Development Seminar: AbdouMaliq Simone

Date/Time
Date(s) - 18/03/2016
12:00 pm - 2:00 pm

Location
SS 2135

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Friday, March 18, 2016

Prof. AbdouMaliq Simone (Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity)
The Make+Shift: Transforming Urban Popular Economies
Development Seminar, Co-sponsored by: Centre for Southeast Asian Studies and Geography Intersections
12:00-2:00pm, RELOCATED TO SS 2135, 100 St. George St.
Please register below.

Abstract: The enormous transformations of the built environment and the enhanced possibilities of consumption that have marked even the most marginal of the world’s cities should not detract from acknowledging just how dependent the majority of the urban residents in the so-called “South” are on constantly putting together some workable form of income and inhabitation.  The makeshift character of much of what this majority does is quite literally “make”+ “shift”.  Whatever they come up with rarely is firmly institutionalized into a fixed set of practices, locales or organizational forms.  This doesn’t mean that relationships and economic activities do not endure, that people do not find themselves rooted in the same place and set of affiliations over a long period of time.  Rather, these stabilities inhere from a constant recalibration of edges, boundaries, and interfaces.  Whatever appears to be stable largely depends upon its participation is a series of changing relationships with other activities, personnel, and sites.  Whatever is made then shifts in terms of its availability to specific uses and users, as well as its exposure to new potentials and vulnerabilities.

At the same time, in order for any “make+shift” to work, it has to embody generosity, reciprocity, a sense of openness and experimentation in order to keep affective energies, information and cooperation flowing. So in order to create space for such exchanges, residents have often had to make it look like nothing much was ever going on, or to amplify the problematic aspects of their everyday lives so as to appear so depleted or self-occupied that it would seem impossible for there to be any room for experiments, sharing, or give and take. But this is also a precarious move because variegated market logics are blanketed across all sectors of urban life, residents often come to inhabit and get stuck in these very ruses.

At the same time, as Ravi Sundaram points out, the large-scale popular appropriation of various tools of social media has both responded to and accelerated the dissipation of postcolonial compacts. Instead of adhering to particular regimes of moral conduct and verification, urban inhabitants are producing their own scenarios, evidence, and realities through the widespread dissemination of images, texts, and tweets, aggregated in various forms and targeted for specific purposes and audiences.

As such there is a substantial shift in the operations of the make+shift as it also finds new modalities and venues for circulation.  They key question is how these new conjunctions between long-honed popular, relational economies and technological innovation can reshape urban spaces and life in ways that curtail exclusion and segregation, and maximize the capacities of inhabitants of all backgrounds.

Bio: AbdouMaliq Simone is an urbanist and research professor at the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity, visiting professor of sociology at Goldsmiths College, University of London, visiting professor at the African Centre for Cities, University of Cape Town, research associate with the Rujak Center for Urban Studies in Jakarta, and research fellow at the University of Tarumanagara.

Prof. Simone is an urbanist in the broad sense that his work focuses on various powers, cultural expressions, governance and planning discourses, spaces and times in cities across the world. His key publications include In Whose Image?: Political Islam and Urban Practices in Sudan (University of Chicago Press, 1994) and For the City Yet to Come: Changing Urban Life in Four African Cities (Duke University Press, 2004), City Life from Jakarta to Dakar: Movements at the Crossroads (Routledge, 2009) and Jakarta, Drawing the City Near (Minnesota, 2014).

His project at the institute “New urban Worlds: Emerging Forms of Collective Life in the Global South” focuses on new inspiring and disturbing forms of everyday life in metropolitan areas of Lagos, Jakarta, Johannesburg and Delhi. Studying these new urban worlds is fundamental both for the remaking of Urban studies and for the formulation of effective urban and social policies. The project will be undertaken with one of the MPI’s long term partners, the African Center for Cities; University of Cape Town; as well as prospective partners, the Institute for Human Settlements (India), SARAI (India), the Rujak Centre for Urban Studies (Jakarta), the Goethe institute (Lagos and Jakarta).

The Development Seminar is an interdisciplinary initiative that critically examines issues of global inequality, postcolonial politics, and power in the Global South, broadly conceived. Guest speakers bring theoretical questions into tension with their innovative research – on issues that include rural and urban livelihoods, planning, public health, gender, security, and finance.

The Seminar is sponsored by the Faculty of Arts and Science, with additional support from the Departments of Anthropology, Geography, Political Science, and Sociology. This year’s seminar coordinators are Mark Hunter (Associate Professor, Geography, UTSC) and Jacob Nerenberg (Doctoral Candidate, Anthropology, St. George).

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