Attached are a couple of readings that can be used to complete this assignment.
Short essay (100 points)
Write a 1000-word (two pages single spaced, 12-point Times New Roman font, 1-inch margins) essay that discusses the links between coronavirus and core themes we have been studying this term. You can draw on articles posted in the “second essay” link on the group discussion page, as well as course materials and other relevant sources. To give you guidance your essay should answer the following questions:
A Global Sense Of Place
The world is increasingly dominated by movement – of people, images and information. Doreen Massey
examines the nature of mobility in the era of globalisation and what this
means for our sense of place
T his is an era – it is often said –
when things are speeding up, and spreading out. Capital is going through a new phase of
internationalisation, especially in its financial parts. More people travel more frequently and for longer dis¬ tances. Your clothes have probably been made in a range of countries from Latin America to South East Asia. Dinner consists of food shipped in from all over the world. And if you have a screen in your office, instead of opening a letter which – care of Her Majesty's Post Office – has taken some days to wend its way across the country, you now get interrupted by e-mail. This view of the current age is one now
frequently found in a wide range of books and journals. Much of what is written about space, place and post¬ modern times emphasises a new phase in what Marx once called 'the annihila¬ tion of space by time'. The process is argued, or – more usually – asserted, to have gained a new momentum, to have reached a new stage. It is a phenomenon which has been called 'time-space- compression'. And the general accept¬ ance that something of the sort is going on is marked by the almost obligatory use in the literature of terms and phrases such as speed-up, global vil¬ lage, overcoming spatial barriers, the disruption of horizons, and so forth.
One of the results of this is an increas¬ ing uncertainty about what we mean by 'places' and how we relate to them. How, in the face of all this movement and intermixing, can we retain any sense of a local place and its particu¬ larity? An (idealised) notion of an era when places were (supposedly) in¬ habited by coherent and homogeneous communities is set against the current fragmentation and disruption. The counterposition is anyway dubious, of course; 'place' and 'community' have only rarely been coterminous. But the occasional longing for such coherence is nonetheless a sign of the geograph¬ ical fragmentation, the spatial disrup¬ tion, of our times. And occasionally, too, it has been part of what has given rise to defensive and reactionary responses – certain forms of nationalism, sentimen¬ talised recovering of sanitised 'herit¬ ages', and outright antagonism to new¬ comers and 'outsiders'. One of the ef¬ fects of such responses is that place itself, the seeking after a sense of place, has come to be seen by some as neces¬ sarily reactionary. But is that necessarily so? Can't we
re-think our sense of place? Is it not possible for a sense of place to be prog¬ ressive; not self-enclosing and defens¬ ive, but outward-looking? A sense of place which is adequate to this era of time-space-compression? To begin with,
there are some questions to be asked about time-space-compression itself. Who is it that experiences it, and how? Do we all benefit and suffer from it in the same way? For instance, to what extent does the
currently popular characterisation of time-space-compression represent very much a Western, coloniser's, view? The sense of dislocation which some feel at the sight of a once well-known local street now lined with a succession of cultural imports – the pizzeria, the kebab house, the branch of the Middle- Eastern bank – must have been felt for centuries, though from a very different point of view, by colonised peoples all over the world as they watched the im- portation, maybe even used, the products of, first, European colonisation, maybe British (from new forms of transport to liver salts and custard powder), later US, as they learned to eat wheat instead of rice or corn, to drink Coca Cola, just as today we try out enchiladas.
oreover, as well as query- ing the ethnocentricity of the idea of time-space- compression and its cur-
rent acceleration, we also need to ask about its causes: what is it that deter- mines our degrees of mobility, that in- fluences the sense we have of space and place? Time-space-compression refers to movement and communication across space, to the geographical stretching-out of social relations, and to our experience of all this. The usual interpretation is that it results over- whelmingly from the actions of capital, and from its currently-increasing inter- nationalisation. On this interpretation, then, it is time space and money which make the world go round, and us go round (or not) the world. It is capitalism and its developments which are argued to determine our understanding and our experience of space. But surely this is insufficient. Among
the many other things which clearly influence that experience, there are, for instance, race and gender. The degree to which we can move between coun- tries, or walk about the streets at night, or venture out of hotels in foreign cities, is not just influenced by 'capital'. Sur- vey after survey has shown how women's mobility, for instance, is restricted – in a thousand different ways, from phy- sical violence to being ogled at or made to feel quite simply 'out of place' – not by 'capital', but by men. Or, to take a more complicated example, Birkett, re- viewing books on women adventurers and travellers in the 19th and 20th cent- uries, suggests that 'it is far, far more demanding for a woman to wander now than ever before'.1 The reasons she gives for this argument are a complex mix of colonialism, ex-colonialism, racism, changing gender-relations, and relative wealth. A simple resort to explanation in terms of 'money' or 'capi- tal' alone could not begin to get to grips with the issue. The current speed-up may be strongly determined by econo- mic forces, but it is not the economy
24 MARXISM TODAY JUNE 1991
'The seeking after a sense of place has come to be
seen by some as
Moving at a different pace: Travelling down to earth from the global perspective, control over mobility both reflects and reinforces power
alone which determines our experience of space and place. In other words, and put simply, there is a lot more determin¬ ing how we experience space than what 'capital' gets up to.
What is more, of course, that last example indicated that 'time-space- compression' has not been happening for everyone in all spheres of activity. Birkett again, this time writing of the Pacific Ocean: 'Jumbos have enabled Korean computer consultants to fly to Silicon Valley as if popping next door, and Singaporean entrepreneurs to reach Seattle in a day. The borders of the world's greatest ocean have been joined as never before. And Boeing has brought these people together. But what about those they fly over, on their islands five miles below? How has the mighty 747 brought them greater com¬ munion with those whose shores are washed by the same water? It hasn't, of course. Air travel might enable business¬ men to buzz across the ocean, but the concurrent decline in shipping has only increased the isolation of many island communities… Pitcairn, like many other Pacific islands, has never felt so far from its neighbours.'2
In other words, and most broadly, time-space-compression needs diffe¬ rentiating socially. This is not just a moral or political point about inequ¬ ality, although that would be sufficient reason to mention it; it is also a concep¬ tual point.
Imagine for a moment that you are on a satellite, further out and beyond all ac¬ tual satellites; you can see 'planet earth' from a distance and, rarely for someone with only peaceful intentions, you are equipped with the kind of technology which allows you to see the colours of people's eyes and the numbers on their numberplates. You can see all the move¬ ment and tune-in to all the communi¬ cation that is going on. Furthest out are the satellites, then aeroplanes, the long haul between London and Tokyo and the hop from San Salvador to Guatemala City. Some of this is people moving, some of it is physical trade, some is media broadcasting. There are faxes, e-mail, film-distribution networks, finan¬ cial flows and transactions. Look in closer and there are ships and trains, steam trains slogging laboriously up hills somewhere in Asia. Look in closer still and there are lorries and cars and buses, and on down further, somewhere in sub-Saharan Africa, there's a woman on foot who still spends hours a day collecting water.
Now, I want to make one simple point here, and that is about what one might call the power-geometry of it all; the power geometry of time-space com¬ pression. For different social groups, and different individuals, are placed in very distinct ways in relation to these flows and interconnections. This point concerns not merely the issue of who moves and who doesn't, although that is an important element of it; it is also about power in relation to the flows and
25 MARXISM TODAY JUNE 1991
the movement. Different social groups have distinct relationships to this any- way differentiated mobility: some people are more in charge of it than others; some initiate flows and move¬ ment, others don't; some are more on the receiving-end of it than others; some are effectively imprisoned by it. In a sense at the end of all the spectra
are those who are both doing the moving and the communicating and who are in some way in a position of control in relation to it – the jet-setters, the ones sending and receiving the faxes and the e-mail, holding the international confer¬ ence calls, the ones distributing the films, controlling the news, organising the investments and the international currency transactions. These are the groups who are really in a sense in charge of time-space-compression, who can really use it and turn it to advan¬ tage, whose power and influence it very definitely increases. On its more prosaic fringes this group probably in¬ cludes a fair number of Western acade¬ mics and journalists – those, in other words, who write most about it. But there are also groups who are also
doing a lot of physical moving, but who are not 'in charge' of the process in the same way at all. The refugees from El Salvador or Guatemala and the un¬ documented migrant workers from Michoacan in Mexico, crowding into Tijuana to make a perhaps fatal dash for it across the border into the US to grab a chance of a new life. Here the exper¬ ience of movement, and indeed of a confusing plurality of cultures, is very different. And there are those from In¬ dia, Pakistan, Bangladesh, the Carib¬ bean, who come half way round the world only to get held up in an inter¬ rogation room at Heathrow. Or – a different case again – there are
those who are simply on the receiving end of time-space-compression. The pensioner in a bed-sit in any inner city in this country, eating British working- class-style fish and chips from a Chin¬ ese take-away, watching a US film on a Japanese television; and not daring to go out after dark. And anyway the public transport's been cut. Or – one final example to illustrate a
different kind of complexity – there are the people who live in the favelas of Rio, who know global football like the back of their hand, and have produced some of its players; who have contri¬ buted massively to global music, who gave us the samba and produced the lambada that everyone was dancing to last year in the clubs of Paris and Lon¬ don; and who have never, or hardly ever, been to downtown Rio. At one level they have been tremendous con¬ tributors to what we call time-space- compression; and at another level they are imprisoned in it. This is, in other words, a highly com¬
plex social differentiation. There are differences in the degree of movement and communication, but also in the degree of control and of initiation. The ways in which people are placed within
'time-space-compression' are highly complicated and extremely varied. But this in turn immediately raises
questions of politics. If time-space- compression can be imagined in that more socially formed, socially evalu¬ ative and differentiated way, then there may be here the possibility of develop¬ ing a politics of mobility and access. For it does seem that mobility and control over mobility both reflects and re¬ inforces power. It is not simply a ques¬ tion of unequal distribution, that some people move more than others, and that some have more control than others. It is that the mobility and control of some groups can actively weaken other people. Differential mobility can weaken the leverage of the already weak. The time-space-compression of some groups can undermine the power of others.
T his is well established and of¬
ten noted in the relationship between capital and labour. Capital's ability to roam the
world further strengthens it in relation to relatively immobile workers, enables it to play off the plant at Genk against the plant at Dagenham. It also streng¬ thens its hand against struggling local economies the world over as they com¬ pete for the favour of some investment. The 747s that fly computer scientists across the Pacific are part of the reason for the greater isolation today of the island of Pitcairn. But also, every time someone uses a car, and thereby in¬ creases their personal mobility, they reduce both the social rationale and the financial viability of the public trans¬ port system – and thereby also poten¬ tially reduce the mobility of those who rely on that system. Every time you drive to that out-of-town shopping centre you contribute to the rising prices, even hasten the demise, of the corner shop. And the 'time-space- compression' which is involved in pro¬ ducing and reproducing the daily lives of the comfortably-off in First World societies – not just their own travel but the resources they draw on, from all over the world, to feed their lives – may entail environmental consequences, or hit constraints, which will limit the lives of others before their own. We need to ask, in other words, whether our relat¬ ive mobility and power over mobility and communication entrenches the spa¬ tial imprisonment of other groups.
But this way of thinking about time-space- compression also returns us to the ques¬ tion of place and a sense of place. How, in the context of all these socially- varied time-space-changes do we think about 'places'? In an era when, it is argued, 'local communities' seem to be increasingly broken up, when you can go abroad and find the same shops, the same music as at home, or eat your favourite foreign-holiday food at a rest- urant down the road – and when every¬ one has a different experience of all this – how then do we think about 'locality'? Many of those who write about time-
space-compression emphasise the inse-
'Every time you drive to
shopping centre you
contribute to the rising
prices, even hasten the demise, of the corner
curity and unsettling impact of its ef¬ fects, the feelings of vulnerability which it can produce. Some therefore go on from this to argue that, in the middle of all this flux, people desp¬ erately need a bit of peace and quiet – and that a strong sense of place, of locality, can form one kind of refuge from the hubbub. So the search after the 'real' meanings of places, the unear¬ thing of heritages and so forth, is in¬ terpreted as being, in part, a response to desire for fixity and for security of identity in the middle of all the move¬ ment and change. A 'sense of place', of rootedness, can provide – in this form and on this interpretation – stability and a source of unproblematical iden¬ tity. In that guise, however, place and the spatially local are then rejected by many progressive people as almost necessarily reactionary. They are in¬ terpreted as an evasion; as a retreat from the (actually unavoidable) dy¬ namic and change of 'real life', which is what we must seize if we are to change things for the better. On this reading, place and locality are foci for a form of romanticised escapism from the real business of the world. While 'time' is equated with movement and progress, 'space'/'place' is equated with stasis and reaction. There are some serious inadequacies
in this argument. There is the question of why it is assumed that time-space- compression will produce insecurity. There is the need to face up to – rather than simply deny – people's need for attachment of some sort, whether through place or anything else. None¬ theless, it is certainly the case that there is indeed at the moment a recru¬ descence of some very problematical senses of place, from reactionary nation¬ alisms, to competitive localisms, to in¬ troverted obsessions with 'heritage'. We need, therefore, to think through what might be an adequately progress¬ ive sense of place, one which would fit in with the current global-local times and the feelings and relations they give rise to, and which would be useful in what are, after all, political struggles often inevitably based on place. The question is how to hold on to that notion of geographical difference, of unique¬ ness, even of rootedness if people want that, without it being reactionary.
T here are a number of distinct
ways in which the 'reaction¬ ary' notion of place described above is problematical. One is
the idea that places have single, essen¬ tial, identities. Another is the idea that identity of place – the sense of place – is constructed out of an introverted, inward-looking history based on delv¬ ing into the past for internalised ori¬ gins, translating the name from the Domesday Book. Thus Wright recounts the construction and appropriation of Stoke Newington and its past by the arriving middle class (the Domesday Book registers the place as 'Newtowne'… 'There is land for two ploughs and a half… There are four villanes and thirty
26 MARXISM TODAY JUNE 1991
seven cottagers with ten acres', pp 227 and 231), and contrasts this version with that of other groups – the white work¬ ing class and the large number of im¬ portant minority communities.3A parti¬ cular problem with this conception of place is that it seems to require the drawing of boundaries. Geographers have long been exercised by the prob¬ lem of defining regions, and this ques¬ tion of 'definition* has almost always been reduced to the issue of drawing lines around a place. I remember some of my most painful times as a geo¬ grapher have been spent unwillingly struggling to think how one could draw a boundary around somewhere like the 'East Midlands'. But that kind of bound¬ ary around an area precisely dis¬ tinguishes between an inside and an outside. It can so easily be yet another way of constructing a counterposition between 'us' and 'them'. And yet if one considers almost any
real place, and certainly one not defined primarily by administrative or political boundaries, these supposed character¬ istics have little real purchase. Take, for instance, a walk down Kil-
burn High Road, my local shopping cen¬ tre. It is a pretty ordinary place, north west of the centre of London. Under the railway bridge the newspaper stand sells papers from every county of what my neighbours, many of whom come from there, still often call the Irish Free State. The postboxes down the High Road, and many an empty space on a wall, are adorned with the letters IRA. Other available spaces are plastered this week with posters for a special meeting in remembrance: Ten Years after the Hunger Strike. At the local theatre Eamon Morrissey has a one- man show; the National Club has the Wolfe Tones on, and at the Black Lion there's Finnegan's Wake. In two shops I notice this week's lottery ticket winners: in one the name is Teresa Gleeson, in the other, Chouman Hassan. Thread your way through the often
almost stationary traffic diagonally across the road from the newsstand and there's a shop which as long as I can remember has displayed saris in the window. Four life-sized models of In¬ dian women, and reams of cloth. On the door a notice announces a forthcoming concert at Wembley Arena: Anand Mi- land presents Rekha, live, with Aamir Khan, Salman Khan, Jahi Chawla and Raveena Tandon. On another ad, for the end of the month, is written 'All Hindus are cordially invited'. In another newsa¬ gents I chat with the man who keeps it, a Muslim unutterably depressed by events in the Gulf, silently chafing at having to sell The Sun. Overhead there is always at least one aeroplane – we seem to be on a flight-path to Heathrow and by the time they're over Kilburn you can see them clearly enough to tell the airline and wonder as you struggle with your shopping where they're com¬ ing from. Below, the reason the traffic is snarled up (another odd effect of time-space-compression!) is in part
'If it is now recognised that people
have multiple identities then the
same point can be made in relation to
because this is one of the main en¬ trances to and escape-routes from Lon¬ don, the road to Staples Corner and the beginning of the Ml to the North. This is just the beginnings of a sketch
from immediate impressions but a pro¬ per analysis could be done, of the links between Kilburn and the world. And so it could for almost any place. Kilburn is a place for which I have a
great affection; I have lived there many years. It certainly has 'a character of its own'. But it is possible to feel all this without subscribing to any of the static and defensive – and in that sense reac¬ tionary – notions of 'place' which were referred to above. First, while Kilburn may have a character of its own, it is absolutely not a seamless, coherent identity, a single sense of place which everyone shares. It could hardly be less so. People's routes through the place, their favourite haunts within it, the con¬ nections they make (physically, or by phone or post, or in memory and imag¬ ination) between here and the rest of the world vary enormously. If it is now recognised that people have multiple identities then the same point can be made in relation to places. Moreover, such multiple identities can either be a source of richness or a source of con¬ flict, or both.
ne of the problems here has been a persistent identifica- tion of place with 'commu¬ nity'. Yet this is a misidenti-
fication. On the one hand communities can exist without being in the same place – from networks of friends with like interests, to major religious, ethnic or political communities. On the other hand, the instances of places housing single 'communities' in the sense of coherent social groups are probably – and, I would argue, have for long been – quite rare. Moreover, even where they do exist this in no way implies a single sense of place. For people occupy diffe¬ rent positions within any community. We could counterpose to the chaotic mix of Kilburn the relatively stable and homogeneous community (at least in popular imagery) of a small mining vill¬ age. Homogeneous? 'Communities' too have internal structures. To take the most obvious example, I'm sure a wo¬ man's sense of place in a mining village – the spaces through which she normally moves, the meeting places, the connections outside – are different from a man's. Their 'senses of the place' will be different. Moreover, not only does 'Kilburn',
then, have many identities (or its full identity is a complex mix of all these) it is also, looked at in this way, absolutely not introverted. It is (or ought to be) impossible even to begin thinking about Kilburn High Road without bringing into play half the world and a consider¬ able amount of British imperialist his¬ tory (and this certainly goes for mining villages too). Imagining it this way pro¬ vokes in you (or at least in me) a really global sense of place. And finally, in contrasting this way of
looking at places with the defensive reac¬ tionary view, I certainly could not begin to, nor would I want to, define 'Kilburn' by drawing its enclosing boundaries.
So, at this point in the argument, get back in your mind's eye on a satellite; go right out again and look back at the globe. This time, however, imagine not just all the physical movement, nor even all the often invisible communi¬ cations, but also and especially all the social relations, all the links between people. Fill it in with all those different experiences of time-space-compression. For what is happening is that the geography of social relations is chang¬ ing. In many cases such relations are increasingly stretched out over space. Economic, political and cultural social relations, each full of power and with internal structures of domination and subordination, stretched out over the planet at every different level, from the household to the local area to the international. It is from that perspective that it is
possible to envisage an alternative in¬ terpretation of place. In this interpreta¬ tion, what gives a place its specificity is not some long internalised history but the fact that it is constructed out of a particular constellation of social rela¬ tions, meeting and weaving together at a particular locus. If one moves in from the satellite towards the globe, holding all those networks of social relations and movements and communications in one's head, then each 'place' can be seen as a particular, unique, point of their intersection. It is, indeed, a meeting place. Instead then, of thinking of pla¬ ces as areas with boundaries around, they can be imagined as articulated moments in networks of social relations and understandings, but where a large proportion of those relations, exper¬ iences and understandings are con¬ structed on a far larger scale than what we happen to define for that moment as the place itself, whether that be a street, or a region or even a continent. And this in turn allows a sense of place which is extroverted, which includes a con¬ sciousness of its links with the wider world, which integrates in a positive way the global and the local. This is not a question of making the
ritualistic connections to 'the wider sys¬ tem' – the people in the local meeting who bring up international capitalism every time you try to have a discussion about rubbish-collection – the point is that there are real relations with real content – economic, political, cultural – between any local place and the wider world in which it is set. In economic geography the argument has long been accepted that it is not possible to under¬ stand the 'inner city', for instance its loss of jobs, the decline of manufactur¬ ing employment there, by looking only at the inner city. Any adequate explan¬ ation has to set the inner city in its wider geographical context. Perhaps it is appropriate to think how that kind of understanding could be extended to the
28 MARXISM TODAY JUNE 1991
notion of a sense of place. These arguments, then, highlight a
number of ways in which a progressive concept of place might be developed. First of all, it is absolutely not static. If places can be conceptualised in terms of the social interactions which they tie together, then it is also the case that these interactions themselves are not motionless things, frozen in time. They are processes. One of the great one- liners in marxist exchanges has for long been 'ah, but capital is not a thing, it's a process'. Perhaps this should be said also about places; that places are pro¬ cesses, too.
S econd, places do not have to
have boundaries in the sense of divisions which frame simple enclosures. 'Bound¬
aries' may of course be necessary, for the purposes of certain types of studies for instance, but they are not necessary for the conceptualisation of a place it¬ self. Definition in this sense does not have to be through simple counterpos- ition to the outside; it can come, in part, precisely through the particularity of linkage to that 'outside' which is there¬ fore itself part of what constitutes the place. This helps get away from the common association between penetra¬ bility and vulnerability. For it is this kind of association which makes inva¬ sion by newcomers so threatening. Third, clearly places do not have
single, unique 'identities'; they are full of internal conflicts. Just think, for
instance, about London's Docklands, a place which is at the moment quite clearly defined by conflict: a conflict over what its past has been (the nature of its 'heritage'), conflict over what should be its present development, con¬ flict over what could be its future. Fourth, and finally, none of this denies
place nor the importance of the unique¬ ness of place. The specificity of place is continually reproduced, but it is not a specificity which results from some long, internalised history. There are a number of sources of this specificity – the uniqueness of place.4 There is the fact that the wider social relations in which places are set are themselves geographically differentiated. Global¬ isation (in the economy, or in culture, or in anything else) does not entail simply homogenisation. On the contrary, the globalisation of social relations is yet another source of (the reproduction of) geographical uneven development, and thus of the uniqueness of place. There is the specificity of place which derives from the fact that each place is the focus of a distinct mixture of wider and more local social relations. There is the fact that this very mixture together in one place may produce effects which would not have happened otherwise. And finally, all these relations interact with and take a further element of spec¬ ificity from the accumulated history of a place, with that history itself ima¬ gined as the product of layer upon layer of different sets of linkages, both local
'Instead of thinking of
places as areas with boundaries
around,they can be
imagined as articulated moments in networks of
and to the wider world. In her portrait of Corsica, G
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