the themes explored in the course. The workshops will provide students with ideas on what to focus and on how to structure their essay

· An oral examination, which will count for 70% of the final grade, to be focused on the themes and literatures explored in the course

 

For non-attendees

You are expected to read all key readings, suggested for each lecture and to integrate those with the following text:

                     Cresswell, T. (2013). Geographic Thought. Wiley-Blackwell: London

Your examination will be focused on two components:

· A 1.500-2000 words written essay, which will count for the 30% of the final grade, to be focused on one of the themes explored in the course, on the basis of the readings suggested

· An oral examination, which will count for 70% of the final grade, to be focused on the themes and literatures explored in the course, as well as on Cresswell’s book

 

  

Program and reading lists

 

Please note: the list of readings below is a basic one, to accompany you into several key debates in the discipline. Further readings will be provided once you have chosen your topic of interest for the final exam.

 

WEEK I) For a critical geography of space

· Lecture – 4/10/21, thee hours – Introduction to the course; The colonial substratum of geographical knowledge; The birth of critical geography: on the capitalist production of space; Overview of contemporary critical spatial approaches

· Seminar – 5/10/21, two hours: Reading on capitalism and the production of space

Key readings:

Harvey, D. (1992) ‘Social Justice, Postmodernism and the City’. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research 16 (4): 588–601.

Massey, D. (1993). ‘Power Geometry and a Progressive Sense of Place’. In Mapping the Futures: Local Cultures, Global Change, edited by J Bird, B Curtis, T Putnam, G Robertson, and L Tickner. London: Routledge.

Peck, J., and A. Tickell. (2002) ‘Neoliberalizing Space’. Antipode 34 (3): 380–404.

 

WEEK II) Thinking space relationally

· Lecture – 11/10/21, thee hours Postmodern and post-structuralist geographies; Relational geographies and political ecologies; Power and biopower; Affects, atmospheres, ontologies

· Seminar – 12/10/21, two hours Reading of place, bodies and power

Key readings:

Amin, A. (2015). Animated space. Public Culture, 27(2), 239–258.

Lancione, M. (Ed.). (2016). Rethinking life at the margins: The assemblage of contexts, subjects and politics. Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group – ONLY the intro

Nash, C. (2000). Performativity in practice: Some recent work in cultural geography. Progress in Human Geography, 24(4), 653–664.

Philo, C. (2012). A ‘new Foucault’with lively implications–or ‘the crawfish advances sideways’. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, 37(4), 496–514.

 

WEEK III) Uneven development

· Lecture – 18/10/21, thee hours  Understanding inequalities; Segregation, social justice, marginality, and banishment; Homelessness and the spatial construction of the ‘other’

· Seminar – 19/10/21, two hours Readings on marginality and racial capitalism

Key readings:

Caldeira, T. (2009). Marginality, Again⁈. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 33(3), 848–853.

Roy, A. (2019). Racial Banishment. In Keywords in Radical Geography: Antipode at 50th. Wiley-Blackwell : London

Thieme, T. (2013). The “hustle” amongst youth entrepreneurs in Mathare’s informal waste economy. Journal of Eastern African Studies, 7(3), 389–412.

Wacquant, L. (1999). Urban Marginality in the Coming Millennium. Urban Studies, 36(10), 1639–1647.

 

WEEK IV) The spatial grammars of race and gender

· Lecture – 25/10/21, three hours Approaching ‘difference’ critically; Thinking dis/possession; Feminist and queer spatial grammars

Key readings:

Derickson, K. D. (2017). Urban geography II: Urban geography in the Age of Ferguson. Progress in Human Geography, 41(2), 230–244.

Hawthorne, C. (2019). Black matters are spatial matters: Black geographies for the twenty‐first century. Geography Compass, 13(11).

Kern, L. (2020). Feminists City. Verso: London and New York – ONLY the intro

 

WEEK V) Elements of geographical thinking: A global urban world

· Lecture – 8/11/21, three hours A critical approach to the urban; Urban grounds; Comparative urbanism?; Southern urbanism

· Seminar – 9/11/21, three hours Reading on feminist geographies (previous lecture), southern and global urbanism

Key readings:

Lancione, M., & McFarlane, C. (2021). Navigating the global urban. In M. Lancione & C. McFarlane (Eds.), Global Urbanism (1st ed., pp. 3–13). Routledge: London

Roy, A. (2011). Slumdog Cities: Rethinking Subaltern Urbanism. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 35(2), 223–238.

Simone, A. (2001). Straddling the Divides: Remaking Associational Life in the Informal African City. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 25(1), 102–117.

 

WEEK VI) Elements of geographical thinking: Housing and the struggle for inhabitation

· Lecture – 15/11/21, three hours  What is ‘home’?; Eviction; Dis/possession; The 2008 ‘crisis’; COVID-19 and housing

· Seminar – 16/11/21, three hours Reading on geographies of housing and its struggles

Key readings:

Baker, A. (2020). From eviction to evicting: Rethinking the technologies, lives and power sustaining displacement. Progress in Human Geography, 030913252091079.

García-Lamarca, M. (2017). Creating political subjects: Collective knowledge and action to enact housing rights in Spain. Community Development Journal, 52(3), 421–435.

Fields, D. (2015). Contesting the Financialization of Urban Space: Community Organizations and the Struggle to Preserve Affordable Rental Housing in New York City. Journal of Urban Affairs, 37(2), 144–165.

 

WEEK VII) Elements of geographical thinking: Rioting, protesting, organising

· Lecture – 22/11/21, three hours  What is a ‘riot’?; Urban activism; Resistance and utopic geographical thinking; ‘Race riots in the US city’; ‘Housing unrest in the EU city’

· Seminar – 23/11/21, three hours Reading on geographies of struggle

Key readings:

Amin, A. (2003). Unruly Strangers? The 2001 Urban Riots in Britain. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 27(2), 460–463.

Askins, K., & Mason, K. (2012). Us and Us: Agonism , Non-Violence and the Relational Spaces of Civic Activism. ACME: An International E-Journal for Critical Geographies, 14(2), 422–430.

Iveson, K. (2013). Cities within the City: Do-It-Yourself Urbanism and the Right to the City: Do-it-yourself urbanism and the right to the city. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 37(3), 941–956.

 

WEEK VIII) Qualitative methods in-&-out

· Lecture – 29/11/21, three hours Cultural turn and the challenge of ethics; The craft of observation: Ethnography and geography; Visual cultures: approaching text otherwise

· Seminar – 30/11/21, three hours Reading on ethnographic writing, and then collective exercise on how to write an academic essay in Geography

Key readings:

Butz, D., & Besio, K. (2009). Autoethnography. Geography Compass, 3(5), 1660–1674.

Lassiter, L. E. (2001). From ‘reading over the shoulders of natives’ to ‘reading alongside natives,’ literally: Toward a collaborative and reciprocal ethnography. Journal of Anthropological Research, 57(2), 137–149.

Rose, G. (1997). Situating knowledges: Positionality, reflexivities and other tactics. Progress in Human Geography, 21, 305–320.

 

WEEK IX) What a geographer can do: the politics of geographical research

· Lecture – 6/12/21, three hours Encounters and representations; Participation, engagement, research-activism?; The undercommons;

· Seminar – 7/12/21, three hours Watching an activist-research collective documentary on racialised evictions in Bucharest, Romania and collective reflection on engaged research

Key readings:

Lancione, M. (2019). Caring for the endurance of a collective struggle. Dialogues in Human Geography, 9(2), 216–219.

Moten, F., & Harney, S. (2004). The University and the Undercommons. Social Text, 22(2), 101–115.

Vilenica, A. (2019). Becoming an accomplice in housing struggles on Vulturilor Street. Dialogues in Human Geography, 9(2), 210–213. https://doi.org/10.1177/2043820619850352

 

WEEK X) Preparing for the exam

· Workshop13/12/21, three hours Feedback on the course and planning for final essay

· Workshop – 14/12/21, three hours Planning for final essay

 

 

Recommended readings

The readings for each lecture, which are going to compose the basis for the exam, are listed above. Additional readings can be provided on each topic. The papers can be accessed in the course’s folder (link in the note below).

Additionally, for students who’d like to have a manual of reference (mandatory for non-attendees) they can refer to:

Cresswell, T. (2013). Geographic Thought. Wiley-Blackwell: London

CFP on the makeshifts of life at the margins @SIEF 2017

screenshot-from-2016-10-04-100704

Martina Klausner (Department of European Ethnology, Humboldt-University of Berlin) and myself are organising a session on The everyday makeshifts of life at the urban margins at the upcoming International Society for Ethnology and Folklore (SIEF) conference, which will take place in Göttingen (Germany) from the 26th till the 30th of March, 2017. I am very happy of working with Martina around this trans-disciplinary experiment between Geography and Anthropology. If you’d like for your work to be considered for inclusion in this session, please upload your abstract on SIEF’s website (http://www.nomadit.co.uk/sief/sief2017/panels.php5?PanelID=5038) by the 07/11/2016. You will receive a notification from us before mid-December.

Here it is our CFP:

Cities with their specific density and intensity offer a variety of resources but at the same time also pose specific impositions for their inhabitants (cf. Schillmeier 2010; MacFarlane 2011). Dwelling in the city – understood as a non-linear way of place making and learning (McFarlane 2011) – demands dealing with those specific urban affordances in creative ways. This is specifically true for people “at the margins”, who assemble their everyday life at the intersection of public infrastructures – from welfare institutions, health care services, sheltered housing, sanitation, transportation – and more mundane matters. A focus on the makeshifts of life at the margin then highlights how bodies, infrastructures, and broader urban processes are being brought together in diverse ways. In our respective works we have approached these makeshifts as processes of assemblage (McFarlane, 2011; Lancione, 2014), infra-making (Lancione and McFalrlane, 2016) and of niching (Niewöhner et al. 2016). Drawing from our own research (which focused on people with mental illness in Berlin, homeless people in Turin and drug users in Bucharest) we want to elaborate on a nuanced approach to the makeshifts of life at the margins and specifically encourage contributions that help to identify convergences and divergences across different marginalised urban groups. Ideally, paper will critically address questions of lived experience and their entanglement with broader urban processes, such as urban policies, state regulation, or infrastructural developments.

AAG 2016 – The Dark Matter of the Urban

P1040671 - 2012-11-29 at 08-41-30_1

Francisco Calafate-Faria and myself have put together a CfP for the next AAG in San Francisco, 29 March-2 April 2016. You find it below and a pdf can be downloaded from here. Feel free to submit and circulate. Deadline for abstract is the 20th of October. The sessions will be followed by a panel of leading scholars discussing ‘Urban Dark Matter’.

The Dark Matter of the Urban: Forces, densities, velocities, affects, and more.

Session organizers:
Michele Lancione (University of Cambridge, UK)
Francisco Calafate-Faria (Goldsmith University, UK)

Being-in-the-city means being caught up in a maelstrom of bodies, technologies, atmospheres, velocities, and both fixed and fluid elements that are not easy to pin down and understand. Although sociology, anthropology, and human geography have built up a substantial body of scholarship on the urban form – one providing insights into analytically manageable aspects of being-human-in-the-city (such as the economic, the cultural, and the socio-relational spheres) – much has been left out of the picture. In recent years, a new scholarship proposing a focus on urban change and process, and a post-human perspective on the city has contributed greatly to a more nuanced understanding of how cities are and how they become. Outlines of a new urban theorization are emerging from scholars interested in urban assemblages (McFarlane, 2011b; Farías and Bender, 2010; Jacobs, 2012), socio-technical infrastructure (Amin, 2014; Simone, 2004; De Boeck, 2012; Silver, 2014), and vitalist ontologies (Amin, 2007; Braidotti, 2011; Bennett, 2010; Lancione, 2016).

Yet, it seems to us that there is something about cities that escapes the grammar currently employed to describe them. The increasing number of conceptualizations brought forward to grasp urban articulations is a disquieting signal of the tantalizing slipperiness of the urban form. These include Simone’s ‘people as infrastructure’ (2004) and his more recent ‘generic blackness’ (forthcoming); Amin’s ‘animated space’ (Amin, 2015); Chattopadhyay’s ‘infra-structure’ (2012); Piertese’s effort to grasp the ‘unknowable’ of the African city (2013); Thrift’s ‘outstincts’ (2014); McFarlane’s makeshift notions of learning and dwelling (2011a); Gandy’s ‘cyborg urbanization’ (2005), and De Boeck ‘knotting’ (2015) – to cite just a few.

Instead of seeing these attempts as theorization detached from urban praxis, we understand them as concrete attempts to come to terms with what we cannot see, yet perceive; with what we cannot properly theorize, yet foresee; with a new politics of the urban that is largely undefined, yet urgently needed. This is what we are provisionally calling the ‘dark matter’ of the urban: a substance made of times, spaces, forces, densities, velocities, movements, encounters, processes, and affects that is still largely unknown if palpable, perceived, and imaginable. We derive the term from Nigel Thrift and his discussion of Bruno Latour’s ‘hidden masses’ of the social (Latour, 2005). As Thrift puts it, ‘the human world contains a vast hinterland of ‘dark matter’ or ‘plasma’ that we do not understand and of which we often only feel as echoes and intimations which we cannot scry’ (2014, p.4). To research the city is often an attempt to understand such forces, of which we can only, at first, grasp the effects. When we think about and discuss urban assemblages, circuits, networks or meshworks, composed of data (ibid), knowledge (Macfarlane, 2011), human labor (Simone, 2004), finance capital (Simone, 2010), circulating materials (Knowles, 2014), heterotopic waste technologies (Campos, 2013), or migrants and elusive cosmopolitan elites in Michael Keith’s description of the “new dark London”, we are attempting new dialogues that may help us grapple with real problems lived by real people in various cities and in the city as form and process. In this sense, ‘dark matter’ is not here, as in physics, a product of theoretical speculation and rational calculation waiting to be disproved or confirmed by empirical facts. Reversely, the ‘dark matter of the urban’ signals the possibility that there is something unknown and potentially powerful that escapes our current understanding of being-in-the-city, that can be assessed in close dialogue with the empirical. How can we grasp this matter and its potential? How can we think about and theorize it? What do we do to research and account for it? Can it be possible to use it to imagine a radical, alternative form of urban theory and politics?

With this call, we are seeking cutting-edge, provoking papers – of both an empirical and theoretical nature – exploring ‘urban dark matter’, even if not necessarily using this formulation. We particularly welcome contributions from radical feminist, LGBT, and southern perspectives, which are currently underrepresented in the new urban theory we rely upon. As Santos (2014) and others we believe in the epistemological potential of underrepresented viewpoints. Papers should cover one or more of the aspects listed below:

  •     The city as a repository of energies and forces
  •     Empirical case studies on forces, densities, velocities, and affects
  •     Empirical or methodological reflections on accessing hidden processes of urban becoming
  •     Feminist, LGBT, southern, and non-mainstream perspectives on ‘urban dark matter’ and new urban theory
  •     Methodological challenges of investigating ‘urban dark matter’
  •     Oppositional and radical understanding of ‘urban dark matter’ and its potential
  •     The politics of ‘urban dark matter’ (new political imaginings brought forward by investigating the urban through its hidden forces)
  •     Critiques of existing scholarship on urban theory
  •     New theorizations of ‘urban dark-matter’

We plan to organize a few sessions revolving around the above points, followed by a panel including some of the scholars cited (whom we will ask to provide insights into what they conceive as the ‘dark matter’ of the urban, using selected videos and photos as a springboard for discussion).

We also welcome presentations in non-traditional and participatory formats. Abstract selection will be based on relevance to the CFP, boldness, and quality of the proposal. Short papers or presentations of max. 3,000 words must be circulated two weeks in advance of the conference.

Please send abstracts of no more than 250 words to Michele Lancione (ml710@cam.ac.uk) and Francisco Calafate-Faria (f.calafate@gold.ac.uk) by the 20th of October. We will confirm acceptance by the 23th and we expect you to register and submit your abstract on the AAG website by the 26th (here: http://www.aag.org/cs/http://www.aag.org/cs/annualmeeting/how_to_submit_an_abstract).

References

Amin, A., 2007. Re-thinking the urban social. City, 11(1), pp.100–114.
Amin, A., 2014. Lively Infrastructure. Theory, Culture & Society, 31(7/8), pp.137–161.
Amin, A., 2015. Animated space. Public Culture, 27(2), pp.239–258.
Bennett, J., 2010. Vibrant Matter: A Political Ecology of Things. Durham: Duke University Press.
Campos, M. (2013), `The function of waste urban infrastructures as heterotopias of the city: narratives from Gothenburg and Managua in Campos and Hall (eds) Organising Waste in the City: International perspectives on narratives and practices. Bristol: Policy Press
De Boeck, F., 2012. Infrastructure: Commentary from Filip De Boeck. Contributions from Urban Africa Towards an Anthropology of Infrastructure. Cultural Anthropology Online, 26 November. Available at: <http://production.culanth.org/curated_collections/11-infrastructure/discussions/7-infrastructure-commentary-from-filip-de-boeck>.
De Boeck, F., 2015. ‘Divining’ the city: rhythm, amalgamation and knotting as forms of ‘urbanity’. Social Dynamics, 41(1), pp.47–58.
Braidotti, R., 2011. Nomadic Theory. The Portable Rosi Braidotti. New York: Columbia University Press.
Chattopadhyay, S., 2012. Unlearning the City. Infrastructure in a new optical field. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
Farías, I. and Bender, T. eds., 2010. Urban Assemblages: How Actor-Network Theory Changes Urban Studies. London: Routledge.
Gandy, M., 2005. Cyborg Urbanization : Complexity and Monstrosity in the Contemporary City. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 29(1), pp.26–49.
Jacobs, J.M., 2012. Urban geographies I: Still thinking cities relationally. Progress in Human Geography, 36(3), pp.412–422.
Knowles, Caroline. 2014. Flip-Flop: A Journey Through Globalisation’s Backroads. London: Pluto.
Lancione, M. ed., 2016. Rethinking Life at the Margins. The Assemblage of Contexts, Subjects and Politics. Farnham: Ashgate.
Latour, B., 2005. Reassembling the Social. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
McFarlane, C., 2011a. Learning the City: Knowledge and Translocal Assemblage. Oxford: Wiley Blackwell.
McFarlane, C., 2011b. The City as Assemblage: Dwelling and Urban Space. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 29(4), pp.649–671.
Piertese, E. (2013). Grasping the unknowable: Coming to grips with african urbanisms. In E. Piertese & A. Simone (Eds.), Rogue Urbanism. Emergent African Cities (pp. 19–35). Auckland Park, South Africa: Jacana Media.
Santos, B (2014) Epistemologies of the South: Justice Against Epistemicide. Boulder: Paradigm
Silver, J., 2014. Incremental infrastructures: material improvisation and social collaboration across post-colonial Accra. Urban Geography, 3638 (September 2015), p. Published on line July, http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/. Available at: <http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/02723638.2014.933605>.
Simone, A., 2004. People as Infrastructure: Intersecting Fragments in Johannesburg. Public Culture, 16(3), pp.407–429.
Simone A.(2010) City Life from Jakarta to Dakar: Movements at the crossroads. New York: Routledge
Simone, A., n.d. Urbanity and Generic Blackness. Theory, Culture & Society.
Thrift, N., 2014. The ‘sentient’ city and what it may portend. Big Data & Society, 1(1), pp.1–21.