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Mexico Los City Angeles

to

Edited by Jonathan Crisman Produced by the UCLA Urban Humanities Initiative, 2015–16

Engaged Scholarship from

Urban in the Humanities Borderlands

Heidi Alexander Jonathan Banfill AngĂŠlica Becerra Maricela Becerra Cat Callaghan Kenton Card Humberto Castro Peter Chesney Jonathan Crisman Dana Cuff Will Davis Ryan Hernandez LeighAnna Hildalgo Andrew Ko Grace Ko Devin Koba Benjamin Kolder Paul Kurek Lucy Seen K Lin Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris Alejandro Ramirez Mendez Paola Mendez Maria Teresa Monroe Louis Monteils Jeannette Mundy Todd Presner Chantiri Resendiz Kendy D. River Gus Wendel Teo Wickland Maite Zubiaurre


Urban Humanities in the Borderlands: Engaged Scholarship from Mexico City to Los Angeles UCLA Urban Humanities Initiative Leadership Dana Cuff Lead Principal Investigator Todd Presner and Maite Zubiaurre 2015–16 Project Leaders and Co-Principal Investigators Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris Co-Principal Investigator

Jonathan Crisman Project Director and Core Faculty

Jonathan Banfill Research Associate and Coordinator

Initial draft edition, published by the UCLA Urban Humanities Initiative 1317 Perloff Hall, Room B215 Los Angeles, CA 90095–1467 urbanhumanities@ucla.edu urbanhumanities.ucla.edu

The Borderlands 13 NEITHER HERE NOR THERE Engaging Mexico City and Los Angeles

21 BAJALTA CALIFORNIA

Copyright © 2016 by the UCLA Urban Humanities Initiative. All rights reserved.

Tijuana’s Developing Urbanism

The individual contributions are copyright their respective authors. Figures and images are copyright their respective creators, as individually noted.

Remembering Ayotzinapa

The UCLA Urban Humanities Initiative is generously sponsored by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

29 THE 43

39 THE FOUR ECOLOGIES OF PUBLIC DEMONSTRATION

in Mexico City and Los Angeles

Mexico City 51 PRACTICING THE FUTURE

Exercises in Immanent Speculation

61 POESIS AS INTERVENTION

Designers

Dante Carlos River Jukes-Hudson Stephen Serrato

67

Project One: Urban Poesis

83 THE POWER OF PLAY IN RESHAPING PUBLIC NARATIVES 91

Project Two: Los Peatoniños

107 EQUIPARTE: COSMOPOLITANISM, CONFLICT, TRANSLATION 117

131 URBAN PEDAGOGY AND THE  NEW HUMANITIES 141 EN MOVIMIENTO

Art, Mobility, Justice

149

Project Four: Boyle Heights en Movimiento

Assistant Editors Jonathan Banfill Angélica Becerra Jeannette Mundy

Los Angeles

Project Three: Sense, Question, Don’t Assume, Review

161 A LOVE STORY AGAINST DISPLACEMENT 165

Project Five: Longing and Love in Boyle Heights

177 RASQUACHISMO

From Urbanism to Data

183

Project Six: Rasquache Urbanism Manual

191 SEEKING LITERARY JUSTICE

La Caja Mágica in Boyle Heights

199

Project Seven: La Caja Mágica


Preface The Pacific Rim is a geographic construct that offers an imaginary shore of continental connections. From the perspective of Los Angeles, it suggests affinities to the south and to the west, productively shifting traditional scholarly apparatus away from Europe toward Latin America and Asia. Our massive sister cities include Tokyo, Shanghai, and Seoul, but none is so familiar as Mexico City. Our nations share contested borders, histories, migrations, economies, architectures, and cultures. Particularly in Southern California, once Mexico and still Mexican, continuities can overwhelm the tropes of comparative urbanism based on difference. Perhaps it is most illuminating to consider Los Angeles and Mexico City as neither same nor different, but as intimately interconnected in particular ways. At UCLA, during the academic year 2015-16, a group of faculty and students joined together to study Mexico City and Los Angeles, as part of the Urban Humanities Initiative funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The two dozen graduate students hail equally from the humanities, urban planning, and architecture programs, as do the core faculty. The urban humanities constitute a new form of inquiry and action that takes scholarship into the streets, literally and figuratively. Organized around projects, students engage issues of spatial justice at home and abroad in situations where the contributions of scholars may benefit those of citizens, municipal agencies, and activists. The work may be of “community service,” but it is not intended as such. Readers of this volume can judge for themselves whether we have begun to shape new territory from constituent fields of humanities (including area studies), urban architecture, and urban planning. In the three years of its existence, the Urban Humanities Initiative at UCLA has collaborated across the Pacific with our

counterparts in Tokyo, Shanghai, and Mexico City. In that time, certain innovative methods and arts practices have become central to our work. These are in evidence in all the projects that follow, and form the epistemological unity among them. But there is another kind of coherence that stems from urban engagement: the crystal-clear position that the urban humanities are politically charged. Our broadest goal is to interpret urban history and analyze contemporary culture for the purpose of generating possibilities for the future. But then we must ask: Whose history, culture, and future? How do we locate spatial justice? What will spark new futures for new debate? You will see how responses to such questions are made explicit in the works that follow. In the most fundamental sense, this is what urban humanities brings to academia and to the metropolis. It is our best hope to transform both.

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Dana Cuff Lead Principal Investigator, UCLA Urban Humanities Initiative Professor, Architecture and Urban Design, UCLA

Urban Humanities in the Borderlands Jonathan Crisman The U.S.-Mexican border es una herida abierta where the Third World grates against the first and bleeds. And before a scab forms it hemorrhages again, the lifeblood of two worlds merging to form a third country—a border culture. Borders are set up to define the places that are safe and unsafe, to distinguish us from them. A border is a dividing line, a narrow strip along a steep edge. A borderland is a vague and undetermined place created by the emotional residue of an unnatural boundary. It is in a constant state of transition. The prohibited and forbidden are its inhabitants.

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What is urban humanities? We could answer this question practically, by describing it as a new initiative, sponsored by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation at some 15 universities around the world, bridging faculty, research, and curricula across architecture, urbanism, and the humanities. But we should also answer it based on the four years of experience that our team, lead by Principal Investigator Dana Cuff, has had at the University of California, Los Angeles as one of the initial grantees. Our initiative was primarily curricular: we developed a series of research seminars which brought together faculty, staff, and students from across a variety of disciplines (primarily architecture, urban planning, and the humanities) to look in depth at Los Angeles, Tokyo, Shanghai, and, from 2015 onward, Mexico City. We’ll get to the intricacies of our approach in Mexico in a moment. But let’s begin with several defining characteristics of urban humanities as we have experienced though practice. Urban humanities takes two or more scholars to work. As it is a fundamentally interdisciplinary endeavor, in practice it is all but impossible to “do” urban humanities without at least one collaborator from another discipline— ideally two or three. All of our work— from developing syllabi, to undertaking research projects, and very often down to authoring papers—included numerous scholars from design and architecture, urban planning and social sciences, and the humanities. Yet this was never an excuse to remain fixed on our diverse identities coming together as an interdisciplinary polyglot—the telltale sign of a less-than-interesting interdisciplinary project. The emphasis is on the work. Urban humanities experiments with and is self-reflexive about its forms of 1 Gloria Anzaldúa, Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza, 4th ed. (San Francisco: Aunt Lute Books, 2012), 25.


scholarly representation—and these representations are spatial. Mapping, in particular, became an oft-used method and a scholarly output due to its recent resurgence in a variety of disciplines upon its critical turn. It is also spatial by default, as well as a platform ripe for collaboration, assisting us in collectively seeing what was often otherwise overlooked in more conventional scholarly practices. This ethos extended to a variety of other media which we saw as having potential as being simultaneously research method and mode of representation or scholarly output: big data visualization, video, web platforms, material installations, alternative print media such as zines, and so on. While we often reverted to the conventional written article, these articles almost always required heavy illustration to convey spatial, temporal, and material conditions—and other elements which are not well represented in text. Indeed, we attempted to approach even text self-reflexively, experimenting with poetics, fiction, and graphic design to question that assumptions that underlie its medium specificity. Urban humanities embraces at once the historical, the empirical, and the speculative. Each of these temporally specific modes of knowledge has typically found a stronger affinity within the realm of one of our representative disciplinary realms: the past-historical within the humanities, the present-empirical within urban planning and social sciences, and the future-speculative within design and architecture. While these affinities find exceptions— unsurprisingly, often through scholars who are aligned with urban humanities— they also indicate common blind spots in respective swathes of the university. We aim to approach each of these modes of knowing on equal footing, synthesizing them into scholarly work which seeks to analyze what exists within its historical context such that we can intelligently consider what may or ought to come—what we consider our projective imperative.

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Urban humanities is action- and project-oriented. While we organized ourselves around a series of research seminars, the body of knowledge that we collectively developed was never knowledge for its own sake, nor rote academic production as such. Rather, it was always organized around a collective end, not least of all because of its collaborative nature demanded such a structure. Beyond being a way of scholarly practice, however, this orientation extended into our worldview and our view of the role of the scholar, the university, and urban humanities itself. That is, we saw our scholarly work as necessarily engaged in the world, seeking to be intentional about the impact of our work. While activist may be too strong of a word, it gets at our shared understanding that scholarly work has an impact whether we want it to or not, and that the ethics of scholarship ought to demand that we be intentional, even aspirational with this impact. We see this position taken up more often as the conventional tropes of “engaged scholarship”—service learning and community-based research—fail to adequately cover the entirety of the university’s role in the world. In the end, urban humanities only exists in practice. Those involved, myself included, hesitate to call it a discipline, a field, or even a sub-field. It isn’t exactly “sub” to anything else, and it exists as a network of individuals, approaches, and interests across numerous other disciplines, sub-fields, and schools of thought. It operates horizontally, it shapeshifts depending on circumstance and necessity, it is frustratingly difficult to represent. Yet as anyone who has been a part of our merry experiment will attest, it has been definitive in the way it transforms our thinking—individually and collectively—about cities, how to do research, the nature of the university, and on and on. One might draw on Gloria Anzaldúa’s seminal text, Borderlands/ La Frontera, to point toward the shape of urban humanities.

The new mestiza copes by developing a tolerance for contradictions, a tolerance for ambiguity. She learns to be an Indian in Mexican culture, to be Mexican from an Anglo point of view. She learns to juggle cultures. She has a plural personality, she operates in a pluralistic mode—nothing is thrust out, the good the bad and the ugly, nothing rejected, nothing abandoned. Not only does she sustain contradictions, she turns the ambivalence into something else.2 Anzaldúa demonstrated a form of urban humanities some 25 years before we had thought of the term. Her text blends poetry, fiction, and self-reflexive memoir with scholarly theory and analysis which has come to form the basis for humanistic border studies. But beyond a formal similarity between her book and our aspirational practice, the substance of her theory of the borderlands provides a framework for urban humanities in action: contradiction, ambiguity, and openness are transformed into a new kind of scholarly work. It is one which is formed upon the scabs of discipline grating against discipline, within the “emotional residue of an unnatural boundary.” These contradictions operate on multiple levels: most obviously between our various academic disciplines, but also between our notions of home and away, from Los Angeles to Mexico City and back again, straddling academic and activist cultures, on inverted power relationships from student to teacher, from pedagogy to research, within work which merges the poetic with the empirical . . .

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This ethos only truly became apparent in our third year, the year in which we so appropriately focused on Mexico City— lead by project leaders Todd Presner and Maite Zubiaurre. The intimacies between Mexico City and Los Angeles—and the route between the two, importantly including the US-Mexico border and the border city of Tijuana-San Diego—were too significant to ignore. As we discussed and debated the way to properly engage in research about the most populous urban agglomeration in the Americas, a key flaw in our past forays into Tokyo and Shanghai became apparent: while we had only the most considered and positive of intentions behind our research, we could not escape the fundamentally colonialist approach which dominates travel-based research—which we had reproduced. This is not to discount the important work we had previously undertaken, and on which we continue to work, but the simple directionality of our focus could not be ignored: we move from Los Angeles outward, our gaze toward those megacities of Asia belies our positionality even as we embed ourselves in a locality, we produce knowledge for and about an other. We wanted to experiment with reversing this gaze, redirecting it onto ourselves at UCLA, and into Los Angeles. What if we studied and traveled to Mexico City, examined border issues and traveled to Tijuana, and collaborated with numerous situated organizations in both places as a means to learn ways of seeing and doing work about our home place of Los Angeles? And, of course, we soon identified that this new directionality was problematic, not least of all because we found that our “ownership” over Los Angeles was as tenuous as our right to study Mexico City. The only operable praxis was one which embraced the ambiguity of directionality which comes with the borderlands. 2 Anzaldúa, Borderlands, 101.


While this volume demonstrates only a first test balloon in this experimental direction, I believe we have produced material which suggests a promising direction forward. We have also attempted to design and organize this volume to reflect our reconfigured directionality: rather than the dominant paradigm of the US university moving from itself as center outward to the world, we reverse this, beginning in the borderlands and moving outward. Book designers Dante Carlos, River Jukes-Hudson, and Stephen Serrato have transformed this conceptual move into visual language: our massive vehicular infrastructures become graphical paths which guide a reader’s gaze down the center of the page, while text and subtext shift orientations and directions. Once again, our scholarly medium becomes a site for self-reflexive attention and substantive moves (even if they are decidedly outside of academic norms). We begin with Part I: The Borderlands, a series of essays and research articles situated in the spatiality of the US-Mexico border, engaging with our comparative urbanist endeavor at large, Tijuana, and phenomena which span the territory from Mexico City all the way to Los Angeles. Cuff and Loukaitou-Sideris, in “Neither Here Nor There” introduce this section with an essay which touches upon many of the same issues which I address here, but with a specific focus on the work undertaken over the past year, contextualizing it within a historiography of comparative urban study which has transformed dramatically over several decades. Rivera lands on the ground in Tijuana, noting the current trends of its urban development in the larger borderland context in “Bajalta California.” In a timely article titled “The 43,” Becerra, Lin, and Wendel theorize the implications of the disappeared 43 students of Ayotzinapa as it relates to the emergence of protests, culture, and art in Mexico City and Los Angeles. And in a subsequent piece, Koba and Monroe map out the spatiality of Mexico City and Los

8

Angeles with particular regard to their histories of protest and public demonstration. Each of these pieces touches down within the borderlands, launching the spirit of the volume and our work, stretching out to the edges of our scope, in the megacities of Mexico City and Los Angeles. In Part II: Ciudad de México, we continue our experiment in a reverse-colonialist scholarly project by beginning in the south and moving north. Crisman introduces this section with an essay, “Practicing the Future,” emphasizing the speculative nature of the subsequent urban humanities projects and essays. The next three articles, along with several articles in the last section of the volume, are each paired with a project chapter which partially reproduces elements of research teams’ multi-modal, engaged scholarly projects—whatever could be printed on the pages of a book. It should also be noted that the unwieldy author lists for these articles—unusual for at least the humanities—reflect the intensely collaborative nature of these projects. Often, these author lists fail to exhaustively note all those who contributed toward each project, let alone the unique contributions which each author provided to the overall outcome—for example, one author may have primarily contributed writing, while another may have primarily produced maps. The projects were each undertaken with invaluable collaborative community partners who are noted in this introduction but adequate thanks and proper credit is not provided elsewhere in any systematic way. It is perhaps more accurate to consider all of the authors contained in this volume as equal collaborative partners across all the projects as it is all but impossible to accurately and precisely individuate our cohort. Notwithstanding this conundrum, Chesney, Hildalgo, A. Ko, G. Ko, Kolder, Monteils, Rivera, and Wendel in “Poesis as Intervention” and “Urban Poesis” worked with Wonne Ickx and Isabel

Martínez Abascal at LIGA, an experimental architecture gallery, to consider the conflicting desires of everyday residents, street vendors, and the city government in Plaza de la Santisima, a small public square to the northeast of Mexico City’s historic Zócalo—and in doing so have developed a provocative method for using visual poetry as a means of reconsidering space. Alexander, Becerra, Card, Hernandez, Koba, P. Mendez, Monroe, and Mundy in “The Power of Play” and “Los Peatoniños” worked with Gabriella Gomez-Mont and her impressive Laboratorio para la Ciudad, an experimental skunk works within the municipal government of Mexico City, testing the potentials of pop-up play spaces within streets which have been closed off. They bring these tests to bear on several issues which we ought to demand as fundamental rights to the city: the importance of urban play, the notion of legible policy, and the potentiality in something as simple as a child’s access to space. Finally, Becerra, Callaghan, Davis, Kurek, Lin, A. Mendez, Resendiz, and Wickland in “Equiparte” and “Sense, Question, Don’t Assume, Review” worked with Michael Krichman, Carmen Cuenca, and Osvaldo Sánchez, the directors of Casa Gallina, a long-term artistic intervention in the Mexico City neighborhood of Santa Maria la Ribera which stemmed from the seminal inSite series. They move from digital media app, to tactile urban game, to zine and printed matter to explore the ethics of travel study and artistic intervention. Finally, in Part III: Los Angeles, we conclude at home. While our experiences abroad certainly provided an esprit de corps for our group, an impressive network of friends and collaborators, and perhaps most importantly, the heightened sensorium which comes with estrangement, the relationship between the projects undertaken in Mexico City and those in Los Angeles is oblique at best. Nevertheless, Banfill, Presner, and Zubiaurre aptly introduce this section

9

with “Urban Humanities Pedagogy and the New Humanities,” an essay which explores this oblique relationship, demonstrating the importance and potential that it has within the university at large. For the final four projects undertaken in Los Angeles, they were clustered around Boyle Heights, a historic immigrant neighborhood which is currently predominantly Mexican-American, yet also under severe threat of gentrification because of its convenient distance to LA’s newly hip Downtown. Becerra, Chesney, Kurek, Lin, Mundy, and Wickland in “En Movimiento” and “Boyle Heights en Movimiento” worked with Betty Avila of Self Help Graphics and Art, a historic Chicano art and activist organization, and Anisha Hingorani of Multicultural Communities for Mobility, an organization which advocates for people who commute on bicycle and on foot within low-income communities of color. They explored the importance of representation—literal visibility, in addition to political representation— as it relates to these commuters, using art and interaction to intervene in a city which is largely dominated by the automobile. Card, Hernandez, Hildalgo, A. Ko, Monteils, and Resendiz in “A Love Story Against Displacement” and “Longing and Love in Boyle Heights” worked with Carla DePaz from East Los Angeles Community Corporation, a community development non-profit which straddles the difficult worlds of low-income housing development and anti-gentrification efforts. They used that most fundamental of narratives, the love story, in the novel format of the fotonovela to consider the relationship between gentrification, transit oriented development, displacement, and everyday life. Alexander, Koba, P. Mendez, Monroe, Rivera, and Wendel in “Rasquachismo” and “Rasquache Urbanism Manual” worked with Viviana Franco and Maria De Leon of From Lot to Spot, a small community non-profit which manages park spaces and attempts to provide more green space for the health


The Borderlands

Part

0

10

2 13–

and livability of low-income communities in LA. Their project provided a platform for guerilla greening, giving any resident the ability to create a micro-park, drawing on the tradition of rasquache, or a particular DIY sensibility within the Chicano community. They extend this experiment into rasquache data, a relevant provocation in our contemporary, big datadriven world. Finally, we conclude with “Seeking Literary Justice” and “La Caja Mágica” by Becerra, Callaghan, Davis, G. Ko, Kolder, and A. Mendez, in collaboration with Colleen Jaurretche and David Kipen of Libros Schmibros, a community lending library and book advocacy organization in Boyle Heights. They develop the concept of “literary justice,” or the need for a child’s equal access to books given numerous studies which show a strong link between having books in the home and child development, leading to life-long consequences for health and happiness. And perhaps even more provocatively, they intervene in the realm of literary justice by creating a magic box which can open at any time, in any location to provide books and a storytime session for children. In all, these are but a few preliminary notes and pilot projects within the potential that is urban humanities. We hope that the edges of our borderlands might continue to diffuse into ever more remote areas of the university, into our own ongoing work, in the minds and insights of the readers of this volume, and the world at large, shifting us out of habitual formations, transforming us into—what Anzaldúa might have called—the new mestiza.

21–28

29–38

I

38 – 4 8


Engaging Mexico City and Los Angeles

Dana Cuff Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris

Ho

NEITHER HERE NOR THERE

B ay

and Los Angeles

13

21 BAJALTA CALIFORNIA

Tijuana’s Developing Urbanism Kendy D. Rivera

29

Neither Here

Nor There

THE 43

Remembering Ayotzinapa Maricela Becerra Lucy Seena K Lin Gus Wendel

13

39 THE FOUR ECOLOGIES OF PUBLIC DEMONSTRATION

in Mexico City and Los Angeles

Engaging Mexico City

Devin Koba Maria Teresa Monroe

Dana Cuff Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris


PART I: THE BORDERLANDS “Much of urban history research has sought to pair or categorize cities on the basis of complementarity of existing source material. But these categorizations should be disrupted by a creative use of sources, and increasing inclination to fuse different sources and the adoption of original methods emerging from different interdisciplinary scholarship.” 1

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Since time indeterminate, narratives have constructed distant cities for readers— from ancient Pausaneas’s portrayals of second-century Athens, to Baudelaire’s and Benjamin’s accounts of a changing nineteenth-century Paris, to Steinbeck’s depictions of industrial landscapes in early twentieth-century Monterey, to Kerouac’s background of gritty alleys, bars, and flop houses in mid-century San Francisco. Such intriguing urban environments have dominated the imagination of historians, geographers, novelists, and poets. The accounts, often written by outsiders traveling through or living for some time in a city, take the form of urban biography—single-site case studies that examined the relationship between space and society at a distinct point in time. Urban biographies described cities, their everyday situations, and their architecture according to their uniqueness and distinct features. They include humanist and historically specific works like Walter Benjamin’s Moscow Diary from 1927, which begins with a two-page reflection about how he really got to know his hometown Berlin only after visiting the Russian city. 2 Benjamin’s characterizations of Moscow, as well as Naples, acknowledge his own Northern European frame of reference and demonstrate that the understanding of one city never stands in isolation. If sole-city narrative implicitly depends on comparative urban “other,” how should we think about similarity and difference? What constitutes a fruitful pairing? Fundamentally, urban comparisons rest on a construction of two independent objects viewed in relation to one another, even though cities are difficult to objectify and their similarities as well as differences are boundless. These are issues that scholars, including ourselves, have struggled with in order to better understand the settings of metropolitan life. Early twentieth-century versions of comparative urbanism generally spanned vastly different cities by relying on the

URBAN HUMANITIES IN THE BORDERLANDS

NEITHER HERE NOR THERE cotemporaneous theories of modernity and development. 3 Urban anthropology, history, geography, ecology, and sociology were born from their parent disciplines to conceptualize and even promulgate a more modern, progressive cosmopolitanism. With the rise of urban studies in the twentieth century, theories about cities—rather than the cities themselves—framed relationships among them so that the American sociologist Robert Park could discuss London, San Francisco, Osaka, and Bombay in a single sentence.4 In this instance, Park’s notion of a “world-city” served as an abstract structure or theory to scrutinize any individual metropolis. However, in an era of globalization, transnational flows, and cross-border relationships and influences, this single-site focus became increasingly unsatisfying. Scholars who considered it “parochial” and “ethnocentric”5 questioned its utility and argued that “the day of the individually posed idiosyncratic study of a town that has no particular analytical purpose…is now on the wane.”6 In the wake of this, over the last four decades, comparative urbanism has flourished, triggered by a desire to identify, compare, contrast, or juxtapose parallel phenomena that happen in multiple socio-spatial contexts and likely influence one another. Starting in the 1970s, a number of scholars began touting the need for comparative urban research that opens the eyes to broader urban phenomena that can be compared across municipal boundaries and national borders.7 Underlying comparative approaches is the notion that urban imaginaries—this is, cities as they are imagined, contemplated, and written about—are “‘sites of encounters with other cities’ mediated through travel, migration and the circulation of images, goods, and ideas.”8 Comparative studies require identification of similarities and differences of at least two entities and use the city or the nation-state as their unit of analysis.

1 N. Kenny and R. Madgin, “‘Every Time I Describe a City’: Urban History as Comparative and Transnational Practice,” Cities Beyond Boarders: Comparative and Transnational Approaches to Urban History, N. Kenny and R. Madgin, eds. (London: Routledge, 2015), 14. 2 Walter Benjamin, One-Way Street and Other Writings, Edmund Jephcott and Kingsley Shorter, trans. (London: NLB, 1979), 177–78. 3 Jennifer Robinson, “In the Tracks of Comparative Urbanism: Difference, Urban Modernity and the Primitive,” Urban Geography 25.8 (2004): 709–23. 4 Robert E. Park, Human Communities: The City and Human Ecology (New York: The Free Press, 1952), 133.

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5 J. Walton, and L. H. Masotti, eds. The City in Comparative Perspective: Cross-National Research and New Directions in Theory (New York: Sage, 1976). 6 H.J. Dyos, “Editorial,” The Urban History Yearbook (Leicester: Leicester Unversity Press, 1974), 3. 7 Walton and Masotti. 8 Kenny and Madgin, 5. 9 M.P. Smith, Transnational Urbanism: Locating Globalization (Malden, Mass.: Blackwell, 2001). 10 R. Madgin, Heritage, Culture, and Conservation: Managing the Urban Renaissance (Saarbrucken: VDM Verlag, 2009). 11 E. Said, Orientalism (New York: Vintage Books, 1979).

But they are also criticized as overly constrained by fixed entities and arbitrary divisions such as municipal or national boundaries. In reality, urban networks and influences are dynamic, diverse, and transcend such boundaries.9 The emphasis on comparison may also bring along the danger of homogenizing differences and disregarding local particularities in favor of extracting universal lessons to urban issues and problems.10 The flaws of comparative studies have been further exposed by postcolonial theorists critical of studies of nonwestern cities and their residents by scholars from the west, which they argue led to culturally inaccurate, even exoticized, representations and understandings of those regions.11 They criticize the kind of patronizing view, for example, that may see Shanghai as the image of Los Angeles’s future, which in turn points the way for the even more “undeveloped” Mexico City. Geographer Jennifer Robinson argues

ENGAGING MEXICO CITY AND LOS ANGELES


PART I: THE BORDERLANDS

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12 Robinson, “In the Tracks of Comparative Urbanism,” 709 –723. 13 D. Cohen and M. O’Connor, “Introduction: Comparative History, Cross-National History, Transnational History— Definitions,” Comparison and History: Europe in Cross-National Perspective (New York: Routledge, 2004), ix–xxiii. 14 C.A. Bayly, S. Beckert, M. Connelly, et al. “AHR Conversation: on Transnational History,” American Historical Review 111.5 (2016): 1440–64.

URBAN HUMANITIES IN THE BORDERLANDS

Tow n

their socio-spatial impacts, including migration, immigration, border crossings, political refugees, practices of economic exchange, as well as multicultural artistic influences and hybrid urban landscapes. Rather than flows and networks, urban humanities considers interweavings, intimacies, conflicts, collectivities, and engagement among different people and their socio-spatial contexts. If comparative urban studies lead, in the simplest sense, to ideas of same and different, a transnational urban humanities helps to better understand past and presently linked practices between urban settings and culture. There are three interrelated ways that urban humanities go beyond conventional comparative urban studies and contribute to our understanding of the urban. The first concerns fused practices of scholarship by which we explore the human dimension of transnationalism. This fusing of different data sources and methodologies from fields of study such as film, mapping, spatial and social ethnography, and public arts interventions helps enrich the description and understanding of the urban (see for example the ideas of Banfill, Presner, and Zubiaurre in this volume). The second contribution can be described as the projective imperative of urban humanities—that is, the obli-

O ld

that urban models of both difference and similarity are inadequate: “The persistent incommensurability of different kinds of cities within the field of urban theory is out of step with the experiences of globalization, and the ambitions of postcolonialism suggest that simply universalizing western accounts of cities is inappropriate.”12 Contemporary urbanists cannot and should not imagine that global cities are converging to become more alike, nor exoticize their differences. This conundrum has not slowed the production of comparative urban research. In more recent years, a transnational perspective has gained favor in urban studies. This arose in response to criticism that comparative urbanism suffers from a static perception of the urban.13 In contrast, transnational approaches focus on interdependencies, movements, and flows across borders in regions and subregions.14 The goal of such approaches is to understand urban settings and experiences, as composed by multiple regional, ethnic or institutional identities and forces.15 In other words, transnational urban studies wish to take down arbitrary divisions between entities so that both their interconnections as well as collisions become more apparent. For transnational studies to build on the work of previous generations of scholars, urban data and ethnographic evidence that was collected and limited by administrative borders must be reexamined so that “transnational forms and processes are revealed.”16 This requires employing multiple methodological lenses and traditional and nontraditional units of analysis to study the metropolis that may derive from different disciplinary fields. This is where Urban Humanities enters, with its blended trajectories and influences from urban planning, architecture, and the humanities. If theories of globalization rest on constructs of the state, networks, economic flows, and data, transnationalism emphasizes human connections and

NEITHER HERE NOR THERE

17

Fig. A Children reclaiming the street for play in Mexico City. Photograph by Ryan Hernandez. 2016.

15 S. Khagram and P. Levitt, “Constructing Transnational Studies,” The Transnational Studies Reader: Intersections and Innovations (New York: Routledge, 2008). 16 Ibid.

ENGAGING MEXICO CITY AND LOS ANGELES


PART I: THE BORDERLANDS

Fig. B Cyclist cutouts heightening awareness in Boyle Heights. Illustration by Jeannette Mundy. 2016.

18 Fig. C Photographs of participants at a Boyle Heights bicycle advocacy event. Photograph by Lucy Seena K Lin. 2016.

URBAN HUMANITIES IN THE BORDERLANDS

NEITHER HERE NOR THERE gation of urban scholarship to open up possibilities and envision alternative and better futures. This is distinct from the modern project’s interest in globalization and innovation, and from the development model’s particular focus on improvement through policy for those deemed deserving. For urban humanities, the emphasis on possibility rests on comprehending a complex past in relation to an intricate present, in order to construct a potential future that is neither obvious nor shared without immersive debate. The latter is part of engaged scholarship, the third quality of an urban humanist approach. Urban humanities scholars working in cities uphold their own agency along with that of others, as intrinsically political, ethical, and positional. To some extent, the projective and engaged character of urban humanities expands upon those very qualities of architectural design practices. A focus on thick methods, open possibility, and engaged scholarship builds upon Benjamin’s thinking about cities by resisting conventional objects of comparison like nation or state. Instead, critically framed questions and more nuanced understandings of the connectivity and influences among urban places are favored. To flesh out this perspective, consider two studies, one in Mexico City and the other in Los Angeles. Both cities erode notions of “here” and “there” that underlie conventional comparative urban studies, because like other polyvalent locales they comprise multiplicities on nearly every dimension of analysis. Their intimate interconnections extend through centuries, connections made literal through conquests, immigration, environmental issues, and economies, to name a few. That connective tissue sets the context for two activist studies of spatial justice in specific urban streets: research in Mexico City about reclaiming neighborhood streets for children’s play, and in Los Angeles, about heightening awareness of bike commuters of necessity, for workers whose primary

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means of transportation is biking. From the Mexican governmental organization Laboratorio para la Ciudad, the construct of “legible policy” was adopted to create new urban imaginaries in which streets dominated by automobile traffic could be opened to new uses by neighborhood children and other residents and bike commuters. Families living in a Mexico City neighborhood called Doctores joined in a series of street closures in which playing children took the place of the regular automobile traffic, exposing connections between shop and garage owners, multigenerational residents, and street vendors. The temporary closures were consistently marked in the city with signage, banners, and chalk drawings covering the pavement to make legible to neighbors the policy that streets were safe for play. In the Boyle Heights neighborhood of Los Angeles, Mexican American artists and cyclists allied to make visible their advocacy of safer streets. In collaboration with the local organizations Self Help Graphics and Multicultural Communities for Mobility, UCLA’s urban humanists proposed life-size portraits of individual bicycle commuters be installed along commonly used roads. The portraits could be collaged together with maps, personal narratives, and traffic data to make legible the need for policy to create safe bike paths and increase awareness about a marginalized group of Angelenos. Urban humanities scholars partnered in both undertakings, deploying traditional research strategies such as data gathering and analysis, alongside critical cartography, spatial ethnography, and creative urban interventions such as street closures to create play space. Lessons flowed in both directions, from Mexico City to Los Angeles and back again, as graduating students returned to project sites to continue their work during the summer. Each project offered activists and residents a glimpse of a new possible future in their neighborhood. The

ENGAGING MEXICO CITY AND LOS ANGELES


Doctores experience temporarily demonstrated that the unexpected was possible: children could take control of the street. In Boyle Heights, an inventive study made a vulnerable population visible for political urban action and in so doing startled a possible future into view. Urban humanities attempts to sidestep pitfalls that urban studies has long been prone to: essentialism, homogenization, and the erasure of differences between cities. It also does not seek to become an exercise in futurism. For this reason, it employs engaged scholarship and community input and action to mold its proposals. It deploys a range of thick methods to understand and create possibilities for everyday metropolitan life. Rather than holding cities up as objects for comparison, our efforts link cities through practices that rely on extended engagement. That is, urban humanities seeks deep understanding through the shared actions of scholars and citizens moving within and between cities. Rather than urban solutions per se, the projects are offered as public propositions that will evolve through iterations that may lead to more permanent change. If the urban humanities evolve into a bona fide field of study, they may disrupt not only urban studies but current academic structures as they produce not only transformative urban ideas but also new forms of scholarship that could enrich the study of cities.

Developing Urbanism

PART I: THE BORDERLANDS

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21

California Tijuana’s

Bajalta

URBAN HUMANITIES IN THE BORDERLANDS

Kendy D. Rivera


PART I: THE BORDERLANDS California’s economic growth, and political and social gravity rather than that of the nation. In the mid-1930s, populist former president Lázaro Cárdenas declared a series of federal policies called the plan para la recuperacion de los territorios (plan to recuperate the territories), which called for the expropriation of land to the public interest, declaring the then territory of Baja California as a “Free Zone” (a distant predecessor of NAFTA). This was to integrate Tijuana nationally, creating a more centralized relationship with Mexico City, a process that would unfold across the following decades.5 In the 1940s with World War II, the Bracero Program, and the opening of an important naval base in San Diego, Tijuana experienced its solidification as an important urban space in the nation and throughout the border, to some degree countering Cárdenas’s intentions. During this period, Tijuana also saw its most dramatic population growth, from 22,000 residents in the 1940s to 166,000 in the 1960s despite a lack of adequate infrastructure. 6 Migrants returning or attempting to cross into the US settled in the border city, establishing an informal housing community immediately south

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Sa n Di eg o

In 1889, Mexico City engineer Ricardo Orozco was contracted by the Secretaria de Fomento (Secretary of Development) to plan a new order for the Tia Juana ranch, the site which would later develop into the city we know today as Tijuana. He trained at the famous and then only school of architecture in the nation, the Academy of San Carlos in Mexico City, which established the “national style” epitomized in the capital’s civic architecture. Orozco’s education was influenced by French positivism, and his vision for a new border city was neither a reproduction of the former colonial plans, nor the homogeneous block plans of the twin city, San Diego. Rather, Orozco sketched the Zaragoza Plan on the edge of the border and the Tijuana River basin, and included diagonal boulevards, connected public parks and spaces, and blocks of mixed-use commercial and residential blocks.1 The positivist ideals of Tijuana’s new plan signaled the beginning of a new myth of the city: one that is consciously hybridized, neither Mexican nor American. The ideal Zaragoza plan established a new order characteristic of the Porfiriato 2 era, one that fused the magnificence of neoclassical European urbanism with a desire to exalt a new centralist view of the city. 3 Nonetheless, by 1921, a combination of unfriendly topography and government corruption interrupted the realization of Orozco’s utopian dream. 4 This essay tracks Tijuana’s development as one which from its inception and to this day remains within a borderlands logic. Even as contemporary upscale development has begun to transform long held demographics, its identity as a place which does not neatly fit into the logics of the US-Mexico nation-state binary but, rather, as an in-between space with its own aesthetic, culture, and economy. Unlike the development of colonial centers elsewhere in Mexico, Tijuana’s urban development is relatively recent and, as such, its growth from the late 19th to the 20th century was directly linked to

1 Rene Peralta, “Drive-by Tijuana” in GeoHumanities: Art, History, Text at the Edge of Place, ed. Michael Dear, (London: Routledge, 2011), 29. 2 The Porfiriato was the period in which Mexico was ruled by the autocratic president, Porfirio Díaz from 1876–1911, ushering in many modernizing reforms. 3 Cristina Lopez Uribe, “Reflections of the Colonial: Between Mexico and Californiano,” In Latin American Modern Architectures: Ambiguous Territories, eds. Patricio del Real and Helen Gyger (New York: Routledge Press, 2010), 217.

URBAN HUMANITIES IN THE BORDERLANDS

4 Peralta, “Drive-by Tijuana,” 30. 5 René Martín Zenteno Quintero, “Del Rancho De La Tía Juana a Tijuana: Una Breve Historia De Desarrollo Y Población En La Frontera Norte De México,” Estudios Demográficos y Urbanos 10.1 (1995): 110112. 6 Ibid., 113-114.

Fig. A Cartolandia “Cardboard Land,” one of last images of Tijuana’s former shanty town. Reddit. c.1970.

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PART I: THE BORDERLANDS

Fig. B Centro Cultural Tijuana or “the Ball” complete in 1989. Asociación de Hoteles de México.

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Fig. C “Erre” Marcos Ramírez, Century 21. Artist’s Website. 1994. Performative installation juxtaposing the monumentality of official state sponsored modernity with transnational nomadic conditions and repurposing at the border.

URBAN HUMANITIES IN THE BORDERLANDS

BAJALTA CALIFORNIA of the US-Mexico border and along the Tijuana River bed called Cartolandia (or “Cardboard Land”), which refers to the material used to erect the small shacks and suggests how this community was negatively viewed by local officials and residents. In 1957, due to the growth of informal settlements, the state governor decreed the Ley de Planeación Urbanística del Estado de Baja California (Urban Planning Law of the State of Baja California), which established the perimeters of the city. Its goals were to create, organize, and evolve the techniques and aesthetics of construction.7 Later, under the Zona Río (River Zone Project) developed as part of the 1962 Plan Regulador para la Ciudad de Tijuana (Regulating Plan for the City of Tijuana), the core of Tijuana was redeveloped and shifted around the Tijuana River bed. In 1972, a decade after the plan was drafted, the Secretary of Patrimony finally launched the development project by channeling the Tijuana River and displacing the residents of Cartolandia. Around the same time, the city emerged as an Americanized urban space for tourism due to the influence of two major entertainment projects located in the Tijuana River Valley: the Tijuana Racetrack and the Agua Caliente Casino.8 To Mexico City authorities at the time, Tijuana lacked a sense of national identity. Thus, the 1962 plan included a wide boulevard, Paseo de los Heroes, along the river with roundabouts and large-scale statues of binational heroes, such as Moctezuma, Eusebio Kino, Abraham Lincoln, and Ignacio Zaragoza. Delineating the border also served to reinforce a Mexican Tijuana, evident in the city motto: aquí empieza la patria (“the homeland begins here”). Tropes of nation, citizenship, and belonging were trotted out by the central Mexican government to justify the redevelopment while the actual form of the projects was strikingly similar to others in Southern California. For example, the entertainment district mirrored Olvera Street, the paving

7 Antonio Padilla Corona, “CiudadDesarrollo Urbano,” Ayuntamiento de Tijuana, n.d., December 5th, 2015.   8 Peralta, “Drive-by Tijuana,” 30.

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9 Luis Plascencia, Disenchanting Citizenships: Mexican Migrants and the Boundaries of Belonging, (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 2012), 15-16.

of the Tijuana River was similar to the Los Angeles River, and Cartolandia’s treatment matched Chavez Ravine. In Disenchanting Citizenships , Luis Plascencia offers one of the few ethnographic accounts available of Cartolandia, where he studied how the disenfranchised resident’s enacted political agency challenging the elimination of their community. Cartolandia’s population was mainly composed of internal migrants, who were either attempting to cross the geopolitical border, or had recently returned from the US. Residents would sell colorful papier machè flowers to US tourists as they entered the city and though Cartolandia was officially displaced as part of a binational plan with San Diego to prevent flood hazards, Plascencia suggests that the real reason was that city officials’ concern about their image on the global stage.9 With the help of the Mexican military forces, the city of Tijuana gave a 24-hour notice of eviction to residents, and proceeded to forcefully remove those who refused to go. Chicano fiction writer, Luis Alberto Urrea described in his anthology, Across the Wire, ... it was time for Tijuana to spruce up its image to attract some more American dollars... Cartolandia was swept away by a flash flood of tractors. The big machines swept down, crushing shacks and toppling fences. It was like magic. One week, there were choked multitudes of sheds;

TIJUANA’S DEVELOPING URBANISM


PART I: THE BORDERLANDS

BAJALTA CALIFORNIA

the next a clear, flat space awaiting the

[In] recent years the city of Tijuana, on the

blank concrete of a flood channel.10

border with the United States of America,

Similar to the Chavez Ravine relocation, public housing efforts which were officially meant to rehouse those displaced through a project called “70-76” ultimately were only able to benefit 633 families. Another 950 families were relocated in the 220-hectare “Reacomodo Sanchez Taboada.” Families excluded from public housing had no other option but to purchase small cinder block homes near the old airport, a far distance from the downtown area where they sold their flowers. Other families relocated and squatted in canyons at the edge of the city. Finally, Plascencia notes, some families were spurred into migrating north, demonstrating how development and modernization efforts can stimulate migration. With the completion of the nationalist Mexico City-styled boulevard, Tijuana was finally ready to recognize its “Mexicanness,” explains Rene Peralta.11 Along with the largest river channel in Mexico, Tijuana was displaying for the first time in its history a modernist urban form, motivated by and in agreement with centralist views of the state. Continuing this trend, in 1982, the National Commission for the Arts and Culture (CONACULTA) commissioned the father of modernist architecture and design for the Mexican state, Pedro Ramirez Vazquez to design a new icon of Mexicanness in the city. Similar to Diego Rivera’s mural aesthetics, Ramirez Vazquez deeply regarded Mexican cultural traditions, from pre-Columbian urban principles to the relationship between colonial private and public spaces. In his words, the building of the commissioned Tijuana’s Cultural Center (CECUT) was a response to how,

has experienced an unprecedented urban growth. Moreover, it has an enormous floating population, being one of the borders with most movement worldwide (sixteen million tourists a year). These features gave rise to the idea of building a cultural center serving as a bastion of Mexican culture.12   Mexican political scientist Cuahutemoc Ochoa Tinoco’s observes that while the inauguration of the CECUT reaffirmed the identity promoted during the 71 years of dominance by the PRI,13 it also led to the identification of the cultural center as a symbol of local tijuanense identity.14 The establishment of the CECUT also opened an opportunity for the creation of municipal and state-run cultural and artistic agencies, such as the Instituto Cultural de Baja California founded in 1989 and the Instituto de Arte y Cultural Municipal founded in 1999. Most recently, the CECUT has moved away from promoting state-mandated culture and art with a nationalist agenda and, instead, toward promoting binational US-Mexican art that 10 Luis A. Urrea, Across the Wire: Life and Hard Times on the Mexican Border, (New York: Anchor Books, 1993), 23. 11 Rene Peralta, “La historia de una bola,” Pensamientos Genericos, Mar 8 2013. 12 Pedro Ramírez Vázquez, Javier Pizarro, and Claudia Schroeder, Ramírez Vázquez. (Mexico City: M. Galas, 1989), 118.

URBAN HUMANITIES IN THE BORDERLANDS

Fig. D Model of Bajalta, the upscale mixed-use development that broke ground in May 2016. ArchDaily.

13 The PRI is a major political party in Mexico which was in power at the federal level for over seven decades.. 14 Ochoa Tinoco, Cuauhtémoc “De la bohemia a las instituciones: El sinuoso camino de las políticas culturales en la ciudad de Tijuana.” Andamios 6, no. 11 (2009): 345

TIJUANA’S DEVELOPING URBANISM


URBAN HUMANITIES IN THE BORDERLANDS

Remembering

16 Sanchez, Jose. “Bajalta California: El Proyecto que promote cambiar para siempre a Tijuana,” SanDiegoRed. com, May 27, 2016.

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est sa W

15 Michael Dear and Gustavo Leclerc, Postborder City: Cultural Spaces of Bajalta California, (New York: Routledge, 2003), xi-xiii.

The

y Me

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kind for the region. The 3.5 billion-peso project includes four residential buildings, one corporate skyscraper, a cultural center called “La Manzanita,” and three floors for commercial business promoting local arts, crafts, and a booming food scene.16 Designed by the noted New York architecture firm SHoP, the ultra-colorful and playful aesthetic of Bajalta California seeks to blend private and public space along with the hybrid lifestyles of the United States and Mexico in one mixeduse complex. This project, sharing the same name as Dear and Leclerc’s concept, solidifies Tijuana’s largest real estate boom since the development of Zona Rio and CECUT in the 1970s and 80s. This era of urban development, however, formally matches patterns of urban densification around the globe with the expansion finding its home in a central skyline rather than in the city’s perimeter. While Tijuana experiences drastic demographic shifts and the solidification of a cosmopolitan, elite class of residents who call the city home, historical legacies of poverty and stalled development remain present. The channelized Tijuana River continues to be a site of informal settlement for sojourners from the Global South, making their way in or out of the United States, most recently expanding from Mexican and Central American migrants to the arrival of refugees from Haiti and numerous nations across Africa. These trends suggest that however ambivalent one might feel about the transformation of Tijuana into an upscale urbanism, its borderlands aesthetic as a site for those who fit outside state-defined norms will likely live on.

Ota

explores and articulates border experiences and critiques. They were central in creating a space for binational art projects such as the biennale InSite and the Taller de Arte Fronterizo/Border Art Workshop. Michael Dear and Gustavo Leclerc propose a renewed borderland aesthetic, which they call the postborder condition: “in-between (or liminal) spaces, elements of different worlds simultaneously coexist and mutate.” Dear and Leclerc reimagine the Californias (Baja and Alta) as only geopolitically separated, yet unified culturally, aesthetically, socially, and economically. Thus, Dear and Leclerc argue that we should think of the post border region geographically as Bajalta California, re-drawn from Los Angeles in the north to Tijuana and Mexicali in the south. Yet the unique history of Bajalta California allows us also to re-think about the Mexicanidad and Americaness of Bajalta California.15 For example, how “Mexican” is Bajalta California if it was part of the Mexican Republic for only twenty-seven years? This question is partially answered by the Mexican basis for many cultural manifestations found in California, as Baja and Alta California have more in common with each other than Baja California has with México, or California has with the United States. Can we then think of a unique, exceptional, and reimagined culture of the Californias? Could we speculate that despite the geopolitical divide and their long history within separate projects of nation building, Alta and Baja California are not and will not become manifestations of Mexican or American national discourses, but rather continue to be a place that is independently coherent aesthetically, culturally, historically, economically, and socially? In May of 2016, the Mexico City-based upscale development company Artha Capital, presented to the Tijuana elite an upcoming mixed-use urban living project called “Bajalta California,” the first of its

Ayotzinapa

PART I: THE BORDERLANDS

Maricela Becerra Lucy Seena K Lin Gus Wendel


PART I: THE BORDERLANDS

Fig. A

Global anti-memorial map for Ayotzinapa’s +43

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Fig. B Anti-memorial in protest and march, Mexico City, 2015. Photo: Alejandro Sosa

Tragedy does strange things to our conception of proximity. Sometimes we can connect more easily to another’s suffering in a different country than we can to a tragedy a few miles away. In the expanse of Southern California, where the experience of urban space is fragmented into disconnected islands of community, what does a mass shooting in San Bernardino, at the urban periphery, mean to someone living in the city of Los Angeles proper? How do Angelenos process an act of violence toward a queer, primarily Puerto Rican, community at an Orlando nightclub? Post-feminist cultural theorist Judith Butler, when writing about the conditions for a “grievable life” makes an “appeal to a ‘we,’ for all of us have some notion of what it is to have lost somebody.”1 What can we hope to recover by offering our grief across territories in search of a collective memory in this current era of cultural plurality and technological interconnectedness? Los Angeles, as one of the world’s centers of artistic and cultural production, is a laboratory for interrogating the role of art, informality, and grieving in the global twenty-first century. The case of the forty-three disappeared students from Ayotzinapa Rural Teachers’ College in Mexico—a tragedy that reverberated throughout the world—has illuminated Los Angeles’ particular role in the production of collective memory. On 26 September 2014, forty-three students from the Ayotzinapa Rural Teachers’ College disappeared2 from Iguala, a city in the state of Guerrero, Mexico. Guerrero is a largely rural state with a majority indigenous population, many of whom leave their home region as economic migrants in search of jobs in other Mexican cities and in the United States. With the bodies of two students recovered to date, forty-one students remain missing. Gema Santamaría, Professor of International Studies at the Instituto Tecnológico Autónomo de México, claims that the Mexican government’s lack of transparency and efficacy in the investigation pro-

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Tijuana

URBAN HUMANITIES IN THE BORDERLANDS

THE 43 cess reflected its lack of accountability in the aftermath. Indeed, public perception increasingly viewed local law enforcement and the federal government as complicit in the disappearances. “Ayotzinapa ‘fue el Estado’ inasmuch as it was and continues to be the result of impunity and systematic practices of abuse within different levels of government.”3 In Los Angeles, mourning for the students has taken the form of what we call “anti-memorialization,” whereby traditional forms of memorialization are upended through informality, ephemerality, art, and the digital realm, in order to politicize and bring attention to an injustice. While informal memorials have existed as long or longer than their formal counterparts, anti-memorialization moves these informal memorials into the contemporary reality of a digitally networked world and pushes them from private mourning to public activism.4 There was also an outpouring of protests, demonstrations, and informal memorials throughout Mexico in response to the disappearances, with the largest demonstrations numbering in the tens of thousands on the streets of Mexico City. The global response was no less overwhelming: groups of students, local organizations, artists, activists, and other mourners posted their rituals and protests online to signal their solidarity with the friends and families of the dis1 Judith Butler, Precarious Life: The Powers of Mourning and Violence (London: Verso, 2004), 2. 2 Desaparecido (the Spanish word for “disappeared”) has a different connotation in Mexico than its English translation. In Mexico, “disappeared” is an active verb rather than a passive adjective. To call the forty-three students “disappeared” is to suggest that someone actively made them disappear.

REMEMBERING AYOTZINAPA

3 Gema Santamaría, “Ayotzinapa: An Unheard Cry for Justice,” OpenDemocracy, 25 June 2016, https://www. opendemocracy.net/ democraciaabierta/ gema-santamar%C3%ADa/ayotzinapa-unheard-cry-for-justice. 4 For more on the new relationship between digital networks and political activism, see Manuel Castells, Networks of Outrage and Hope (Cambridge, UK: Polity Press, 2015).


PART I: THE BORDERLANDS appeared students, and with the Mexican nationals demanding accountability from their government. The reactions and the incident itself went largely unreported by formal local and global news outlets and instead leapfrogged into the digital realm, where a keyword search of “Ayotzinapa” produced numerous links to a variety of alternative online-style reportage, including blogs, political media sites, YouTube pages, and Twitter feeds and hashtags. The Global Anti-Memorial Map for Ayotzinapa’s 43 locates and catalogs the cities where the anti-memorialization activities were presented first in physical form and then posted and shared online. The public anti-memorials ranged from mass protests, demonstrations of candlelit ceremonies, public performances to the recurring motif of empty schoolstyle chairs that symbolized the missing bodies. Documented and archived on the Internet, these acts represent the beginning of a globally oriented collective memory of mourning and protest. Seven months after the disappearance of the forty-three students, families and other activists installed a metal sculpture reading “+43” on Mexico City’s Paseo de la Reforma. Along the sidewalk, the phrase “Porque vivos se los llevaron, vivos los queremos!” (“Because they were taken alive, we want them back alive”) was painted. The installation of “+43” was accompanied by no formal ceremony; there were no government officials present. Rather, the installation of what the activists called an “anti-monument” was a public challenge to the Mexican government that had failed to provide any answers. The anti-monument expresses the public’s refusal to accept death as the final condition. Moreover, the anti-monument’s appropriation of public space, just blocks away from formal memorials to Mexican history Ángel de la Independencia and the Monumento de la Revolución, contests the national discourse of what is worth remembering. With the large metal sculpture by an anon-

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ymous artist came a warning: if the Mexico City government removed the anti-monument, they would be seen as accomplices of the crime. 5 Several people volunteered as guards of the anti-monument in order to keep it safe. In Los Angeles, as in Mexico City, the proliferation of anonymous street art, in the form of stenciled and spray-painted icons of the number “43,” political text, and unplanned sidewalk altars nearly two years after the reported disappearance, reflect ongoing informal calls for justice. In an art installation by Consuelo Flores, images of each of the forty-three students are interspersed with floating cutouts of flora and fauna, all suspended above a shrine of red handprints on paper sheets and stones placed in a formation that surrounds a single, black fabric-covered desk to symbolize the student status of the disappeared. The piece was part of an exhibit sponsored by Boyle Heights–based arts organization Self Help Graphics and Art entitled 43: From Ayotzinapa to U Ferguson. The exhibition anti-memorial- Mexi SA co izes not just the forty-three students from Ayotzinapa, but victims of police brutality in the United States as well, linking the two social movements across national borders. This anti-memorial was part of a larger, three-part exhibition, Ayotzinapa: A Roar of Silence, which took place over sixteen weeks and involved three other local arts organizations dedicated to social justice: Social and Public Art Resource Center (SPARC), Center for the Study of Political Graphics, and Art Division. Embedded in 43: From Ayotzinapa to Ferguson is a cosmopolitan orientation, initiated by the international call for poster art by the Oaxacan-Mexican artist and activist Francisco Toledo to universities, museums, and art communities. The request was Toledo’s way of grieving with mourners around the world,

THE 43 Fig. C Anti-memorial installed on street in Mexico City, 2016. Photo: Gus Wendel

5 David Vicenteño, “ Colocan ‘Antimonumento’ 43 en reforma por normalistas de Ayotzinapa.”

URBAN HUMANITIES IN THE BORDERLANDS

REMEMBERING AYOTZINAPA


PART I: THE BORDERLANDS

34

as threatening to a society’s existence or violating its cultural presuppositions.”8 The instances of ongoing violence in Mexico, government culpability, and state-sanctioned violence are not new to Mexico’s history. In 2013, according to the country’s national statistics institute, 93 percent of crimes in Mexico go unreported. 9 During the Ayotzinapa investigation in Iguala, approximately 129 unidentified bodies of disappeared individuals turned up in mass graves unrelated to the Ayotzinapa students.10 Journalist Cesar Martinez wrote that the 1968 student massacre at Tlatelolco, and the forty-three Ayotzinapa students represent the two cultural traumas that have most permeated “Mexican society, political discourse, and civilian dialogues,” in the sense that these events have “usurped a society’s fears and memorialized them as an indicator to prevent a similar case from occurring.”11 To what extent has the collective memory in the aftermath of Mexico’s two “biggest” traumas led to collective action and social change, so that such traumas may never again take place? 6 We’re building threads of unity in order to survive,” Bernstorff says, “because we’re all small organizations, with similar struggles. We don’t survive alone; we survive as a unit.” Deborah Vankin, “A poster exhibit stopping in LA gives voice to Mexico’s missing 43 students,” LA Times, 16 February 2016, http://www.latimes. com/entertainment/arts/ culture/la-ca-cm-43-students-missing-sparc20160221-story.html. 7 M. Halbwachs, On Collective Memory (Chicago: Univ. Chicago Press, 1992), 42. 8 Neil J. Smelser, “Psychological Trauma and Cultural Trauma,” in Jeffrey C. Alexander, Ron Eyerman, Bernard Giesen, et al. (Berkeley, University of California Press, 2004), 31–59.

URBAN HUMANITIES IN THE BORDERLANDS

9 https://news.vice. com/article/suspected-student-massacre-illustrates-depth-of-lawlessness-in-mexico. 10 https://news. vice.com/article/ ayotzinapa-a-timeline-of-the-mass-disappearance-that-has-shaken-mexico. 11 César Martínez, “68, 43: Analyzing the Collective Memories and Cultural Traumas of Mexico’s Most Infamous Atrocities,” 68 43, 4 May 2015, https://mexico6843. wordpress.com/68-43-analyzing-the-collective-memories-and-cultural-traumas-of-mexicos-most-infamous-atroicities/.

El Rub i

and his action prompted local and global linkages that amplified the otherwise isolated anti-memorialization acts through the organization of political arts spaces in Los Angeles. The coalition among the four arts organizations, prompted by the Center for the Study of Political Graphics in Culver City, is movement-building akin to the sort of organizing in which political activist groups engage. As a group, these organizations assumed the mantle of public accountability even as they contended with their own missions, communities, political and aesthetic principles, and precarity as small, struggling organizations.6 Shown sequentially, the exhibitions amounted to what the LA Times called an “arts festival of protest” by providing a platform for artists to memorialize the victims, for the immediate public to participate in the related programming, and as a cry for Angelenos to resist structural injustice. The local and global proliferation of anti-memorials undoubtedly places pressure on those responsible—in particular the complicit Mexican government—to provide answers, to hold someone accountable, and in short, to act. Yet the extent to which the Mexican government cannot ignore its citizens’ demands would seem to depend on the intensity and duration of those demands. In other words, it depends on the degree to which the mourning of the event translates into permanent, collective memory. According to French philosopher and sociologist Maurice Halbwachs, the theory of collective memory alludes to the idea that “knowledge about the past is shared, mutually acknowledged, and reinforced by collectivities such as small informal groups, formal organizations, or nation states and global communities.”7 In light of the 2014 event, collective memory has been shaped and defined by cultural or “collective trauma.” The collective memory of trauma is the “memory of an event or situation that is laden with negative affect, represented as indelible, and seen

THE 43

Fig. D Anti-memorial installed on street in Mexico City, 2016. Photo: Gus Wendel

REMEMBERING AYOTZINAPA


PART I: THE BORDERLANDS Martinez argues that the “collective memories” of 1968 and 2014 have produced art, formal and informal monuments, and film, but no concrete legal accountability for the perpetrators.12 Knowing this, we must ask, is legal accountability the only type of accountability that is valuable to track in these events? In the case of the exhibition at Self Help Graphics, art is the mechanism through which awareness is raised by creating a participatory public, one that invests itself in social change over the long run. While high art is often complicit with the negative externalities of globally networked capital, this kind of participatory, socially engaged, and bottom-up art can be a powerful force for good. In other words, it takes time— and art can be a vehicle through which memory is sustained through time. This is especially important when accounts of “what happened” become increasingly contested.13 It might be better to say, then, that it is the quality and diffusion of the memory of the forty-three students that will ultimately determine the degree to which justice is served. Contemporary memory production, or anti-memorialization, sustains the memory of structural violence to drive the search for justice using tools of the digital age. Los Angeles has become a key hub in the mourning for Ayotzinapa through its three-part exhibition which extended and amplified its place as a global tragedy. The exhibitions moved the anti-memorials into the gallery,14 effectively transforming the products of grief and outrage into objects of cultural and aesthetic import. These actions are not to monetize or to fetishize grief. On the contrary, their place in a respected art institution in Los Angeles, a city widely recognized as a cultural capital, state that the issue is important, and that the community of those affected extends from a handful of families in Guerrero to you, a visitor to this gallery. Self Help Graphics further localizes a globally diffused mourning by inviting forty-three Southern California–

12 Ibid. 13 Andreas Huyssen, Present Pasts: Urban Palimpsests and the Politics of Memory (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2003), 28, 4. 14 See again Castells’ Networks for more on the roles that community and what he calls “togetherness” play to spark political change.

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THE 43 15 Lisa Kresge, Indigenous Oaxacan Communities in California: An Overview (Davis: California Institute for Rural Studies, 2007).

based artists to take part in 43: From Ayotzinapa to Ferguson. The artwork they produced grieves for not only Ayotzinapa victims, but also Los Angeles and the United States, with their histories of institutional violence against people of color. Given the large population of people of color—both immigrants and nativeborn—Los Angeles as a place embodies this in a heightened sense. In addition, Los Angeles is home to a substantial Mexican population, and specifically communities of indigenous Mexicans from the rural states of Oaxaca, Chiapas, Veracruz, and Guerrero.15 For these communities residing in the United States, they receive news of kin and kith in Mexico digitally, primarily from their online social networks. This is also how information of their transnational communities disperses, creating pathways moving between the local and global. The timeliness of the exhibition speaks to Los Angeles’ unique capacity as a migrant-concentrated, metropolitan node and a center for cultural and artistic production to respond with anti-memorialization, and an exhibition designed to travel beyond its geographic boundaries. The deluge of submissions to Francisco Toledo, totaling 700 pieces of poster art from locales like Iran, Denmark, Poland, Lebanon, Cuba, and Argentina, and the global manifestation of anti-memorial events, collectively represent the emergence of an extensive interconnected transnational network. This network understands the need for acts of solidarity and the knowledge that the

URBAN HUMANITIES IN THE BORDERLANDS

Fig. E

Protestors march in Mexico, linking Ayotzinapa and Ferguson.

REMEMBERING AYOTZINAPA


16 “The challenge of being in the same present, of synchronizing difference and articulating cosmopolitan hope upward from below rather than imposing it downward from on high[...].” Paul Gilroy, Postcolonial Melancholia (New York: Columbia University Press, 2005), 67.

aggregation of voices affects how movements, and, therefore, social change takes place. At a fundamental level, the need for global mourning, for a collective memory, and for what theorist Paul Gilroy calls a “cosmopolitan hope”16 to pursue a globalized humanistic existence is made abundantly clear. This is the learned need for solidarity of a cosmopolitan global community interconnected by digital culture that expresses their agency from below rather than waiting for or expecting that their governments and legal systems will enact the necessary justice. The 43: From Ayotzinapa to Ferguson exhibit is a reminder that when communities here and abroad come together to mourn and demand justice via art, the work produced not only serves as a reminder to reflect on these tragedies it is a deliberate a call to action for us all.

and Los Angeles

PART I: THE BORDERLANDS

38

in Mexico City

The Four of Public Ecologies Demonstration

URBAN HUMANITIES IN THE BORDERLANDS

Devin Koba Maria Teresa Monroe


PART I: THE BORDERLANDS

40

Ro s a r ito

Mass public demonstrations, or the gathering of a large number of people in a public space to bring attention to a particular political cause or grievance, have been so historically central to the political process that they have been enshrined in numerous constitutions across the globe. While there are myriad other forms of protest, resistance, and public demonstration, this paper argues that mass public demonstrations, in particular, continue to be an effective medium for communicating the concerns of large populations of people to local communities and broader audiences. This paper focuses on Mexico City and Los Angeles, the paring of which leads to a reflection upon the representations and misrepresentations of their urban fabric, and their effectiveness or ineffectiveness as platforms for mass demonstrations. México City has been recently called the “City of Protests” where “the streets are to protest.”1,2 The streets are no longer the property of the motorist nor the pedestrian. From September 1, 2014 to August 29, 2015 over seven thousand recorded demonstrations, blockades, and marches took place in the city “where everything gets resolved.”3 Among these, eight protests resulted in police confrontation with the demonstrators and many monetary losses were recorded. On Paseo de la Reforma alone, a principal avenue for large demonstrations, businesses had to close for the day due to the most recent annual demonstration of the Tlatelolco massacre, losing between 70 to 80 million pesos (approximately 4 million dollars), according to the president of the Chamber of Commerce, Services, and Tourism of Mexico City. During this period, over 400,000 people participated in these activities, voicing their opinion on different local, state, and national issues.4 This massive number averages to a little over twenty demonstrations a day in a city where 8.8 million people reside. People march its streets with a purpose that defines their identity as citizens: the

right to protest and to make a difference that will hopefully transform their city and nation for the better. In contrast, Los Angeles has rarely been characterized as a city of protests. Most notably, Los Angeles has been described by political geographer and urban theorist Edward Soja as “a city composed of images”5 which reflects its preeminent role in shaping mass media around the world, as well as the use of photography and images in the development of the city’s urban form. Despite the limited recognition of its civil participation, Los Angeles does in fact have a strong legacy of political activism but in its own way. In Seeking Spatial Justice, Soja later asserts, “... there are good reasons to believe that the Los Angeles experience over the past twenty years has something special to say to activists and theoreticians everywhere.”6 The spatial activism is reconfigured in the form of localized community-based organizations and many grassroots activism efforts.7 He argues that the decline of industrial unionism has created in its place a localized practice of social movement unionism which not only encompasses labor grievances but incorporates social issues pertaining to a space, including race, gender and sexuality, immigration policies and immigrants’ rights, and the environment. 8 It is through these issues that Los Angeles has engaged in a socio-spatial dialectic over its geography, or the democratization of space including public access as a basic human right.9 In examining the culture of public demonstration over the last 20 years in Mexico City and Los Angeles, the “City of Protests” and the “City of Images,” respectively, it becomes clear that there is a lack of legibility in the latter. Hence, the aim of this essay is to elaborate a relevant pairing for comparative analysis of public demonstrations between these two cities focusing on their urban accessibility to where large-scale demonstrations can effectively navigate in order to communi-

URBAN HUMANITIES IN THE BORDERLANDS

THE FOUR ECOLOGIES OF PUBLIC DEMONSTRATION cate their concerns to broader audiences. This research analyzes the public space that is claimed as a civil platform in both Mexico City and Los Angeles made up of a network of four ecologies that encompass key points of congregation in such activities: Political Institutions, Monuments, the Plaza, and Boulevards.10 In the case of Mexico City, these ecologies represent a network that is bound to a tripartite context: historical, cultural, and geographical significance, which turns them into a legible unity. The ecologies embody a unique spatial platform that citizens claim as their own to express a call for attention for their concerns and grievances. For instance, Paseo de la Reforma and El Zócalo are the primary public spaces for mass protests against social unrest. Paseo de la Reforma is a large boulevard, which cuts through key areas of the city including its business and financial sectors, while El Zócalo is a gargantuan plaza situated in front of the National Palace, the Supreme Court, and the Metropolitan Cathedral. The clarity of the Mexican capital’s four ecologies provides a clear path for mass mobilization that contributes to the effectiveness and legibility of civil demonstrations. On the other hand, Los Angeles’s use of the four ecologies, also present a historical, cultural, and geographical context but deviate from a legible civil platform for mass demonstrations due to its polynodal nature and limited amount of public space conducive to mass organization. Instead of creating a discernable unity, Los Angeles’s four ecologies act as separate units where people still voice their concerns in their own legible way to seek justice as citizens. However, rather than a direct and clear path of large-scale mobilizations, the mapping of the ecologies creates a network image of dispersion. Mexico City’s Four Ecologies Mexico City has a long history of culture of protest. El Zócalo, the heart of the

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city, is consecrated for a civic purpose by tradition “from the novo Hispanic riots that plundered and burned the Parián market and the National Palace in times of famine ... to the welcoming receptions of the revolutionary heroes such as Carranza.”11 Additionally, author and native chronicler of Mexico City, José Joaquín Blanco remarks that at the start of the 20th century there was a major need to load the city with massive construction, “an excessive commemoration” to the glorious city and a bourgeois class. The public display in the form of monuments and artifacts continued to be developed in Mexico City’s central district in an effort to reclaim a national identity shattered after a decade of civil war. Hence, public history was written in the form of monuments along main avenues and boulevards as a symbol of patriotism where a “series of objects that commemorate history through the public representation of statues, paintings, papers; this mainly resulted at the end of 1 “La ciudad de las protestas,” Reporte Indigo (October 9, 2015). http://www.reporteindigo. com/reporte/mexico/ laciudad-de-las-protestas. 2 Unless otherwise noted, all translations are by co-author Maria Teresa Monroe. 3 “La ciudad de las protestas,” Reporte Indigo. 4 “La ciudad de las protestas,” Reporte Indigo. 5 Edward W. Soja, Los Angeles: The City of the Future? (Open University BBC2, 1991). 6 Edward W. Soja, Seeking Spatial Justice (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2010), Kindle Edition, 413. 7 Soja, Seeking Spatial Justice, 2130. 8 Soja, Seeking Spatial Justice, 2280. 9 Soja, Seeking Spatial Justice, 276.

IN MEXICO CITY AND LOS ANGELES

10 The four ecologies are inspired by Reyner Banham’s Los Angeles: The Architecture of Four Ecologies where the author proposes four types of urban fabric as a natural and integrated part of the city’s landscape. Reyner Banham, Los Angeles: The Architecture of Four Ecologies (London: Allen Lane The Penguin Press, 1971). 11 José Joaquín Blanco, “La ciudad de México: aspectos de una modernización,” Cuando todas las chamacas se pusieron medias nylon (y otras crónicas) (México: Joan Boldó i Climent Editores, 1988), 161.


PART I: THE BORDERLANDS the Porfiriato and above all, at the twentieth century.”13 Needless to say, the stratification of the Mexican society points to a predominant lower class homogenization that did not change with the efforts of the Mexican Revolution. Rightly then, the political unrest of the Mexican population has been historically determined and has increased progressively in the urban setting of Mexico City due to mismanagement and corruption in government. Today, people still take ownership of this central axis as an effective avenue for mass demonstrations. The four ecologies in Mexico City interconnect with each other where monuments are often on boulevards and political institutions are in plazas. The ecologies follow, for the most part, a consistent path when large-scale demonstrations are organized. The urban art and the massive space of avenues and plazas in Mexico City’s central axis, serve as fostering tools in the Mexican culture of protest as illustrated in the following categorization: Political Institutions: Los Pinos (the Presidential residence) and the National Palace are the key architectural representations of institutional power. The latter fills the entire east side of El Zócalo, the heart of political activism in the Mexican capital. Additionally, the site where the National Palace is located has been the home of the ruling power since Aztec times, where the primary prehistoric temple was partially demolished to provide building materials for the Cathedral. The Cathedral which spans the entire north side of El Zócalo is another key institutional power. Even though the President rarely visits this place, it symbolizes the hegemony of the country, and demonstrators often end up in front of the Palace to voice and seek justice for their concerns. Monuments: The key monuments that make up this ecology embody a powerful symbol of patriotism and carry an important significance for mass demonstrations as they represent a remembrance of the community’s resilience, survival, 12

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THE FOUR ECOLOGIES OF PUBLIC DEMONSTRATION

and overcoming of their history’s triumphs and sufferings. From the Angel of Independence, which commemorates Mexico’s independence from Spain in 1821, to the Monumento a la Revolución, which honors the heroes of the Mexican Revolution and represents the efforts to provide “land and freedom” to the poor, monuments like these serve as symbolically important places for people to exercise their voice through collective organization. They function as nodes for celebration as well. From celebrating the triumph of a national soccer match at the Angel of Independence or the annual celebration of Mexican Independence Day at El Zócalo, where a monumental Mexican flag rests at the center. Many other monuments were strategically placed along Paseo de la Reforma as an “excessiveness” of urban art in an effort to “modernize” and embellish the Mexican capital during the first half of the 20th century. Plazas: El Zócalo, or the main square of Mexico City, has been described as “the biggest architectural space of the twentieth century in Mexico.”14 El Zócalo and its surrounding blocks have played a central role in the city’s planning and geography since the Aztec times, almost seven hundred years ago, and is the place of protest par excellence for the reasons noted above. Besides El Zócalo, there are additional plazas that function as spaces for smaller protest gatherings such as La Plaza de las Tres Culturas, Alameda Park, and Plaza de la República. Boulevards : Paseo de la Reforma encompasses everything from history, memory, celebration, and collectivity for Mexican identity. This major avenue functions as a symbolic bridge connecting two major political institutions: Los 12 Named as such after the rule of Mexican president Porfirio Diaz from 1876 to 1911. 13 Blanco, “La ciudad de México: aspectos de una modernización,” 164.

URBAN HUMANITIES IN THE BORDERLANDS

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14 Blanco, “La ciudad de México: aspectos de una modernización,” 161.

IN MEXICO CITY AND LOS ANGELES


PART I: THE BORDERLANDS

THE FOUR ECOLOGIES OF PUBLIC DEMONSTRATION Pinos at Chapultepec and the Palacio Nacional at El Zócalo, thus it is the primary avenue for mass protests against any social, political or economic repression. Besides connecting to the historical district and plazas, Paseo de la Reforma functions as a setting for public display for many of the key monuments, such as the Angel of Independence. Los Angeles’s Four Ecologies

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URBAN HUMANITIES IN THE BORDERLANDS

The urban structure of Los Angeles, as proposed by Edward Soja, demonstrates the fragmentation and decentralization characterized by postmodernity.15 Through multiple phases of deindustrialization and reindustrialization of the urban core beginning in the late 1970s, populations within the core of Los Angeles began to migrate to its peripheries, transforming them into densely urbanized regional nodes. In their place, more than five million immigrants of primarily Latino and Asian decent refilled the central core between 1970 and 2010. Los Angeles has become one of the most demographically heterogeneous cities in the world with less than 40 percent of the population being Anglo.16 The production of multiple centers and culturally diverse populations has resulted in a lack of a consistent network of four ecologies within Los Angeles. The endless horizontality and poly-nodal organization inherently hinders the legibility of a central focal point for collective organization.17 The fragmented nature of Los Angeles raises questions about where and how civil and social activism is organized, particularly when movements may be more specific to discrete communities. Rather than a single centralized network of ecologies, Los Angeles illustrates how place-based knowledge and collective organization at various scales can address issues with more specificity to communities within the city’s heterogeneous landscape. Even if a coalition between community-based organizations

from diverse ethnic or religious groups exists, where the union stems from sharing the same struggles for social and spatial justice, as Soja argues,18 Los Angeles still has less legible protests in part because of the lack of monumental boulevards and grand public spaces as the maps illustrate. To draw a comparison with Mexico City, not all ecologies in Los Angeles serve as a civil platform. While political institutions, boulevards and plazas still function as places for demonstrations, monuments and boulevards play a central role in producing the city’s mediatized identity: Political Institutions: The primary location of political power is located in the civic center area of Downtown Los Angeles. At the head of Grand Park is Los Angeles City Hall, a 454-foot tower built in 1928 housing the mayor’s office and the meeting chambers and offices of the City Council. The United States Courthouse, Los Angeles Superior Court, and the Hall of Justice also border Grand Park. Other political institutions, such as the Mexican Consulate represent places of political power for specific local communities within Los Angeles. Monuments: In the film, Reyner Banham Loves Los Angeles, Banham states that “there are no public monuments worth visiting”19 —at least in the commemorative sense in which the monuments in Mexico City act. In fact, nearly all of 15 Soja, Los Angeles: The City of the Future? 16 Soja, Seeking Spatial Justice, 2348. 17 Allan, Ken D. “The Spangled Pot-Hole,” The City Lost & Found: Capturing New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles 1960-1980, edited by Buzzard, Katherine A., Alison Fischer, and Greg Foster-Rice (Princeton: Princeton University Art Museum, New Haven: Yale University Press, 2014), 229.

IN MEXICO CITY AND LOS ANGELES

18 Soja, Seeking Spatial Justice, 2404. 19 Reyner Banham, Malcom Brown, Julian Cooper, Henry Miller and Norman Mailer, Reyner Banham Loves Los Angeles, (BBC, 1972).


PART I: THE BORDERLANDS the officially recognized “Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monuments” are buildings, which gained importance only after their long use. Some of the most notable monuments reflecting the culture and identity of the city are, instead, related to the film industry: the Hollywood Sign, the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and Grauman’s Chinese Theater (which was officially renamed the “TCL Chinese Theater” after its purchase in 2013 by the Chinese corporation). Plazas: Pershing Square, bounded by Fifth, Sixth, Hill, and Olive Streets, is a one square block that has been utilized historically for World War I and World War II rallies and several civil organization movements, such as the 2000 Democratic National Convention protest and initial Occupy Los Angeles meetings in 2011. MacArthur Park, located across the street from the Consulate General of Mexico in Los Angeles, is a 35-acre block bisected by Wilshire Boulevard. It has also been used as a place for civil organization due to its large public area and proximity to the Mexican Consulate. Grand Park was built in 2012 providing 12-acres of open space for public gathering right at the heart of the civic center in Downtown Los Angeles. The plots of land were used for prior civil demonstrations, such as the 2006 Immigration Reform Protest and Occupy Los Angeles’ long-term encampment after 2011. While substantial, its narrow and long form bisected by multiple streets is less conducive for collectivity and speaker presentations. Boulevards: Wilshire Boulevard connects MacArthur Park and the Mexican Consulate to Pershing Square and the Downtown area. It is a prominent boulevard that runs through Hollywood and Beverly Hills culminating in Santa Monica. Broadway is a major thoroughfare connecting Pershing Square to Grand Park and the civic center institutions, such as Los Angeles City Hall and the U.S. and Los Angeles Courts.

However, the absence of monuments, cultural or political, along both Wilshire Boulevard and Broadway limits the effectiveness of these boulevards to serve as symbolic axes of civil demonstration. They are only used as corridors for their greater scale and functional connectivity. Maps and Case Studies The purpose of this analysis is not to give a comprehensive account of the protests targeted in this study, nor to identify every single protest in Mexico City and Los Angeles, but to offer an overview of a few identifiable and best recorded protests in both cities after the turn of the 21st century. To illustrate how the four ecologies manifest in each city, two maps zoom in at three major protest demonstrations in each city from early 2000 until the present. These civil expressions of unrest have left newspaper articles, chronicles, books, and testimonies, which allowed for relevant information to be gathered for this study. For example, the map of Mexico City (see Figure 1) focuses on the Presidential Election March and blockade (2006),20 the March Against Violence and Kidnapping (2004),21 and the Zapatista March (2001).22 Los Angeles’s demonstrations (see Figure 2) include the Democratic National Convention (2000), 23 US Immigration Rights (2006),24 and Occupy Los Angeles (2011). 25 The maps document the number of participants, their start and final location and path movement throughout existing public plazas, historical monuments, major thoroughfares, and centers of power in both metropolitan areas. Through the lenses of the four ecologies, this analysis reflects upon how the networks of political institutions and public spaces, including monuments, plazas, and major avenues, foster political and social activism in both Mexico City and Los Angeles.

URBAN HUMANITIES IN THE BORDERLANDS

THE FOUR ECOLOGIES OF PUBLIC DEMONSTRATION Conclusion While putting these two cities in conversation with each other, a main question emerges: what are the lessons a city like Los Angeles can learn from Mexico City—or vice versa—when it comes to congregation and protest? Mexico City and Los Angeles both present a different urban central structure and historicity that may result in varying study approaches of their urban networks. The centrality and linkages of Mexico City’s network of four ecologies produces an infrastructure to support mass public demonstration almost too well in which different populations’ right to the city may be inhibited by overlapping efforts. While Mexico City’s ecologies of public demonstration (Political Institutions, Boulevards, Monuments, and Plazas) mapped in this study interconnect with each other and follow, for the most part, a consistent path that leads into El Zócalo, Los Angeles lacks a consistent network due to its fragmented and decentralized character. However, Angelenos have also been able to mobilize, as we have exposed in this study, against the atomized urban nature of the city. Rather than a single, centrally-focused network of four ecologies, Los Angeles provides an opportunity for a multiplicity of civil platforms that are multi-nodal yet scalable. The model supports the diversity of cultures and social groups that exist within the greater Los Angeles Area and, simultaneously, suggests the capacity for even greater pervasiveness and, therefore, impact around a single cause through a physically distributed yet socially unified organized demonstration. While this clearly produces a spatiality which is difficult to overcome for traditionally conceived mass public demonstrations, the numerous networks of ecologies have the potential to allow for a variety of forms of public demonstration simultaneously, even if these forms may be varied, or even in conflict.

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20 Presidential Election (2006): The 2006 march and blockade took Reforma for a period of seven weeks as a result of what it was believed a fraudulent presidential election. The population demanded for the votes to be re-counted. 21 Marcha en contra de la inseguridad y el secuestro ‘March against violence and kidnapping’ (2004): This protest was called by civil organizations such as el Yunque y México Unido contra la delincuencia (United Mexico against crime) to demand the government to stop crime to march on Sunday June 27th, 2004. Thousands of people wore white as a symbol of peace and marched through Reforma to El Zócalo. It was called la marcha del día después ‘the march of the day after’ because the crime in massive scale already happened. The participants recorded range from two hundred fifty thousand to one million where “the stories, just like participants were countless.” Fabricio Mejía Madrid, “La marcha del día después,” Salida de emergencia (México: Random House Mondadori, 2007), 122.

IN MEXICO CITY AND LOS ANGELES

22 Marcha Zapatista (2001): Started on 1994, Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional (Zapatista Army of National Liberation; EZLN), a leftist movement headed by Subcomandante Marcos emerged as a response to the military and corporate incursions into Chiapas, a State located in the South of Mexico predominated by indigenous population. Seven years later, the EZLN organized a march from Chiapas to Mexico City with the purpose to present their case to Congress. The march started in San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chiapas and ended in El Zócalo on March 11th after a period of 14 days and a distance of 3,000km. Mejía Madrid. “La marcha del día después,” Salida de emergencia, 119129. 23 Democratic National Convention (2000): The Democratic National Convention was held in Los Angeles at the Staples Center on August 14th announcing Al Gore as the Democratic candidate for the 2000 U.S. Presidential Election. Approximately 10,000 Angelinos met at Pershing Square and marched together to a designated lot adjacent to the Staples Center to demonstrate their dissatisfaction with the two-party system. Speakers and musicians, such as Rage Against the Machine, performed within the chain-link fence enclosed area. Within an hour of the event, police shut down the event using force and rubber bullets. Jerry White, “Los Angeles police attack protesters at Democratic Convention,” World Socialist Web Site (August 27, 2000). https:// www.wsws.org/en/articles/2000/08/la-a17.html.


51–60

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61–66

8 3–90

no. 1, 2007: 49-50. http:// www.jstor.org/stable/40342667. 25 Occupy Los Angeles (2011): In conjunction with a nationwide public demonstration about the public dissatisfaction with the imbalanced economic distribution of wealth, roughly 700 people camped outside of the Los Angeles City Hall. The movement orchestrated a camp settlement outside of City Hall for two months and numerous marches, which included as many as 5,000 people. (Kate Linthicum, “Occupy L.A. Protesters Plan to Expand Their Encampment,” The Los Angeles Times (October 19, 2011). http:// latimesblogs.latimes. com/lanow/2011/10/occupy-la-city-hall-.html.) On November 29th, the police cleared the campsite arresting 292 people. Mitchell Landsberg, Kate Linthicum, and Joel Rubin, “To Clear Occupy Camp, LAPD Uses New Tactics,” The Los Angeles Times, December 1, 2011. http:// www.latimes.com/local/lame-occupy-main-20111201story.html.

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Ciudad

6 –11 107

24 US Immigration Rights (2006): On March 25, 500,000 Angelinos marched down the streets of Downtown Los Angeles in protest of HR 4437. The bill increased the crime of undocumented immigration to a felony and penalties to employers for hiring illegal immigrants. On May Day, International Workers’ Day May 1st, Latino immigrant workers across the country boycotted the U.S. economy. Between one to two million Latinos in Los Angeles marched to the Los Angeles City Hall. An estimated 95-98% of the participants were of Latin descent. There were two organized marches. The first started at the intersection of Olympic and Broadway and would march up Broadway to City Hall. However, the overwhelming number of participants spilled over to many of the adjacent streets effectively blockading the Downtown area for multiple hours. (“AntiHR4437 March 3/25/06 Downtown Los Angeles,” Chanfles.com (March 3, 2006). http://www.chanfles.com/protest/.) The second march extended outside the immediate Downtown area to down Wilshire Boulevard. The May Day demonstration, typically organized by U.S. Labor Organizations, was led by the immigrant workers themselves. The protest included a national boycott of the U.S. economy, parallel marches in many other cities such as Chicago (500,000 people) and New York (350,000 people), and the largest student walkout in U.S. history involving 40,000 Los Angeles students. Victor Narro, Kent Wont, and Janna ShadduckHernandez, “The 2006 Immigrant Uprising: Origins and Future,” New Labor Forum, volume 16,

de México

PART I: THE BORDERLANDS

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PRACTICING THE FUTURE

EQUIPARTE: COSMOPOLITANISM, CONFLICT, TRANSLATION

Exercises in Immanent Speculation

Immanent Speculation

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Angélica Beccerra Cat Callaghan Will Davis Paul Kurek Lucy Seena K Lin Alejandro Ramirez Mendez Chantiri Resendiz Teo Wickland

Jonathan Crisman

61 POESIS AS INTERVENTION Peter Chesney LeighAnna Hidalgo Andrew Ko Grace Ko Benjamin Kolder Louis Monteils Kendy D. Rivera Gus Wendel

117 Project Three: Sense, Question, Don’t Assume, Review

67 Project One: Urban Poesis

83 THE POWER OF PLAY IN RESHAPING PUBLIC NARATIVES

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Practicing

The Future

Heidi Alexander Maricela Becerra Kenton Card Ryan Hernandez Devin Koba Paola Mendez Maria Teresa Monroe Jeannette Mundy

Project Two: Los Peatoniños

Exercises in

91

Jonathan Crisman


PART II: CIUDAD DE MÉXICO Los Angeles is a city made from an assemblage of speculative practices. Spain colonized the region, surmising it was unsettled territory to be conquered— ignoring, of course, the Tongva who had lived here for thousands of years. Later on, as part of the United States, the region went through a stuttering period of growth as boosters proclaimed the magic of Southern California throughout the Midwest and elsewhere, fueling land speculation wherein gullible investors would repeatedly and blindly bid up land prices only to discover more often than not upon a first visit that the real estate was essentially worthless. And, of course, it became ground zero for all the imagination of Hollywood, projecting moving images of fantasy plotlines onto screens around the world. Across from La Placita, the mythical origin point of Los Angeles, is Union Station. The last of the grand train stations built in the United States, it was approved in 1926 and completed thirteen years later during the throes of the Great Depression and a world war. What was then Chinatown was demolished in the process, whitewashing the site of the largest mass lynching in US history1 with gleaming art deco construction. It is the terminus of a city upon which it seemed almost anyone could project their own minor utopia. Sure enough, in 1938, a bigger, better Chinatown was built about a mile away under the guidance of community leader Peter Soo Hoo and with the help of Hollywood set designers in designing its core, Central Plaza. As Edward Soja has noted, subverting the boosterist claim, “It all comes together in Los Angeles.” To speculate might mean to assume rather than to know based on facts (as in Spain’s assumption of the tabula rasa of California, and later again with Manifest Destiny), or it might mean to envision historical or fictional realities (as in the imaginative work of Hollywood). There are, of course, endless varieties of financial speculation, such as land speculation

PRACTICING THE FUTURE 1 The Chinatown massacre of 1871 is widely believed to be the largest mass lynching in American history, where a mob of around five hundred white men chased down and killed around twenty Chinese immigrants. While the purported cause was vigilante justice after a local rancher was killed by a Chinese gang, the massacre coincided with increasing anti-Chinese sentiment throughout California, culminating in the Chinese Exclusion Act passed eleven years after this event. A trial was held for some of the killers, but no punishment was ever served out.

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or the mining speculation in the goldfields of Northern California and the oilfields around Los Angeles. We might read into Chinatown’s destruction an element of racial speculation: that the sullied, foreign, Chinese landscape was envisioned by city boosters as bleached clean, transformed into a gleaming beacon of Anglo LA. But we might also see the inverse of that in a work of speculative fiction: Karen Tei Yamashita’s Tropic of Orange, where, again, it all comes together in Los Angeles—“it” being a stunning kaleidoscope of new ethnic formations. Decades of Anglo hegemony in LA literature gave us Chandler’s hard-boiled noir and Didion’s upper-middle-class neuroses. Yamashita gave us Bobby: “Chinese from Singapore with a Vietnam name speaking like a Mexican living in Koreatown. That’s it.” The book spans seven days, with seven narratives moving between Mexico and Los Angeles, just like its eponymous orange, which a character named Arcangel brings across the border (and, along with it, the Tropic of Cancer). It straddles magic realism and speculative fiction, suspending our disbelief about any number of perfectly plausible alternative realities for Los Angeles: palm trees as flags for the poor instead

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of street ornamentation for Beverly Hills, a traffic jam on the Cahuenga Pass as a meticulously conducted symphony, NAFTA as a luchador being defeated by el gran mojado ... In the university, speculative work most often involves theoretical development, from physics to philosophy. But there are some today who eschew conventionally understood “academic speculation” for something closer to what Yamashita practices. This form of speculation has something to do with race insofar as it aims to decolonize, and little to do with jumping through the hoops of theory. What we might call immanent speculation, this is the practicing of an inherently unknowable future in order to create the conditions for that future to unfold. In contrast to theory-laden speculative philosophy, or to the incrementalism of design in the built environment, or even to the extreme opposite of ungrounded utopianism, immanent speculation rigorously pulls out latent alternative realities embedded in a place through the method of making. It does so with the consequence that these other worlds—whether or not they are fully realized—expand our notion of what could be. It aims to decolonize the future from the forward march of time, from the imperfect conditions of the present, freeing it to become something just beyond what we imagine to be possible. It is called immanent because it is not pulled from thin air, but rather from the sites and places in which we live. It is undisciplined yet rigorous, intellectual yet artistic. In fact, an imperfect immanent speculation recently found its way into where we began: Union Station and Chinatown. In October of 2013, the experimental opera company The Industry staged a performance based on Italo Calvino’s book Invisible Cities. Performed in collaboration with the LA Dance Project, the characters were embedded in Los Angeles’s Union Station. Some 100,000 people commute through the station every day, and

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they continued to do so as the opera was performed. The characters moved fluidly through the building, exploring imaginary spaces and playing out a war of words between Kublai Khan and Marco Polo. Viewers were given wireless headsets that played the full opera with live orchestra, but were given no instructions on how to view the piece. You could sit down and experience it motionless, you could attempt to catch every exciting moment by recklessly following where you assumed the action was, you could take your headset off to mute the orchestra and listen to the ambient noise, you could share your headset with a curious passer-through, and sometimes you could find yourself in the way of the performers. Donning a headset transported you to a different world that was overlaid on top of this one, in real time. The opera was lauded by critics. Christopher Cerrone was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for composing the opera, while director Yuval Sharon’s spatially sophisticated interpretation won great acclaim. The performers miraculously transformed from anonymous commuters to fully costumed period characters. Dancers deftly maneuvered between audience members and passers-by like some feat of spatial jazz. Using postmodern techniques of fragmentation and nonlinear space-time, the opera traversed the present world, the age of Marco Polo’s exploration, and the many worlds he described. The technological novelty of listening to the fragmented bits of opera on wireless headsets, synthetically mixed into a whole, was equally impressive, blending the excitement of a full, live orchestra and the contemporary remixmash-up sensibility of a DJ set. Most striking of all was the opera’s site-specific deployment of Union Station. Each of the other elements played out in particular relation to the space, history, and essence of the site. Tropes of the traveler, of the explorer, of the grand hall versus everyday spaces were played out

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Fig. A Hopscotch performance in Central Plaza, Chinatown, Los Angeles. Photograph by Author. 2015.

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Fig. B Hopscotch performance in Central Plaza, Chinatown, Los Angeles. Photograph by Author. 2015.

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PRACTICING THE FUTURE in the train terminal. This demonstrated immanent speculation because it was at once speculative—it imagined and performed an otherworldly fantasy—as it was embedded in the messy reality of urban space. At one point, a homeless person noticed the captive audience and began singing her own tune before a nervous stagehand awkwardly ushered her away to receive her own headset. And, of course, the inversion of who is watching and who is being watched cannot go unstated: as much as we privileged theatergoers invaded this space and tried to watch as much of the frenetic and fractured performance as we could, so too were we being gawked at by passers-by. We were a funny-looking mob of confused people with wireless headsets on, providing our own free show. There was none of the unidirectional comfort of a darkened theater. In this strange, ambivalent way, the audience’s discomfort with being implicated by the performance’s dynamics—of power, of privilege, of post-modern obtuseness—became absorbed into the opera, suggesting an alternative, immanent reality that had the potential to come into being. In 2015, The Industry took on an even more heady and complex project. Titled Hopscotch, the opera was broken into thirty-six scenes that were repeatedly performed at a variety of sites across Los Angeles. Members of the audience could as easily be called participants: they viewed the opera by choosing one of three routes, and starting with a small group of actors, facilitators, and other participants, they would drive to eight of the sites before congregating with the entire cast and audience at a “central hub” for the finale. One of the participants would be responsible for capturing the experience on video, live broadcasting to one of thirty-six screens at the central hub where anyone could drop in and watch the live video for free. To complicate things considerably, the opera was written by multiple playwrights and composers, a

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few scenes consisted of lines shouted between cars or long quotes from French Marxist theorist Guy Debord, and multiple actors played single roles to manage the logistics of multiple locations—all in the service of a relatively straightforward love story. Loosely based on Julio Cortázar’s 1963 novel—which shares the title and nonlinear structure—Hopscotch follows a woman named Lucha who moves through a star-crossed romance only to discover her true love for her longtime coworker instead. As one could imagine, if Invisible Cities was on the verge of crashing down under the weight of its postmodern tendencies, Hopscotch casually blew past any nod to such concerns. Hopscotch also blew past its predecessor in the cost of a ticket. While there is easy justification for the expense, given the opera’s incredibly intensive resource needs and limited number of seats, with prices in the hundreds of dollars it nevertheless catered only to an elite audience. This was partially remedied by the free viewing experience at the central hub, but the discrepancy between the segregated experiences was striking. In one, you were a participant in an immersive experience, while in the other, you had to wait in line to view a set of screens that could have almost as easily been broadcast online. The central hub was deftly designed by two SCI-Arc (Southern California Institute of Architecture) faculty and located on its campus but was almost certainly underfunded for its wider purposes. The design effectively deployed shape and interior sheathing to create the conditions necessary for both the broadcasting of the various scenes and the culminating act in which numerous cars pulled through the structure. Ticket-holders emerged from the vehicles like awards show attendees walking a red carpet, while many non-ticket-holders were unable to enter because of capacity issues. Their only view was of the exterior of the hub, which was literally wrapped in trash—no doubt the only affordable

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PART II: CIUDAD DE MÉXICO material after value engineering went its course. A group of musicologists in Los Angeles went so far as to boycott the performance—though tickets still sold out almost as soon as they went on sale. My own viewing experience was possible only by hacking the machine: by analyzing hashtags on social media, I was able to discern where the most popular nonmobile scenes were performed, and I staged my own complimentary private viewing tour. With stops at Angel’s Point in Elysian Park and the Bradbury Building downtown, my tour culminated in a scene that unfolded in Chinatown. That Peter Soo Hoo’s Central Plaza, designed like a movie set, now was the stage for an opera seemed fitting. The scene involves Lucha, the heroine, receiving some kind of message from a soothsayer, amidst flutists, a pair of characters who bore an uncanny relation to the twins from Kubrick’s The Shining, and handfuls of raining rose petals. While the narrative wasn’t immediately clear, I could certainly sense a bit of the supernatural in it all. A limousine bearing a handful of ticket-holders would roll up to the plaza and the scene would begin, moving throughout the plaza and reaching its apex as Lucha sings them back into the vehicle, which whisked them to their next site. As in Invisible Cities, one of the most powerful elements of the opera was its site specificity, transforming the mundane space of the everyday into one that held speculative possibility. There was no set constructed apart from the preexisting set of the plaza, so characters aptly used benches, lamp posts, and steps to their blocking’s advantage. Bystanders who expected to do little more than buy lunch were presented with this otherworldly performance, generating curiosity and discussion between these happenstance strangers who bore witness to the opera. While this was, for the most part, the standard reaction to these pop-up opera segments, there were instances in which the fourth wall was more violently broken.

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One segment, which was to be performed in Hollenbeck Park in Boyle Heights, a historic immigrant community in Los Angeles currently under severe threat of gentrification and displacement, was regularly overtaken by shouting protestors demanding that these operatic outsiders leave their neighborhood. Yet here there was another curious phenomenon that made Hopscotch, for all its issues, the beginnings of a work of immanent speculation. The logistical complexity of the opera made the kind of control found in a theater impossible, and this had the effect of opening up a discursive space within the performance. In between location changes, repeated scene resets, and the space between sites and participant vehicles, conversations between performers, participants, crew, and bystanders unfolded about the opera, the experience of performers and participants, and about Los Angeles itself. This also had the effect of making the plotline—something which oscillated between simple love story and overwrought reflection on postmodernity with the main characters in search of abstract centers—strikingly touching. It made an impact precisely because its simple narrative stood in such stark contrast to the numerous other complexities reflecting and reproducing the tropes of Los Angeles—that it demonstrated underneath all of the postmodern geography was an earnest and hopeful desire for connection. And beyond the narrative, the opera itself performed this relationship through the creation of a network of producers, actors, participants (intentional and unintentional), and places. It drew from this network, looking past and forward, simultaneously creating and suggesting potential for creation, expanding the margins of the possible. Returning to the university, there are two additional examples worth noting, which demonstrate the budding of immanent speculation within the university. During the summer of 2014, two teams

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PRACTICING THE FUTURE

57 Fig. C Video stills from En-Counter Chinatown. Film by Cameron Robertson, Addie Shrodes, Emily Yen, Wanmeng Ren, and Ji Eun Lee. 2014.

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Fig. D Video stills from Welcome to Chinatown. Film by Claudia Huang, Lucia Phan, Graham Pugh, and Sarah Yoshida. 2014.

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PRACTICING THE FUTURE of urban researchers in the UCLA Urban Humanities Initiative produced short videos about Chinatown that delved into ethnography, fiction, space, time, narrative, and the future. The first, titled “en-Counter Chinatown,” is composed of a relatively disjointed set of rapidly cut shots of Chinatown, much in the spirit of the early city symphony films of the 1920s. Yet here the subject matter is not frenetically moving transportation systems and flashing urban lights—instead, there are decidedly slow subjects: smoke wafting up from sticks of incense, the gentle sway of red lanterns, old men sitting in a public park, slow pans of a mostly horizontal landscape, a feeding fish. The most intense movement comes from a rapidly spinning seat, part of a twenty-five-cent children’s ride in front of a shop, which instructs, “Enjoy The Ride !!!” We return to this shot several times, suggesting that the ride is, in fact, the video and we its riders. There are subtitles in the film though we hear no dialogue. “How are you connected to Chinatown?” “Those terms don’t apply to us.” A repeated exchange between typical ethnographic interview questions and apparently nonsensical answers devolves to the point where even the questions start to lose stability: “Who is Chinatown?” Indeed, the only audible sounds come from the ambient noises indicative of some kind of commercial space, punctuated with the regular chiming of a singing bowl. Toward the end of the video, a traditional song is played or, perhaps, performed—we aren’t sure because the soundtrack is utterly asynchronous with the image. Here, much like in The Industry’s operas, we are presented with an everyday space made unfamiliar. And with our estrangement comes the ability to see things previously unseen, to imagine another world very much overlapped upon the one we knew. A question like “Who is Chinatown?” which on first blush sounds ridiculous now begins to make some sort of odd sense. Aren’t these the questions

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that any critically minded scholar first asks of a situation? For whom is this neighborhood meant? And who else is excluded? There is, again, a touch of the supernatural. Between shots of incense and prayers, the video’s rhythm is maintained only through a Buddhist monk’s tolling of the bells. It asks us to slow down, to read between the lines. Is there another Chinatown present, one that we looked past before? This immanent speculation is easy to brush past because it lacks the didactic quality of a futurist’s homily or the spectacle of an opera on wheels, but given time it is perhaps even more effective, more seductive, because we are the ones who are compelled to complete the task of speculation. We are given time and space with which we can attempt to make sense of the swirling assemblage of images before us. Another video, titled “Welcome to Chinatown,” is perhaps the previous film’s opposite. When the team attempts to explore what the future might hold for the neighborhood, they are met by community members who only have the capacity to look to the past. They turn the film on themselves, setting out to explore the neighborhood. What they capture is a place ensnarled in decrepitude, bereft of life apart from cars passing through, and an octogenarian or two. Deploying the motifs of horror films, the filmmakers find one abandoned shop and empty lot after another in this ghost town, only to flee the neighborhood, running to the safety of a departing train. This narrative was less successful insofar as it presented a singular and straightforward reading of Chinatown as haunted and abandoned. It lacked the interpretability and openness found in the previous film, or even in the operas. Nevertheless, the decision to present Chinatown in this way was certainly an act of speculation: Chinatown, for anyone who has visited, is a largely bustling neighborhood, despite its declining Asian population. You are just as likely to see a hip art opening at

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PART II: CIUDAD DE MÉXICO one of its many galleries, or foodies photographing their lunch for social media, as the imported tchotchke shops of old. And it was grounded in trends immanent to the site: the Chinese population that remains is one that is in many ways stuck in the past, aging in run-down facilities with little drive for change. The collection of stunningly framed shots of abandoned malls, walkways, and plazas was more than an intentional decision: it was one that most certainly was difficult to fulfill. While this immanent speculation might be a weaker form, it still presents a visually striking narrative that pushes past the static boundaries of description and analysis to which most scholarly work timidly abides. This video may have a reserved view of the future, but it presents it with surety, again forcing us to reconcile this vision with the assumptions we have collectively thought as fact. 2 More recently, over the course of the first three months of 2016, a group of 30 researchers traveled from UCLA to Mexico City to practice forms of immanent speculation in sites far, far away from Los Angeles’s Chinatown. Teams collaborated with three local organizations in the Mexican capital: Laboratorio para la Ciudad, a quasi-governmental skunk works at the municipal level; Casa Gallina, an arts-based community organization which grew out of the notable border art program inSite; and LIGA, an experimental gallery and space for architecture culture. Projects ranged from visual art in the case of “Poesis as Intervention,” to interventions in public space in “The Power of Play,” to the development of a game in “Equiparte.” Firing on multiple levels— historical, analytic, academic, practicle, and, of course, speculative—the essays and projects which follow are experiments which garner us yet another few steps toward an immanent speculation. It seems appropriate for immanent speculation, this act long practiced by a subset of artists and storytellers, to find its way into the academy in California’s

public university. The city of Los Angeles and, indeed, the state at large were shaped by a network of actors who were practicing the future, so that it would become their reality. Judged on the empirical and positivist terms common to education, immanent speculation might be seen as a trifling waste of time. Yet it is these speculative trifles, appearing ungrounded while actually utterly immanent to the spaces and places from which they rise, which have the capability to construct not only what we imagine to be our future but, moreover, what we might even conceive of as possible in the future. It is this speculative practice that Percy Bysshe Shelley saw in poetry when he proclaimed, “Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world.”3 In a day when cynicism and fear appear to shape public discourse in a way not seen in decades, it seems ever more important to have intellectuals at all levels of society—in the university and out— practicing the future.

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Poesis

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2 These videos are available at https://youtu.be/ aREUa4lhxTs and https:// youtu.be/G5wgshwQ_xU, respectively.

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3 See Amir Eshel, Futurity: Contemporary Literature and the Quest for the Past (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2013) for an expansion of these themes.

Peter Chesney LeighAnna Hildalgo Andrew Ko Grace Ko Benjamin Kolder Louis Monteils Kendy D. Rivera Gus Wendel


PART II: CIUDAD DE MÉXICO The practice of urban acupuncture inspired the creation of several visual poems which use imagery from Jardín de la Santísima in Mexico City, a small, public plaza only a few blocks away from the city center. The poems function as a device for linking the urban scale to the human scale, a view borrowed from urbanist Jaime Lerner. They demonstrate the potential impact of granting Jardín de la Santísima street vendors a formal public marketplace—a possibility which has been discussed at length between users of the plaza and government officials. Through such small-scale interventions, there would emerge new opportunities to change social and spatial relations in a localized parcel of territory. Beyond this starting point, much wider social and spatial transformations become possible. The possibilities of such transformations have been overlooked in the past. Planners Mike Lydon and Anthony Garcia claim disciplinarity blinds scholars to such potential. Urban acupuncture is an interdisciplinary “tactical urbanism” which Lydon and Garcia find to be “a more nuanced and nimble approach to citymaking.”1 We argue that the city is much too diverse and dynamic to conform to standards from any single field of study. To approach such “hybrid cities” so nimbly, humanists have turned to critical geographer Michael Dear. He catalogs the hybrid city as a site defined by a “ubiquity of fragmentation both in material and cognitive life, including the collapse of conventional communities, and the rise of new cultural categories and spaces, including and especially cultural hybrids.” 2 In Mexico City, this collapse began long ago with the dismantling of tianguis, public marketplaces for street vendors. But Jardín de la Santísima has demonstrated that hybrid cities emerge from a context far more complex than narratives of collapse can represent. This ambiguity informed humanists’ urban acupuncture approach, which involved a multi-step process of data collection

1 Mike Lydon and Anthony Garcia, Tactical Urbanism: Short-term Action for Long-term Change (Washington: Island Press, 2015), 3, and Jaime Lerner’s endorsement of the book. 2 Michael Dear, “The Los Angeles School of Urbanism: An Intellectual History,” Urban Geography 24, no. 6, (2003): 503.

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POESIS 3 Stacey, Hunt, “Citizenship’s Place: The State’s Creation of Public Space and Street Vendors’ Culture of Informality in Bogotá, Colombia,” 331–351. 4 Alison Brown, Michael Lyons, and Ibrahima Dankoco,“Street Traders and the Emerging Spaces for Urban Voice and Citizenship in African Cities,” 666–683.

through visual observation and documentation, semi-structured interviews of public space users, and the subsequent practice of poesis. To street vendors, a marketplace at Jardín de la Santísima is highly desirable because it allows them to remain in Centro Histórico. As the literature suggests, certain spaces like Centro Histórico symbolize citizenship and the right to mobility.3 Some street vendors at Jardín de la Santísima are even willing to sacrifice profits, in exchange for a marketplace. The marketplace may provide them with perceived benefits from inclusion and a legal framework, which would allow them to vend without worry of harassment or confiscation. In contrast to the desires of the street vendors, shopkeepers and public space users, including shoppers at and local residents, expressed a desire to see street vendor activities removed entirely, citing nuisances of excessive noise and apparent uncleanliness associated with vendor activity. Our team initially saw a formal marketplace as a single solution that would accommodate both the vendors’ requests for a marketplace, and the shopkeepers’ and shoppers’ desires for less informal vending activity. This conclusion is susceptible to the same flaws that characterize other attempts at formalizing street vendor markets, and ignores what informal markets have historically contributed to economic and social development. However, the street vendors want a market—a desire that the on-site interviews

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Fig A.

Jardín Poesis Map. Illustration by Grace Ko. 2016.

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Fig B.

Socio-spatial dynamics of the Jardín. Illustration by Author. 2016.

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POESIS confirm—and this speaks to vendors’ ongoing struggle for full rights as citizens. The biggest issue at stake is the role of the state—any solution involving official government actors must proceed with transparency and stakeholder participation, and best practices suggest that even a third party to facilitate the process may be necessary. The findings from both the interviews and the literature demonstrate that design plays a critical role in any sort of formal solution, yet design in its most conventional form of practice is ill-equipped to intervene in informal settings. Informal markets provide a more a fluid, open air space for street vendors to operate, yet it is this very fluidity where shopkeepers, shoppers and residents find their reasons for grievance, and may actually prevent, as the government sees it, a diversity of public space uses. But a more formalized rubric would not necessarily engender such a diversity of uses and, in fact, often quashes the things which make street vending profitable, such as easy access to passers-by. In the end, conventional design approaches often result in spaces which are unused, or coopted for unintended uses. To approach this paradoxical task of designing informality requires another tool. Through the practice of poesis, we composed eight micro-narratives, each of which juxtaposed an on-site image and a question. Poesis, stemming from the same root for the word “poetry,” implies a creative act which has an impact on the world, one in which the object created cannot be separated from the process of its making nor its maker. Here, poesis is developed as a method of interpretation, the product of which are visual poems. Figure 1 maps the spatial configuration of the visual poems. The intention was to alter perception of the existing social and physical forces at play in the Jardín. What do these visual poems reveal, and how might they disturb the formal-informal binary? Figure 2 overlays the questions

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posed by the visual poems with the Jardín site, and is juxtaposed with additional inputs, such as our interview questions, interviewees’ responses, and the physical characteristics of the Jardín itself. Sociospatial dynamics that would otherwise go unnoticed become evident. The ecologies of the Jardín de la Santísima can be identified as formal and informal, and an in-between space—a productive symbiosis of the formal/informal binary, or what urban geographer Edward Soja might call a Thirdspace. The formal and informal spaces manifest in the vending stalls, the storage areas, the edges of the courtyard, the flow of goods and persons. As Figure 2 shows, these physical dimensions are in flux: where formal zones end and the informal begins is unclear. The questions posed by the visual poems elevate the apparent or perceivable visual and social characteristics of the Jardín to an imperceptible Thirdspace. In this way, the visual poems capture the ephemeral, the temporal, the hidden—fundamental components of urban reality which all too often go unnoticed. While the ephemeral characteristics of the Jardín may never be completely understood, critical underlying social and political forces can be unpacked. Chris Weedon and Glenn Jordan refer to these forces as “cultural politics,” or the struggle to transform the legitimization of social relations of inequality.6 The data we collected at Jardín de la Santísima could be misinterpreted as cultural hyperactivity, acts of collective whim, or even mere messiness. Under the logic of cultural politics, however, we read our data as a circumstantial evidence of yearnings for political and social recognition, and 5 Peter Mörtenböeck and Helge Mooshammer, Informal Market Worlds: Atlas: The Architecture of Economic Pressure (Rotterdam: NA1010 publishers, 2015), 437–465.

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6 Glenn Jordan and Chris Weedon. Cultural Politics: Class Gender Race and the Postmodern World. (Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 1995), 5.


equal membership within state structures. Under this framing, the floating white tarps, the leftover water puddles, the meters of contraband electric wiring, the recorded announcements blaring through loud speakers, littered beer bottles and dog excrement, and a street-wide sign reclaiming space for street-vendors at the Jardín all act as political tools of resistance. Taken a step further, the visual poems inspire one to imagine what else is possible with these tools. What if the white tarps were expanded to cover a greater portion of vendor space, or adjusted to be made slightly more permanent? Might this small change satisfy the aesthetic qualities of a more formalized space, while still serving a political function? What if tactical urbanists took it upon themselves to install the necessary electricity infrastructure to provide vendors the energy they need, or installed more permanent hanging devices from which vendors could more uniformly display their goods? Such solutions might seem naïve or perhaps inconsequential, but their magic lies in their agile application and the possibility therein, as opposed to the totality imposed by conventionally designed master plans. The multiplicity of contradictory constituent needs and wants, and the complex history behind vendors’ struggle for existence inherently undermines any sort of fully consensus-driven approach. But the impossibility of reconciliation need not dissuade intervention. Urban transformation is an inevitable part of contemporary urban life. To do nothing, too, is its own form of intervention—an intentional choice to allow existing structural forces dictate vendors’ reality. Rather, what poesis offers is the opportunity to think outside conventional standards for urban change. Poesisas-method, when combined with social science’s more traditional methods of observation, can engender new ideas for what is possible at the Jardín.

Urban Poesis

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Project One

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Team

Description

Peter Chesney LeighAnna Hildalgo Andrew Ko Grace Ko Benjamin Kolder Louis Monteils Kendy D. Rivera Gus Wendel

This project is about re-envisioning a site of informal vending in Mexico City. The site is a small, historic public plaza just to the northeast of the Zócalo and is largely filled with street vendors which were pushed off the neighboring street in years past. The project explores how this site, Plaza de la Santísima, could fulfill the contested needs of the informal vendors, the brick and mortar stores that surround the plaza, and the public who visit. The project emerged through on-the-ground collaborators who were recently tasked by the local government to model a proposal for the future of the plaza, largely in response to this contestation. Collaborators included Mexican architecture Productora, and its non-profit cultural organization offshoot LIGA, who provided their knowledge of the area, connections to officials responsible for the area, and working space while the team provided research and, ultimately, experimental proposals for the site.

Time One month prep, one week on-the-ground, two weeks wrap-up Deliverable Chapbook of visual poems which suggest potential interventions for a public plaza contested between informal street vendors and local government officials who wish to see the site available as public space Ingredients

Directions

3 historians and social scientists 2 urban planners 3 designers and architects 4 on-the-ground collaborators with expertise in space and urban design Site-specific documentation, interviews, and fieldwork as needed for rigor Images, scissors, paper

Figure 1 What happens after hours? By Peter Chesney.

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PROJECT ONE

1. Team meets with LIGA in Los Angeles, one month in advance of trip to Mexico City to go over documents on Plaza de la Santísima and conduct charrette where initial sketches of interventions at plaza are produced.

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Figure 2 Whose history is reflected? Whose plaza is this? By Gus Wendel.

70 URBAN HUMANITIES IN THE BORDERLANDS 4. While in Mexico City, the team conducted daily site visits to the plaza, sketching out the urban plan, interviewing stakeholders, documenting and measuring the site and its vicinity, and conducting other forms of fieldwork. Initially, vendors would not allow interviews, photographs, or extended interference from team members, so secondary and tertiary forms of research were conducted.

3. Team members also conducted research on other related sites throughout the world, including informal markets, notable sites of street vending, and emerging upscale sites of consumption modeled on informal markets (e.g., Los Angeles’s Grand Central Market).

2. During the interim month, these sketches were refined and uploaded to a group database.

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72 Figure 3 How do I plug-in my vending unit into the city? By Benjamin Kolder.

URBAN HUMANITIES IN THE BORDERLANDS 5. The team kept an office in the LIGA space where materials were reviewed nightly, and where a series of invited guests gave lectures on issues related to informal vending in Mexico City. Speakers included the former head planner of Centro Historico, the head of an NGO which acts as an intermediary between redevelopment agencies and vendors, architects, and artists.

Figure 4 How many tarps does it take to get the city to listen? By LeighAnna Hidalgo.

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6. As the team became more familiar with the space, they were able to identify the political dynamics and informal power networks in the site, including a series of key interviews with and allowance from the leader of the vendor association, a quasi-official post with similarities to the role of a kingpin.

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Figure 5 What possibilities can be opened in the interstitial pasaje? By Andrew Ko.

74 URBAN HUMANITIES IN THE BORDERLANDS 8. As the primary issues identified included communicative and rhetorical breakdowns between the vendors and the local government, a speculative and discursive intervention was identified as necessary. Accordingly, fieldwork material was shaped into a quasi-academic project including a series of “visual poems” which demonstrated various potential alternate realities using collage.

7. After becoming friendly with the vendor association leader, the team was allowed free reign to take photographs and other forms of documentation, interview vendors, and conduct more extensive primary fieldwork.

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9. Upon returning to Los Angeles, the team organized these poems into a coherent map, and reproduced it in the form of a poetry chapbook.

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Figure 6 Can we create a public space when we look up? How high is public space? By Grace Ko.

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Figure 7 Visual pollution or atmospheric resistance? By Grace Ko.

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Figure 8 Is the spatially-determined appropriation of sensorial experiences an (in) formal tool of political resistance? By Kendy Rivera.

Figure 9 What is there to sell? What is there to buy? To sell in the street? To sell in the sky? By Louis Monteils.

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Figure 10 Whose plaza is this? By LeighAnna Hidalgo.

Figure 11 Can a seemingly meaningless tarp be a political tool? By LeighAnna Hidalgo.

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PROJECT ONE


Public Narratives

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Figure 12 How do informal objects become bargaining chips? By LeighAnna Hidalgo.

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of Play in Reshaping

The Power Heidi Alexander Maricela Becerra Kenton Card Ryan Hernandez Devin Koba Paola Mendez Maria Teresa Monroe Jeannette Mundy


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Fig A. Data collected by students at the Doctores Peatoniños event. Illustration by Devin Koba. 2016.

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THE POWER OF PLAY They have the power to transform cities. They bring neighbors together and create peaceful environments of convivencia. Convivencia is the action of living with others. The use of the word is linked to the peaceful and harmonious coexistence of people in the same space.1 Their laughter silences car horns and their chalk drawings repel traffic. They liberate streets for kids and play. They transform boxes into playgrounds and strangers into friends. They wear luchador masks while hula hooping, and play soccer in the street fearlessly and fiercely. They are children, ages 3 to 14, playing in the streets of Mexico City. They are the Peatoniños. Street play can demonstrate alternative uses for public space and can be a means for reclaiming children’s right to the city. Currently, dominant auto-centric spatial paradigms in streets and cities compromise these rights. The products of play—drawings, embodied playing, and broader social activities—are forms of urban proposition, demonstration, and occupation outside of conventional Euclidean planning logic (i.e., problem, theory, proposal, solution). Children do not ask for but manifest a new urban condition, rupturing planning expertise. Children’s play streets affect the city beyond a temporary redistribution of street space by fundamentally altering citizen perception of their right to the city. This change in perception shifts the public narrative around street use, ultimately changing the urban condition. One of the most serious issues impacting children’s access to Mexico City is youth mortality from pedestrian-automobile collisions. It is the leading cause of preventable death for youth in a city where 56% of the population is under the age of 26. 2 Current street practices that prioritize the mobility of cars negatively affects public health, the environment, and urban citizenship of children and city dwellers at large. In partnership with Laboratorio para la Ciudad, an experimental agency within Mexico City’s government, ur-

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ban humanities researchers developed a toolkit for street closures that prioritized space for children and their community. These street closures produced a playful pedestrian stage, removed from the omnipresent threat of the automobile, where children could play freely and adults could socialize. Over the last two decades the “right to the city” has been addressed in many contexts and with diverse implications. First coined by Lefebvre3 and advanced by Harvey, the right to the city draws attention to a contemporary urban problem: “the rights of private property and the profit rate trump all other notions of rights.”4 In this case, children at play in city streets are an incarnation of “insurgent architects,” reconfiguring planning rationale and impacting the spatial perception of the city for both participant and observer.5 The expert is no longer privileged with the power to change the urban environment under this reconfigured right to the city through children’s play. While not directly addressing children, Lefebvre argues for alternative urban experiences to serve a pedagogical role to inform the conventional “authority of acquired knowledge.”6 One such disruption of the expert’s power is the Situationists’ concept of dérive. The 1 Pérez Porto, Julián, and Ana Gardey. “Definición De Convivencia — Definicion. de.” Definición.de. 2010. Accessed August 04, 2016. http://definicion.de/ convivencia/. 2 “Instituto Nacional De Estadistica Y Geografia.” Instituto Nacional De Estadistica Y Geografia. April 16, 2008. Accessed August 1, 2016. http://www.beta.inegi. org.mx/. The primary objective of INEGI is to make the National Statistical Information System and Geographic (SNIEG) provide to the society and the state information

IN RESHAPING PUBLIC NARRATIVES

quality, relevant, accurate and timely, in order to contribute to national development under the principles of accessibility, transparency, objectivity and independence. 3 Lefebvre, Henri. Writings on cities. Vol. 63, no. 2. Oxford: Blackwell, 1996. 4 Harvey, David. “The right to the city.” International journal of urban and regional research 27, no. 4 (2003): 939–941. 5 Harvey, David. Spaces of hope. Vol. 7. Univ of California Press, 2000. 6 Ibid., 176.


PART II: CIUDAD DE MÉXICO dérive, or drift, is a capricious form of urban engagement—a “mode of experimental behavior linked to the conditions of urban society: a technique of rapid passage through varied ambiances.”7 The right to the city, insurgent architects, the novice child (as opposed to authoritative expert), and the urban dérive, serve as tools to understand the implications of children’s play in reforming narratives surrounding urban equity. The right to the city is an ongoing concept that grants citizens agency to re-shape their city; however, children are excluded from this rationale as their ability to contribute is underestimated. Play is not only a cultural phenomenon, but an innate part of human development, characterized by its participatory nature (it cannot be imposed), its removal from reality (it is an interlude in ordinary life), and its unprofitability (thought it, no material interests can be gained or biological needs fulfilled). 8 These qualities of play situate it beyond frivolity to enable serious transformative action in urban space. Children’s play is a powerful mechanism by which to reconstitute urban imaginaries. The contemporary street presents physical and psychological limitations regarding play and imagination. Current practices dictate that human bodies should stay out of and away from the street, limiting street play while making the notion of children’s access to the city difficult to imagine. For children, play is limited to certain highly restricted spaces, resulting in a fragmentation of their temporal and spatial experience of the city.9 Depending heavily on parent and adult supervision, children’s mobility is an accompanied experience, often limited by the time constraints of working parents.10 With limitations on their mobility, children depend on playgrounds, green spaces, parks, and gardens for play. When these spaces are in disrepair, underfunded, or at a great distance from home or school, children lose the space to play, impeding their right to the city. Through inter-

7 Knabb, Ken, ed. Situationist international anthology. Berkeley, CA: Bureau of Public Secrets, 1981. 8 Huizinga, Johan. “Ludens, Homo: A Study of the Play Element in Culture.” Boston: Beacon Press (1950). 9 Ibid., 19. 10 Gülgönen, Tuline, and Yolanda Corona. “Children’s

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THE POWER OF PLAY Perspectives on Their Urban Environment and Their Appropriation of Public Spaces in Mexico City.”Children, Youth and Environments 25, no. 2 (2015): 208-228. 11 Ibid., 210. 12 Ibid., 214. 13 Jacobs, Jane. “The life and death of great American cities.” (1961).

views with parents and grandparents in Doctores, a neighborhood in Mexico City, we recorded that nearby parks were either out of service due to protracted “renovation” or were unsafe due to vagrancy and drug use. The effectiveness of parks in children’s play is then limited, as parks are no longer part of the “children’s domain.”11 Street play is no longer an available cultural practice due to parental safety concerns. Safety is the number one priority for parents when considering whether or not to allow their kids to play in the street (see Figure 2).12 Children’s contemporary play in Mexico City is often limited to the enclosed space of the home, which prevents interaction with other children and promotes urban isolation. Historically, Mexican tradition has seen to the street’s use for informal neighborhood parties, sonideros (block-long dance parties), posadas (a religious procession), and other celebrations or ceremonies. In these scenarios, neighborhood children play with one another while adults engage in their own social interactions, creating a safe community space with many “eyes on the street.”13 More recently, the city government has sponsored a weekly event, Ciclovia, which shuts down the primary boulevard Paseo de la Reforma to automotive traffic on Sunday afternoons so that cyclists, pedestrians, and roller-skaters can enjoy the city. The Peatoniños toolkit for street closures allows children to explore territory beyond the home and the sidewalk, to

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Fig B. Mexico City’s Ciclovia at Paseo de la Reforma. Photograph by Ryan Hernandez. 2016.

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Fig C.

Redistribution of Calle Dr. Garcia Diego for the Peatoniños event. Illustration by Author. 2016.

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THE POWER OF PLAY directly interface with elements that ordinarily limit their mobility. By occupying streets with their bodies instead of cars, children can expand their imagination about what spaces can be claimed for play, and how play integrates with their urban experience. The appropriation of streets for play disrupts modernist planning logics regarding the street use. While streets in contemporary, auto-centric cultures are designed and used to ensure traffic flow, it was only a short time ago when they were primarily the domain of pedestrians and, at times, horse-powered transit. Disrupting established auto-centric understandings of street use transforms what collectively constitutes the largest amount of public space (that is, streets) as one where children actively have agency and authority. By reconfiguring the use of the street, even if for only a few hours, the community of Doctores was able to glimpse an alternate use of the street, unfamiliar to newer generations but at the same time nostalgically familiar to older ones. Through government agreement and physical closure, the street was transformed into an open space for pedestrians, cyclists, animals, and children (see Figure 4). This temporary spatial configuration produced new pedestrian-driver dynamics, giving power, visibility, and awareness to those on foot. Drivers respected the designated play space and no cars breached the barrier, even after the traffic officers left the area. There was an understanding that the space was currently occupied by pedestrians. It was quickly accepted as real, if not normal, giving agency to children and allowing them to occupy a street space in their neighborhood for the first time. The signals of play (i.e., kids on the streets with toys, chalk, and other simple materials) were the primary means for this reconfiguration, while the accompanying official signals of a sanctioned street use (i.e., uniformed officers) added legitimacy to the children’s occupation—though, as previously mentioned, these official sig-

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nals were secondary and, ultimately, not needed after signals of play were established. Play and its socio-spatial implications offer an opportunity to approach the mobility inequalities of the auto-centric city, while reclaiming traditional cultural uses of the street. Particularly in Mexico City, a predominantly pedestrian city of young citizens, it is possible to change children’s imaginary of the city through relatively simple, yet radical interventions. The practice of play contains the capacity to profoundly alter spatial constructions of the city and citizens’ perception of their right to the city outside of traditional, top-down Euclidean planning logics. Street closures produce a playful pedestrian stage, removed from the omnipresent threat of the automobile. Communities gather—both physically and discursively—around these spaces constructed through play, where nascent narratives of the possibility of a right to the city are made manifest. Children and communities have a right to use and enjoy the space of the street, and through social and civic cooperation, this space can be made safe and accessible.

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Project

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Los Peatoñitos

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Two


LOS PEATOÑITOS Team

Description

Heidi Alexander Maricela Becerra Kenton Card Ryan Hernandez Devin Koba Paola Mendez Maria Teresa Monroe Jeannette Mundy

This project began through an exploration of the experimental strategies used by the team’s collaborative partner Laboratorio para la Ciudad, a design and policy skunkworks situated within the municipal government of Mexico City. In particular, the organization deploys temporary tests of new ideas for urban design and policy, iterating and refining them into what they call legible policy, or material and demonstrable manifestations of urban policy which can be understood by laypeople in situ, in everyday life. An urgent issue in contemporary Mexico City is the preponderance of automobiles which often ignore traffic laws, creating hazards for pedestrians, and very often injuring or killing young people. This has the effect of giving Mexico City a car-centered identity, even though the vast majority of residents use public transit and walk. Using simple, low-cost play equipment, the team tested several tiny street closures which opened up public play spaces for children and neighborhood families. This was refined into the Peatoniños Toolkit: a combination of Peatonito, a local activist who dresses up as a luchador and advocates for pedestrian rights, and the Spanish word for child. Based on the success of these tests, ongoing play spaces have been created, transforming the narrative in Mexico City about the uses and potentials of the street, public and vehicular safety for children, and the dominance of the automobile.

Time One month prep, one week on-the-ground, two weeks wrap-up, ongoing thereafter Deliverable A toolkit for creating, documenting, and expanding play spaces for children in Mexico City, a demonstration pilot for developing legible policy to make streets safer for children and their families Ingredients 2 literary scholars 2 urban planners 4 designers and architects 1 local interdisciplinary research team within city government Site-specific documentation, interviews, fieldwork, neighborhood canvasing, as needed for rigor Chalk, bubbles, hula hoops, paper, recycled boxes, and the infinite imagination of children 1 masked hero

Figure 1 Los Peatoniños poster invites children to liberate the streets for play. Illustration by Devin Koba.

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PROJECT TWO


Figure 2 Students meet with Laboratorio staff to strategize. Photograph by Kenton Card.

94 URBAN HUMANITIES IN THE BORDERLANDS 2. Over the course of a month, the team investigated various strategies for street safety and, in particular, reflected upon the right to the city with particular regard to children. Play and the ludic city were seen as critical elements for an intervention.

1. The team first invited the director of Laboratorio para la Ciudad (Lab), Gabriella Gomez-Mont, to Los Angeles in order to learn about their methods, and the issues that they see as urgently facing Mexico City. At this point, the concept of legible policy and street safety is put forth.

Instructions

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Figure 3 Promoting the event in Doctores. Photographs by Paola Mendez.

96 URBAN HUMANITIES IN THE BORDERLANDS 3. The team ultimately designs plans for a series of temporary street interventions which involve low-cost play equipment, and devices to signal that a portion of street is closed. The tea5m prepares to travel to Mexico City to test their designs.

Figures 4 – 6 Closing the street and setting up for children’s play. Photographs by Paola Mendez.

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4. Immediately upon arriving in Mexico City, at 7am, the team deployed an initial test at Ciclovia, a city-wide event where a major thoroughfare is shut down to vehicular traffic on Sunday where residents can ride their bikes. Plastic furniture, sidewalk chalk, and Peatonino create a safe space for children underneath the Angel de la Independencia; participants are interviewed for their reactions.

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PROJECT TWO


Figure 7 Closing the street and setting up for children’s play. Photographs by Paola Mendez.

98 URBAN HUMANITIES IN THE BORDERLANDS 6. A second event is held in the neighborhood of Doctores where the team assists traffic officers in closing down a busy street temporarily. For a few hours in the afternoon, parents from the neighborhood bring their children, relieved at the opportunity to get out of the house. Even unsolicited children join in, curious from the sounds of play echoing down the street, as well as colorful balloons, and an appearance by Peatinito.

5. In the following days the team collaborated with the Lab to process their first set of data and make improvements in conducting their second play street intervention; they divided into teams to buy supplies, canvass the neighborhood surrounding their next site, and prepare better strategies for data collection.

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Figure 8–11 As the afternoon wore on, more and more children joined the playstreet. Photographs by Jeff Newton.

100 URBAN HUMANITIES IN THE BORDERLANDS 8. Excited by the prospects of the project, Laboratorio para la Ciudad continues to sponsor play streets in different parts of the city, and members of the team return to Mexico City over the summer to help out.

7. Once back in Los Angeles, the team produces an extensive report for the Lab with their findings, documentation of the events, designs for future interventions, and suggestions for legible policy in Mexico City.

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LOS PEATOÑITOS

Figure 12–13 Children ages 3–14 play in the street, some for the first time. Photographs by Jeff Newton.

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LOS PEATOÑITOS

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Figure 14 Children ages 3–14 play in the street, some for the first time. Photographs by Jeff Newton.

Figure 15 “We want to play, we don’t want cars.” Photograph by Paola Mendez.

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LOS PEATOÑITOS Conflict, Translation

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Equiparte

Cosmopolitanism,

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Figure 16 Peatonito with his new band of Peatoniños. Photographs by Jeff Newton.

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Angélica Becerra Cat Callaghan Will Davis Paul Kurek Lucy Seena K Lin Alejandro Ramirez Mendez Chantiri Resendiz Teo Wickland

PROJECT TWO


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EQUIPARTE The U.S-Mexican border es una herida abierta where the Third World grates against the first and bleeds. And before a scab forms it hemorrhages again, the lifeblood of two worlds merging to form a third country—a border culture. Borders are set-up to define the places that are safe and unsafe, to distinguish us from them. A border is a dividing line, a narrow strip along a steep edge. A borderland is a vague and undetermined place created by the emotional residue of an unnatural

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boundary. It is in a constant state of transition. The prohibited and forbidden are its inhabitants.

Fig A.

Lotería Urbana Playing Cards. Cards by Author. Photograph by Will Davis. 2016.

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Gloria E. Anzaldúa, Borderlands/ La Frontera: The New Mestiza

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The following essay illustrates an experience of collaboration in what Chicanx scholar Gloria Anzaldúa terms the “vague and undetermined place” created by more than two centuries of constant change between two cities: Los Angeles and Mexico City. The result of actions taken in this grey area known as the “borderlands” create curious results. The aim is not to champion these actions but to present a complex, often conflicting relationship, between researchers and community organizations who worked together to intervene in the ongoing gentrification of Santa Maria de la Ribera, a neighborhood located near the center of Mexico City. The essay is organized into vignettes of the researchers’ experiences interwoven with a reflection of the writings of Anzaldúa and philosopher Immanuel Kant. Eight individuals from different parts of the world problematize spatial justice in two large cities: Los Angeles and Mexico City. They are learning about Mexico in a classroom in Los Angeles and, for a fleeting number of days, from Mexico City, itself. They read, discuss, watch, and listen. They disentangle loaded themes: neighborhood struggle, insurgent citizenship, border politics. Their collaboration is loaded with equal parts conflict, discussion, and camaraderie. They help an organization in a small neighborhood in Mexico City: the organization thinks that the neighborhood faces a risk of gentrification, a process where properties are renovated and rented out at higher prices, often displacing the pre-renovation inhabitants. This issue has taken on urgency as the colonia, or neighborhood, of Santa Maria de la Ribera faces displacement of long term residents and changes due to an influx of young professionals moving into the area. The organization fears this process will envelop the entire district. They want to stop, or at least slow this process using digital means, and the researchers from Los Angeles will help them.

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PART II: CIUDAD DE MÉXICO 1 Kim, David. 2016. “Figures Who Changed the World. Cosmopolitanism Within a Global Context.” Lecture, Los Angeles. 2 Nussbaum, Martha, “Patriotism and Cosmopolitanism.” In For Love of Country: Debating the Limits of Patriotism, edited by Joshua Cohen, (Boston Beacon Press, 1998), 7. 3 Benhabib, Seyla. “The Philosophical Foundation of Cosmopolitan Norms.” In Another Cosmopolitanism, edited by Robert Post, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006), 20. 4 Beck, Ulrich, “Rooted Cosmopolitanism: Emerging from a Rivalry of Distinctions.” In Global America? The Cultural Consequences of Globalization, edited by Ulrich Beck, Rainer Winter and Nathan Szneider (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2003), 16.

In preparation for Mexico City, the researchers devise a system that they believe will help them to analyze a neighborhood that is completely new: a game, a kind of roulette to stop one from making assumptions about a place. The player moves from person to person, place to place, asking questions in a semi-randomized manner: “Where is your favorite eatery?” “Where do you go when you need to purchase over-the-counter medicine?” It is a solution for trying to map out how the community relates to their locale; a spatial ethnography that will help the researchers to see the shape of this colonia. Defining Cosmopolitanism There is an admittedly humanitarian sway to cosmopolitan thought, that Germanic scholar David Kim condenses as follows: “There are moral obligations we owe to all human beings solely on the basis of our common humanity without consideration of ethnic, religious, or gender identity, and without reference to national belonging or political affiliation.”1 The ancient philosopher Diogenes offered the first, and perhaps the most straightforward of definitions for cosmopolitanism, as being a “citizen of the world.” Not coincidentally, the term contains a derivation of the Greek word polis, or city, due to the relationship between the city, the state, and citizenship of that era.2 An age-old and heavily affected term, where to begin with cosmopolitanism? One thinker in particular is useful to perform an analysis of the universal and the particular: Immanuel Kant. Proclaimed universalism is the subject of many theories, and the same is true for Kant’s cosmopolitanism. Nineteenthcentury Western philosophy, as a mindset born within the realm of the colonizer, plays an important, problematic role in the cosmopolitan project. In order to establish a balance between the universal and the local, this essay juxtaposes Kant,

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EQUIPARTE 5 The web version of the Merriam-Webster Thesaurus provides the following description of the adjective cosmopolitan: “having worldwide rather than limited or provincial scope or bearing.” The problematic of this term becomes even clearer in the example sentence the thesaurus provides for the word: “as someone who had lived in Paris for a year as an exchange student, she seemed very much the cosmopolitan to her old classmates.” Close-read, the apparent privileges in this passage are obviously education, mobility, and affluence.

whose influence on the cosmopolitan discourse stretches to current day,3 with 20th century Chicana scholar Gloria Anzaldúa and her concept of the new mestiza. Anzaldúa represents the becoming-self: a woman and writer, academic, activist. Bilingual (Spanish, English), bi-national (growing up on the Texan-Mexican border), queer, a writer of the radical and marginalized, she poses a stark contrast to Kant.

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Fig. B. Equiparté Team Member, Alejandro Ramírez-Méndez, plays Lotería Urbana with resident of Santa María La Ribera. Photograph by Cat Callaghan. 2016.

The Problem with Cosmopolitanism The general problem of cosmopolitanism, a “loaded concept,” as Ulrich Beck puts it, is reflected in its usage from “a national perspective,” as it is conceptualized as a negative form of national rootlessness in the service of global capitalism.4 This form of cosmopolitanism, veering slightly away from its humanitarian implications, is still an everyday under-

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COSMOPOLITANISM, CONFLICT, TRANSLATION


PART II: CIUDAD DE MÉXICO standing of the term, and implies certain privileges.5 These privileges are mainly mobility, education, and affluence—are these prerequisites to being cosmopolitan? If cosmopolitanism can be translated into a productive re-conceptualization of the cosmopolitan act, whose awareness (bewußtsein) is part of its problematic and foundational to their actions, how might it look? An active translation of cosmopolitanism with a negative connotation to a positive form, can be seen as an attempt to revive the etymological roots of the term, as “a combination of ‘cosmos’ and ‘polis.’ … Every human being is rooted (beheimatet) by birth in two worlds, in two communities: in the cosmos (namely, nature) and in the polis (namely, the city/ state).”6 Thus, the truth must lie somewhere between the definitions. Early in the project, the researchers named themselves Equiparté, a tongue in cheek nod to the utilitarian role art might have. (Can art really equip?) The game they devised was called Lotería Urbana, on the trick-like nature of the popular Mexican game Lotería. Their collaborating organization, Casa Gallina (literally, hen house) situated in Santa María La Ribera, are not quite an art gallery, not quite a community organization, not quite a residency space, not quite a garden, but somewhere in between. Instead, they prefer to allow their space to be defined by the network of individuals it creates, and the projects that come in and out of their large, fortress-like steel gates. Lotería Urbana resumes Equiparte’s effort of translating the distant reality of Santa María la Ribera; it is not the translating product per se, but a methodology of approach, a system for moving past biases and assumptions. Aimless wandering is productive, enough for many to have theorized its benefits,7 and Equiparte feels foreign and at home in their observations of this neighborhood—apparently on the verge of extinction—appearing quite nonchalant about encroaching gentrification.

EQUIPARTE

Translating Conflicts: Kant & Anzaldúa’s Productivity

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Within the discourse of cosmopolitanism, conflict is described as a productive dynamic. According to Kant, conflict, or antagonism, is the foundation of human progress. He phrases it as the “quarrelsomeness of humankind.” 8 Without antagonism, and in Kant’s terms, “without their quarrelsomeness, … their jealously competitive vanity, and … their insatiable appetite of property and even for power,” humankind would never have developed.9 Kant liked to speak for the whole of humanity. If we venture beyond his hometown of Königsberg in the Prussian Empire (which he never left), to Mexico City, we can imagine that his imaginative horizon required expansion. To counter the universalist claims of Kant, enter Anzaldúa, who enables a translation of antagonism from the abstract and collective to the specific and individual: “La mestiza constantly has to shift out of habitual formations; from convergent thinking, analytical reasoning that tends to use rationality to move toward a single goal (a Western mode), to divergent thinking.”10 This divergence that Anzaldúa speaks of is not a strategy of particularization, but one of a new wholeness that enables and consumes variable parts, characterized by “movement away from set patterns and goals and toward a 6 Beck, Ulrich. In Global America? The Cultural Consequences of Globalization, 16. 7 Debord, Guy. Society of the Spectacle. (Bread and Circuses Publishing), 2012. 8 Kant, Immanuel. “Idea for a Universal History from a Cosmopolitan Perspective. 1784.”Toward Perpetual Peace and Other Writings on Politics, Peace and History, ed. P. Kleingel (New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press, 2006), 10.

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9 Ibid., 7. 10 Anzaldúa, Gloria. Borderlands: la frontera. Vol. 3. (San Francisco: Aunt Lute Press, 1987), 101

more whole perspective, one that includes rather than excludes.” The new mestiza tolerates contradiction and ambiguity, which Kantian identity politics do not allow. The subject is she, one that learns “to be an Indian in Mexican culture, to be Mexican from an Anglo point of view.” This she, borne of la cultura chicana, possesses a pluralism in her own subjecthood, a nuanced sensitivity that lies in stark difference to Kant’s image of upheaval and conflictual progress. Ironically, while applying Kant to analyze a situation in Mexico suggests a certain intellectual colonialism, Kant argued against the colonialist expansion of his time. He speaks critically about the colonizers of America, “for the native inhabitants counted as nothing to them.”11 The reason why Kant sees the conquest of native Indians as problematic is due to his belief that, firstly, native Indians are essentially different from the colonizers and deeply tied to their territory. Secondly, he also conceives of the colonizer’s state as one that is in clear conflict with its own definitions. Kant’s concept of the state is formulated in organic metaphors: a “state is not a possession, … as is, for instance, the territory on which it exists. It is, rather, a society of human beings, … which, like a tree trunk, has its own roots.”12 In one of Kant’s most famous passages, he makes the differentiation between the “right to visit” and the “right of a guest.”13 According to this Kantian distinction, a permanent resident who finds himself in another state for any reason, falling outside of this binary, would be a threat: the foreigner attacks the root of a state as a foreign element. In Kant’s philosophy, the dichotomy between the familiar and the foreign remains irresolvable due to his static concept of territorial citizenry. In opposition, Anzaldúa resolves difference in dual indigeneity itself, which “like corn, the mestiza is a product of crossbreeding, designed for preservation under a variety of conditions.”14 Culture is flexible. She explains,

11 Kant, Immanuel. Toward Perpetual Peace: A Philosophical Sketch (2006),82-83. 12 Ibid., 68. 13 Ibid., 82.

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14 Anzaldúa, Gloria. Borderlands: la frontera. Vol. 3. (San Francisco: Aunt Lute Press, 1987), 103.

“I am cultured because I am participating in the creation of yet another culture, a new story to explain the world.” Anzaldúa single-handedly decolonizes and consolidates, in an act of simultaneous translation. Both Equiparte and Casa Gallina attempted to intervene to support the diverse colonia. The process resulted in several mistranslations (miscommunications). Communication hit a wall when groups did not speak the same language. Several kinds of translation conflict occurred: linguistic misnomers, cultural circumstances, and geographical particularities. The foreigner might mispronounce a word, violate unfamiliar cultural etiquettes, or even misinterpret geographical data provided by a map. In practice, the undertaking was one of multiple translations, a hurried exchange of words between first and second languages. Casa Gallina, too, was performing a type of translation. They were concerned with how they presented the neighborhood to visitors, to Equiparte. In the global city, which groups have legitimacy as gatekeepers of culture, or of community action? Casa Gallina’s performed ambivalence about the answer to this question served to further cloud the possibility of “knowing” any place better than another. Conflict can be defined as resting in the assumption that every other player keeps a privileged position in a game: Who knows the place better? Who can better provide an understanding of the urban landscape? Who can give a better solution?

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PART II: CIUDAD DE MÉXICO

EQUIPARTE gests that “translation across culture” is similar to the alchemic process in which the “domestic/foreign divide” permits the transition from “one state to another,” increasing the significance of the original.17 For Longinovic, cultural translations allow the creation of new spaces of interaction between national identities, between languages and cultures. In the past, modern projects and “ancient empires” relied on translations as a tool of colonial power administration. Today, global culture and transnational projects try to eliminate binary assumptions of domination/submission that trap the real potentiality of translation: “to initiate a dialogue between the specific cultural localities and a variety of transnational projects instrumental in furthering rival political agendas.”18

Resolving Untranslatables?

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Fig. C. Equiparté Team Member, Chantiri Ramirez Resendiz, discusses neighborhood projects with Casa Gallina staff. Photograph by Jeff Newton. 2016.

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Translation acquires an important role on multiple levels of collaborative transnational work. In essence, translation is an act of interpretation, a relocation of an object or concept from one situation into another. The term comes from the Latin translatio (to carry across); For Maria Tymoczko, translation is a “process of intercultural transference,” a communicative procedure that allows the transmission of “material” (words, concepts, ideas) between different settings.15 Interpreting geography and social dynamics in the city translates messy reality into data and practical concepts. During the translation process, an original is lost yet an unexpected and new form may come into being. A paradoxical situation affects the logic of transference: the translation of something implies the transformation or the change of it. Thomas Jackson suggests that a “faithful” translation, “identical with the original,” would bring contradictions and problems: “To translate ‘faithfully,’ then is to... what? Not change? Change minimally?”16 Jorge Luis Borges complicates the limits and the inconsistency of a “faithful” translation when he imagines, in his short story “On Exactitude in Science,” a map of the same scale as the territory itself. Accuracy becomes excessive and useless; the rigor in the reproduction blurs the understanding of the problem. Translating conflicts revolve around the incompatibility between the original product and the unexpected result. Collaborative, transnational projects, too, may fall prey to “translating conflicts” which can undermine the final result. Each position translates the conflict in its own perspective, without evaluating the position of the other. An ethical approach toward the transfer process must take into consideration cultural and political dominance. Tomislav Longinovic sug-

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To engage and translate conflict is an interstice, a nepantla in Gloria Anzaldúa’s words. As a bridge that makes dialogue possible, the collaboration between Equiparte and Casa Gallina made other solutions available. Students were able to adapt and split into three different teams, each focusing on a different field activity. One wandered around the neighborhood playing Lotería Urbana, another spent time interviewing local business owners and long-time residents about the changes happening in Santa Maria de la Ribera, while the last stayed behind at Casa Gallina and strategized with the staff to develop a digital platform that could later be used as a tool to host the 15 Tymoczko, Maria. “Translation: ethics, ideology, action.” The Massachusetts Review 47, no. 3 (2006): 443. 16 Jackson, Thomas H. “Theorizing Translation.” SubStance 20, no. 1 (1991): 81.

COSMOPOLITANISM, CONFLICT, TRANSLATION

17 Longinovic, Tomislav Z. “Fearful asymmetries: A manifesto of cultural translation.” The Journal of the Midwest Modern Language Association 35, no. 2 (2002): 5. 18 Longinovic, Tomislav Z. “Fearful asymmetries: A manifesto of cultural translation.” 6.


information that was gathered. The swift re-organization of Equiparte upon facing multiple setbacks was a direct performance of Anzaldúa’s mestiza consciousness, navigating both the “cosmos” and the “polis” to adapt “under a variety of conditions” and the team produced a rich archive of information through the Lotería Urbana game, as well as their interviews and thoughtful conversations with Casa Gallina staff, that shed light on how to collaborate as a whole. The zine by Equiparte is a guide to the borderlands, the grey area in which each individual is able to use their strengths while working together in a “vague and undetermined place.” Anzaldúa contends that acting upon “mestiza consciousness” must include a tolerance for ambiguity and the ability to navigate despite constant transition. To live in the borderlands means to make multiple worlds possible, to move between them, and to adapt to changing conditions, rearranging and redesigning our immediate environments to create the potential for change.

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Project Three

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SENSE QUESTION Team

Description

Angélica Becerra Cat Callaghan Will Davis Paul Kurek Lucy Seena K Lin Alejandro Ramirez Mendez Chantiri Resendiz Teo Wickland

This project grew out of interaction between urban humanities researchers, Casa Gallina (an arts organization which grew out of the US-Mexico border art project inSite), and the Mexico City neighborhood of Santa Maria la Ribera, a centrally located “up and coming” neighborhood. Casa Gallina enlisted the UCLA researchers to assist in the design of an app which could help the neighborhood develop while also prevent gentrification and displacement. As a first step toward this, the team developed a spin-off of the Mexican Loteria bingo game, which allowed for the exploration of Santa Maria la Ribera without reproducing abusive models of research, thus allowing for the collection of data and for the team to help Casa Gallina assesses the situation in a meaningful way. The analog cards gave materiality to the project that allowed for a diverse cross-section of a community to be engaged with via a range of research methods, including interviews, filmic sensing, and mapping. Ultimately, while the app was only developed in theoretical terms, it also led to the documenting of the process itself as a novel means for ethical research in neighborhoods under threat of gentrification.

Time One month prep, one week on-the-ground, two weeks wrap-up Deliverable A data collection game, designs for a community development app, and a zine which documents ethical ways of engaging with a neighborhood undergoing rapid change through gentrification Ingredients 4 ethnic studies scholars and humanists 3 urban planners 1 architecture scholar 1 arts organization 1 neighborhood undergoing rapid change Smartphones, paper, ink

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120 URBAN HUMANITIES IN THE BORDERLANDS 2. The team worked with Casa Gallina to begin brainstorming the potentials of an app which could provide alternative means of exchange for neighborhood residents while preventing exposure of information which could allow outsiders to speculate on property.

1. Members of Casa Gallina came to UCLA one month before the trip to Mexico City to present about growing gentrification and lack of digital literacy in the Mexico City neighborhood of Santa Maria la Ribera.

Directions

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122 URBAN HUMANITIES IN THE BORDERLANDS 4. The team testing this game in the LA neighborhood of Boyle Heights, a community also undergoing gentrification, and developed a dataset which described the neighborhood as a network of places in a cognitive map.

3. Following the charrette, the team brainstormed a method for community data collection while avoiding assumptions and sweeping generalizations, ultimately developing “Loteria Urbana.” Based on the Mexican bingo game Loteria, the game is played by visiting different spaces and engaging members of the community to learn about the players surroundings.

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124 URBAN HUMANITIES IN THE BORDERLANDS 6. The team divided into three groups, based on their different skill-sets and tools, such as translation, film and photography, and ethnographic skills, and played the game in Santa Maria la Ribera.

5. Once in Mexico City, the team presented Loteria Urbana to Casa Gallina. While both parties had different ideas on how to conduct fieldwork, expectations were realigned through extensive translation and mindful dialogue.

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126 URBAN HUMANITIES IN THE BORDERLANDS 8. After returning to LA, the team reflected on the project thus far, coming to the conclusion that a key set of findings was less about the specifics of Casa Gallina or Santa Maria la Ribera, but actually about the ethics and methods of research in neighborhoods facing the threat of gentrification.

7. Playing the game enabled the team to gather information on how to better help community members who were facing the threat of gentrification. In addition, Casa Gallina used the exercise to develop a possible digital platform to engage local business owners in an effort to foster a thriving local economy.

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9. A zine was produced based on this insight, and shared with other researchers and scholars at UCLA and beyond.

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Part III


URBAN PEDAGOGY AND THE  NEW HUMANITIES

RASQUACHISMO

Jonathan Banfill Todd Presner Maite Zubiaurre

141 EN MOVIMIENTO

Art, Mobility, Justice Angélica Becerra Peter Chesney Paul Kurek Lucy Seena K Lin Jeannette Mundy Teo Wickland

149 Project Four: Boyle Heights en Movimiento

161 A LOVE STORY AGAINST DISPLACEMENT Kenton Card Ryan Hernandez LeighAnna Hildalgo Andrew Ko Louis Monteils Chantiri Resendiz

From Urbanism to Data Heidi Alexander Devin Koba Paola Mendez Maria Teresa Monroe Kendy D. Rivera Gus Wendel

Santa Monica

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Pedagogy

183 Project Six: Rasquache Urbanism Manual

191 SEEKING LITERARY JUSTICE

La Caja Mágica in Boyle Heights Maricela Becerra Cat Callaghan Will Davis Grace Ko Benjamin Kolder Alejandro Ramirez Mendez

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199 Project Seven: La Caja Mágica

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Project Five: Longing and Love in Boyle Heights Jonathan Banfill Todd Presner Maite Zubiaurre


Fig. A Mexicocitylosangeles/Losangelesmexicocity by Jonathan Banfill and Maite Zubiaurre

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At University of California, Los Angeles, the Humanities are located at both the historic and symbolic center of the university, on the main quad in three of the original buildings erected on the campus: Royce Hall, Powell Undergraduate Library, and the Humanities Building. They house departments that include dozens of world literatures and cultures stretching from the Middle East to the Americas, from Eastern Asia to Western Europe. The undergraduate library specializes in foundational texts of human civilization, including philosophy, history, literature, the sciences, and the arts. Founded in 1919, UCLA is nearing its first centenary, but the university builds—both literally and metaphorically—on humanistic and liberal arts traditions that are many centuries long and globally diffused. In this regard, one might bring to mind the shift from a theocentric worldview in the Medieval period, which cultivated the trivium (grammar, rhetoric, and logic), to a more humanistic approach in the Renaissance period with its developing studia humanitatis, focused on history, Greek, and moral philosophy (ethics). This shift developed the idea that knowledge is culturally conditioned and increasingly that monocular perspectives on the world need to be displaced by multiperspectival, transdisciplinary approaches. The wellspring of humanistic knowledge came from many literary and vernacular sources, abetted by the rediscovery of classical texts in Greek and Arabic, preserved in Byzantine and Islamic sites of learning, and disseminated through transcriptions, translations, editing, and annotation practices, which were greatly accelerated by the invention of the printing press. The core disciplines that we recognize today as comprising the Humanities—literary and language studies, philosophy, art history, musicology, history, among others—have deep roots in these institutional, cultural, and technological histories. But yet, for all is grand ambitions for reckoning with the world, the university

1 Cf. the excellent discussion of Moore’s works and this inscription by our colleague Chon Noriega: http://www.chicano.ucla. edua/about/news/csrc-newsletter-january-2014

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has remained by and large an isolated institution, walled in and often walled off from its surrounding community, accessible to a chosen few, stratified by economic, social, and racial differences, and perhaps too invested in the security of its storied past. What, after all, are the physical buildings meant to evoke, except a grand past of privilege and prestige? Royce Hall, UCLA’s architectural and cultural landmark, is built in the Lombard Romanesque style. Its towers reference Milan’s ancient Basilica of Sant’Ambrogio, which gained its Romanesque style in the twelfth century—800 years after it was built. Carved into stone above the stage in Royce Hall is an unattributed quote: “Education is learning to use the tools which the race has found indispensable.” It is attributed to Ernest Carroll Moore, a philosophy professor who served until 1936 as UCLA’s first provost. One may wonder: What tools has “the race” found to be “indispensable”? Pen and paper, paintbrush, camera, clay, word-processing machines, Photoshop? Is learning to use such tools enough, or might we need to interpret the objects created, assess their significance, and probe their conditions of possibility? And who, after all, can learn to use these tools found to be “indispensable” by “the race”? We know from Moore’s other writings on education, for example, that not every human being counted as part of “the race,” and we know all-too-well that racial thinking, eugenic paradigms, and social Darwinism were not just part and parcel of late nineteenth and early twentieth century thought but were also framing assumptions in his published writings.1 How do we confront these profound histories of exclusion and hierarchy that are literally inscribed in the edifices of the

AND THE NEW HUMANITIES


PART III: LOS ANGELES university? How do we open the university to other stories and histories, particularly those from the outside? The bricks of UCLA’s Royce Hall tell a fascinating story—a story of continuity and venerability—that harkens back to the early twentieth century. As it happens, UCLA still acquires its bricks from the former Alberhill Coal and Clay Company, now renamed Pacific Clay, the same factory that produced the first bricks that set the foundation of the UC “branch” in Westwood in the late 1920s. This fact allowed Los Angeles–based New Zealand artist Fiona Connor to, in her words, read “the UCLA campus through the use of bricks” in her April 2016 installation Process Inter-rupted. Intriguingly, that installation took place in the same classroom where the Urban Humanities Initiative 2015–2016 cohort was working on several collaborative projects of precisely the type that leave behind brick walls— and even contribute to tearing them down. In reading the campus through its bricks, we might further ask: What do we know of the people who actually produced the bricks, who carted them to Westwood, who toiled in the Los Angeles sun to build the grand campus on land that was originally Gabrielino-Tongva? How does deep knowledge of the layered histories of places inform, or fail to inform, our positions, ways of knowing, and actions in the present? These are questions that come from historical, cultural-critical, and ethical perspectives influenced by the humanities. Traditionally, brick and mortar stand for a university solidly anchored in the ivory tower model, where knowledge is produced, preserved, guarded, and stratified in countless ways. Many educational situations quietly reinforce the very social, economic, and racial hierarchies of inclusion and exclusion, of permitted speech and permissible discourse, where students are judged by their facility in reflecting predigested knowledge formed with the tools the race has found indispens-

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able. Yet one may wonder about these tools. Following Audre Lorde, we might ask: Can the master’s tools dismantle the master’s house? Is it possible to use “the tools” and transform the ivory tower model and the brick walls themselves? Or, might entirely new tools need to be invented, ones that imagine and bring about new possibilities, futures that are distinct and different from the stratifications of the past built into the educational edifices themselves? The Urban Humanities initiative is an attempt both to apply conventional tools in unconventional ways and to invent new tools by respecting the fundamental virtue of bricks, namely their porous nature. Porosity—that is, the ability to breath in and out, to open up to the world, and to rapidly and evenly transport and expand moisture (life) and knowledge—is the modus operandi, or better even, the modus vivendi of a new, “fluid” university model based on permeability, openness, interdisciplinarity, collaboration, and community engagement at the local, national, and transnational levels. Needless to say, the digital era and the relatively new reality of knowledge production and consumption patterns based on digital networking and widespread virtual learning has heavily contributed to the “softening” and increasing porousness of universities, with noticeable effects on the uses of their physical and institutional spaces. But it is not only digital tools that have enabled this softening; it is also an ethic based on diversity and difference that reimagines the public university as sites of engagement that are multidirectional and nonhierarchical in the past, present, and future. Against the somber background of what Umberto Eco termed “apocalyptic” thinkers who mourn the downfall of the Humanities and perceive only the crisis of public education, 2 “integrated” and “generative” approaches optimistically speak of a radically “new ecology of teaching and learning” that not only acknowledges

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Fig. B

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La linea de Tijuana I by Jonathan Banfill and Maite Zubiaurre

Fig. C

La linea de Tijuana II by Jonathan Banfill and Maite Zubiaurre.

AND THE NEW HUMANITIES


PART III: LOS ANGELES 2 While we don’t disagree with the many struggles faced by the public university in an age of neoliberal corporatization, we don’t see the university in ruin or the humanities in perpetual crisis. Cp. Bill Readings, The University in Ruins (Harvard University Press, 1997). 3 Sidonie Smith, A Manifesto for the Humanities: Transforming Doctoral Education in Good Enough Times (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2016), 87. 4 Smith, 39.

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5 Smith, 108 6 Ibid. 7 http://www.latimes. com/local/california/ la-me-census-latinos20150708-story.html.

embedded in multiple critical networks that extend far beyond its walls to ways of creating and thinking that are “foreign” to it? Critically inflected forms of community engagement are certainly one of the imperatives of a new ecology of teaching and learning that shares with bricks the fundamental quality of porousness and permeability. Intellectual and pedagogical initiatives such as Urban Humanities are based on and inspired by these principles. In the same way in which contemporary LA is now aligning itself with the global cities of the Pacific Rim, contemporary UCLA too is shifting, and amplifying its geographic and pedagogical scope in the same direction. Needless to say, by turning its gaze toward the Pacific, it is not only canvassing the far horizon, but also looking more intently at the demographics of the city and state it serves. Presently, 47 percent of Los Angeles County’s population is Hispanic or Latino, and 13 percent is Asian. Since 1 July 2014, Latinos have outnumbered non-Hispanic whites in California.7 How does this demographic reality change the way we consider the context of UCLA in LA, in California, and along the borders between the United States and Mexico in the post-NAFTA world, and in the ever-mutating global flows? In the summer of 2015, a diverse group of twenty-four graduate students and five faculty members came together for

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a three-week, intensive summer institute that used Los Angeles as a “learning laboratory” to put these concepts into practice. The students came from both Ph.D. and professional master’s programs in the humanities (literary studies, history, and Chican@ studies), architecture, and urban planning, and brought together a wide-range of positionalities, life experiences, and perspectives. Some participants had grown up in Tijuana or Mexico City; others had never set foot in Mexico. Through historical investigations, multimedia mapping projects, and spatial ethnographies, the institute was framed around the investigation of contested histories, erasures, and spatial injustices in Los Angeles. Students worked in collaborative, interdisciplinary teams to make films, produce “thick maps,” 8 and propose digital activist interventions, all with the goal of creating a foundation for a cross-disciplinary learning community prepared to work together for the remainder of the year. In comparing Los Angeles and Mexico City, the pedagogical and research methods of the Urban Humanities were motivated by the bold question of whether it is possible to decolonize knowledge. Can knowledge ever be “decolonized”? The answers are far from clear-cut. We began with a relatively simply proposition: Rather than bring our knowledge and tools to Mexico City to “solve” a problem there, how might we study Mexico City in order to learn what knowledge and tools could be brought back to Los Angeles to help us see our “home city” differently? How might we identify, address, and challenge the spatial injustices in Los Angeles with toolsets, perspectives, and knowledge from another city and set of experiences? What kind of intellectual groundwork would have to be put in place to begin to orchestrate such a transformation? To do so, we would have to imagine new kinds of knowledge, new kinds of collaborations beyond the walls of the

Pa lms

but also openly embraces the opportunities of a paradigm shift. 3 “What is different at this historical moment,” director of the University of Michigan’s Institute for the Humanities Sidonie Smith contends, “is the intensification of cross-institutional [and cross-departmental and cross-divisional] collaborative activity in the humanities and opportunities for modeling collaborative graduate [and undergraduate] education.”4 Therefore, in a fitting response to the zeitgeist and as part of a new ecology of teaching and learning, Smith’s “Manifesto for a Sustainable Humanities” proclaims the need of “preserving the intimacy of the small and [stewarding] the distinctiveness of the local while recognizing the attraction [and potential] of global networks,” and of “relishing the commitment to teaching through innovations in the classroom, among them explorations of participatory and project-based humanities inquiry.”5 More importantly, she urges the Humanities to “reconceptualize the scholarly ecology as a flexible collaboratory, one that positions the scholar as singular producer of knowledge, but also as a member of a collaborative assemblage involving students, colleagues, computer engineers and graphic designers, project designers and strangers of the crowd.”6 “Strangers of the crowd” may as well stand here for diverse communities not always sufficiently integrated into the knowledge networks or institutional formations that focus singularly on teaching the correct use of tools considered to be indispensable “for the race.” What about tools that stem from “beyond” or “outside” the university? What about ways of knowing, thinking, seeing, and building that come from communities not traditionally selected to partake in the knowledge formations and credentialing programs prized by the university? How does the university’s fundamental porosity expose students to possibilities and potentialities from the outside? And what does this mean for the mission of the university

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university, and utilize a range of tools to develop new kinds of speculative knowledge and historical awareness. The summer institute acted as the foundational brick upon which the rest of the year was constructed, creating a new collective conception of what the classroom can be and how knowledge is generated. The classroom is not fixed; in fact, the chairs and tables themselves are mobile, rolling around to form new combinations. The walls are used as work space as well as the floor. Over three weeks, the classroom moved from Westwood to La Placita and Chinatown. One session focused on mapping the events of the 1871 Chinese massacre. Tables were pushed aside, a ten-foot-long map was unfurled on the floor, and students spent hours annotating it with a multiplicity of narratives, data, and comparative analyses—both historical and synchronic— culminating in contemporary examples of racial injustice and erasure. Other sessions left the classroom behind entirely. We moved into key sites in Los Angeles, and in this way the traditional classroom with its hierarchical ordered space were overcome. Urban Humanities propose something closer to a collaborative workshop, a messy garage or whimsical laboratory, where knowledge can be co-created with a spirit of porousness across borders both visible and invisible: disciplinary, national, linguistic, social, and cultural. This spirit of a “new Humanities” continued throughout the academic year, where Los Angeles and Mexico City were put into productive conversation. The two seminars that followed worked to provide a flexible, open knowledge of the thematic confluences between the two cities— water, earthquakes, traffic and mobility, precarious housing, political and social violence—creating a dialogic circuit for deeper understanding. In the fall seminar, the focus was specifically on Mexico City: watching films and documentaries, reading novels and histories, and learning

AND THE NEW HUMANITIES


PART III: LOS ANGELES about events such as the 1968 Tlatelolco massacre and the 1985 earthquake. In the destructive aftermath of catastrophe, the idea was to apprehend the creativity of life in Mexico City as ways of rethinking, rebuilding, reimagining, and surviving after disasters, whether human-made or natural, contemporary or historical. How could such knowledge, creativity, and imagination be brought back to Los Angeles? In the winter, we focused on the theme of borders and transgressions, where the US-Mexico border was not just understood in its embodied, physical, and geographic manifestation, but also as a symbolic, economic, and cultural formation. This included a study trip to Tijuana and San Diego where the abstract knowledge of the classroom encountered the reality of the border. The Tijuana experience was encapsulated by an evening visit to Playas de Tijuana, where the border fence extends across a sandy beach and disappears into the Pacific. Here, shrouded in an eerie ocean fog, we walked along the border, touched it, stuck our hands through the vertical openings, read the messages scrawled on the fence and the pieces of political art, truly feeling the immensity of the division as we peered back across to the United States. We were forced to materially confront our relationship with the border—including, for most of us, our privilege of being able to freely cross it back and forth—and to think through where our knowledge might better open up spaces for circulation and justice through such a seemingly insurmountable edifice. The rest of the year followed such practice, continuously creating a growing bank of reflexive knowledge built across Los Angeles, Mexico City, and the geographic, cultural, linguistic, and social borderlands in between. By the time we arrived in Mexico City, a conceptual toolset existed for engaging in community projects. Each of the three partner organizations—an arts organization (inSite/Casa Gallina), an architecture firm (Productura and their

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LIGA space), and a city government urban think tank (Laboratorio para la Ciudad)— provided a different lens for interpreting the city. They first came to Los Angeles to work with us, and then we went to Mexico City to work with them on site. The idea was not to package and ship “expert” knowledge in either direction, but rather to forge partnerships, grow collaborations, and open critical perspectives for networks of engagement. In this two-way process, knowledge was “forged and produced,” to quote the Brazilian educator Paulo Freire, “in the tension between practice and theory.”9 The result was a series of projects of engaged, speculative scholarship that were realized in specific urban sites characterized by spatial inequities and injustices. The goal was never to “master” Mexico City, but rather to engage with local community organizations around specific issues within the city—street vending, children’s safety, gentrification—in order to bring back knowledge, insights, and perspectives that might be applied to analogous issues in Los Angeles. As Peter Chesney, a Ph.D. student in history at UCLA, reflected: “The most important experience in Mexico City was learning about the limitations of our own systems of knowledge, so that

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Fig. D

Porosity by Maite Zubiaurre

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8 “Thick mapping” is a 9 Freire, Paulo, Letters key method in the urban to Cristina (New York: humanities in which “map- Routledge, 1996), 85. ping” is given dimensionality through a multiplicity of datasets, historical perspectives, narratives, and multimedia assets. The concept is derived from Clifford Geertz’s “thick description” and underscores the constructedness, contingency, and layeredness of spatial representations. For a fuller discussion, see Todd Presner, David Shepard, and Yoh Kawano, HyperCities: Thick Mapping in the Digital Humanities (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2014).

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AND THE NEW HUMANITIES


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Justice

ing back from Los Angeles to Mexico City: La Caja Mágica, the magic storytelling box, will soon to be deployed in Mexico City on the children’s safety project where Laboratorio para la Ciudad continues to claim a “right to the street” for children’s play spaces. None of these projects is a grand statement or a utopian solution. They are small-scale interventions, speculative collaborations that are inserted into the fabric of the city in order to expose and begin to address a spatial injustice. They open up the public university to the outside and bring the outside in. They are porous in every sense of the word. As such, urban humanities bring productive responses to the oft-heard cries of “crisis” in the humanities; they are experimental, engaged, and speculative forms of knowledge-making, rooted in humanities perspectives and values, charged with creating new knowledge, new kinds of tools, and new possibilities for opening up the walls of the university and addressing spatial injustices through transnational creativity and networks. This is a prototype for the “fluid” university based on permeability, openness, interdisciplinarity, collaboration, and community engagement. Indeed, the decolonization of knowledge is never complete, but must also start somewhere. We see Urban Humanities as one such start.

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we could come back to Los Angeles and speculate about a place we think we know.” This is what we did returning to LA and extending, at least conceptually, the work done in Mexico City in a series of humanistic, interventionist collaborations with community groups in Boyle Heights. In the spring studio, the urban humanities students worked with five Los Angeles–based community organizations—Libros Schmibros, The East Los Angeles Community Corporation, From Lot to Spot, Multicultural Communities for Mobility, and Self Help Graphics—grappling with critical issues currently unfolding in Boyle Heights, a neighborhood rife with spatial contestations and tensions between the residents and the ambitions of developers, city planners, business leaders, transit authorities, and government policies. These community organizations work on literacy, housing, green space, transportation, and activist visual arts, respectively, trying to find ethical, ground-up ways to enact change, struggling with questions such as: How do you develop a neighborhood that protects its residents, rather than welcoming in outside gentrifying forces? How do you intervene in ways that are ethical and attuned to the needs of greater LA? As outsiders to the neighborhood, our students occupied a liminal zone inflected with perspectives, knowledge, and activist practices stemming from Mexico City. The projects that emerged were attempts, however provisional, to fuse these experiences and imagine scenarios that were ethically grounded, truly collaborative, and imaginatively engaged with the possibilities of translational, humanistic knowledge: A magic storytelling box for child literacy, a manual for community greening, a fotonovella imagining a just future for the neighborhood, a successful city arts activation grant for making a series of installations advocating for bike commuter safety. Now there is also transnational circulation of these projects, with ideas spread-

Culver City

PART III: LOS ANGELES

Angélica Becerra Peter Chesney Paul Kurek Lucy Seena K Lin Jeannette Mundy Teo Wickland


PART III: LOS ANGELES

EN MOVIMENTO I. Introduction

Fig. 1

Hockney, David. American Collectors. 1967. ARTstor.

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Fig. 2

Gomez, Ramiro. American Gardeners. 2014.Artist’s Blog.

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What is a city like Los Angeles to underprivileged workers of color? Is it two segregated spaces, one poor, unsafe, but ready to rebel against its twin, a “vast gated community for the rich”?1 Or is LA instead a “flexible, multinodal, and densely meshed” field of possibilities, a mirror image to the city’s bus network that the community has forcefully fought to conserve? 2 Both these visions of the city are simultaneously valid. As workers commute, they break through gates erected to keep them out and find a cause which can collectively mobilize whole communities. Histories of coalition building in LA’s ethnic enclaves set the stage for collaborations like the recent project developed between Multicultural Communities for Mobility (MCM), Self-Help Graphics and Art (SHG), and researchers from UCLA. That a historic art collective and an advocacy group for bike commuters can work together in such close and fruitful intimacy means political organizing can move beyond categorical barriers separating issues like artmaking and transit. Organizers can link artists with political causes, especially when these actors insert themselves into the same community. Insertion involves action. Ethics involves accountability. Through this essay, we do not only seek to amplify acts of insertion; we participate in creating new ways to act. The capacity for action is restorative, as it attempts to bring the past into the present and to retell history where multiple histories, individual and collective, expand the narrative space. The capacity for action is also social. It is predicated on entering a social realm, participate in its reshaping. The act of “tying oneself up with other human beings,” 3 as political theorist Hannah Arendt describes is counter-totalizing and engages in a necessary discomfort to lay fertile ground for newly informed actions. This is the aspiration behind this

essay. In the act of tying oneself up, we confront a field of possibilities in engagement, agency, insertion and ethics. II. Collaboration as Reparations: The University of California in Boyle Heights

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The partnership between UCLA scholars, MCM activists, and SHG artists was possible within a special political, geographic, and intellectual setting. Critic Jacques Derrida has marked such circumstances as “cities of refuge”; these are sites where cosmopolitanism takes real and material form. Boyle Heights is such an enclave where bike commuters of color and of necessity have found “a place (lieu) for reflection ... and for a new order of law and a democracy to come to be put to the test (expérimentation).”4 MCM and SHG evoke a longstanding tradition where ethnic solidarity in Boyle Heights has helped artists and activists of color see past any practical or disciplinary boundaries binding folks to separate categories. Participating in such work is surprising, suggestive of new reparative ways that universities can approach learning in nearby ethnic enclaves. Institutions of higher learning have had a historic commitment to the varieties of categorical thinking that transform complex communities into bite-size morsels for close study (or extraction), driving wedges between artists and activists who otherwise would have worked together under a popular front.5 An example of such a callous attitude is Columbia University, which pushed in the late 1960s 1 David Harvey, Rebel Cities: From the Right to the City to the Urban Revolution (London: Verso, 2013), 23. 2 Edward Soja, Seeking Spatial Justice (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2010), xvi. 3 Amir Eshel, Scholarship in Action: LA and

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Mexico City. (presentation, Urban Humanities Institute Symposium, UCLA, CA, June 6, 2016). 4 Jacques Derrida, On Cosmopolitanism and Forgiveness, Mark Dooley and Michael Hughes, trs. (New York: Routledge, 2001), 23. 5 Soja, 160–161.


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Fig. 3 Artist Ramiro Gomez next to his cutout art. Remezcal. 2013.

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EN MOVIMENTO to put a gymnasium in Black Harlem’s Morningside Park. Defeating the university required the initiative and cooperation of an inside group of student activists.6 MCM and SHG’s decision to invite scholars from UCLA into their world is a sign that legacies of student rebellions can still point toward possibilities for another future, where community-university interactions can be mutually beneficial and not just a location for ethnographic fieldwork. Boyle Heights and other cities of refuge are instead sites of higher learning where scholars go not to study the locals but instead to find mentors among the enclave’s intellectuals. Knowledge thereafter flows evenly between the university that the state funds and the enclaves that the state marginalizes. The UCLAMCM-SHG partnership realizes a vision of a kind of learning where students split attention between books in libraries and people on the streets. What emerges is the possibility for repair, healing, and payback for the damage many scholars have done and many still do.7 III. Politicization of Art: The Action of Ramiro Gomez

Fa shion

Dis tr ic t

Fig. 4 Mockup of cutout art on Cesar E. Chavez Blvd. Collage by Jeannette Mundy. 2016.

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Something strange occurs in Ramiro Gomez’s paintings. On the flat surface of the picture plane, they parody David Hockney’s 1960s scenic constructions of wealthy LA residences as landscapes of erasure. A Bigger Splash (1967) and American Collectors (1967) are two of Hockney’s most famous paintings, showing the idealized spaces of Southern California’s midcentury lifestyles of wealth and leisure. Yet rather than merely parody, they seem to actually complete Hockney’s originals, showing us something that we missed at first glance. As a young artist and Angeleno, Gomez identified that Hockney’s paintings captured only a moment in time, that before and after these snapshots existed a lessthan-ideal reality. Extending Hockney, he re-creates these paintings, capturing the

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moment before when an immigrant gardener trimmed the shrubs, or the moment after when a person of color cleans the swimming pool. The action of returning to “correct” Hockney’s paintings brings about a type of repair needed to mend the narratives of Los Angeles as a landscape where immigrant labor may not be visible. Yet Gomez moves beyond this flat plane, not content to trap his parodies on the canvas, removed from the social context he critiques. In real space, the flatness of the medium engenders a different effect. A larger set of dynamics comes into play with the insertion into both private and public spaces. Figure 3, a photograph of Gomez standing next to his life-size cutout, represents the incursions on private property that he stages. “Invariably, the owner gets pissed off and removes the piece—or, more accurately, orders it removed by the help,”8 says art critic Lawrence Weschler. Intervening in privileged spaces is a rebellious act that entails precariousness. Gomez’s job may be on the line and his presence called into question. The act could impact other domestic workers and laborers employed in such spaces. The art becomes a political act in confronting established power dynamics. How can artists ensure the art and act of intervention will have the intended impact? Through the insertion of the cutouts into physical space, private and public, the power of aesthetics is wed to the agency of viewers, aspiring to engage them as participants. Although Gomez 6 Stefan M. Bradley, Harlem vs. Columbia University: Black Student Power in the Late 1960s (Urbana:University of Illinois Press, 2009). 7 Here, “repair” is meant in the kabbalistic sense as in tikkun. See Amir Eshel, Futurity: Contemporary Literature and the Quest for the Past. (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2013).

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8 Susan Stamberg, “Gardens Don't Tend Themselves: Portraits Of The People Behind LA's Luxury,” NPR, April 11, 2016, http://www.npr. org/2016/04/11/473384990/ gardens-dont- tend-themselves- portraits-ofthe-people-behind-lasluxury/.


PART III: LOS ANGELES has expressed hope that the domestic laborers which his art represents will be the ones that remove and ultimately take home the cutouts, the infringements are often instead removed by the owners. This unintended consequence demonstrates the degree to which art that engages real space may often take on a life outside of the control of its artistic creator. IV. Politicization of Mobility: Exploding Modernity and Intervening with Art Modernity has not been kind to Boyle Heights. Urban planners seeking to ease mobility for a largely white constituency of motorists who fled LA to the suburbs built “a concrete colossus.” Government funds went to freeways instead of the public transportation lines residents of working-class ethnic enclaves like Boyle Heights used. To make matters worse, planners sited freeways along paths of least resistance. In Latinx and Black neighborhoods, land values were lowest, political and legal representation was most repressed, and civic elites were least invested. 9 Suturing the cityscape with freeways left the indelible mark of 1950s modernist thought. Historian Eric Avila documents how local communities can make modernity’s indelible mark into something more than an ugly scar: with creative work, Chicanx artists “strive to transform freeway infrastructure into cultural assets” by reimagining it as an empty stage for improvisation.10 Artists have a capacity to extend this logic to mobility in Boyle Heights. Artists can make an underprivileged mode of transportation into a cultural asset by representing the ways Latinx bike commuters make do even under unjust circumstances not of their choosing. The working-class Latinx neighborhoods east of downtown Los Angeles are the setting for the art project, Boyle Heights en Movimiento (BHM). Part of the work for the proposed project will involve the production of a series of life-size cut-

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outs to be placed in public places along sidewalks and even on streets. By capturing the moment in time when low-income cyclists of color occupy the street, they will become visible like Gomez’s domestic workers. Local artists and resident participants create posters and stencils of bike commuters of color who live in and pass through Boyle Heights and its surrounding areas. Deciding what content to depict in these artworks, artists and residents create new cultures. Such art can be photo realistic or abstract, colorful or drab, aesthetic or data-heavy. The Boyle Heights community is a Chicanx enclave with relatively low rent, which is attractive to immigrants from Mexico and the Global South. Often unskilled or undocumented, workers labor in the services sector or manufacturing. Unsteady employment and far-flung worksites make investing in a bus pass a risky venture. Commuting by bicycle, often to city districts and ethnic enclaves with spotty or unreliable transit service, bike commuters of color use the best transportation option available to them. That is not to say driving or riding transit never suffice. Working-class Latinxs who must travel great distances, haul tools and materials, or come to work fresh drive cars and trucks or take buses. But each transportation option comes with a price: bike commuting is far less expensive than driving or riding buses. BHM artists represent bike commuting as something more than a dangerous lifestyle choice or regrettable life situation. Inspiration for this rebellious art practice derives from everyday actions of working-class commuters of color who have used many modes of urban transportation. Historian Robin D.G. Kelley explains Black workers’ responses to laws segregating Jim Crow-era Birmingham, Alabama’s bus network, noting that “divisions between black and white space had to be relatively fluid and flexible ... the lack of a fixed color line rendered public transportation far more vulnerable to everyday

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EN MOVIMENTO acts of resistance.” LA bike commuters wield a similar power to thwart the city’s dominant motorist-centric, high-speed mobility regime. The city’s streetscape has few markers and legal barriers wholly separating bicyclists from car, truck, and bus traffic. Bike lanes are for bicycling and freeways are exclusively for driving. But what of the rest of the street, an overwhelming majority of this physical space? In practice, motorists often callously disregard the safety of bicyclists. BHM cutouts reconstruct bike commuters as “the already dead”: scholar and theorist Eric Cazdyn has asserted that “opening new ways to die means opening new modes to live.”12 Bike commuters willingly risk harm. Fearing death under the wheels of a speeding motorist does not prevent them from riding to work. Such a notion of a future at stake does not constrain their agency. Instead, they ride and put on public display the radically different futures for urban mobility embedded in their experiences. Making such a future possible means inserting both bike commuters and their representations into the streetscape. Motorists can easily ignore a bike commuter rushing by in the dark, but BHM cutouts seize their gaze, operating comparably to ubiquitous “eye-catching” billboard advertisements.13 11

V. Toward an Ethical Futurity: Boyle Heights en Movimiento Amir Eshel poses in his book, Futurity, the question of what actions might engage with ethical and political challenges of the present. How can this work be embedded with a “substantive afterlife”?14 Boyle Heights en Movimiento aims for a specific change through a collective process that brings the invisible to the forefront and addresses a social situation. As a collaboration between SHG and MCM, the project places a premium on participatory artmaking. Participation in social art practice is a process of direct experience that privileges neither artist nor partic-

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ipant in the making and as a necessary element to create change. The amount of co-creation in the cutout art that can happen is limited, even by a simple account of the number realistically to be produced. To raise BHM to a level of “deliberative democracy and discourse ethics”15 and to build community, the partners conceived of artmaking also in the form of posters and stencil art with neighborhood residents during street charrettes. As life-sized cutout images, bike commuters occupy the streets and reflect their agency to affect an auto-centric culture. Displaying posters and stencils on their bicycles, cyclists and others may express their solidarity. Positioning art as a tool for representation of bike commuters on certain streets or even freeways and, moreover, as a means for participation and engagement ushers in a new imagination for civic life. Bike commuters of color living in Boyle Heights, the “city of refuge,” along with other residents of this in-between neighborhood make themselves visible and in so doing, make a new world visible where streets need not be dominated by high-speed automotive traffic. This world dramatically shifts the narratives and cultures which have come to publicly 9 Kenneth T. Jackson, Crabgrass Frontier: The Suburbanization of the United States (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1985), 250. 10 Eric Avila, Folklore of the Freeway: Race and Revolt in the Modernist City (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2014), 149-151. 11 Robin Kelley, Race Rebels: Culture, Politics, and the Black Working Class (New York: Free Press, 1996), 60. 12 Eric Cazdyn, The Already Dead: The New Time of Politics, Culture, and Illness (Durham: Duke University Press, 2012), 194.

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13 Reyner Banham, Los Angeles: The Architecture of Four Ecologies (Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1971), 100. 14 Eshel, 254. 15 Pablo Helguera. Education for Socially Engaged Art: A Materials and Techniques Handbook (New York: Jorge Pinto Books, 2011), 7.


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16 Gloria Anzaldúa, Borderlands/La Frontera (San Francisco: Aunt Lute Books, 1987), 102.

dominate Los Angeles, defining it not as the “car capital of the world,” but rather a strange space where flows of bike commuters, of pedestrians, and of bus riders can lay claim to the public imagination. Chicanx philosopher Gloria Anzaldúa lived her life immersed in the borderlands and articulated her agency as such: “I am cultured because I am participating in the creation of yet another culture, a new story to explain the world.”16

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Team

Description

AngĂŠlica Becerra Peter Chesney Paul Kurek Lucy Seena K Lin Jeannette Mundy Teo Wickland

This project brings three groups into a unique partnership: urban humanities researchers from UCLA with a wide variety of skills and interests; a community organization which advocates for improved biking, walking, and transit for low-income communities of color (Multicultural Communities for Mobility); and another with a long history of community arts activism, particularly through Chicano art (Self Help Graphics and Art). Together these three parties brainstormed ways in which art, mobility advocacy, and the urban humanities can work together to address issues of mobility in creative ways. The result was a pilot proposal for a series of workshops that would produce life-sized cutouts of people of color in transit, to be installed in the locations where most often pass/where accidents occur because of their invisibility. The cutouts would make visible these commuters, while at the same time provoking and educating automobile drivers. The project was initially developed through an arts grant proposal, which was ultimately awarded from the City of Los Angeles, allowing the pilot to continue the summer, solidifying a connection between art and mobility.

Time Seven weeks for pilot, three months for full project Deliverable Four community arts and mobility workshops, several life-sized cutouts of cyclist commuters installed in various locations where accidents often occur, a culminating art walk Ingredients 1 architect 1 historian 1 German film scholar 2 urban planners 1 Chicanx artist 2 community organizations in Boyle Heights Data gathered from community events Materials (cardboard, art supplies, etc.) for creating cut-outs

Directions

Figure 1 Cyclists were asked to map their route, their neighborhood, and other cycling information in Los Angeles. All Photographs by Lucy Seena K Lin unless otherwise noted

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1. Team meets with representatives from Multicultural Communities for Mobility (MCM) and Self Help Graphics and Art (SHG) to brainstorm potential projects which operate at the intersection of art, mobility, and urban humanities.

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Figure 2 Participants were asked a series of survey questions.

URBAN HUMANITIES IN THE BORDERLANDS 3. A project is developed in the form of a grant proposal—this proposal is submitted to the City of Los Angeles’s Arts Activation Fund.

2. Team finds inspiration in the work of Ramiro Gomez as a methodological model: visibility and invisibility, life-size cutouts, and Los Angeles.

Figure 3 Surveys asked participants about cycling, art, and neighborhood connections.

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4. A pilot workshop is held: MCM organizes a mural bike ride in Boyle Heights, where team members document and interact with participants, using photography, surveys, and mapping, in order to better understand issues of mobility within this population.

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Figure 4 Cyclists stretch in Mariachi Plaza before Boyle Heights mural tour.

URBAN HUMANITIES IN THE BORDERLANDS 5. The grant proposal is advanced to the final round of consideration and representatives from all collaborating organizations present to the Los Angeles Arts Commission and are awarded a grant to continue the project through the summer.

Figure 5 Polaroid keepsakes were given to cyclist for their participation.

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6. A final set of three workshops is planned: an initial two where, with the help of a local artist, community members will collaborative produce cutouts, and a third where the cutouts are installed.

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PROJECT FOUR


Figure 6 Cyclists portraits were taken to later use for cutouts.

156 URBAN HUMANITIES IN THE BORDERLANDS 7. The first two workshops are held at Mariachi Plaza in Boyle Heights, where cutouts are produced alongside games, bike riding, and other activities; while the third involves an art walk to see where the cutouts have been installed.

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Figure 7 Painted cutout at community workshop.

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Figure 8 Family works with Boyle Heights artist to paint cutout.

Figure 9 Jes + Yes = Art cutout.

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Figure 10 Mockup of cutout installed on Cesar E. Chavez Blvd. Illustration by Jeannette Mundy.

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Kenton Card Ryan Hernandez LeighAnna Hildalgo Andrew Ko Louis Monteils Chantiri Resendiz

Against Displacement

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Story


PART III: LOS ANGELES The love story has the potential to serve as a community tool for combatting unwanted development and displacement. Love, whether romantic or filial, is often seen as unworthy of academic attention even though it is an essential part of lived reality. Personal, creative, and activist work is often marginalized within the university even though these, too, can be integral to daily life and scholarly pursuits. Urban humanities offers a space where creativity can flourish because its interdisciplinary nature allows for these overlooked elements into academic projects. Here, the love story can emerge as a pedagogical and political tool for inciting dialogue on the issues at stake in contemporary urbanism. As part of a team of urban humanist researchers, I partnered with the East Los Angeles Community Corporation (ELACC), a neighborhood development non-profit in Boyle Heights, to help solve a pressing concern. How can community organizers best communicate the complex processes of urban development through a spatial justice lens to the Latinx community of Boyle Heights? We proposed and developed a creative project based on the fotonovela. A fotonovela is a strategy for community engagement, which allows for the clear communication of stories with little text, much of the content conveyed through images. We used this format as a tool for political and pedagogical engagement which bridges the multiple language barriers—literal and conceptual—between urban developers, non-profit organizations, and marginalized communities. According to ELACC, three of the major issues related to urban development in Boyle Heights are transit oriented development, environmental justice, and gentrification. The organization initially wanted three separate pamphlets which clearly explained these complex issues. However, we collectively decided to incorporate all three issues into one project, as a single document would

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have a greater likelihood of clarifying the issues and proliferating. While the issues are complex we found that they could be made relatable, and their interlinkages demonstrated, by dramatizing a love story between two individuals. Telling the narrative of two people who meet and fall in love allowed us to create a setting where modes of public transportation and contentions around transit oriented development were demonstrated. For example, as one character exits a carpool vehicle and the other emerges from the subway station, their eyes lock for the first time. Seeing demonstrators outside the transit station protesting development, the two characters have their first conversation which turns into an argument over whether or not the development is beneficial for the neighborhood. This scene between the two characters, while fictional, is realistic. During one of our initial meetings with ELACC, we witnessed a group of protesters picketing at the transit station, protesting gentrification. By presenting the issue through fictional characters, readers are able to process the complexities and ethical quandaries of the situation first hand. Fotonovelas are a popular adult literature that originated with stills from films aimed at retelling the plot of a motion picture in an accessible and affordable medium for those without access to the films due to geographic or financial constraints. They are similar to comic books, but they are photo-based, combining elements of written text, bubble dialogue captions, sequential images, and artistic alterations. Through the fotonovela, people with limited literacy levels and access to financial resources could affordably experience films.1 In the 1960s and 70s, Mexican scholars—prominently Miguel Sabido—developed a theory of communication called “entertainment-education.” Sabido’s method consisted of using melodramatic comics and embedding them with a pro-social message which would alter

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A LOVE STORY the reader’s behavior. Later, he worked with mass media companies applying his theory to television soap operas to create positive social change. Sabido’s method was successful in enrolling adults in literacy courses, encouraging people to adopt family planning methods, and garnering support for women’s rights issues, later becoming a model for education that was exported to the United States. 2 Across generations of Latinxs, the historical importance of fotonovelas as a form of popular art meant that when they were deployed in the form entertainment-education, they made sense to their audience culturally. For this reason, the US public health community now uses fotonovelas as a tool for health education in the Latinx community. Soap opera-style story lines address public health issues: tuberculosis, 3 depression, 4 breast cancer, 5 dementia, 6 and diabetes.7 Researchers have demonstrated the fotonovela as an engaged and effective tool for working in marginalized communities. In Longing and Love in Boyle Heights, we develop a love story with a narrative arc that employs humor and entertainment. The love that blossoms between the main characters, Jose and Maria, becomes the conduit through which we smuggle pedagogical content about topics like the importance of using public transit and the unequal access to affordable childcare and healthcare. Through their cohabitation we see up close and personal the struggles of dilapidated housing, economic disparity, an unequal health care system, and environmental racism. A series of high-stress situations like these allow both Jose and Maria to arrive at the conclusion that they must take action: they must become civically engaged to make their voices heard. Although the love story is a fictional anecdote, the setting corresponds to actual locations affected by current spatial injustices in Boyle Heights. Through the use of photography, the reader is geographically rooted in Boyle Heights,

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1 Cornelia Flora and Jan L. Flora, “The Fotonovela as a Tool for Class and Cultural Domination,” Latin American Perspectives 5, no. 1, (1978): 134–150. 2 Sabido, Manuel. “The Origins of Entertainment-Education,” in Entertainment-Education and Social Change: History, Research, and Practice (Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2004), 61–74. 3 Cabrera, D. M., D. E. Morisky, and S. Chin. “Development of a tuberculosis education booklet for Latino immigrant patients.” Patient education and counseling 46, no. 2 (2002): 117–124. 4 Cabassa, Leopoldo J., Sandra Contreras, Rebeca Aragón, Gregory B. Molina, and Melvin Baron. “Focus group evaluation of “secret feelings” a depression fotonovela for latinos with limited English proficiency.” Health promotion practice 12, no. 6 (2011): 840–847.

5 Nelson, Atiba, Francine Ricardo, Barbara Forges, E. Lopez, and Robin Lewy. “Creando nuestra salud (creating our health) —Results and findings from a breast cancer education program with rural Hispanic women.” Public Health Review 5 (2008): 99–103. 6 Valle, Ramón, Ann-Marie Yamada, and Ana Consuelo Matiella. “Fotonovelas: a health literacy tool for educating Latino older adults about dementia. “Clinical Gerontologist 30, no. 1 (2006): 71-88. 7 Unger, Jennifer B., Gregory B. Molina, and Melvin Baron. “Evaluation of sweet temptations, a fotonovela for diabetes education.” Hispanic Health Care International 7, no. 3 (2009): 145–152. 8 Amir Eshel, “Reflections on the Public Art of Dani Karavan” (presentation, Annual Urban Humanities Plenary, Los Angeles, CA, June 6, 2016).

the images evoking a sense of place in the material world. The visuality and site-specificity employed in the fotonovela allows for a deeper connection to the material by readers, familiarizing the context and highlighting the ongoing issues that are present in the community. This, in turn, encourages readers to come to the same conclusion as Jose and Maria: they must take part and actively engage in urban development decision making processes to ensure the livability of their neighborhood. As urban humanists building upon the concept of futurity, our scholarly and practical purpose aims to “mend the devastated world through human action.” 8 We see our action in developing the fotonovela as achieving this aim, in part, but we also see the possibility for futurity embedded in an extension of the project in which community members develop and create

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their own fotonovelas. Community organizers and members need not only learn from our creative work but can become creators in their own right, demonstrating their ability to intervene in the world. We embedded this speculative component in our narrative as a dream sequence. Jose and Maria both imagine a bright future for their family that takes place after they become civically engaged in their community, playing an active role in the transformation of their neighborhood. When they will wake up—just as when the reader concludes the narrative—it will be up to them to decide what actions they will take to turn their difficult circumstances into a bright future.

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Team

Description

Kenton Card Ryan Hernandez LeighAnna Hildalgo Andrew Ko Louis Monteils Chantiri Resendiz

This project was the product of a collaboration between UCLA urban humanities researchers and the East Los Angeles Community Corporation (ELACC), a non-profit which has focused its attention on neighborhood development in Boyle Heights for many years. Their goal was to find creative ways to educate the community about transit oriented development in Boyle Heights slated to happen around several lots owned by LA Metro, the local transit agency. Rather than settle with rote informational brochures as is often done with questionable success, the team decided to use the fotonovela as a platform for conveying information—the medium allowed for sharing of information about transit oriented development, but also many other complex issues which faced the neighborhood in a fun and easily digestible way. Originating decades ago in Mexican neighborhoods who didn’t have access to television but still wanted to stay up to date on the juicy proceedings of popular telenovelas, the medium was also culturally specific, allowing for the community to see the information not only as one-way communication but, in fact, a means for their voices to be heard also. The dramatic comic book style story casts present day issues from the community, including economic disparity, childcare access, and gentrification, into the narrative of a romantic journey between two individuals who meet, fall in love, raise a child, and navigate the complexities of life in Boyle Heights. At the end of the story, the central characters also dream of a more just and equitable future for the neighborhood—mirroring the dreams of local residents, and demonstrating the political action necessary for those dreams to come true.

Time One month prep, one day photoshoot, three weeks in post production Deliverable A fotonovela that demystifies complicated issues around transit oriented development, gentrification, and displacement which also acts as a platform to amplify community voices Ingredients

Directions

2 architects willing to act in front of a camera 2 urban planners 2 Chicanx studies scholars 1 community development non-profit organization A screenplay informed by site-specific research on community issues A camera and props Photoshop, a printer, ink, and paper

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1. Team meets with ELACC and community to tour key sites and discuss current issues at stake in Boyle Heights neighborhood. The difficulty of conveying the complexities of transit oriented development (TOD) is conveyed.

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168 URBAN HUMANITIES IN THE BORDERLANDS 4. The team travels to Boyle Heights and performs the script on site, documenting their performance with a camera for later use.

3. ELACC is open to the unusual idea given their past exposure to the medium, and the team begins work on scripting a narrative which incorporates the specificity of the neighborhood, the issues at stake, and the reality of daily life.

2. Team determines that conventional education literature would be ineffective, and would also not convey the multiple other issues interwoven with TOD on daily life. One team member has had experience working with ELACC on a fotonovela and proposes it as a model for this project as well.

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170 URBAN HUMANITIES IN THE BORDERLANDS 6. The final fotonovela is printed and produced, and shared with the community in a workshop where the medium, itself, is also discussed as a potential platform for amplifying community voices. The community learns to make their own fotonovelas to address issues that they see in their community as well.

5. Post-production in Photoshop fuses the images with text in a comic book-like format, and is refined iteratively with feedback from colleagues and stake holders.

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Heidi Alexander Devin Koba Paola Mendez Maria Teresa Monroe Kendy D. Rivera Gus Wendel


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Fig. 1 Stills from vacant lot filming in Boyle Heights. Film by Gus Wendel. 2016.

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RASQUACHISMO Access to green space is critical for a decent quality of life, and it is a right which the city of Los Angeles has failed to preserve for its residents. As the city continues to grow in density, the destruction of its open spaces continues to occur unevenly across socio-economically and racially divided neighborhoods through aggressive real estate development and public sector negligence. As neuroscientist Billi Gordon has noted, “the collateral damage of this growth is lost green space where our backyards and open space used to be. LA’s tree canopy covers 21% of the city, compared with the national average of 27%.”1 He goes on to note that this deficit is more distinct in lower-income areas, with 41% of lower-income households in Los Angeles lacking immediate access to a public park. This systemic set of problems escalates to broader issues, with lack of access to green space correlating with poor health, crime, and even domestic violence. These trends also compound urban-infrastructural and climatic issues such as inadequate water reclamation, urban heat island effect, loss of habitat for birds and pollinators, and diminishing returns on the photosynthetic effect. In Los Angeles, community-based non-profit organizations have mobilized to address environmental injustices through community engagement. From Lot to Spot (FLTS) is one such organization advocating for community appropriation of underused urban spaces and the establishment of new green enclaves and community gardens through charitable easements and other land agreements. I, along with a team of researchers from UCLA, collaborated with FLTS on a project in Boyle Heights, a Los Angeles neighborhood in which issues of spatial and environmental injustice and gentrification are being intensely contested. The collaboration called for the production of a bilingual manual to help residents transform underutilized lots and spaces through the cultivation of plant life, a strategy the team termed rasquache urban-

1 Billi Gordon, “Why L.A. Needs More Green Space, Now,” Los Angeles Times, November 15, 2015, http://www.latimes.com/ opinion/livable-city/laol-violence-crime-greenspace-parks-20151113-story.html.

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2 See Eric Avila, The Folklore of the Freeway: Race and Revolt in the Modernist City (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2014).

ism. Early inquiries into the lack of green space in Boyle Heights, however, quickly revealed a new set of questions concerning historic and contemporary administration of land use policy, city planning, transportation planning, development, industry, environment, and information in Los Angeles. Lack of green space for people living in communities such as Boyle Heights is not new. During the 1930s, federal blueprints for urban highway systems established a racial hierarchy of space which worked fundamentally to classify communities of color as being “in decline,” and predisposing them through infrastructural interventions to economic hardship, redevelopment, and land-based exploitation. For Boyle Heights, this meant the neighborhood was “redlined” as grade D or “blight.” Ten-years later, at the height of America’s post-war, post-industrial, post-automobile fervor, the 1947 Colliers Burns Act gave Los Angeles County millions of dollars in federal funding for new freeway construction, directing populations and resources towards suburban Los Angeles, and away from inner city areas. The construction of the freeway system brought chaotic and destructive changes to inner-city neighborhoods where close knit communities were physically divided and displaced to make room for the automobile. 2 Struggles regarding development continues in Boyle Heights today, with the threat of development omnipresent. This is due partly to the neighborhood’s proximity to rapidly emerging real estate development markets such as the Arts District, and partly to historic development and governance patterns which have left neigh-

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PART III: LOS ANGELES borhoods such as Boyle Heights economically vulnerable to predatory development. Historic and contemporary threats to the neighborhood’s socio-spatial fabric from urban development, gentrification, and displacement, when combined with historic federal economic debasement, have resulted in strong anti-development feelings among residents. Rasquache Urbanism Los Angeles is a city with a long and consistent historical record of favoring private real estate development and industry interests over the greater good of communities. In the ongoing codification of land use, and development of the urban fabric, 3 the fate of under-utilized lots in Boyle Heights appears predetermined to many: they await exchange for private gain, followed by the construction of condos, Starbucks, and other big-box luxury amenities out of step with the needs and culture of the community. As layers of historic change, erasure, and development accumulate, the indicators of cause and effect become increasingly obscure, limiting the capacity to comprehend or navigate the systems by which development occurs. The production of a low-fi manual for residents to execute green rasquache urbanism offers one avenue to circumnavigate informational and regulatory obstacles threatening spatial and environmental injustice in Boyle Heights. Defined as “the aesthetic sensibility of the underdog” by Tomás Ybarra-Frausto, rasquachismo is positioned as a form of resistance, incorporating strategies of appropriation, reversal, and inversion. For Ybarra-Frausto, rasquachismo codifies all Chicano cultural production, including theatre, literature, and visual art.4 In his blog post “Looking for the Rasquache at Mariachi Plaza,” urban planner and Boyle Heights native James Rojas notes the way in which users of the neighborhood thoroughfares of First and Boyle gain agency through this everyday practice: “through

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their self-reliance, resourcefulness, and adaptability, [they] had made it their own through their rasquache, or DIY interventions to the built environment.” In Rojas’s example, a parked car becomes a business, a cardboard box a seat, and a corner becomes a rental space.5 While we find traditional rasquachismo highly applicable to green reclamation, we suggest that it alone may be inadequate to confront the full scope of civic, economic, and spatial forces at play in Boyle Heights. The power of the physical occupation of space remains a powerful tool of resistance for populations otherwise disenfranchised. Within a contemporary technological and informational context however, additional tools are needed to level the playing field of densely regulated, highly contested, and economically charged spaces. Resistance from the legal interior of the city requires regulatory navigation between civic entities, economic interests, communities, and individuals. We found that our team of scholars was in a unique position to help broaden the scope of rasquachismo because of our access to the resources of UCLA and our multidisciplinary skills and perspectives.

Fig. 2 Student documents vacant lot conditions in Boyle Heights. Photograph by Jonathan Banfill. 2016.

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Rasquache Data This new direction resulted in the development of a method similar to Ybarra Frausto’s rasquachismo, which 3 Andrew Whittemore, “The Regulated City: The Politics of Land Use Regulation in Los Angeles, 1909–2009,” PhD diss., University of California, Los Angeles, 2010. 4 Holly Barnet-Sanchez, “Tomás Ybarra-Frausto and Amalia Mesa-Bains: A Critical Discourse from Within,” Art Journal 64, no. 4 (2005): 91–93. 5 James Rojas, “Looking for the Rasquache at Mariachi Plaza in Boyle Heights,”

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KCET (blog), January 29, 2015, https://www. kcet.org/departures-columns/looking-for-therasquache-at-mariachiplaza-in-boyle-heights/.

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By making spatial data accessible in a participatory format, as a newly contextualized resource for environmental justice, rasquache data democratizes urban development in three ways. First, data bound to the determination of urban development, such as zoning and land use information,

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sales, financing, and ownership information, and environmental resource data is made more accessible. Second, there is a wider participation in the creation, dissemination, and application of such data. And third, a popular understanding of the economic and civic agencies and mechanisms that participate in the production of urban form and land use administration is disseminated. At the same time, the analog manual provides a communicative bridge, spanning linguistic and digital divisions to bring tactical methodologies for the transformation of underutilized spaces to a broader base. The manual also functions to bring a wider public to the data-based platform through participatory engagement, where neighborhood residents can have more control and ownership over information relevant to the development of Boyle Heights. In cities such as Los Angeles, it is difficult to approach issues of urban development without coming in contact with vast and opaque networks of civic, social, historical, environmental, and bureaucratic data and information. Through our work in Boyle Heights, we have identified access to the production and use of such data as an issue of information justice irrevocably linked to any number of social and spatial justice issues, including those of environmental justice and urban development. Rasquachismo, however, provides a useful framework for correcting existing imbalances in access to and agency over the creation of such data and we see the possibility embedded in such a practice to enable all residents of Los Angeles to gain access to and create green spaces in their everyday lived space.

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utilized a range of strategies and skillsets to help align the community’s land-based concerns and objectives with the economic, cartographic, and regulatory data relevant to their physical determination. We termed this new approach rasquache data, defined as the democratic access to data, and its appropriation and synthesis, incentivizing participatory development and environmental justice, and enabling the navigation of civic governance and infrastructure within a context of gentrification and displacement. Seeking new approaches to the tactical, FLTS solicited an accessible, bilingual, action-oriented tool for the community to practice rasquache urbanism, encouraging the transformation of various typologies of underused spaces into public green spaces—our team responded to this call by producing a handbook. Aimed primarily at disenfranchised communities of color, but also at community-based organizations, government agencies, educators, academics, and anyone else looking to bring green space into Los Angeles, the Rasquache Urbanism Manual can be carried around compactly or unfolded and displayed as a poster. When unfolded, the handbook reveals an analog map of Boyle Heights’s underused spaces. A call to action urges community members to find new, underused spaces and to connect with FLTS where they can gain access to rasquache data developed by our team exclusively for correcting the power imbalance between these community members and the developers, city officials, and institutional entities which typically have access to such data.

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Team

Description

Heidi Alexander Devin Koba Paola Mendez Maria Teresa Monroe Kendy D. Rivera Gus Wendel

This project was a collaboration which emerged from urban humanities researchers working with From Lot to Spot, a non-profit organization in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Boyle Heights which focuses on managing and developing publicly accessible green spaces in low-income communities of color. These communities are often the victims of environmental discrimination, lacking the access to green spaces which are often found in wealthier areas—a critical element in questions of health, livability, and childhood development. In order to expand efforts beyond what From Lot to Spot was capable, and to empower local residents, the project became one of developing a toolkit for community members to create their own green spaces, guerilla style, in vacant, overlooked, and underutilized spaces. The toolkit consisted of two key components: a lo-fi manual and map which anyone could use as instructions for finding spaces and greening them, and a web-based mapping platform which would allow From Lot to Spot to work with community members in identifying new spaces ripe for greening, or transformation into community spaces, gardens, parklets, and other green spaces. Framed around the concept of rasquache urbanism, a mix of makeshift DIY methods derived from Latinx communities, these platforms attempt to empower the making of low-cost green spaces which can be created quickly outside of long-term and costly bureaucracy. The digital platform also operated under a new concept of rasquache data, or the idea that information should be in the hands of communities and residents such that they are empowered to make changes in their city.

Time Seven weeks Deliverable A bilingual printed manual and guerilla greening intervention map for community members in Boyle Heights; an accompanying web platform for identifying possible spaces for collaborative greening to be used by local non-profit and community members Ingredients

Directions

2 architects 1 chicanx studies and 1 Spanish and Portuguese literature 2 urban planners 1 community greening organization Site specific data from field visits to Boyle Heights, including film and mapping data Data from the city on real estate and zoning Research on greening urbanism and rasquache methods, including information on plant life, design strategies, and examples of low-cost solutions

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1. Team meets with From Lot to Spot in their Boyle Heights offices to discuss collaborative possibilities, and the issues which the organization sees as in urgent need of addressing in the community. The organization requests help on the production of a manual for community members who want to create their own green spaces.

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186 URBAN HUMANITIES IN THE BORDERLANDS 3. The team surveys the neighborhood, discussing with community members where potential spaces might be for greening, determining attitudes about environmental issues in the neighborhood, and collecting photos, videos, and notes.

2. The team identifies that the manual won’t be utilized in a conventional format and begins exploring two alternative mediums for the manual: a large-scale printed map with instructions, like a treasure map, and a digital platform.

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188 URBAN HUMANITIES IN THE BORDERLANDS 5. The printed manual is presented to From Lot to Spot for distribution, while the website is presented to the organization in semi-complete form, as a platform prototype which can be filled out as community members take on the task of greening their neighborhood.

4. From this data, the team develops the manual in its two formats: both are seen as unique and complementary, so work is undertaken to see each to its completion. Rasquache urbanism is seen as the guiding concept for both, each of which seeks to empower residents to make changes in their neighborhood in their own DIY ways.

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in Boyle Heights

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Literary Justice

La Caja Mรกgica

Seeking

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Maricela Becerra Cat Callaghan Will Davis Grace Ko Benjamin Kolder Alejandro Ramirez Mendez


PART III: LOS ANGELES It is two-thirty in the afternoon on Sunday, 22 May 2016. You walk west down First Street, through Boyle Heights, a neighborhood just east of downtown Los Angeles. You can see downtown on the horizon from the crossroads of Boyle Avenue and First Street directly ahead of you. Walking through Mariachi Plaza in the glare of a Sunday afternoon, you hear cheering, then quiet, then laughter, then quiet, then singing. Children’s voices come from the kiosk, a raised pavilion that was a gift from the State of Jalisco in 1998 and built in traditional Mexican style from Cantera, using the same stone the pre-Colombian Toltecs used for their pyramids. Approaching the kiosk, you realize it is filled with people, a mix of ages. They are hushed, their attention fixed on a woman reading to them.

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This scene describes a children’s storytelling hour, the result of a collaboration between six UCLA researchers and Libros Schmibros, an independent bookstore and lending library in Boyle Heights, which took place over four months in 2016. The project explored how small-scale, staged literary interventions like a storytelling hour could have a productive impact on a given community. The initiative came about as a way to promote something we call “literary justice.” Literary justice is premised on the idea of a culture that embraces stories as a part of life as part of a community-building effort. It is achieved when all members of a community have equal access to books and stories, and it stems from numerous studies that demonstrate that a person’s access to literature is a strong indicator for a host of quality-of-life measures.1 A robust public library system is an important tool in the fight for literary justice, but in cities like Los Angeles, busy families often struggle to use a public library system that was not designed to accommodate them. The limited availability of books and magazines, limited open times, hard-to-reach-library branches, and even a lack of knowledge of where library branches are located all limit the utility of libraries, as do lack of time and money, illiteracy, and a passion for books that has not yet been sparked in every member of the community. So instead of focusing on physical libraries—or even physical books—we chose to focus our work with Libros Schmibros on stories. By bringing books and stories out of the library and into the neighborhood, we hoped that literacy and community engagement might build on one another in more imaginative ways. We devised a project that had two components—La Caja Mágica (the Magic Box) and La Hora Mágica (the Magic Hour) — aimed to expand the conventional notion of what a library could be by shifting the focus from books to storytelling. A small gathering telling stories becomes a per-

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SEEKING LITERARY JUSTICE formance: the sidewalk becomes a space of cultural production, changing the cultural practices of the neighborhood. Essentially, it becomes a library. In Seeking Spatial Justice, Edward Soja introduces the idea of space as subject to forces that allow resources to be distributed unevenly and allow certain services to be granted only to the privileged. 2 Literary injustice, therefore, describes forms of cultural, geographic, and social segregation that affect a community’s access to literary activities. In this sense, literary justice looks to break chains of inaccessibility and to empower community members by creating access funded by new paths of literary distribution. Literary justice focuses on those places or social strata where access to literature has been diminished by economic or political decisions of the city. If “those who live in the city,” as Mark Purcell suggests, “contribute to the body of urban lived experience and lived space,”3 where does the experience of reading and storytelling fit into urban space? Claiming a space for books in the city is a way for a community to claim the right to be educated. This in turn, led us to ask the following: Is our city designed for reading? Is public space planned for sharing stories? Is the act of reading aloud perceivable in Los Angeles? Literary justice promotes the importance of reading in the public realm as a means to enhance and empower community participation in public space. Today’s public libraries serve as a basis for disseminating ideas to the community while providing a secure reservoir for books, magazines, or newspapers. However, as an enclosed, institutional space, it is functionally limited by its location, format, hours, and programs offered. Mobile libraries, on the other hand, represent a practical way to bring the book and the pleasure of literature to different communities. Projects such as the American Bookmobile service in the 1950s symbolized a way of assisting

1 On the importance of libraries to communities, see M.D.R. Evans, Jonathan Kelley, Joanna Sikora, and Donald J. Treiman, “Family Scholarly Culture and Educational Success: Books and Schooling in 27 Nations,” Research in Social Stratification and Mobility 28.2 (June 2010): 171–97, which demonstrated that having more books in the home provided an advantage to children equivalent to having parents with a university education. 2 Edward W. Soja, Seeking Spatial Justice (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2010).

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3 Mark Purcell, “Excavating Lefebvre: The Right to the City and Its Urban Politics of the Inhabitant,” GeoJournal 58.2 (2002): 99–108. 4 Dorothy Strousse, “The Administrator Looks at Bookmobile Service,” ALA Bulletin 52.1 (1958): 16–22. 5 Michel de Certeau, The Practices of Everyday Life (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1984).

communities outside the boundaries of public library branches.4 However, mobile libraries themselves are limited by their small size and lack of vital resources a full-service public library can provide, such as trained children’s librarians. How can people access books and storytelling activities in public space? Can creatively implemented literary justice embedded into the cultural practices of an urban space such as Boyle Heights foster spatial justice? La Caja Mágica is the heart of the project. Inspired by art projects such as The Dumpling Express (by the Berlin architecture office, Something Fantastic) and Olafur Eliasson’s Mirror Bikes, La Caja Mágica is a chrome-coated plywood box that unfolds to expose an interior of grass serving as a stool. The box stores grass mats to create seating for an audience. What looks at first like a strange, mirrored, rolling two-foot cube is in fact a storytelling box of tricks, containing books, puppets, and gifts. It is a box, but it is also a seat for a storyteller. It is an object, but also a location. When children approach it, they see themselves playing in its mirrored surface. This dazzling effect seeks to pay homage to the visual aspects of a neighborhood, blending strangely with its

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Fig. 1

Opening La Caja Mágica. Photographs by Benjamin Kolder. 2016.

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SEEKING LITERARY JUSTICE surroundings, appearing imperceptible. Like the gleaming boxes of magicians, it attracts and generates expectation and curiosity among children and adults alike. Once it is open, the box—lined with artificial turf—provides a place for the storyteller to sit and to store the books that will later be distributed to the audience. The turf and green seating mats transform the gray sidewalk into something almost park-like. The goal of La Caja Mágica is to transform a common environment into a micro library—or into a space apt for magical storytelling. The action of transforming the surroundings of the box into a whimsical environment becomes in itself a simulacrum of the cultural imaginary of telling stories in the middle of the forest. It transports these activities from the seclusion of enclosed space to the open communal environment of the public space. It also plays—in a minimalistic way—with the basic conditions needed to transform any space into a library. In 2006, the Mexican artist Pablo Helguera organized an art project called The School of Pan-American Unrest. The project revived dying native languages and reenacted traditions in a traveling schoolhouse that made connections between the different regions of the Americas— from the northern regions of Alaska to the southern provinces of Chile—through a combination of performances, workshops, and screenings. Helguera’s breakdown of the traditional institution of the school provided inspiration for the reconceptualization of the pedagogical dynamics between storytelling and the places stories are told, be they schools or libraries. Following Helguera’s lead, on a sunny Sunday afternoon in May of 2016, our six-person team and Libros Schmibros took over the kiosk at Mariachi Plaza. We opened La Caja Mágica and La Hora Mágica (the magic hour) began. David Kipen of Libros Schmibros introduced the event, and children’s librarians read stories aloud in Spanish and in English to a group of twenty children, who listened

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and danced. Two storytellers from the Los Angeles Public Library system engaged the children and their adult family members through skillful storytelling: book selection, page turning, and animated voices transformed words on a page into reality. As the event drew to a close, we asked the children how often they would like to attend storytelling afternoons like La Hora Magica, and we asked their parents where such events should be held. Most said three or more times a month, at Mariachi Plaza. Afterward, children and parents signed up for new or renewed accounts and checked out books at Libros Schmibros, which is located right next to the kiosk. The whole project became an act of gift-giving to the community of Boyle Heights; by giving and sharing books and stories with the people, it functioned as an exemplary action to be imitated between parents and children. It also symbolized an act of literary justice that pursued the transformation of the cultural practices of the neighborhood by bringing fun and enjoyment to public space while promoting the act of reading and literacy. At first, it was La Caja Mágica that commanded the attention of the audience, with its bizarre shiny presence; but as La Hora Mágica continued, both children and adults shifted their attention to the stories and activities performed by the storytellers. La Caja Mágica created an intimate literary space in a public area. La Hora Mágica is about stories, but it is also about the physicality of books and how they are treated when they are theatrically pulled from La Caja Mágica. The box, difficult to size because of its reflective sheen, seemed simultaneously tiny and huge as some twenty to thirty books emerged, one pulled from Libros Schmibros’s collection for each child present. La Hora Mágica was advertised through posters in nearby locations, such as storefront windows and utility poles, and outreach to a few schools, bringing a dozen children there for the beginning of the

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Fig. 2

Inside La Caja Mágica. Photograph by Author. 2016.

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Fig. 3 Children gather in Mariachi Plaza for La Hora Mágica. Photograph by Benjamin Kolder. 2016.

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SEEKING LITERARY JUSTICE event. Within the first ten minutes, another nine children and their parents joined, some running late and others passing by and wanting to join. The crowns, books, and puppets that emerged from La Caja Mágica attracted the attention of the public, but these alone could not hold focus without the dances and stories, read from books in English as well as Spanish. Spectacle and performance were key components of this literary intervention. The action and impact that La Caja Mágica and La Hora Mágica had over the community provided an outlet for the social dynamics of the neighborhood, which all too often remain latent, with child-friendly spaces rare and working parents often keeping children at home. The event, not only a symbolic transformation of public space into library, also brought a moment of unity, peace, and enjoyment to participants. The project proposed, on one hand, a change in the spatial practices of the neighborhood by making accessible the art of storytelling; on the other hand, the whole experience allowed a reconfiguration of the reading and storytelling expectations of people. Bringing the experience of reading books to people in urban spaces opens the possibility to reclaim the spaces for literacy as an act of social and spatial justice. Traditionally, kiosks in plazas like the one in Boyle Heights are used by bands and other groups as entertainment space. La Caja Mágica and La Hora Mágica broadened the kind of entertainment that could use the kiosk, while instilling a culture of literacy. Inspired in principles coined by Michel de Certeau in his Practices of Everyday Life, reading culture (or storytelling culture) is a series of social practices and tactics that permit competence in reading skills; these social rights of community to reading habits enable people to use books as tools for its intellectual and personal development. 5 However, these practices are neither centered nor anchored in the mere materiality of the book as an object, nor in the number of

5 Michel de Certeau, The Practices of Everyday Life (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1984).

books that a person possesses or reads, but in the way the communicated word between two or more people impacts and transforms someone’s thoughts and life. Access to the benefits that the act of reading and storytelling bring to people is the basis of the “Literary Justice.”

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La Caja

Project Seven

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Description

Maricela Becerra Cat Callaghan Will Davis Grace Ko Benjamin Kolder Alejandro Ramirez Mendez

This project engaged with the concept of “literary justice,” or the notion that, because of evidence that shows longterm improvements in quality of life with exposure to books at a young age, every child should have access to literature and books—especially those who are otherwise marginalized or lack access to books, libraries, and good schools. The project developed “La Caja Mágica,” a design intervention, which allowed for the mobility of literary resources into communities whose children might benefit from additional books. The team specifically focused on the low-income, primarily Spanish speaking community of Boyle Heights in Los Angeles. In collaboration with the community lending library Libros Schmibros and local children’s librarians, La Caja Magica aimed to provide an alternative way to access books in the form of a magical storytelling event. This mobile library model creates a space wherever it goes requiring only a book and the imagination of children to activate it.

Time Six weeks prep, one weekend on-theground, ongoing thereafter Deliverable Chapbook of visual poems which suggest potential interventions for a public plaza contested between informal street vendors and local government officials who wish to see the site available as public space Ingredients 2 literary scholars 1 urban planner 3 designers and architects 1 local lending library 2 bilingual storytellers Books, wands, crowns, and other storytelling props 1 magical box

Figure 1 La Caja Mágica rolls into Mariachi Plaza. All Photographs by Benjamin Kolder

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1. The team met with Libros Schmibros, a lending library in Boyle Heights, to learn about the organization, the organization’s position in the neighborhood, and possible types of interventions. The energy and openness of representatives from Libros Schmibros was essential in allowing for the unexpected direction and success of the project.

Team

Directions

LA CAJA MÁGICA


Figure 2 La Caja Mágica placed in the Kiosk for La Hora Mágica.

202 2. Drawing on the past success of a Libros Schmibros project which utilized bicycle delivery of books, the team decided to imagine new forms of mobile literary justice. After a series of design iterations, they moved toward the production of prototype for a mobile library which could serve as a storytelling platform at events for reading books to children.

URBAN HUMANITIES IN THE BORDERLANDS Figure 3 Libros Schmibros founder, David Kipen, and a local librarian introduce the storytelling event.

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3. La Caja Magica is built as a reflective box on wheels—its mysterious appearance belied the fact that it could be magically unfolded into a container for books, storytelling props, and astroturf for children to sit on. It also acted as a seat for a storyteller to sit on, transforming any space into one ready for a children’s storytelling event.

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PROJECT SEVEN


Figure 5 A child reaches into La Caja Mágica to reveal the stories hidden inside.

204 4. The date for the first event was set and advertising using a similarly mysterious reflective material was distributed throughout Boyle Heights. At this point, representatives from Libros Schmibros along with the team recruited librarians from the local public library and planned how the event would unfold.

URBAN HUMANITIES IN THE BORDERLANDS Figure 6 The librarian uses La Caja Mágica as a seat for storytelling.

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5. On the day of “La Hora Mágica,” a large group of children waited in the Spanish Kiosk in the center of Mariachi Plaza as the team rolled up the mysterious box. The children ooohed and ahhed as the box transformed before their eyes, readying the site for a storytelling event.

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PROJECT SEVEN


Figure 7 Children laugh and play between stories.

206 URBAN HUMANITIES IN THE BORDERLANDS 6. The librarians read to the children in Spanish and English, as the team interviewed parents about their reactions to the event, their opinions about access to literature in the neighborhood, and whether such an event should continue in the future.

Figure 8 Librarians lead the children in song and dance.

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7. Due to the success of the event, the team handed over the magic box to Libros Schmibros permanently, and they have continued to use the box to set up further storytelling events.

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PROJECT SEVEN


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Figure 9 Children and their families head to Libros Schmibros to check out books.

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Profile for Jonathan Jae-an Crisman

Urban Humanities in the Borderlands: Engaged Scholarship from Mexico City to Los Angeles  

Urban Humanities in the Borderlands: Engaged Scholarship from Mexico City to Los Angeles  

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