Friday, September 18, 2009

A little exclusion, a bit of inclusion.

Future City by Jonathan Stephens

I mostly related these readings to the somewhat emotional experience of navigating Baltimore's streets daily; my routine paths could aptly outline "the derisory and untragic misery of the inhabitant... in the mouldering centers of old cities..." (Lefebvre 159). Baltimore, as anarchical wasteland, seems to perhaps be the ultimate open city, but, in practice, exclusion of a subtle sort hinders the ideal "city life as a vision of social relations affirming group difference" (Young 227). For instance, some cops stopped me in the Village parking lot and informed that I wasn't allowed to walk through it, because I was a MICA student, and they wanted MICA students to be safe. They explained that a student had been attacked, not even robbed, by some teenage residents of the apartments near Village. The teenagers were actively practicing a form of exclusion, but the cops, in singling me out in full view of the residents, were reinforcing the entire system of exclusion that fuels the attacks. This was very frustrating. Another phenomenon of social exclusion that I experience too frequently is being spat at as I'm trying to walk somewhere. I wish this was imagined paranoia, and I also wish I knew how to be less socially offensive. Young maybe feels this general problem when she writes: "The regard of the other is always objectifying. Other persons never see the world from my perspective, and in witnessing the other's objective grasp of my body, actions, and words, I am always faced with an experience of myself different from the one I have" (Young 231). These things aren't infrastructural, however, and maybe I am just missing the point.

Some ready examples of inclusion are: the emergency room and the stoop. I spent a series of hours in the emergency room and witnessed homeless people availing themselves to the walk-right-in, twenty-four hour comfort of the waiting area, as well as convicts in chains conversing with ailing old women. And the city-wide institution of 'stoopin' it' provides that "even the most wretched pauper is sovereign in the dim, dual awareness of participating, in all his destitution, in one of the pictures of street life that will never return, and of enjoying in all his poverty the leisure to follow the great panorama" (Benjamin 167). Anybody is welcome to the city from their stoop.

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