Month: January 2015

Paris v Fox News: On Urban Poetics

In the past fortnight, there has been a concerted effort to defend the image of Paris in the face of Fox News’s assertions that Paris is a dangerous city with ‘no-go zones’  were Sharia Law (read: lawlessness) reigns. Evidently, this is quite an exxageration. Representation and Urban Poetics The importance of language in representing Paris has been long appreciated. And, reactions to Fox News’s choice of words show that Parisians in the 21st Century still appreciate the need to control the  words used to frame the city. During the Renaissance,  as the printing press fueled the spread of information, French authors quickly realized the  importance of controlling the narrative on the city. Language was seen, as Elisabeth Hodge and other scholars of the period have noted,  as a tool to  re-present the city and shape the self-understanding of its inhabitants. This intersection between language, the city, and self understanding is referred to as ‘Urban Poetics’. That is to say, while the city is a  built environment sustained by  particular patterns of social life, and  political organisation …

#JeSuisCharlie: Reading New Discourses through Parisian graffiti and posters

Paris has rapidly gone through stages of  shock, then silent grief, and today seemed to be a highpoint of defiance and backlash. The graffiti and posters emerging out of this time expose an interesting  discourse beginning to emerge  – or rather, new lines of debate.  A week ago, the economy, youth unemployment were key. The public discourse seems to be shifting, at least for now. Here are a few recurring themes or frames that have emerged.They are instructive as to how people are constructing meaning to  the events  of the past week. Nationalism 2.0? Nationalist Narrative Text as Power Equality is so 2013: The  (re)New(ed)centrality of liberty The Politics of Laughter:Humor as transgressive and a challenge to Power Answer to Identity Crisis: ‘Charlie’ as individual and collective identity

#JeSuisCharlie

I was going to write a poem about this important moment for Paris and France because it is difficult to capture the many thoughts and sentiments that the Charlie Hebdo incident provokes  (an apparent lack of talent, and a reality check dissuaded me from doing so). However,  in encountering the difficulty of articulating the space between thought and the written word made me appreciate what Charlie Hebdo achieves through its satirical work. Charlie Hebdo articulates the liminal, those in-between spaces that do not easily lend themselves to the written or spoken word: gasps, sighs, silences, the unsayable. Paris is palpably saddened for reasons that fall into that space that defies definition. It would be great to have a sketch, a cartoon, caricature to capture this moment. In one regard, it is an offensive assault on the values that French people (and others who have moved here)  hold dear: the liberty to be and to say, the sense of equality and a jealously protected togetherness in the defense of those values. Yet, beyond being a personal affront, the Charlie …

Into the Parisian Woods

It is January, temperatures are low. However, for the determined jogger, reasonable layering and minimal precautions against the cold  are all you need to jog without doing yourself damage in and around Paris. The region’s climate, at least over the most recent winters, seems not be inhibitive to outdoor movement (relative to weather further North in the continent and elsewhere).  Yes, there have been spells of terribly cold weather that have made limiting oneself to the gym sufficient.  Nonetheless, pavement pounding is possible throughout much of the year. Strangely enough, it is not so much frostbite that poses  the greatest threat to the dedicated jogger, but rather  the prospect of killer looks that are sometimes vaulted in the direction of people jogging or cycling in ‘cold’ weather (this contrasts strongly to London where eccentricity is widely understood and at times encouraged. It is not at all odd to take a jog around Westminster at, say, 10 pm at night in winter). Across the channel,  however, I have seen and heard fascinating gestures of disapproval of joggers and …

Changed Relationship Status: A Parisian New Year’s Eve

A fourth New Years’ Eve in Paris was a landmark for this blogger: I realized that the city had grown on me. The marvel of first being in Paris has faded, the honeymoon is over. We’re officially committed to each other now. Rather than an artifact to dissect, and sing praises, the city has become familiar, breeding the attendant  love for Paris and contempt on some days. Having two friends over from the US for New Year’s Eve was the first opportunity to realize what Paris  now means to me: they were both overwhelmed by the beauty of the city, as was I – yet, the quality of my appreciation was tempered with a knowledge of the less flattering truths about the city. Paris, I realized, was a gorgeous sight to behold but also tightly and heavily managed to maintain its looks. The sense of nuance was swiftly confirmed as we began to scramble for transport in the wee hours of the morning. The metro was not working as efficiently as it should have been. …