(Un)Fair Cities, Limerick 12-13 December 2019

The next few days will be quite hectic, with my first-ever visit to Ireland. Tomorrow I’ll be in Limerick for a meeting with people from the European COST Action “Writing Urban Places“, with work on the interstices of literary studies, architecture, and planning. Thursday and Friday 12-13 December I’ll participate in the conference “(Un)Fair Cities: Equity, Ideology and Utopia in Urban Texts”. The conference is the second ALUS conference (the fourth, if we include the previous HLCN conferences), and the first international conference of the Association for Literary Urban Studies. The conference is organized in collaboration with the Ralahine Centre for Utopian Studies.

Very much looking forward to the wide range of topics at the conference, which promises to be an intense but also cozy and reasonably small-scale gathering of literary urban studies and utopia scholars. Looking forward, in particular, to the keynote by Caroline Edwards, “The other city, the city of dreams: Literary Utopias and Literary Utopianism”

I’ll present a paper on “Peopling the Future Fair City: Affordances of Literary Fiction, Planning and Policy”, part of my research project at TIAS.

Paper abstract:

“Narrated future visions of (un)fair cities are about putting in place meaningful storyworlds (or cityworlds), with distinct spatial, temporal, moral, social, linguistic, and metaphoric dimensions and guided by their own modalities. But as important is the way in which these storyworlds are peopled in a way that gives readers of such future visions access to the qualia – the ’how it feels like’ – and to situated agency.

This paper draws on Adam and Groves’ Future Matters (2007), in which the authors warn against an “emptying of the future” (ibid., 2), in a bid to consider how different textual genres envision and people the future fair city. It aims to examine the affordances of literary fiction, urban planning, and policy, for imagining fair future cities, and the possibilities to act towards fair futures. Drawing on recent examples from New York City’s planning and literary fiction, I will argue that literary fiction is geared more toward embedding and embodying moral dilemmas, while planning and policy texts tend to focus on embedding decisions. However, the increasing use of non-fictional elements (reportage, lists, scientific detail) in future fiction, and the increasing use of fictional elements (fictional characters, personal experiences) blurs such clear-cut distinctions.”

Thanks for everyone at the Ralahine Centre, in particular Michael G. Kelly and Mariano Paz for the inspiring collaboration and for all the good work on the practical issues.

More on the conference:

(Un)Fair Cities. Equity, Ideology and Utopia in Urban Texts seeks to explore relations between the urban and the utopian, as manifested and explored in literary and cultural practice understood broadly,along another strand of the utopian problematic: that of the complex relations of the utopian and the ideological. These can be understood as antagonistic, with utopian departures challenging and undermining dominant ideological structures, of which the city is both producer and product. But they may also be analysed as dialectically conjoined, whereby utopian projections or disruptions form the basis upon which ideological reformulations are subsequently imagined and put in place.

(Un)Fair Cities. Equity, Ideology and Utopia in Urban Textsis the second international conference of the Association for Literary Urban Studiesand is organizedin association with the Ralahine Centre for Utopian Studies at the University of Limerick. Conference Organizers: Lieven Ameel (ALUS), Michael G. Kelly and Mariano Paz (Ralahine). Confirmed keynote speakers: Prof Antonis Balasopoulos (Associate Professor in Comparative Literature and Cultural Studies,University of Cyprus);Dr Caroline Edwards (Senior Lecturer in Modern & Contemporary Literature, Birkbeck, University of London).

More on ALUS:

Association for Literary Urban Studies

The Association for Literary Urban Studies (ALUS, formerly Helsinki Literature and the City Network) provides an international and interdisciplinary platform for scholars studying the city in literature. Membership is free, and all scholars working within literary urban studies are warmly invited to join the association. It welcomes approaches that examine city narratives in a broad understanding, including approaches that combine urban studies, cultural geography, urban planning, future studies, and other relevant fields with the examination of narratives of cities. It aims to foster interdisciplinary research on city literature, including literature written in all languages and encompassing all historical periods. The Association for Literary Urban Studies organizes meetings twice a year in Finland for members residing in Finland or passing through, and one international conference every two years. It aims to cooperate with other international organizations to organize international seminars, conferences and events.

Scholars interested in the city and literature from all fields of study are most welcome to join ALUS. For further information on joining the network, contact ALUS secretary Anni Lappela at anni.lappela[at]helsinki.fi or ALUS president Jason Finch at jfinch[at]abo.fi


Image source: Shutterstock, Will Rodrigues

 

“The Future of Cities – Perspectives from Literature”

Today I’ll give a talk at the Turku City Library on ”The Future of Cities – Perspectives from Literature”. Welcome!

Turku Main Library – source: turku.fi

I’ll give a general overview of some of the findings from my current research project on imagining cities at the water across genres, with a particular focus on what literature can tell us about the future of cities. I’ll discuss a.o. Nathaniel Rich and New York; Antti Tuomainen; Anders Vacklin and Aki Parhamaa on Helsinki; Guido van Driel on Amsterdam.

The talk is part of the TIAS public lecture series.
More details below (in Finnish)

Puhun tänään Turun kaupungin pääkirjastossa kaupunkien tulevaisuudesta. Tervetuloa!

Luentoni on osa Turun yliopiston Ihmistieteiden tutkijakollegiumin yleisöluentosarjassa.

Kaupunkien tulevaisuus tässä ja nyt – näkökulmia kirjallisuudesta

http://www.turku.fi/tapahtuma/ma-11252019-1800-kaupunkien-tulevaisuus-tassa-ja-nyt-nakokulmia-kirjallisuudesta

Rannikoilla sijaitsevat kaupungit ovat epävarmojen aikojen edessä: nouseva merenpinta, ilmastonmuutos, muuttuvat työ- ja asumisolot luovat uhkaavia tulevaisuuskuvia. Radikaaleihin muutoksiin valmistaudutaan erilaisilla tulevaisuusvisioilla, joita tuottavat niin kaupunkisuunnittelijat, ajatushautomot, virkamiehet kuin taiteilijat ja kirjailijat. Tulevaisuusvisiot suuntaavat ymmärrystämme tulevaisuuden mahdollisuuksista sekä siitä, millaisina hahmottuvat kaupunkiemme tulevaisuuksien rajat. Tämä luento esittelee kaunokirjallisuuden mahdollisuuksia ja rajoja mahdollisten tulevaisuuksien luojana.

• ma 25.11. FT Lieven Ameel: Kaupunkien tulevaisuus tässä ja nyt – näkökulmia kirjallisuudesta
TIAS-luentosarja Studiossa maanantaisin klo 18-19.30
Tapahtuman osoite:
Linnankatu 2, Turku
Studio (pääkirjaston uudisosa, 1. krs)

Imre Szeman research visit to TIAS

Over the next few weeks, professor Imre Szeman from the University of Waterloo, Canada, will be visiting TIAS. Really looking forward to connect with his work with the environmental humanities and energy humanities.

We’ll have several research workshops, meetings with other scholars, and also two guest lectures – the lectures are open to the public, but please register if you plan to attend the Turku event:

Quitting (the) Habit: Fossil Fuels, Governmentality and the Politics of Energy Dependency

Guest lecture by Prof. Imre Szeman and Round Table

31 October 2019, Time: 14h-16h Place: Porthan Hall, Maaherran makasiini, University of Turku (Henrikinkatu 10, Turku)

Round Table with Imre Szeman, Pia Ahlback, Heikki Sirviö, Tere Vaden & Lieven Ameel

More information here

Energy (and) Humanities Seminar
hosted by UH Environmental Humanities Hub and HELSUS, University of Helsinki
Time: November 5th, 2019, at 2 pm – 6 pm,
Venue: Porthania, room 224, HELSUS Hub Lounge

Imre Szeman: “Eight Principles for a Critical Theory of Energy”

16.00-17.15: Prof. Imre Szeman (the University of Waterloo, Canada)
Imre Szeman conducts research on and teaches in the areas of energy humanities, environmental studies, critical and cultural theory, social and political philosophy, and Canadian studies. His most recent work has focused on energy humanities and petrocultures. http://imreszeman.ca/
17.15-18.00 – panel discussion “Energy Humanities’ Agenda”

More information here

Research Trip to New York – October 2019

I’m off to New York City for a research trip of a bit more than a week. I’ll be visiting a range of waterfront sites I’m examining in my research project “Imagining City Futures“. A.o. Hudson Yards, Riverside Park, Battery Park in Manhattan; Greenpoint, Red Hook, Rockaways and Jamaica Bay in Brooklyn. I’ll meet up with several people at City University of New York, and will talk about my work at the Department of City Planning.

(source: wikicommons)

Any thoughts on what lesser-known sites to absolutely see at the NY waterfront? Or people to meet who are working on planning narratives/waterfront futures/literary New York? Let me know! lieven.ameel [a] utu.fi

More on my New York waterfront research so far:

“The ‘Valley of Ashes’ and the ‘Fresh Green Breast’: Metaphors from The Great Gatsby in planning New York.” Planning Perspectives 2019, 34:5, 903-910. link

“Agency at / in the waterfront in New York City: Vision 2020 and New York 2140.” Textual Practice 2019. link

“Metaphorizations of the waterfront in New York City’s comprehensive waterfront plan Vision 2020 and Foer’s ‘The Sixth Borough.’” Critique: Studies in Contemporary Fiction 2018. link

 

 

Polyphony and urban planning: Peter Holvoet-Hanssen’s Quay Poem in Antwerp

Today I’ll participate in a workshop of the Texts ≈ Buildings networks, in Brussels in association with the Department of Architecture, KU Leuven.

I’ll present a paper on polyphony and urban planning. I examine Peter Holvoet-Hanssen’s Quay Poem, an in-situ poem painted on the Antwerp quays during Holvoet-Hanssen’s tenure as city poet, as an example for unpacking literature’s potential as a complex and always ambiguous, open-ended repository of knowledge, but also as a way to consider ways in which urban planning practices can work towards polyphony and narrativity.

My talk ties in with my broader research project on future visions of cities at the water.

Many thanks to Michael Vandebril, coordinator of Antwerp City of Books, for his extensive introduction of the Quay Poem during a recent visit to the site.

 

About the workshop:

“This workshop, organised in the framework of the WOG Texts ≈ Buildings, focuses on Choices and Strategies of Spatial Imagination as Ways of Knowing. By focusing on conceptual, contextual and disciplinary “transpositions” between disciplines, we intend to tackle the Texts ≈ Buildings from the angle of architectural and literary imagination as sources of knowledge of the built environment.”

 

Teaching New York 2140 – thoughts on the Land Ethic and Stewardship

Teaching Kim Stanley Robertson’s New York 2140 today for my ”Topics in Post-45 American Literature”  class – we discussed the future storyworld in the novel ao. in the light of concepts such as Aldo Leopold’s Land Ethic (referenced in New York 2140) and stewardship.

Some of the questions that formed the basis of discussions today:

“Aldo Leopold’s text proposes a “land ethic”, a concept which is also mentioned in New York 2140. If we examine the actions of the protagonists (and others) in New York 2140 from the perspective of the “land ethic”, how do these actions live up to the ideal of Aldo Leopold?”

“The key concept for today’s class is “stewardship”, a concept that (to a degree) can also be related to the Leopoldian land ethic. Can you relate the concept of “stewardship”, as it appears from your theory reading, to New York 2140?”

Lively discussion today – which also left me wondering to what extent key concepts within environmental thinking such as stewardship and the land ethic have been applied by others to contemporary literary fiction.

I already wrote on the question of agency in Robinson’s New York 2140 here;  one forthcoming article also examines the Land Ethic (currently under review).

Out now! “Agency at/of the waterfront in New York City”, in Textual Practice

Really glad to see the latest article in my research of future narratives of cities at the water, “Agency at/of the waterfront in New York City: Vision 2020 and New York 2140” just being published in Textual Practice. The article approaches the question of narrated agency in future narratives through the lens of the New York waterfront, explored as a site for enacting and critiquing the possibility to act towards the future. Who is described as having the possibility to act at the waterfront, and to what extent is the water seen as a force in its own right? These questions are addresses by examining two key texts imagining a future New York City: the New York Comprehensive Waterfront Plan Vision 2020 (2011) and Kim Stanley Robinson’s New York 2140 (2017). I argue that both texts gesture towards an acknowledgement of possible agency of the water, while continuing to reiterate an instrumental relationship with the environment that focuses on processes of appropriation, distribution and production. Ultimately, this article considers the implications for the implied readers’ agency, and for their possibilities to take meaningful action to interact with, and make changes in, their relationship with the water.

Ameel, Lieven 2019. “Agency at / in the waterfront in New York City: Vision 2020 and New York 2140.” Textual Practice. ahead of print

https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/0950236X.2019.1581250

From the introduction:

“The future, in the words of Bertrand de Jouvenel’s The Art of Conjecture – a founding textbook of futures studies – constitutes a ‘field of uncertainty’ and a ‘field of liberty’ – the domain of the not-yet, onto which everyone is free to project anything one wants. But the future is also a ‘field of power’, and, as de Jouvenel points out, ‘the future is our only field of power, for we can act only on the future’ (emphasis added). In a time of global warming and radical climate change, I would add, the future has also become the field of both a shared and individual ethical responsibility. Examining narratives of the future is one important way to address this interplay between uncertainty, liberty, power, and responsibility. From literary fiction to planning and policy visions, narratives frame, question, and shape the future and our possibilities to act upon it. Crucial for how different forms of storytelling act as storehouses of knowledge with which we approach the future is the question of agency. Who is described as possessing the possibility to act, and how is this ability carried out?

This paper approaches the question of narrated agency in future narratives through the lens of the New York waterfront, explored here as a site for enacting and critiquing the possibility to act towards the future. In the texts examined here, the urban waterfront appears as an arena of transformation, both in material and in allegorical terms, the place where the city’s – and city dwellers’ – coming-of-age rituals are performed time and again. But this is also an area where the water itself appears as a force in its own right, acting upon the environment. The texts examined here are the New York Comprehensive Waterfront Plan Vision 2020 (2011) and Kim Stanley Robinson’s New York 2140 (2017).”

From the conclusion:

“Rather than an optimistic and ‘surprisingly utopian’ view of human defiance, as some critics have it, I would argue that New York 2140 offers a bleak examination of the limits set to action by monetary structure, and the power of financial liquidity to embrace even the noblest of causes and have them enmeshed in the ebb and flow of global finance. Such a view is in part compatible with a range of recent research, critical of the prose novel’s affordances to describe meaningful possibilities for action beyond the immediate personal circle. Similarly, Vision 2020 can hardly be blamed for doing what a planning document is supposed to do: setting out how it will order, arrange, and develop the planning area for the overt benefit of its citizens (and that of the less explicated vested interests jostling for predominance). If neither of these two texts give exactly cause to celebrate the possibilities to act towards a better future of and at the waterfront, Vision 2020 and New York 2140 do provide a number of insights. Citizens can act, in Vision 2020, to propose change, protected as they are by the New York charter and in the form of ‘197-a plans’ that enable communities to initiate development initiatives. In both texts, the water can be thought of as possessing legal status and independent agency, even if only as a thought experiment. The waterfront, even if relentlessly reclaimed, appropriated, redistributed, capitalised upon, does retain a measure of its transformative power regardless; a sense of openness from which a new order can arise, only partially shaped by conscious and intentional efforts – and so does the future.”

Thanks to everyone at the research seminar of comparative literature, University of Turku, and Tintti Klapuri, in particular, for helpful comments. Thanks are due also to the anonymous reviewers.

Many thanks to everyone at Textual Practice for excellent work on the volume and providing a stimulating forum for literary research.

If anyone from Taylor & Francis is reading along: Textual Practice is a Taylor & Francis journal. The recent developments (time of writing: February 2019) in the dispute between Taylor & Francis and Finnish national and university libraries have caused me, and most academic researchers I’m aware of, to reconsider whether or not we will want to continue publishing in Taylor & Francis journals. Current publishing practices are not sustainable and a move to increased open access publishing will be necessary, hopefully in collaboration with publishers and with university research assessment schemes.

The Sixth Borough – Metaphorizations of the Water

Excited to see the appearance of the first article of the New York City part of my research project on future narratives of cities at the water. This new article, published with Critique: Studies in Contemporary Fiction, examines Foer’s story of the Sixth Borough in view of other metaphors of the New York waterfront, and with reference to the comprehensive waterfront plan Vision 2020, in particular.

In my research more broadly, I examine metaphorizations and future narratives of the urban waterfront across disciplines, with cross-readings of planning, policy, and literary texts.  A number of articles on the Helsinki waterfront in literature have also been published so far, with a few forthcoming. One study I also look particularly forward to seeing published soon is an article forthcoming with Textual Practice in which I look at Vision 2020 in connection with Kim Stanley Robinson’s New York 2140, and drawing on Carl Schmitt’s concept of nomos and Deleuze & Guattari’s smooth and striated space.

The Sixth Borough: Metaphorizations of the Water in New York City’s Comprehensive Waterfront Plan Vision 2020 and Foer’s “The Sixth Borough”

lieven.ameel@utu.fi

Abstract:

In visions of future New York City, the waterfront appears as a highly symbolic space, a site of possibility and transformation, imbued with complex cultural meanings. Crucial for the understanding of the urban waterfront and its development are the metaphors used to describe changing relationships to it, across genres. This article focuses on one specific metaphorization of the watery edge of New York City, that of the “Sixth Borough.” It examines the 2011 New York comprehensive waterfront plan Vision 2020 and Jonathan Safran Foer’s short story “The Sixth Borough,” part of the novel Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, but published as a separate short story in the New York Times (2004, 2005). Read side by side, these texts offer a compelling—if contradictory—view of how the words to describe the city engage with eruptions in the material world.

Free access to the first 50 readers here:

https://www.tandfonline.com/eprint/aqIrXgm8vNicA9PVQqFR/full

Picture Source: New York City, Vision 2020.

IMAGINING CITY FUTURES ACROSS DISCIPLINES

Turku Institute for Advanced Studies. Co-organized with SELMA, in cooperation with the Association for Literary Urban Studies.

Agora lecture hall XXII, University of Turku, 19 November 2018, 9:00h-17:30

This one-day symposium brings together researchers of future narratives from across disciplines. Its focus is on representations of city futures across a range of genres, from literary fiction to futures scenarios, policy, and urban planning. It aims to examine the language, narrative frames, and metaphors with which future cities are told, and the implications of such discursive strategies.

Please register by 12.11. via this link:

https://link.webropolsurveys.com/S/91D415EDDABB4E7A

PROGRAM

09.00-09.10 Welcome & introduction, Lieven Ameel, collegium researcher, TIAS

09.10-10.10 KEYNOTE ADDRESS: Paul Dobraszczyk

Paul Dobraszczyk is a teaching fellow at the Bartlett School of Architecture in London. His most recent book project is Future Cities, Architecture and the Imagination (Reaktion, 2019). He has published widely on visual culture and the built environment, with recent books including The Dead City: Urban Ruins and the Spectacle of Decay (IB Tauris, 2017); London’s Sewers (Shire, 2014); and Function & Fantasy: Iron Architecture in Long Nineteenth Century (Routledge, 2016). He is also a visual artist and photographer.

10.15-11.45 FORECASTING, FUTURE VISIONS, AND PLANNING

Forecasting to ensure the safety of society, Vesa Valtonen, Secretary General, Security Committee, Ministry of Defense   

Ecological city visions and their impact on the development of Chinese cities, Outi Luova, East Asian Studies, University of Turku

Zoning Versus Private Action: Planning Texts and Urban Futures in St Louis and Houston, 1910–1960, Jason Finch, English literature, Åbo Akademi University

Future visions of the region Kotka-Hamina, created during the planning of the master plan, Kaisa Granqvist, Urban Planning, Aalto University

11.45-13.00 LUNCH

13.00-14:30 CITY FUTURES ACROSS MEDIA

Thirty Years of Imaginary Los Angeles. Climate Change and the Retrofitted Megalopolis in Blade Runner (1982) and Blade Runner 2049 (2017), Kimi Kärki, Cultural History, University of Turku

Reading for Ruins: On the Post-Apocalyptic Tense and Context, Jouni Teittinen, Comparative Literature, University of Turku

The flood of 1862 in Viennese humorous magazines: Jokes and cartoons about natural catastrophe as means of urban improvement, Heidi Hakkarainen, Cultural History, University of Turku              

Participatory design fiction and future cities, Johanna Ylipulli, cultural anthropology, Helsinki Institute of Urban and Regional Studies

14:30-15:00 COFFEE BREAK

15:00-16:30 AGENCY & CITY FUTURES

Agency in Urbanizing Finland, Hanna Heino, Geography, University of Turku  

From co-creation to agency in urban futures, Kaisa Schmidt-Thomé, Demos Helsinki

Agency, Voices and Visions for Preferable Futures: Ethnographic research on the World Heritage Site Suomenlinna, Pauliina Latvala-Harvilahti, The Finnish Literature Society Research Deparment

‘Small Island States and their Little Capitals: Lessons for Climate Resilience?’, Milla Vaha, International Relations/Political Philosophy, University of Turku

16.30-17.00 ROUNDTABLE

Methods, approaches and things ahead in Imagining City Futures across Disciplines

17:00-17:30 CLOSING WORDS AND RECEPTION

 

Organizer: Lieven Ameel / lieven.ameel@utu.fi / blogs.helsinki.fi/urbannarratives

Travel and space – utopia as satirical travel narrative

Speaking today at the Travel and Space Seminar at the University of Helsinki, a seminar focusing on travel writing as non-fictional literary genre. Perspectives from linguistics, non-fiction writing, and literary studies.

I’ll be presenting a tentative talk on utopia as travel writing – and travel writing as utopia, with reference, in particular to E.E. Hale’s Sybaris (1869), a little-known utopian text that I looked at in some extent in my article ”Cities Utopian, Dystopic and Apocalyptic.”

The title of today’s talk is “Travel literature ad socio-critical satire: Everett Hale’s utopia Sybaris and other homes (1869)”.

The program of the seminar can be found here.

Source:

  • Ameel 2016: “Cities Utopian, Dystopic and Apocalyptic.” In Tambling, Jeremy: The Palgrave Handbook to Literature and the City.