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Cities and the abject: materialities, beings, and spaces

Type: Paper
Theme:
Sponsor Groups: Cultural and Political Ecology Specialty Group, Animal Geography Specialty Group
Organizers: Nadja Imhof
Chairs: Martin Müller

Description

For many, cities represent both the best and the worst of humankind. Sometimes lauded as humankind’s best invention (Glaeser, 2011), cities are also identified with spaces of utter dystopia (Davis, 2006).
The abject in the urban space is that which is us and repelled by us at the same time, the repellent otherness (Kristeva, 1982, p. 4) cast off but still present, invisible but not gone. Abject materialities, beings and spaces are everything that disturbs identities, systems and order; everything that does not respect borders, positions and rules (Kristeva, 1982, p. 4). In short: the abject is everything that is unwanted, discarded and disposed.

The abject can be anything: spaces, people, animals, objects. We separate and expel the abject from us, zoning landfills, exterminating rats, putting excreta in tanks and pipes, confining people to asylum centres etc. Yet, no matter how much we try to hide it or get rid of it: the abject always comes back to haunt us. The emergence of abject materials, beings, and spaces is as inevitable as it is unwanted. It is a source of disgust, shame and anxiety, but also of fascination.

Abject materials are preferably hidden or disposed of by those who reject them. This out of sight and out of mind mentality has caused them to become a taboo within everyday practices. Topics of abject materials are not very present within academic discussions but there is much to gain from studying them. Since everything can be or become abject, exploring abject realities leads to vast networks giving insight into power relations, invisible connections and ignored consequences of processes and practices.

Abject materials are often just regarded as an unavoidable consequence of the urban metabolism, a side product to be eliminated. Being part of a bigger cycle, abject materials are continuously emerging and therefore require attention before they are impossible to ignore. In a similar notion abject humans and non-humans are characterised by the difficulty to control them: they are constantly exceeding all efforts of managing and controlling them.Thus, focusing on the abject extends the purview of urban ecology research to the often neglected, unwanted that, form an integral part of urban ecosystems.



Agenda

Type Details Minutes Start Time
Presenter Nadja Imhof*, , Unwanted and degraded: Rethinking the city’s relationship with rats rat 15 12:00 AM
Presenter Tony Sparks*, San Francisco State University, From Poverty to Waste Management: Healthy Streets, Land Use, and the transformation of Humans to Waste 15 12:00 AM
Presenter Craig Young*, , Death, the abject and the right to public space in the city 15 12:00 AM
Presenter Derek Ruez*, Tampere University, At the limit of the compassionate city: abjection, abolition, and the human 15 12:00 AM
Discussant Martin Müller University of Lausanne 15 12:00 AM

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