FRIDAY, February 6, 2015 (Von Canon/Bryan Center)

9:00-9:15, Introduction 

(Erdağ Göknar & miriam cooke)

9:15-10:45, Session I: MARGINS 

(Chair: Ralph Litzinger, Duke)

  •  Erik Harms (Yale University)

Rights Gone Wrong on the City’s Edge: Evidence from Ho Chi Minh City

The paper focuses on residents who have been evicted in order to make way for a new urban development and how they have increasingly mobilized a language of “rights” to support their cause. In some ways, their examples show the ways in which this emerging “rights consciousness” can inspire new forms of agency and collective action. But the paper also describes the ways in which these rights also operate as something of a fetish. For in the final assessment, the evictees’ focus on property value, legal documents, petitions, and other artefacts central to bureaucratic rights has led to a proliferation of abstract rights that are not in fact realized in practice. After the dust settled and the bulldozers retreated, these residents found themselves dispossessed from house and home at precisely the moment that they had so forcefully managed to understand themselves as rights-bearing subjects. This suggests that the new conception of rights emerging on the edges of Vietnamese cities cannot be disentangled from the very processes fueling dispossession.

  • Sasha Newell (North Carolina State University)

Infrastructures of Marginalia: Media, Circulation, and the Internal Edges of Abidjan’s Urban Space

Abidjan, built around a lagoon, is a city divided into quartiers whose internal borders are often impassable without the built infrastructure of bridges, underpasses, highways, and networks of public transportation to connect them. But it is also a city whose sociality is bisected by informal or ‘invisible’ infrastructures that build connections and divisions according to non-spatial logics. Through an examination of how news media is consumed and its uneven flow through Abidjan’s urban space, I try to think through the variegation of moral community and the fragmentation of the public and public space itself. I investigate the particular modalities of news media’s uptake in Abidjan in the period just before the crisis of 2002 in order to think about how information and sociality travel through urban space along particular circuits and trajectories, producing a fragmentation of moral communities. The case in point is the phenomenon of Titrologie, a way of reading newspapers and circulating news without actually purchasing the newspapers themselves, as satirized in the Garagistes’ song “Titrologues.” Gattering around the newspaper vendors, people debate the headlines and then circulate them through radio trottoir along preexisting paths built by social networks and informal economy. Thus it is news marginalia that actually reverberate through urban space and structure moral communities, producing internal edges along the media circuits of invisible infrastructure. News production has responded by fragmenting to match the varying politicized social circuits through which it ultimately be distributed. The Garagistes correctly predicted in their 2000 hit that if the titrologues continued to spread gossip, the country would go up in flames. Drawing parallels between the oral circulation of a form of news ‘marginalia’ and Abidjan’s internal social and spatial boundaries, I investigate the role of informal infrastructural circuits in the formation and fragmentation of urban publics.

  • Robin Visser (University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill)

The Chinese Eco-City and Urbanization Planning

China has promoted sustainable urban development since the early 2000s, particularly new urbanism ideals of TOD (transit-oriented development) of satellite towns. Yet most experts indicate that these new cities ultimately fail to meet their sustainability goals. Instead, entrepreneurial local governments and institutions skillfully utilize their power to convert farmlands to constructed lands for various kinds of industrial and commercial development, projects deemed necessary for sustaining local operating budgets.

In this paper I analyze three case studies of Chinese “eco-city” development in the context of its policies of “urbanization planning” that aim at integrating vast regions as metropolitan networks. In it I identify rural land conversion mechanisms in order to elucidate China’s rapidly evolving urbanization strategies. In particular, I attend to how the rhetoric of eco-city development rationalizes rural land transfers, concluding that most eco-city projects function primarily within a virtual speculative economy rather than significantly contributing to the social or ecological good.


(Chair: Malachi Hachohen, Duke)

  • Wolfgang Maderthaner, Österreichisches Staatsarchiv (Austrian State Archives)

The Social and the Global: Interwar Vienna, 1918-1934

Interwar Vienna is known as “Red Vienna,” one of the most unusual and creative communal experiments of modern Europe. A “pedagogical” experiment to “civilize” and “sanitize” the masses, it aimed to recreate the workers’ living environment and radically improve it by raising, above all, their cultural level. As a venture of the Viennese Late Enlightenment, the experiment can be seen as running parallel to Freud’s psychoanalysis, an endeavor to transform mass objects into self-aware individuals, i.e., into subjects.

Red Vienna’s unmistakable “urban signature,” was a unique program of social housing, a keystone of the Viennese municipal effort at social technology. Despite the sensational success of Red Vienna, which attracted global attention, the experiment had an uneven, and even paradoxically, modernizing effect: The municipality created all the prerequisites for a welfare-state in architecture, social infrastructure and services, but it lacked a functioning market-economy. The onset of the international economic crisis from 1929 onwards brought Red Vienna down. A Civil War and the Great Depression destroyed “Municipal Socialism.”

  • Andreas Weigl, Wiener Stadt – und Landesarchiv (Municipal and Provincial Archive of the City of Vienna)

Will Vienna Regain the Status of a “Global City”?

A former capital of a former great power: This has been Vienna’s international status since the end of World War I. The 1980s saw a nostalgic fin de siècle revival but, in the aftermath of the fall of the Iron Curtain, skepticism about Vienna’s future European and global role predominated: The capital of a small European state, Vienna seemed to have very limited prospects. Yet, recent demographic, socioeconomic and “cultural” indicators show that Vienna’s historical role was not without consequences for its global ranking in the early 21st century. The competitive advantage of Vienna’s “institutional structure” over formerly centrally planned economies fostered Vienna’s traditional supra-regional standing in Central and Eastern Europe. Massive expansion of Austrian banks and insurance companies reinforced the historical role of a major urban economy, a business hub for East-Central and South-Eastern Europe. Shared regional history and the Viennese expertise in doing business with the communist bloc still matters today. The European Union revitalized old imperial immigration patterns from the Habsburg monarchy, and Viennese demographic growth in the last 20 years demonstrates the advantages of an Austrian economy in a market of 500 million consumers. Vienna ranks number 1 as the world’s most livable city, reflecting qualities inherited from Red Vienna’s “social metropolis.” Vienna is on its way to regaining the status of a smaller global city.

1:45-3:15, Session III: CURATION

(Chair: Miguel Sotelo / Gennifer Weisenfeld, Duke)

  • Jordan Sand (Georgetown University )

Intimate Heritage: Curating City and Self in Contemporary Asia

Since the end of the twentieth century, there has been an explosion of new museum exhibits and theme-park reconstructions around the world representing everyday life in the recent past. This trend has been particularly striking in East Asia, where the pace of change has been so rapid that the artifacts of barely a generation ago appear to belong to a distant era. Focusing on Japan but looking at other countries in the region as well, this presentation will consider the new relationship between public history and the private selves of visitors enacted in these popular new exhibits.

  • Jose Samper (Massachusetts Institute of Technology )

Towards a prospective way of thinking about the informal city: Learning from a history of conflict and urban informality in the city of Medellin

Rhetorically, people often make a tacit linkage between the spaces of urban informality (“slums”), crime and violence. This occurs in academic circles—as exemplified by the common occurrence that when researchers seek to understand urban crime and violence, they tend to study urban informal spaces (slums, favelas, barriadas, tugurios). However, it is clear that a direct correlation between conflict and informality does not automatically exist. What does exist is evidence that spaces of informality present challenges for formal (state) security actors to assert and maintain their Westphalian monopoly of violence. Conversely, informal settlements present advantages for non-state armed actors to deploy and exhort power and coercive force. Here I look for ways in which informal space has played a role in the ongoing urban conflict in the City of Medellin over the last forty years. I argues that, at the core of this contradiction between state disadvantage and non-state armed actor advantage over the control of security and governance, (physical) space clearly emerges as an important variable to study.

  • Monica Amor (Maryland Institute College of Art)

Curating the Global Experience

It has been argued that contemporary art has turned to the experiential and away from an exclusive focus on objects. Linked to artistic practices developed since the sixties and seventies these temporal projects tend to rely heavily on the exhibition as a medium rather than simply as a format for the display of objects. Something parallel can be said about the cultural politics of the global city which mobilizes a wide range of resources: architecture, biennials, art fairs, festivals, etc to generate the experience of the global. How do exhibitions, specifically biennials and large-scale shows, cope with this demand for cosmopolitanism? How is the urban texture of the city remapped and redeployed? How are the roles of artists, curators, and managers of culture redefined? What devices, apparatuses and forms facilitate the global experience?

3:30-5:00, Session IV: CITY/NOVEL/FILM (Chair: miriam cooke)

Chair: Nancy Armstrong (Duke) 

  • Erdağ Göknar (Duke University)

From Minarets to Street Hawkers: Orhan Pamuk’s Istanbul from The Black Book to the Forthcoming Novel, A Strangeness in My Mind

Pamuk’s Istanbul is both a geographical reality and a space of literary intertextuality. The city is depicted obsessively in his oeuvre. The Black Book, in particular, represents a narrative excavation of the modern city. My Name is Red, on the other hand, engages the Ottoman Islamic legacy of early modern Istanbul. The non-fiction work, Istanbul: Memories and the City, candidly overlays the portrait of the aspiring author with his real and imagined experiences of the city. Finally, A Strangeness in My Mind (to be published in English in late 2015) rereads the history of Istanbul between 1969-2012; from its status as a peripherialized Cold War city to its present status as a global city. Pamuk’s Istanbul is a text and a palimpsest. It is archival and experiential both, constituting a literary space that enable Pamuk to transcend masternarratives of secularism, nationalism, modernity, and orientalism. As such, depictions of Istanbul also function as an engine of literary transformation. Istanbul, in its materiality, emerges as a discrepant consciousness in Pamuk’s work, constituting a psychological and political space of alternative cultural memory and history.

  • Guo-Juin Hong (Duke University)

City of Future Past: Globality, Coloniality, and Shanghai in Cinema

Literally translated as “Ten Miles of Foreign Market,” 十里洋場is best known as the Bund area, a hyperbole of one-mile stretch along the Huangpu River in Shanghai. One on-line translation tool offers the definitions of the peculiar area as “the Shanghai of old, with its foreign settlements” or, figuratively, “a bustling, cosmopolitan city.” In other words, the old cosmopolitan Shanghai is shaped by a myriad of outside influences, making up a cityscape glittering beyond the city, even China itself. This brief talk juxtaposes several cinematic moments of Shanghai from the 1920s and 30s (the old cosmopolitan city) and the 21st century (the new global city) to highlight how the more recent cinematic representation of Shanghai references its colonial past. Beyond mere nostalgia for glamor past, I show how the recurrences of the reimagined mile in the old city reflect upon a rising Shanghai mise en abyme, with global aspiration and emergent nationalism at its entangled core.

  • Ranjani Mazumdar (Jawaharlal Nehru University)

Making Time in a Global World: The Call Centre and Non Fiction Cinema

The call centre as an emblematic network of temporalities and global imaginations has been a major development of the last three decades. This paper explores the call centre experience of India, mediated in three experimental non-fiction films made in the year 2005. The films are John and Jayne (Asim Ahluwalia, 2005), Nalini By Day, Nancy by Night (Sonali Gulati, 2005)  and Calling Julia (Ankit Srivastava, Mohamad Arshad, Urvashi Sibal and Zahid Waheed, 2005). All three films provide vivid accounts of the spatial and aural flows that remain critical to the call centre experience. Located in Bombay and Delhi, the films offer us an assembly of accents, bodies, and technology to carve out a microcosm of the urban cultures that fuel the imagination of global cities today. In the three films, individual workers are accessed as characters, personalities and figures – a process that leads to a collision between the idea of the city, the global, the virtual and everyday life.


SATURDAY, February 7, 2015 (240 John Hope Franklin Center)

9:15-10:45, Session V: INFRASTRUCTURE 

(Chair: Ara Wilson, Duke)

  • Yan Song  (University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill)

Infrastructure, Spatial Forms, and Urban Planning in Urban China

Policy makers in China are utilizing infrastructure services—including power, transportation, telecommunications, provision of water and sanitation, and safe disposal of wastes— to stimulate economic production and urban growth. It is commonly agreed that infrastructure plays an important role in stimulating urban land development and private economic activity. This presentation discusses the links between infrastructure provision and urban expansion, the relationship between levels of infrastructure and land prices, and the mechanisms used to finance infrastructure using data and case studies from developed and developing cities in China. The presentation will demonstrate the extent to which the provision of infrastructure affects urban development and shapes spatial patterns.


  • Burak Erdim (North Carolina State University)

Housing as Urban (and Transnational) Infrastructure in the Cold War Middle East, 1950-64

Industrialization and the rise of the metropolis along with its economic structure based on speculative development and surplus value production have typically been examined as the primary factors that contributed to the shortage of housing and the rise of social and political unrest during the late nineteenth and the early twentieth centuries. During the second quarter of the twentieth century however, housing as a social and economic issue preceded industrial development in a number of settings. Especially in the developing regions of the first and third world nations, housing and construction was conceptualized as the foundation of a new national social and economic structure with ties to transnational systems of finance and governance. Within these contexts, products and settings of American domesticity were not just propaganda pieces lauding the achievements of American systems of development. The financing, production, and dissemination of systems of housing and construction comprised the very components of a world economic structure.

This paper critically examines how housing, new standards of domesticity, and construction were conceptualized as an industry and as the underlying structure of a world system to regulate speculative finance, to prevent social unrest, and to create models of development compatible with the recommendations of international agencies of world finance and governance. The paper examines early postwar exchanges between US architecture and planning firms and Turkish ministries to establish policies and training and education in these fields to create a transnational network of experts and agencies in housing and planning. These policies targeted not only cities, but also the country to slow down urbanization and to encourage models of regional development implemented in the US during the New Deal. Pilot projects were tested in Turkey and were carried back to the US and to other countries creating a postwar geography of reconstruction and development. These projects can be seen as mild predecessors to the current modes of neo-liberal development based on construction and speculative development seen in Turkey and elsewhere in the Middle East. Interestingly, they are also the precedents to the micro-finance schemes that have also become prevalent in numerous parts of the developing world.

  • Brenda Chalfin  (University of Florida)

“Conspicuous Waste: The Public Life of Infrastructure in Ghana’s City of Tema.”

This paper tracks the social life of sanitary infrastructure in Ghana’s edge-city of Ashaiman.  Denied basic services and sustained infrastructural investment by municipal authorities, Ashaiman has emerged is a space of political exception and experimentation over its 50 year existence. Among other forms of self-help and self-organization, the city’s dual history of aspiration and abandonment has spawned novel solutions to basic human needs. Ashaiman hosts an astounding array of privately-built, owned, and managed public toilets, large in scale, some free standing, and some located within private households. Turning public toilets into spaces for the conspicuous display of wealth and status, these installations transform excreta from individual output into profit bearing substance and means of class mobility for public toilet users and owners alike. Here, in the vein of Bataille’s accursed share, bodily wastes and the infrastructures that channel and contain them are socially productive. Rather than vectors of pre- or anti-social disorder, they are repositories of symbolic and surplus value.


11:00-12:30 Faculty Roundtable on the Global City

A Duke project funded by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation's "Partnership in a Global Age"