Author Archives: Katie Mulkowsky

The Outer City: Laïcité and Lack in France’s Postcolonial Banlieues

“Territories have geographic, economic, political, and cultural centers, and suburbs are their nerve endings. They are as fragile as any entity that has grown too quickly; they nourish fantasy and reinforce a good number of questions concerning our time.”

– Cyrus Cornut, Voyage En Peripherie (Journey on the Outskirts)

City Center, Paris
City Center, Paris (All photos by author)

A month after 9/11, a soccer match was held in Paris between France and Algeria. It was October 2001, but this was the first face-off between the two countries since Algerian independence in 1962. Yet, the game became monumental for another reason. It was cut short when thousands of North African-French youths stormed the field, booing and some chanting, “Bin Laden!” [1].

Years later, Fouad Ben Ahmed recalled the event in an open letter he wrote to then-President François Hollande, following the 2015 attack on satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo. (That year, two brothers forced their way into the newspaper offices, killing 12 people and injuring 11 others in a shooting spree claimed by ISIS). In his letter, Ben Ahmed identified himself as a banlieue resident and addressed his community’s joblessness and collective withdrawal. “The problem was before our eyes,” he wrote. “But instead of asking good questions, we chose stigmatization, refusal of the other. The split was born on that day, the feeling of rejection by the political class, when we could have asked other questions: What’s wrong? What’s the problem?”
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After-Effects of the High Line

“After-Effects of the High Line” was held on Oct. 24 in Cooper Square at NYU. Throughout the evening, urban scholars and social theorists engaged with questions of hyper-gentrification surrounding one of New York City’s most modern landmarks. The self-moderated panel discussion featured brief presentations by the University of Oregon’s Christoph Lindner, Queens College/CUNY Graduate Center’s Brian Rosa and Queensborough Community College’s Julia Rothenberg before fielding audience questions and debate. Each offered invigorating insight into qualities of a place often perceived simply, as a pleasant public good.  

After-Effects of the High Line
After-Effects of the High Line discussion on October 24, 2017

Lindner opened the evening by noting that the public and academic response to the High Line has been generally celebratory. From tourist site ratings to environmental and economic development groups, the High Line has been lauded as an exceptional example of infrastructural reuse. However, Lindner and Rosa’s co-edited book, Deconstructing the High Line: Postindustrial Urbanism and the Rise of the Elevated Park, encourages a more critical engagement with the space. The Tuesday evening event, Lindner said, was about “bringing together a group of people to be difficult about the High Line.”

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Review of “Humanizing Data: Data, Humanities, and the City”

Photo by Julian Chambliss
Photo by Julian Chambliss

A variety of activists, community organizers, academics and data practitioners came together on Cooper Square this past weekend for a day-long symposium called “Humanizing Data: Data, Humanities, and the City.” Co-sponsored by the Urban Democracy Lab, NYU Gallatin, NYU Shanghai Center for Data Science and Analytics, Asian/Pacific/American Institute at NYU, and the Institute for Public Knowledge, the April 8 event explored how urban humanities can be both enhanced and complicated by innovative data-centric, digitized projects. Continue reading

Love Thy Neighbor? — Public Housing, The Tafelberg Saga, and the Future of Integration in Cape Town

District Six

Based on research conducted in Cape Town, South Africa throughout July and August 2016, under institutional support from NYU Africa House

Central to Jewish ethics is the age-old adage, “love thy neighbor.” Religious leader Hillel is said to have described this as “the whole of the Torah,” even calling the rest “commentary.” But in Sea Point—an affluent and densely-populated suburb of Cape Town, South Africa—the phrase took on new meaning last spring, when called upon during a land battle which unfolded between parents advocating for a Jewish day school and activists campaigning for public housing development. Since dubbed the Tafelberg Saga, the dispute has come to exemplify the necessity for innovative approaches to race, space, and distribution in Cape Town. Almost 3 decades post-apartheid, supposedly-integrative policy has done little for the city’s native African population—much of which still dwells in slums spotting the periphery of a bustling city bowl. Continue reading