Thursday, April 15, 2004

Cities Without Citizens 

"Globalization takes the periphery right to the center, the frontier between First and Third Worlds starts running through the middle of world cities. The historical relationship between Paris and Algiers finds its analogy in the relationship between Baghdad and NYC." --- Eyal Weizman

CA's post about the Invisible Hands of Empire pointing east has been on my mind the last few weeks, as it happens to intersect with an excellent book I'm reading that was released last month. Cities Without Citizens is a collection of architectural/theoretical/political essays edited by Eduardo Cadava and Aaron Levy. Besides being just gorgeous (Slought Foundation/Rosenbach Museum & Library Press), CWC offers new ideas about the past & future of new urban construction, refugee cities, & IDPs (Internally Displaced Persons) that inhabit them.

Cadava’s “The Guano of History” makes sharp connections between George Jackson's Soledad Brother and an Emersonian understanding that enslavement & death that comes from dispossession, compromises the ideals of independence on which the actions are based. The promise of equality is coming from an unequal place, & can only remain just that. The creation of "progress" for other people/nations has a tenuous record at best, & a disastrous one at worst. We'll live to see the outcome of the latest U.S experiment, and witness/experience its fallout.

Rafi Segal & Eyal Weizman ("Military Options as Urban Planning") see the West Bank as a kind of laboratory in which Empire can employ a new urban warfare/design for the world, much in the way the occupation of Algiers became a lesson for a Paris designed for crowd control. The IDF's strategies & tactics continue to be considered as new cities/camps are born & blueprinted.

But CWC's strength is re-examining refugee camps/cities beyond a temporary war fallout focus, replete with army tarp roofs and military regimentation that demoralizes its long-term "citizens". An ecological perception of the perma-camp as part of the region transforms refugees into stakeholders in its present & players in its future. "Displacement: the Realpolitik of Utopia" (Gans & Jelacic Architecture) takes design for nomadological living & applies it to refugee city planning with environmental & ecological consideration. The vision goes beyond a military short-term, envisioning a possibility for permanent infrastructure implemented amidst ruin(s).

This a just a partial take, because I'm still working through the book. I’ve been invited to the 4th Rebuilding Iraq Expo, which is being held later this year in Arbil. I wish I could make attend with Cities Without Citizens under my arm.

- Frank Sherlock

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