Sunday, October 15, 2017

Keith Wallace

(grammartarians, sorry, i had to write this quickly...)

last night there was an extra powerful performance at MASS MoCA, and I wished all my apolitical, center, and Republican friends could have seen it, I couldn't stop thinking of them. artist Keith Wallace presented a one-man performance about growing up in North Philadelphia, a predominantly African American an Puerto Rican area, where the public schools are some of the most under-funded in the US (makes me extremely angry) and a high percentage live under the poverty line. Keith recreated the block parties, basketball culture, his family... the main theme was the high percentage of African Americans murdered by police. ..those of us on the left already know this, we know about Black Lives Matter, and i think "murder" or "death" is the concept that sticks in our heads, maybe also "abuse of power" and "inaction" or "apathy". but what I took from the performance and the discussion afterwards was something less discussed -- the everyday fear and accumulated trauma for African Americans when they step outside of their homes, and when a cop drives by, and when a cop walks by. having to walk on eggshells at every moment to ensure they have their driver's license on them, that their phone is charged; that their driving and car plate/registration/tags/lights are perfect. if you get pulled over to make sure you try to pull over in an area where there are witnesses and street lights. -- And I think of the sloppy way I live. (my car registration and tags expired two months ago.) I kept thinking about my apolitical, center, and Republican acquaintances who either don't know "how power works", or don't care. I kept thinking of this repressive macho culture in the US that I've always tried to get far away from, that culture that normalizes aggressive behavior and guns and competition, where the biggest, the strongest, the fastest, the richest, the least sentimental, the least sympathetic are valued. Anyway, towards the end of the performance, the stage was black and silent, the protagonist was pulled over for an unknown reason, and when he reached for his cellphone, he was shot in the head.

everyone was left feeling depressed and helpless. but the discussion afterwards was helpful. the purpose of this post is to share some of the solutions/ways forward from the discussion:

- our feeling depressed, etc., doesn't help. take action. - (esp. for us academics) intellectualize less, act more.

- fund public education and educate yourself on the issues - this is uncomfortable for some white people, we just have to deal with it, it's not as uncomfortable for us as it is for others who have to live with this every time they step out of their house

- the fact that white people don't have to deal with the concept of "race" on a daily basis is an example of "white privilege" (a racist privilege)

- the helpless/not-knowing-what-to-do-feeling is false. action has never been easier to take. all we have to do is google and we can find organizations in our areas that are mobilizing against violence and discrimination.

- poor folks are often held in jail for minor non-violent crimes because they can't afford bail. there is an organization: that lends bail money.

- find a way to reach out to disadvantaged youth who are being trashed by our economic and public school system (this is hard to do, but, again, google)

(two final notes, that weren't mentioned last night:

1. thinking again of the apolitical, center, and Republican people i know... i imagine people living in the suburbs/rural areas may think this is all abstract, or movie-like, as i used to, some may not see the problems in their backyard and conclude that this is all baloney. but actually there are local connections. local politicians and representatives in every area hold public meetings and vote on issues that either worsen or improve these problems.

2. the months after little t won the election, i kept thinking that the solution lies in having conversation with apolitical, center, and Republican people. it hasn't worked. i thought i'd be having debates online, at the grocery store, with neighbors, and in the classroom. it hasn't happened. i haven't seen any public debate at all, not even on college campuses where debates used to be common. maybe it's impossible in a country that's dominated by social media isolation, screens, false information, poor K-12 schooling, and a president who has made so many racist comments we've lost track. so I'm thinking now that if everyone empathetic could just take a tiny action that would be good enough to start rocking the boat. that's all!

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Beds in the Plazas

Recap in English-- Barcelona has been experiencing a housing crisis for the last 2 decades, it's gotten much worse since the economic crisis (2008ish) because many have returned to investing in mass tourism as a way to boost profit, but the only ones increasing their earnings are the ones who were economically fine to begin with. Part of this mass tourism industry is turning flats over to short-term foreign residents and tourists who will pay 2-4 times as much for a room or apartment. As a result, it has become near impossible for a local to continue living in Barcelona, where they grew up/where they work/where they pay taxes to their city. Many of these flats/apartments on airbnb are illegal and the grassroots mayor, Ada Colau, is trying to regulate this so locals can find housing (and avoid a Manhattan or San Francisco type of situation where only the wealthy get their way). Today they've started a creative campaign to raise awareness about this problem. They put beds in the plazas (public everyday space!) with a multilingual sign that explains the problem.

"El Ayuntamiento de Barcelona puso en marcha ayer en las calles más céntricas de la ciudad una impactante campaña comunicativa en contra de los alojamientos turísticos ilegales. El Consistorio colocó camas en la vía pública y, junto a ellas, carteles en varios idiomas que informaban: “Que esta cama esté disponible en internet no significa que sea legal”." 

Sunday, July 16, 2017

differences (mostly commercial) spotted in downtown Barcelona between June 2016 and July 2017

- más hamburgueserías estilo EEUU, gourmet (Les Corts, Gracia, Eixample, Gótico...)
- los tatuajes se han puesto de moda entre los jóvenes (~18-30 años)
- nueva chocolatería Chok-franquicia
- muchas tiendas botique para mujeres y turistas buscando cosas "hechas en Barcelona" (Gracia, Eixample)
- más tiendas de alquilar bicis
- nuevo servicio al domicilio Deliveroo (parecido a UberEats que también se estrenó este año)
- varias nuevas tiendas de calzado tradicional (alpalgartas, ibicencas) "hecho en España" (Gracia, Gótico, Born...)
- más tiendas de jamón serrano, se vende una porción para llevar 
- dos nuevos tipos de contenedores que complican sacar cosas (complicar la vida de los chatarreros)
- construcción en la Travessera de Dalt y El Paralelo terminada
- más bancos por Paralelo
- más tiendas de comida ecológica
- el Banc Expropiat (en C/ Travessera de Gracia) fue cerrado el verano pasado, volvió a abrirse en el barrio del Putxet y al lado del viejo local se abrió un local nuevo "El Sucursal del Banc Expropiat"
- más fruterías en Gracia
- el supermercado-franquicia Condis se ha encargado de por lo menos dos tiendas antiguas de comestibles 
- más restaurantes usando una carta multilingue de papel que los clientes rellenan con un lápiz para pedir su comida (evitando conversación)
- en Gracia, nuevas tiendas de helado-yogúr

Sunday, July 09, 2017

Don't Lay Here! [Part 2]

This is the #1 sneakiest don't-lay-here urban furniture I've ever seen. Very clever... These are the brand new benches behind the Boqueria market. With their creative human-body shape, they look fun and welcoming, and will be so for some people. But upon closer examination, they prevent anyone tired, non-conforming, or down-on-their-luck from laying down to rest. The metallic benches have a discreet vertical armrest between them, and the white ledges are slightly slanted both horizontally and also in the seat! So, if you were to try to lay down, you would roll off!
Bring a thick cushion!
PS- this was [part 1]…/08/dont-sit-here.html

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

gender + Spanish-language literature

para los profes de literatura/cultura:

I’ve been studying about cultural phenomena in Barcelona for almost half my life and in the last years it’s become more and more obvious and bothersome to me that the ideas and images I have about the city (and much more--about myself, others…) come from a male perspective, from authors, artists, etc. "La ciudad de los arquitectos" is actually the city of male architects. For a city that is abundantly documented (in painting, literature, film…), very few women have documented it.

Anyway, today I returned to La Central bookstore on C/ Mallorca. La Central is, I'd say, Cataluña's most important regional bookstore. It’s known to have a wide selection of books and it's a place that involves the surrounding literary community.

I go to the long table of Literatura Contemporánea Española y Latinoamericana. Their selection in this category is not exhaustiva, but it's good, they generally carry what you're looking for. The last couple years I noticed that the display area in this section is very masculine. Today I was extra bothered by it and so I decided to count to see if I was just imagining things or if my annoying feeling was justified. (When it comes to equality issues there’s always the unfortunate logic that credibility depends on quantitive evidence.)

Hypothesis: The majority of the books on display were written by males.
Pop-up methodology: Count the books and assume typical sex and general first name association (i.e. Ignacio = male). Use google or the about-the-author pic for unfamiliar names (i.e. Harkaitz).
  total books on display for Spanish and Latin American literature: 112
  male sounding names: 80 (71.4% of the books)
  female sounding names: 31 (27.7%)
  VVAA edited book with a variety of authors: 1 (doesn’t matter %)

For me what’s most troublesome is that, being relatively familiar with this bookstore and knowing some people who work there, I’m pretty sure that they did not deliberately, intentionally, decide to exclude women writers. Most likely they select the books that they think their patrons will find interesting. It’s not even a super capitalistic bookstore (La Central doesn't advertise, they offer free public events, and there's little pressure to buy--people go in there and sit for hours reading books without buying them). My guess is that they and most customers don't notice the gender imbalance (I don't have any numerical evidence!). So there’s this element of naturalness, randomness, just is-ness within a "progressive" intellectual venue where one wouldn't expect to see such male domination. Which means, at least, that the origins of this are really deep and buried.


Saturday, June 17, 2017

#femPlaça 16 julio 2017 Plaça Santa Maria

Fem Plaça converged peacefully yesterday with the Free Hugs! movement, tourists, policemen, waiters, a giant Corona advertisement, kids, history, and much more, in the small Plaza de Santa Maria. An all-inclusive mess was made with chalk, hopscotch, water, informative pamphlets, chairs made of cardboard, and free enjoyment of public space. 
¡Muchísimas gracias a los organizadores, los participantes, los vecinos y los transeúntes!

a lot more is going on here. for more info, I wrote about this more formally here: in english, in spanish.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

radio program on La Movida

Radio program/good summary in English of La Movida, 1980s culture in Madrid. Featuring José Tono Martínez, Dr. Susan Larson, photographers Ouka Lele and Gorka, and lots of iconic songs of the era. .

Thursday, February 09, 2017

Undoing the Demos -- Conversación virtual -- 21 de feb.

Queridxs colegas!
¿Os interesa leer el primer capítulo de Undoing the Demos de Wendy Brown con el grupo virtual Cibola? Nos reuniremos via Second Life el martes 21 de febrero a las 9pm EST. Mandadme un mail y os paso los detalles, .

Sunday, January 15, 2017

La aventura de aprender // DIY desde Madrid

Estas guías son una maravilla, sobre cómo podemos (tú, yo, nuestros estudiantes...) mejorar nuestros entornos. (En particular me parece que la guía de "hacer prototipos" nos puede servir a los académicos.) 
Otras maneras de pensar y hacer las cosas. ¡Nos están esperando maneras más inclusivas! 

Monday, January 09, 2017

Ellis's Talk

In 2011 I had the luck of teaching a student in New Zealand who became very interested in the topics I've been researching (cultural phenomena in the public spaces in Spanish cities). On Friday something even more unprecedented happened to me: we got to present our research together side by side! She gave a very original and humanitarian talk based on her MA thesis about the importance of community-building in two self-governed spaces in Madrid (El campo de Cebada and Esta es una Plaza). Her speaking was clear and eloquent. The photos were her own, and the info came from interviews she conducted over several months with activists in Madrid. This made me feel very proud, like even though our field is being decimated and degraded, all this work has been worth it, it continues to be important! So, we had to celebrate with bubble tea. Levantad el té, la lucha sigue!

Monday, January 02, 2017

DRAFT papers from the MLA panel "The Cultural Dimensions of Resistance: Spain after the 15M"

Below you will find our short draft papers for the MLA Special Session "391: "The Cultural Dimensions of Resistance: Spain after the 15M." Moderated by the generous Malcolm Compitello. (More specifically, these four papers focus on the cultural politics of reclaiming public space in Madrid, Barcelona, and Sevilla.) Please email the authors if you'd like to use their ideas or if you'd like a copy of the longer version of their papers.

Ellis Schriefer, "Catharsis, Collective Identity and the Creation of Public Space in Madrid: Esta es una Plaza and El Campo de Cebada." (

Lena Tahmassian, "Nazario’s Plaza Real: The Porous Boundaries Between the Public and the Common." (

Sally Perret, "Creative Spaces: Contemporary Artistic Responses to Neoliberal Capitalism in Seville." (

Megan Saltzman, "Post-15M Colectivos Autogestionados for Inclusive Spaces: #FemPlaça, Germanetes, and Pla Buits." (

Monday, December 12, 2016

Friday, December 09, 2016

something I haven't thought of before
biopolitics and the space of the neoliberal airplane
(*biopolitics = dominators' control over our bodies, usually discreet)

Ozu, the mundane and simple

for those feeling down these days, you may like to rest your mind on these mundane mise-en-scenes from Yasujiro Ozu's films. (you can click on them to see them larger.)

this last one is from Tokyo Story, three warm hearts. Here Setsuko Hara ("Noriko") serves tea to her in-laws who have come for a visit.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Mapeo Colectivo / Collective Mapping - Urban Exploration

The Manual de Mapeo Colectivo by the Argentine urban exploration collective Iconoclasistas has been translated to English. The entire book is available online for free here: .

Sunday, May 29, 2016

inspiring couple hours with Ada Colau

an exciting day yesterday at Barcelona en Comú's one year anniversary event at Estació Nord's park --   

(instant notes)   "Mes transparent, mes colaboratiu, mes humild... Recuperar les institucions per a la gent... Traballar per a una ciutat refugi... La influencia europea de Barcelona... Tenim molt camini... Hem sentit que tenim força social...Fer mes pera que la ciutadá sea protagonisme...tothom nosaltres tenim molta responsabilitat..." Afterwards, Q+A sessions. Questions/complaints related to: prostitution, airbnb pisos turísticos, fines for having posted something in public, cafe chairs taking over sidewalks...). Afterwards, 2-3 hours of big paella in the parque for which Colau sat with others and her 5 y/o old son. Not so many people present, maybe ~200, no security (!!!!, imagine if this were in the US), very low-key, some media was there, including independent film directors Cecilia Barriga (making documentary about female politicians) and Pau Faus (just released documentary on Ada Colau). 

overall, Colau was extremely accessible, humble, energetic, "horizontal", and empathetic in words and actions. (A small-scale political model for the US.) I commend Colau for, among many other things, showing her vulnerable feelings (she was genuinely nervous, happy, friendly). Though usually excluded, these too are part of our politics. (I wanted to tell her about her influence in the US, but I imagined she was exhausted with such a long event and so many people coming up to hug/kiss/speak to her. So I just made eye contact and said, "¡gracias, Ada!" And she responded, "¡nos vemos!"  ; )

Sunday, May 22, 2016

nature and our current economic/education/culture crisis

yesterday I found two original talks on the relationship between nature and our current economic/education/culture crisis.
1) last night was "nit de museus", "night of museums", where approximately all 60 of barcelona's museums were free and open till 1 in the morning (!!). loooong lines all over the city. i feel awkward in museums, but my housemate wanted to see the catalan modernism museum, so i went along with him. inside the museum the motif of nature/organicity was prominent in the paintings, posters, sculptures, and furniture pieces created BY and FOR the affluent 19th century burguesía catalana. (below, a photo of a snail handle on a closet that i identified with.)
2) more accessible and less visual, our colleague iñaki prádanos has been sharing ideas on today´s society/culture/economy in relation to ecology. i read his recent research piece “Degrowth and Ecological Economics” and contains some useful ideas and practical PROPOSALS (that students, politicians, voters, educators, big business people could use) to improve the quality and health of our communities at a time when our current economic/political system can no longer IGNORE the ecological/economic catastrophes that it is rapidly creating (as if the planet’s resources were infinite). our leaders' depletion of our natural resources is closely related to you and me, if not at the core of the problems we study (unemployment, poverty, immigration, mental well-being, education, history, sexism, crime, healthy food, discrimination...etc.).
“The economic system is nothing but a subsystem embedded in, and dependent on, the system of the biosphere. […] An economic system based on constant economic growth, global massive urban development, and an ever faster production and consumption of commodities is undesirable, destructive, unendurable, and unrealistic.” (p.147)

Sunday, February 21, 2016

fotografia España global recurso

For humans teaching Spanish language +/o culture: here's the start of an experimental activity on photography if you'd like to use it. This could go in many different directions... and is not a comprehensive list.

[Joan Colom, 1960, Barri Xino, Barcelona]

Sunday, January 10, 2016

next virtual reality discussion: Lefebvre's Rhythmanalysis

To those interested in theory related to urban space:
On Thurs. Jan 21 at 7pm Eastern US time we will discuss Henri Lefebvre's "Rhythmanalysis." This is a neat text on the rhythms, repetitions, and quiet hummings of our everyday contemporary urban life (maybe like street noise, store hours, traffic lights, doors opening/closing...). Unlike his other technical work on space, this text seems to be more focused on poetic types of temporalities in space. And since it's Lefebvre, I predict that the text will discern the capitalistic-political-philosophical life embedded in these rhythms. (I haven't read it yet.)
Like before, we'll be talking over a "virtual reality" platform (Second Life) which has its pros and cons (a con being that it can take a while to set up, so if you plan to join us, please give yourself time).
We usually talk in Spanglish/English/Spanish. Don't be shy, we are friendly!
If you need the text (I have it in English and Spanish), or help with set up, feel free to email me.
Basic instructions:
1. Download and install Firestorm:
2. Go to this URL address: (
(If it's your first time, somewhere in that process, in Second Life, you have to create an avatar.)

Monday, December 21, 2015

articles post-elections in Spain

A positive side to globalization.
How often does a political party announce a victory speech in two languages, one being for a universal public?
-- Communication that is knowledgeable of our global ties and unifies us in the struggle against social exclusion.
Video clip:

Spanish election: Podemos says results mean new political futu...
"Democracy has to reach the economy, so that human rights, as well as dignity, are not violated... history is ours, and it's the people who make it."Pablo Iglesias, the leader of Spain's left wing Podemos party reacts to achieving a fifth of the vote in the country's elections - and denying the ruling party a majority.
Posted by Channel 4 News on Monday, December 21, 2015

If you're interested in what happened in the Spanish elections yesterday, here is a good summary in English:…/spain-2015-election-results-podem…
and the fine details of what happens next without a clear majority:…/…/12/21/inenglish/1450684257_190223.html

Similarly, browsing around for an article to use in class about (my hero) Ada Colau, I found her website--humble, activistic, and (again, unprecedented in Spanish politicas) in three languages:

Saturday, November 28, 2015

ペコリ = pekoli

ペコリ = pekoli = is onomatopoeia (a word created by its sound) for a deep bow of gratitude.

Sunday, November 08, 2015

Medianeras 2

from the lost Medianeras series, I just found this, I think it was around Travessera de Gràcia and C/ Ciudad Real (Barcelona)
Nov. 2011

Friday, November 06, 2015

Hispanic reading discussions via virtual reality

"Without thinking about it, he had made them discover this thing that he discovered with them: that all sentences, and consequently all the intelligences that produce them, are of the same nature." (Rancière, The Ignorant Schoolmaster)
"They ['cultures of anyone'] avoid creating divisions between those 'in the know' and 'those in the dark,' asserting that we all know something, nobody knows everything, and our abilities are developed better when we learn together than when we live in hierarchical relationships. [. . . ] 'cultures of anyone' as forms of cultural democratization [. . . ] opening the construction of knowledge and of values to participation by anyone." (Moreno Caballud, Cultures of Anyone)
Led by Malcolm Compitello, I experienced an exciting discussion format last week with posthumans across the U.S. via Second Life's virtual reality interface. As a person who relies on technology to hear and who has always wished that meetings and conferences came with subtitles, this was uplifting--it felt very inclusive and easy to participate (although I wouldn't suggest it as a replacement for face-to-face!). Participants were able to speak and be heard over the computer, but, unlike a video conference, we were also were also able to type in a chat box (and many did since there were some audio problems). I found the chat box feature really helpful; I think it encouraged more quiet folks to participate. Also, the hierarchy of the academic who's-who, so common at conferences, did not exist. In Second Life everyone chooses a username and an avatar (strangely limited to a male-gaze character, a punk rock singer, or a dragon). And with a semi-anonymous username and a silly avatar, everyone was leveled to the same 2D plane and social status was set aside. Another plus, due to the audio difficulties and unfamiliar set-up, those who spoke made an effort to speak slowly. 
Like the innovative work that ALCES is doing and other 'cultures of anyone,' this Second Life initiative is truly open to the public, making an effort to poke holes in our academic bubbles. ANYONE with an internet connection can participate in Second Life.
On November 19, 2015 the group will be discussing "Podemos and its Critics" by Seguín. See below.
More soon!
Instructions for participation, first time users, please give yourself 30-45 minutes to set-up:  

1. Download and install Firestorm:

2. Go to this URL address: ( 

If you need help, please contact any of us.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

wabi sabi

dad has a camera on his cellphone now
so now I receive little gifts like this one
I've been reading about the Japanese aesthetic philosophy of "wabi sabi" and I can relate to it very much as a general way of life, I've found a little validation for some of my thoughts that often make me feel like the odd one out in this aggressive human ego competition that seeks perfection and superiority over one's fellow human being. I've always been fascinated with imperfection.
For me wabi sabi means resistance, kindness, difference, honesty.
Wabi sabi is an appreciation for and recognition of the fleeting imperfections and dependency in and around us:

"Wabi sabi embodies the nihilistic cosmic view and seeks beauty in the imperfection found in all things, in a constant state of flux, evolve from nothing and devolve back to nothing. Within this perpetual movement nature leaves arbitrary tracks for us to contemplate and it is these random flaws and irregularities that offer a model for the modest and humble. [. . . ] It embodies the melancholic appeal of the impermanence of all things. [. . . ] Impermanence, humility, asymmetry, and imperfect. These underlying principles are diametrically opposed to those of their Western counterparts, whole values are rooted in a Hellenic worldview that values permanence, grandeur, symmetry, and perfection..."
-A. Juniper

Friday, September 11, 2015

a phase that lasts for a couple months in which the dead person could have the ability to listen and also nod "ok"

Why couldn’t there be a phase, for example, that lasts for a couple months during which a dead person could have the ability to listen and also nod “ok”? Why is it merely life to death? Response to no-response? That’s very extreme. Wouldn’t it make more sense if there was a transitional phase? That would make the mourning, and natural existence, much easier for plants and animals alike. …A, your beloved, is dead. You feel tremendous loss and emptiness, more than you can imagine. Sometimes You REALLY NEED to communicate this to A, to such an extent that you can feel the NEED in every tingling nerve in your body. But, even if you were to verbalize something, there’s no palpable way for A to HEAR or be conscious of what you need to tell him/her. Isn’t that awful? (Is this why men keep creating religions?) Why would nature take such a cruel binary form? On-off, life-death?

Saturday, August 08, 2015

ACLA seminar proposal: Nomadic Waste & Ecological Materiality in Neoliberal Space (Hispanic Studies)

Neoliberalism, consumer society, sends mass populations and material resources on rapid, nomadic itineraries around the planet, creating extreme abundance and scarcity in places we usually cannot see. Many of us interact with these objectified subjects or objects for a short amount of time—consuming and discarding resources without a second thought of where they come from or where they go after we discard them. As a result of the global economic crisis and our virtual connectedness, we are witnessing an increase in individuals and collectives who are re-appropriating, redistributing, and re-signifying the uneven flows of materiality—whether it be food, housing, cultural materials, trash, or ecological resources. The motives behind these initiatives may be for personal survival or for collective politics; regardless—their actions counter the neoliberal “order of things” as they perforate neoliberal spatial controls and often provide resources or agency to subjects that have none or very little (J. Rancière). We can think, for instance, of the politics of gleaners (chatarreros) who rummage and recycle trash; informal or black-market economies (piratería, top manta…); artists and activists that create Do-It-Yourself or advocacy projects with discarded or ecological goods (cartoneras…); and cultural centers and NGOs that establish self-sustainable “commons” such as food banks, urban gardens, second-hand supplies, or community currencies.

Many of these activities are initiated in globally expanding and ecologically depleted cities. And they straddle the lines between legality and illegality, public and private, visibility and invisibility, and the urban/periphery/rural (D. Mitchell, A. Merrifield). Many of them are dynamically networked and function via independent collectives, international connections, and social media. Given the increasing interconnections and parallels amongst these phenomena, this seminar aims to bring together and put in dialogue initiatives from many Spanish and Spanglish related speaking localities as well as their coexisting non-dominant language communities.

Our seminar hopes to mediate between fiction and non-fiction and the humanities and the socio-natural sciences in order to discuss pressing political, ecological, ethical, spatial, and cultural questions regarding waste and ecological resources in neoliberal space. For instance:

  •  What does mapping the itineraries of discarded materials or their corresponding subjects reveal about neoliberal order and resistance, creativity, community, in/exclusion, political possibility? To what extent and for whom is resistance effective? What is needed to optimize these initiatives?

  • What forms of control (surveillance cameras, police, gentrification, economic capital, physical barriers…etc.) are these phenomena working with/against? And who specifically dominates these controls/barriers?

  • What types of engagements and results have emerged between autonomous initiatives and direct political protest? Between autonomous initiatives and government-corporate powers? 

  • What do these material trajectories of use and non-use reveal about contentious temporalities?
  • What is or should be our role as researchers and educators within these urgent problems?

Plan: Early December participants will be asked to share one or two texts (of any type) that may be significant in thinking about and/or taking action in relation to these themes. The week before the conference we will share our written paper or work-in-progress by email. Finally, during the seminar days, we will meet 3 times across 2 or 3 days. During this time each presenter will present his/her ideas, images, and/or questions related to his/her research project.

Theoretical keywords (definitely not limited to--)
New Materialism, Eco-systems, Action Research, Globalization; Border/Transnational Studies, Urban Studies, Mobility Studies, Object Oriented Ontology, Anthropocene, Hispanic Cultural Studies.

Resulting Program:

(image from Vagabundos de la chatarra, Sagar & Carrión)

"A saber lo que arrojan por las ventanas a estas horas de la noche. Vecinos desesperados. En las redes hay botelas de cava, recipientes de plástico, medias y calcetines, condones y pájaros muertos..."
(from J. Marsé's, El amante bilingüe, image M. Saltzman, 2006.)

Saturday, August 01, 2015

I was walking down the hall and
I fell into a large puddle of super-glue.
A polar bear came to help me up.
Oh, I don't think I can leave this polar bear.

Friday, July 24, 2015

"scent-scapes" and smellwalks

Mapping the politics of urban smells:  

I've been thinking a lot about what Barcelona--a high-density odor-intense city--smells like. Of course the smells change with the season. In the summer the smells are more potent and shop doors are open, their AC and perfumed atmospheres pouring out into the streets.

cigarette smoke,
car/moto exhaust,
dried dog urine,
garbage from the contenedores,
cleaning liquids,
dry pine-earth smell from platanero trees,
perfume from clothing shops,
humid mold from the sewers.
in Madrid I smell more fried calamares and jamón.

Trees, parks, and green spaces are not as common in Mediterranean cities as they are in N. European cities. More trees are needed to purify and maintain oxygen in the air. (This summer 2015 several news articles have been published on the rising pollution in Spanish cities. I.e.:

Artist Kate Mclean has been mapping sensorial elements in cities (olfactory, tactile...). Check out:

From Mclean's work, I arrived at Marta Calvo's smellwalks in Pamplona.

And several detailed maps by Cambridge University:


Wednesday, July 22, 2015

my gimbap master

I am posing this for when I have a bad day.  ; )

Saturday, June 13, 2015

La investidura de Ada Colau - vídeo

Pro-inclusion humans were given political power today.
La investidura/swearing in of Ada Colau Ballano, as Barcelona of mayor, in la Plaça de Sant Jaume, alongside a swarm of human beings, many of them volunteers who have been working selflessly to try to improve social and political problems for the most vulnerable human situations in Barcelona.
To Colau's request, unlike previous investidura ceremonies in Barcelona, there were no barriers, red carpets, or expensive suits separating the people from their politicians.
I couldn't stay long (it lasted 3 hours and my back was killing me), but the keywords in Colau's speech were "CIUDAD"/city and "DEMOCRACIA PARTICIPATIVA"/citizen-based democracy.
Many other grassroots-based mayors and city councilors were sworn in across Spain today, an unprecedented number of women and minorities (race/nationality/religion/sexual orientation).
Hoping to see positive, more-inclusive changes soon.

investidura13junio2015 from MeSalt on Vimeo.

Friday, June 05, 2015

Ada Colau inteview with Amy Goodman on Democracy Now

interview on US television today, explaining economic/political problems in Spain, their global connections, and feasible forms of peaceful resistance: Source:

going back and forth between extremes

Every time she returns to Xtown, the small town of XUniversity, an excellent school in the US where tuition runs $58,000 a year, she's shocked by the extreme social difference between these students and the students at state-university. Xtown students own high quality and fashionable clothes, shoes, and backpacks; their skin complexion is healthy looking; they are jogging; they are reading non-bestseller books. In public they interact politely, attentively, maturely, confidently, happily. Their hair looks naturally shiny and flowing. Obesity and fast food are absent. One can see a high level of conformity amongst the students of XUniversity, a lot of polo shirts, khakis, and brown loafers and, in the winter--beautiful leather riding boots, and for the rain--Hunter rain boots. The students of XUniversity are taller than your average college student. Visually they match closely to what one sees in contemporary Hollywood films that take place in California or NYC, but without all the make-up and hairspray. Since she's usually in Xtown at the beginning and end of breaks, she sees their parents too, because they visit Xtown around the same time. Many of the parents wear fine jewelry and drive nice cars. Like their offspring, they too have nice skin and shiny hair. She thinks, "What do these external decorations have to do with having access to top educational and employment opportunities?
The image appears of the faces of some students at state-university, the faces of students who are stressed or depressed because they are working 40 hours a week while failing some of their classes. (But many students at XUniversity are also necessarily stressed or depressed. Is this system failing both parties?)
The conforming and acceptance of fashion styles parallels the conforming and acceptance of an extremely stratified educational system in the US. It annoys her that, in general terms, some students can have so little while others have so much, and when she talks with students from both extremes, it seems neither party is aware of the gap, two separate microcosms. She thinks, "But many of them are learning about these issues in the classroom, right? We know many students have to write papers about inequality because it's the hot topic that everyone studies at college... So, what's missing then? 
Making personal connections/experiences outside the classroom? 
Educating the trustees, administrators, politicians, and businesspeople?" 
And then, in a matter of days, she gets used to it, the scene of comparison fades away and she gets used to the local scene again, the scene that initially seemed luxurious becomes normal, as it did when she was in grad school, and she stops being annoyed and starts enjoying the high quality; she browses rider boots on the internet. And since, in some ways, she also benefited from this stratified education system inequality, she wonder if some people think similar annoyed thoughts about her.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Sunday, March 01, 2015

archivo del Seminario de ALCES "Geopolítica de la España global," Soria, Julio 2015

En este seminario proponemos discutir el potencial político en los espacios cotidianos de las ciudades españolas, conscientes de sus raíces históricas y enfocándonos en la época contemporánea.

Los espacios públicos han sido drásticamente transformados y regulados en las últimas 2 – 3 décadas en España.  La planificación urbana activa y local de los años 80 fue, en la década siguiente, rápidamente reemplazada por la especulación, la desterritorialización, la gentrification y el turismo de masas—todos ellos fenómenos que han estado operando bajo la lógica de un neoliberalismo global.  Como consecuencia de ello, miles de edificios históricos fueron derribados, especialmente aquellos que pertenecían a clases más modestas, y los espacios públicos perdieron gran parte de su autonomía, espontaneidad, inclusión social e historia local y personal para convertirse en espectáculos de consumo privado y escaparates de una política desligada de la sociedad civil.  Por lo tanto, nuestra pregunta principal es ¿qué se está haciendo en el día a día para volver a unir a los ciudadanos con su espacio local?  O, en palabras de David Harvey, refiriéndose a una ciudadanía inclusiva: ¿cómo puedenmake a city more after their heart’s desire”?

Tanto consciente como inconscientemente, a través de los sentidos absorbemos gran cantidad de información al atravesar el espacio público.  Las nuevas leyes de civismo, las cámaras de vigilancia, el mobiliario urbano, las grúas paradas, las fachadas multilingües, el sonido metálico del butanero con las bombonas y el olor de los contenedores forman y limitan nuestras vivencias urbana/s.  Aunque el diseño del espacio neoliberal prioriza lo visual, todos los detalles sensoriales, grandes y pequeños, regulan nuestras actividades e identidades, forman nuestros conocimientos y nos adoctrinan tanto con un código de conducta como con una narrativa sobre la historia, la política y la economía.

Pero este fenómeno no ocurre de manera unidireccional.  Como han escrito muchos otros urbanistas, el espacio público—al igual que la democracia—no es una entidad fija, neutral o monolítica.  Los ciudadanos también tenemos cierta agencia en el espacio publico.  De hecho, Manuel Vázquez Montalbán definió el espacio público como “aquello que se ganó contra los especuladores.”  El espacio público es un resultado temporal y provisional de la contención entre diferencias; más lento o rápido, según las épocas, pero siempre está recreándose, rehaciéndose y resistiendo la homogenización y estasis.  De este modo, la crisis económica actual ha vuelto a mostrarnos el espacio publico como el lugar primordial donde conviven, negocian y se enfrentan las diferencias humanas. 

Las ciudades españolas son ciudades globales, y en ellas los poderes fácticos diseñan y/o mantienen el espacio público y una imagen-marca que excluye cualquier contradicción, precariedad, fealdad, o desorden (D. Mitchell, M. Delgado).  En este sentido, tanto los momentos de gran relieve como las acampadas en plazas emblemáticas como las menos estudiadas prácticas cotidianas, como pueden ser dormir en el umbral, colgar la ropa o un mensaje del balcón, o tocar un instrumento o patinar en una plaza, se convierte en un acto, voluntaria o involuntariamente, que transgreden “el orden de las cosas,” vuelven a insertar la diferencia en la imagen urbana, y, por lo tanto, cuestionan las políticas de inclusión (J. Ranciére).

Animamos a que se unan a este seminario todas las personas interesadas en el estudio de la geopolítica cultural y cotidiana de la España contemporánea.  (Tenemos en cuenta que lo “español” hoy en día puede encontrarse en cualquier lugar del mundo.)  Abajo hemos señalado algunos puntos de fuga iluminadores que se mueven en las disciplinas de la arquitectura, geografía y antropología urbanas, pero que no han sido muy desarrollados en nuestro campo de estudios culturales peninsulares:

- geografías y prácticas lúdicas (de juego)
- topografías de los olores y/o los sonidos y/o texturas táctiles de la ciudad
- objetos cotidianos (basura, ruinas, materiales reciclados o desechados…)
- la periferia urbana (el extrarradio)
- prácticas espaciales de resistencia/antagonismo o espontaneidad
- mercados negros, economías elusivas o invisibles
- los itinerarios de los niños y/o los adolescentes y/o personas de las tercera edad
- respuestas espaciales a la crisis económica y/o de vivienda
- inmigración, presencia pública, geopolítica
- colectividades o intervenciones artísticas y activismo
- espacios auto-gestionados, apropiaciones y reclamaciones de autonomía (jardines urbanos, casas okupas, manifestaciones…)
- propuestas de mejora pública
- relaciones entre espacio virtual global y físico local
- el espacio público y la pedagogía/la enseñanza
- tribus urbanas

Programa final, verano 2015: 

Saturday, February 28, 2015


"Taking the first step toward understanding the social dynamics surrounding disability means recognizing that interdependency is the rule of human societies. We are all dependent [disabled] on others: for food, clothing, and medical care, for support networks, social opportunities."

B. Fraser

Y. Sakugawa