Muslim Hoedowns, Tenuous Language and the Suspended Lives of the Urban Majority

Authors: AbdouMaliq Simone*,
Topics: Urban Geography, Cultural Geography, Urban and Regional Planning
Keywords: global urbanism, Muslim working class, majority world
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/12/2018
Start / End Time: 5:20 PM / 7:00 PM
Room: Grand Ballroom D, Sheraton, 5th Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


For so-called “majority world”, everyday urban life is increasingly suspended between the trajectories of small attainments and the narrowing horizons of structural transformation. Modes of apparently contradictory activity move in and out of each other. What language is capable of narrating this dance, this co-occurrence of movements and positions where nothing is promised nor closed down, where the stamping of feet across post-poverty landscapes leaves thousands of marks difficult to narrate in terms of human intentions or will?

This presentation draws upon many decades of work in predominantly Muslim working class districts in Africa and Asia to attempt to grasp a language that might account how the very intensity of segregating forces, of expulsions, land-grabs, and gentrification also rebound in weird ways. How this rebounding suggests, even for a moment, not the romance with urban cosmopolitan mixture, but a contingent density of differences that don’t seem to know how to narrate how they all got to be in the same “neighborhood.” Big money may prevail, as well as grand schemes of self-contained, gated and homogenous lifestyles, but the underside of all of the compromises and adaptations necessary to pull off these “being part of the real world” projects reflects a plurality of small refusals, “switchbacks”, rapid ascendancies and declines where all kinds of apparent strangers end up having to catch “the same bus.” I want to think of the Islamic notion of the “Umm’a” as a version of this bus, its passengers “dancing all the way” to nowhere yet known.

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