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Resistance and the City

Challenging Urban Space

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Edited by Christoph Ehland and Pascal Fischer

The essays collected in this volume unfold a panorama of urban phenomena of resistance that reach from the seventeenth to the twenty-first centuries, thus revealing the essential vulnerability of urban space to all forms of subversion. Taking their readers to diverse places and moments in history, the contributions remind us of the struggles over the concrete as well as the imaginary space we call the city.
The collection maps the various challenges experienced by urban communities, ranging from the unmistakably hegemonic claim of civic festivities in early modern London to the perceived threat posed by newly created parks in the Restoration period and from the dangers of criminality and riots in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries to the transformation of the Berlin Wall into souvenirs scattered around the globe.

Resistance and the City

Negotiating Urban Identities: Race, Class, and Gender

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Edited by Christoph Ehland and Pascal Fischer

The contributions collected in the second volume of Resistance and the City are devoted to the three markers of identity that cultural studies has recognised as paramount for our understanding of difference, inequality, and solidarity in modern societies: race, class, and gender.
These categories, tightly linked to the mechanics of power, domination and subordination, have often played an eminent role in contemporary struggles and clashes in urban space. The confluence of people from diverse ethnic, social, and sexual backgrounds in the city has not only raised their awareness of a variety of life concepts and motivated them to negotiate their own positions, but has also encouraged them to develop strategies of resistance against patterns of social and spatial exclusion.

Contributors: Oliver von Knebel Doeberitz, Barbara Korte, Anna Lienen, Gill Plain, Frank Erik Pointner, Katrin Röder, Ingrid von Rosenberg, Mark Schmitt, Ralf Schneider, Christoph Singer, Sabine Smith, Merle Tönnies, Ger Zielinski

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Ingrid von Rosenberg

Abstract

The black struggle for equality in British society reached a peak in the 1970s and 1980s, and public spaces were an important venue. Representations mirrored and supported these efforts. After a brief sketch of the economic and social situation of the black population, this article focuses on the analysis of two seminal films, representing different stages in black film history, in which street scenes, symbolising steps in the fight for equality, play a central role: Horace Ové’s Pressure, a film narrative from 1975 in the realist tradition, and John Akomfrah`s Handsworth Songs, a highly acclaimed experimental documentary from 1986.

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Merle Tönnies and Anna Lienen

Abstract

This essay traces the development of spatial patterns from the traditional Bildungsroman and the male and female variety of the ‘black British Bildungsroman’ to the novels about the ‘black male underclass’. Particular emphasis is given to the ideological re-evaluation of both the journey motif and the city as a space of growth.

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Frank Erik Pointner

Abstract

This essay is concerned with the construction of the “chav” in contemporary Britain, starting with an outline of the general preconception that the members of the new urban underclass share properties such as being aggressive, sexually promiscuous and drug abusive in addition to being constantly on the dole. It will suggest that the chav with all of these features is a creation of the middle classes who construct their own identity against the chav Other. It will move on to an analysis of two recent novels which treat the chav-phenomenon, namely Grace Dent’s Trainers V. Tiaras (2007) and J.K. Rowling’s The Casual Vacancy (2013).

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Edited by Christoph Ehland and Pascal Fischer

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Christoph Ehland and Pascal Fischer

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Katrin Röder

Abstract

This article provides a description, close reading and analysis of Salman Rushdie’s heterotopian spaces in Midnight’s Children, especially of the Methwold Villa, the detention centre in Benares and of the colony of communists and magicians in Delhi. It probes into the formation of novel spaces as well as novel notions of resistance in acts of writing, storytelling and interpretation. The article demonstrates that some of the most interesting spatial practices of resistance in Midnight’s Children are characterized by a high degree of resilience.

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Barbara Korte

Abstract

The August 2011 ‘riots’ in London and other cities in the United Kingdom were a widely noted expression of social discontent connected with new austerity programmes and increased precariousness and poverty. This essay concentrates on two science fiction texts – a novel and a film – that were published shortly before the August events but reflect the growing resistance from which the riots erupted. Both Jonathan Trigell’s 2011 novel Genus and the film Attack the Block (UK 2011, written and directed by Joe Cornish) engage with Britain’s social division through a powerful spatial metaphor: that of (real or imaginary) borderlines and specifically that of the ghetto as a walled-off district within a city where social and spatial segregation go hand in hand. Trigell’s novel, which is set in the near future, envisages a dystopian London in which the King’s Cross area has been transformed into an inner-city ghetto for the socially marginalised. Attack the Block is set in the present and uses the sci-fi trope of an invasion from outer space to re-imagine an existing urban space commonly associated with segregation and marginalisation: the inner-city council estate.

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Christoph Ehland and Pascal Fischer