Distinguished International Lecturers in Geography – Wednesday 21st November

Please see the attached flyer for information on ‘Resisting Sexual and Gender Rights: Moving Beyond Oppositions’ by Prof Kath Browne. Kath Browne

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Dublin’s Original Vampire: Carmilla, Sheridan Le Fanu, and LGBTQ+ Representation

View story at Medium.com

It is well-known that Bram Stoker, author of Dracula, was a native of Dublin (Clontarf, to be more precise). However, another important figure in Gothic fiction and vampire horror also came from Dublin, Sheridan Le Fanu (1814-73). Le Fanu’s most important work (arguably) was a vampire novella entitled Carmilla, which was initially serialized in a literary magazine called The Dark Blue. Although Carmilla’s fame pales in comparison to Dracula’s, without it Dracula and much of modern popular culture (relating to vampires and horror) may never have existed.

In Ballyfermot, there is a road named Le Fanu. The author lived for many years in the neighboring Chapelizod, and it is the little village that inspired the Gothic atmosphere of his works. One of his historical mystery stories, The House by the Churchyard, was used by Joyce for Finnegan’s Wake and is set specifically there. Some of the Victorian architecture referenced in his stories can still be seen today (specifically St. Laurence’s Church). The town itself has a long and interesting history. Its name is tied to the Arthurian romance of Tristan and Isolde (Chapelizod comes from “Isolde’s Chapel”), it was once partly owned by the Knights Hospitallers, and it received many Huguenot settlers (Le Fanu itself is a Huguenot name).

Returning to Carmilla, the story predates Dracula by 26 years. It shares several key themes and elements that would directly influence Stoker. These include a prototype for Van Helsing (Dr. Hesselius), an epistolary narrative,  and a Central European theme (which was later removed eastwards for Dracula). Carmilla, outside of being a Countess, shares similar feeding patterns, abilities (e.g. shapeshifting), and *spoiler alert* ways to be killed with Dracula as well.

One major difference between the two vampires, however, has been how Carmilla has become an LGBTQ+ icon. The novella features considerable lesbian subtext between the vampire and one of the main characters. Due to the nature of the Victorian Era, though, Le Fanu was restricted with what he could write. Subsequently, some early adaptions (and more recent ones as well) of Carmilla removed allusions to any lesbian relationships, or included her as a Dracula’s lover. This changed during the 1960’s and 1970’s as French, Spanish, and British film adaptions challenged the status quo. In Japan (where there is a strong appreciation for Irish culture and literature), Carmilla would be included in a number of video games and anime series. There is also a lesbian editorial there named after her. Anne Rice, the author of Interview with a Vampire, has also acknowledged the role that Carmilla has played in her writing.

As media becomes more open, Carmilla has begun to step out of Dracula’s shadow. There is a webseries, entitled Carmilla, that retells the story in a modern setting and with a more comedic and loving relationship between the two main characters. There are plans for it to be adapted into a television series, and I look forward to greater and more accurate LGBTQ+ representation in the media. The recent Castlevania anime, which is available on Netflix, portrays Carmilla as an independent force of nature that is tired of old men standing in the way of her ambition and creating disorder in the world (preach!).

There are often discussions about the folklore and elements of Irish culture that inspired Dracula and Bram Stoker. I don’t deny that these are worthwhile, but I think that Le Fanu’s seminal work also needs to be acknowledged. We must also ask what he was inspired by… and the answer may be found in the landscape of Dublin. Perhaps, today, you can stroll through Chapelizod and Phoenix Park. You can also visit Le Fanu’s home in Merrion Square. Go see these sights, pay homage to a great author, and perhaps become inspired to write your own vampire novel. Thanks for your time,

Chris Casey Chevallier

Further Reading and Interesting Halloween Content

Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu — The Chapelizod and Phoenix Park connection by Emma Sorensen (available on Medium.com)

https://www.gutenberg.org/files/10007/10007-h/10007-h.htm The text of Carmilla, for free.

https://archive.org/details/carmilla_s_lefanu_librivox A free audiobook of Carmilla

https://www.irishtimes.com/culture/books/frankenstein-s-ireland-a-wretched-place-with-traces-of-civilisation-1.3666729

View story at Medium.com

View story at Medium.com

View story at Medium.com

Trump, Defining Gender, and Geography

The New York Times recently released a report revealing the Trump Administration’s plans to define gender solely upon genetics and birth genitalia:

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/21/us/politics/transgender-trump-administration-sex-definition.html

The implications of this, for the transgender and gender non-conforming (GNC) community, are severe and manifold. Legally, it would lead to an erasure of the recognition and nebulous rights that transgender persons have on a federal level. It then becomes difficult to fight against hate crime when the target population technically doesn’t exist. Federal support for any research, community initiatives, or aid is also then put into a precarious state.

Outside of the federal government itself, any institution receiving federal funding (such as private and public universities) could be coerced into accepting this definition (even if they disagree with it). Insurance companies could use the redefinition to deny coverage while conservative leaning state governments would undoubtedly exploit it to enforce bathroom bills that restrict a person to a bathroom of their birth-sex.

The implications for lived experiences and spaces, however, do not end at bathrooms. For full-disclosure, I am not a lawyer. I am also not a sensationalist. I am geographer and a historian; I know full-well where this road will lead and how horrid it can make life for a group that already suffers disproportionately. It is imperative for people to understand the implications of such a redefinition.

If discrimination, based on gender non-conformity, is not explicitly banned, transpeople may risk losing their housing or be denied accommodation (including within a college setting). If the group is not recognized, how can they report discrimination or pursue legal arbitration? A bigoted landlord or housing company could evict a person with ease under this regime. Work will also become perilous for transpeople, with greater potential for being forced into certain clothing, denied access to services (e.g. appropriate bathrooms and changing areas), and decreased defense against harassment or unjust firing.  While there are employers that will, and have, support transgender employees, the redefinition removes the “stick” that would deter abuse.

Travel and even everyday public life, too, will become increasingly perilous for transpeople. Already cruel treatment and accusations of impersonation occur:

 

https://gcn.ie/irish-trans-woman-details-traumatic-airport-security-experience-london/

https://metro.co.uk/2018/10/21/woman-assaulted-two-trans-women-at-karaoke-night-after-saying-what-is-that-8060176/

 

When people become emboldened and empowered by Trump in this matter (as they have with racism), these sorts of incidents will increase, as may incidents of hate crime. Just like many African Americans and people of color have been increasingly accused of criminality while simply being about their daily business, transpeople will likely be confronted in a similar manner for being “suspicious.”

Considering the difficulties that transpeople already face in terms of work, healthcare, safety, and mental health, anyone who would add to this burden is beyond vile. Yet, I also believe that this redefinition has the potential to affect cisgender people as well. Anyone who does not conform strictly to gender norms will run into difficulties as bigots feel empowered and the culture changes. This is also a boon to traditionalists that would have women “barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen.” Defining gender along purely biological lines, and upon contested or even pseudoscientific evidence, is a step towards further definitions and restrictions. Perhaps (as a hypothetical example), next, women will be banned from the military based on certain “biological” reasoning.

The cultural geography of the USA is diverse. Should this redefinition happen, there will be states and communities that stand by their transgender citizens and neighbors. New York City, in particular, has made enormous strides in transgender welfare and I doubt that it would stand idly by. Nevertheless, action must be taken to ensure that this does not come to pass and that transpeople do not lose one iota of the ground that they have bled and tied for for. We should never give bigots or idiots ammunition. Genetic testing is something that you don’t hear in a functioning democracy.

I realize that the audience for this post is largely Irish or European. However, what occurs in the USA has global repercussions. Stay cautious and make sure that you don’t let the same toxic subcultures arise here. Support transpeople in your community. Stay informed, and when you can give support to others… please do. Thanks for reading,

C.C. Chevallier

 

 

Geographies of Repeal: Exploring the Impact of the 8th on Space and Place by Chris Casey Chevallier and Jane Feeney

From Sandymount Strand you can walk to the edge of Dublin harbor when the tide is low. From there, you can watch the ferries and planes head to the UK. Around 10 Irish women make this journey every day to access basic reproductive health services. I did this trek into the harbour one evening. Out in the muck and wind, I reflected on how lonely, brutal, and unnerving this journey must be. I also took a ferry journey this week, partly to understand better what this experience entailed (although it could not rival the reality). As the ship rocked back and forth while unattended child ran around and drunken passengers yelled, I reflected further on how people should not have to cross a sea for a medical procedure. Even without the pressure of a major decision, it can be stressful to be surrounded by strangers in the middle of the sea. Women who have an abortion are often portrayed as calloused or using it as a form of contraception. It is often forgotten that many of the people faced with the decision are scared, doubting, and did not become pregnant by choice.

Alone or with company, it is still a journey that is taken. Ireland… the country that legalized marriage equality via a referendum, the country that put forth gender identity recognition, a nation with many historical and mythological heroines, an island with a matron goddess (Ériu)… still denies abortion even in cases of sexual violence and mental health issues.

Before going forward, I will note that this is an opinion piece meant to spur thought on how the 8th Amendment and the campaign to repeal it has impacted the spaces and places of Ireland’s inhabitants. It is biased in favour of the Repeal. Additionally, it discusses matters such as sexual violence (so I wish to give a content warning). Finally, it is important to note that transmen and non-binary people can become pregnant. My usage of women or female is for conciseness rather than excluding these people.

I come from the USA. Our abortion legality was established via a court decision, not a referendum. As such, there are constant challenges to abortion rights and funding cuts to reproductive health services. Protests in front of health clinics are not a thing of movies. They exist, and both medical staff and women can face danger. Respected journalist and comedian John Oliver offers some overviews of the challenges to abortion in:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DRauXXz6t0Y

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4NNpkv3Us1I

Ireland is in a position to legalize abortion via democracy… to express the support and consent of the majority of its people. Although the Yes vote is currently leading, it is not a sure victory.

For the remainder of the post, I chose to interview three people regarding the 8th.

My colleague and co-author, Jane Feeney, interviewed me. Her questions were:

  • As a foreigner living for a number of years in Ireland, what are your impressions of gender equality and women’s rights in Ireland?
  • In the run up to the referendum, what is the atmosphere like in Dublin?
  • I know that although you can’t vote you have been actively campaigning for the Yes side. Thanks for that. What reactions have you been getting?
  • What are the abortion laws in the USA?

 

My responses were as follows:

It’s hard to say how I feel about gender equality in Ireland. On one hand, I am privileged to be surrounded by many successful, talented, and inspiring female colleagues who have extraordinary agency. On the other hand, there’s a lot hidden in the landscape. I have never seen so many homeless young women as I have in Ireland, something which I find disturbing not just because of its very nature… but because I’ve lived nearby underpopulated convents and Church buildings that could easily house them. The Irish Times has also recently covered disproportionately high female suicide rates in Dublin, attributing it partly to the pressures on and lack of support for mothers. Foreign students and workers (as well as Irish citizens) are also exploited by the housing crisis, with some young women having to resort to sexual services to cover their rent or secure a spot in the city. That, or perhaps they’re stuck on a bunk bed in a hallway. Sorry for the list, but I think it’s important to provide these examples to give a picture of larger violence.

As a historical geographer, I’m also appalled at how little attention the Laundries command in the Irish landscape. Neglected babies thrown into mass graves, women and children tortured, forced labour… yet Ennis gave the Sisters of Mercy a statue commemorating their arrival. What does this say to the survivors… to young women? Such things, I believe, are visual indicators that women are not equal in many Irish minds.

I’ve done some fundraising for sexual violence prevention on Grafton Street. It sickens me that religious charities will get an abundance of money while I got dirty looks or complete turn-arounds once people saw the organisation’s logo. Some of these prevention organizations are seen as trying to exploit the Church for money and falsely accuse clergy, rather than providing vital health and legal support. As much as I am a proponent of free speech, it’s quite frustrating to see high-ranking clergy in Ireland say things such as abortion is more traumatic than rape. Between the Laundries and a legacy of child abuse, it is quite audacious of the Church to comment on the 8th.

As for the run up to the Vote, I have experienced tension in the city. Wearing Repeal and Yes gear, I’ve been called a piece of shit, screamed at, followed, threatened, and given expedited service to get me out of shops quickly. I was hoping that people would be more interested in an academic and logical debate. However, I find the atmosphere too emotionally charged and toxic.

I will proudly wear my Repeal Jumper, even after the vote. Race, gender, sex, ability, sexuality, nationality… it shouldn’t matter. This is a human issue. To me, forcing a woman to carry a foetus to term is an act of violence. People need to have body autonomy and be able to consent.

Although abortion is legal in the USA, this can change with a Supreme Court case. It is not unthinkable in the current climate, with our impotent president willing to do or support anything to garner support. Right now, there are State laws in place that try to delay abortions, dissuade women, and limit access. In all honesty, an abortion is a private matter that should be between a woman and a neutral physician. If a woman wants more advice or information, there should science based resources available.

 

I interviewed an Indian man (R.) who is employed at TCD to discuss his view on the referendum. Our conversation was free flowing and in person, so I apologise for the lack of a full transcript.

Immediately R. made connections between the referendum, the 2014 Indian elections, the 2016 US elections, and Brexit. He felt that fear was being amplified by the No Campaign, similarly to the way populists have garnered support in other countries. He also noted the use of misleading posters by the Campaign (e.g. portraying grown children, unscientific figures, and using the term baby instead of foetus). Dishonest politics are being employed, and he is worried that there might be a surprise victory such as in the US 2016 Elections.

To him, there is a clear distinction between a foetus and a baby. After birth, he is fully committed to protecting a child’s rights. However, he notes the hypocrisy of the Church’s Laundries and some of the No voters. Once the mother has been pressured into completing the pregnancy and having the baby… support dries up the moment it’s born. This then, according to R., leads to a burden on social welfare systems and networks. However, blame is placed on minorities rather than the lack of support for women. Everything is connected, and the quality of all our lives suffers when children are born into a situation where they cannot fully thrive.

R. states that he is open to the No Campaign, but wishes to be convinced logically. Again, he emphasized the hypocrisy of not supporting children after birth; instead unwed or single mothers are often condemned. He also posed a question to some No Campaigners. He asked how they would feel if Indian norms and laws regarding beef were imposed on them. The No Campaigners reacted that it would upset them, and that they should not be punished for opposing religious beliefs. He also quoted the Bible to the Campaigners, citing that Ireland was the first country to legalise same-sex marriage yet it is punishable by death in scripture. The Campaigners were not able to respond and instead resorted to a xenophobic insult. Again, he emphasises their failure to counter with viable and scientific arguments.

R. was approached by another No Campaigner, who lectured him on Hellfire and the sin of abortion. Having enough of it, he set a No pamphlet on fire with his cigarette lighter. The Campaigner responded with a xenophobic insult

R. says that the incident was out of character for him, as he prefers logical discussions and debates. He even takes daily walks down Nassau Street to engage with canvassers. Nevertheless, the discussion of Hell and sin struck a nerve with him… and sometimes a statement is needed and more powerful.

One of R.’s statements that stuck with me was that the decision of abortion is an extremely difficult one, the least we can do is ease the suffering and pressure on the woman contemplating it.

 

My next interview was with Jane Feeney, a fellow PhD Researcher. I asked Jane:

  • How do you perceive digital spaces regarding the 8th since you’re abroad?
  • What are the challenges facing Irish women generally accessing place and space?
  • And more generally what your views are regarding the campaign and the 8th?
  • Do you have any messages for young voters, or young women in general?

Jane responded:

Having lived outside of Ireland for 10 years, I felt during that decade quite powerless in the places I was living, somewhat detached from political issues going on around me because I’m an outsider and don’t have a vote, and meanwhile disconnected from what was going on in Ireland.

The referendum on the 8th amendment was my first opportunity to vote after returning to live in Ireland, and one I feel very strongly about. However, my PhD fieldwork meant that I would be outside of the country again and so before I left I filled out the paperwork and applied for a postal vote. I was told my circumstances made me eligible for a postal vote but that I needed to be in Ireland during the month of May in order to physically receive the ballot paper. I found this ridiculous as it seems to completely defy the point of a postal vote. But after my frustration at Dublin City Council faded away I was left with a feeling of personal guilt, at being away from my country and not participating as an Irish citizen, giving up my right to be part of the Irish collective in favour of my own individual goals.

So, instead I have been following what’s going on via digital spaces and conversations with my mum. As I think we’re all increasingly aware of, from our own personal experiences with social media and creepy Cambridge Analytica revelations, social media presents a distorted view of reality, and so most of my news feed is filled with posts from like-minded repealers. So when I streamed the abortion debate on RTE Player last week, from my hotel room in a teeny rural Colombian village, I was a bit surprised and quite worried to listen to so many defiant ‘No’ voters who seemed, at least to me, to make up the majority of the audience. I felt doubly disconnected listening to some of the arguments which I just could not relate to, and the seeming ability to accept or pass off so-called ‘hard’ cases as one-off cases out of what I think is an ungrounded fear of liberalism or change. I don’t think it’s acceptable to allow the dehumanisation of women our society, even if they are one-off cases. And anyway these are not a small number of cases. This issue affects every person that has the ability to create life, which is most people, and any of us could find ourselves in crisis. I would like to know I could receive support in such circumstances, instead of exclusion and castigation.

It’s hard to gauge the atmosphere from far away and I know that things must be extremely tense this week. Without a voice at home I have taken to telling people here in Colombia about the referendum, who are for the most part surprised that Ireland has such conservative abortion laws, having put us in the same box as other “advanced” European countries (worldabortionlaws.com shows a global map of abortion laws). In Colombia abortion laws are more liberal than Ireland, being legal in three cases: rape; fatal foetal abnormalities; and when the life or physical or mental health of the mother is in danger. Although I have also been told anecdotally that abortions in other cases happen anyway, through illegal abortion centres, bribes, or lax enforcement by doctors, for example signing off on an abortion even if it does not strictly fit the permitted circumstances. Also, the stigma and lack of awareness about the right to abortion mean that even some women who find themselves in one of the three cases continue to have abortions in secret[1].

I am proud to be from a country that has given me the opportunity to learn, to explore the world, to be independent and have an open mind. I’m also proud to be from a country where I can get married regardless of the gender of the person I am in love with. I’m not proud that my country ignores the needs of the women who are forced to leave the country in order to access safe abortions. Or that I am not allowed to make my own decisions over my own body. In the end, this is not a decision on the morals of abortion; but rather whether Ireland will leave behind shame and stigma and move towards an open and honest society that faces up to and takes responsibility for its citizens’ needs and rights. That’s the kind of collective I want to be part of.

If you have the chance to vote, use it! This is an opportunity to positively transform health conditions for the next generation of women in Ireland.

 

My final interview was with Deirdre, who is an alternative model, artist, and activist very engaged in the Repeal movement (her Instragram handle is Valkyrievonstorm). I asked her:

  • On social media I’ve seen you use the phrase “war on women.” Would you be open to discussing some of the major ways women are being restricted, oppressed, and or harmed in Ireland today?
  • Can you describe your thoughts and feelings when you see campaign signs in public spaces?
  • In general, what have been some of your experiences in public regarding the campaign?
  • You’ve used your modelling and artistry as a way of advocating for the Repeal. Recently you posted a photo with the Repeal logo painted across your body. I was struck at how poised and heroic you came across in the photo. With constraints, both legal and social, on women, do you find artistic and digital spaces as a way of combating barriers?
  • Do you have any message you’d like to tell young voters? Or perhaps young women?

Her responses were:

Well the most obvious thing that restricts women in Ireland now is the 8th amendment. If you can’t have the choice to continue a pregnancy you don’t have a hell of a lot. While there does seem to be a lot more support and understanding about the cruel circumstances the 8th can leave a woman in, I get the feeling people think this is the last big fight for women’s rights, when it’s nowhere near over. We still have to challenge the way we think about sex and sexuality. Gender roles, male privilege, toxic masculinity, so many, too many to name them all….

Women’s issues and rights are everyone’s issues. By making things more equal for women, we do it for everyone.

One example… Some say they are voting yes/ no because they support a termination only in the case of rape or incest… There is the thought that they have a huge issue with women having sex… We as women in this day and age are still not allowed to enjoy sex. If it wasn’t a crime committed against our bodies it should be functional towards making babies. With the results of certain trials still so raw, we see how women are treated when they seek justice for sexual assault, and how difficult it is for people to “believe” them…

Why don’t men have the same restrictions? Male prowess when it comes to sex is praised…

Female prowess is shunned and given ugly, damning labels.

If we let go of the 8th for a moment, women are still expected to become Mothers. All too often do we hear “you’ll change your mind” – It’s probably the biggest decision you will ever make. It’s infuriating to think our worth boils down to whether we birth or not.

Again why aren’t men held to this standard? We know the line “when are you going to settle down” – A line that I haven’t heard, many have to deal with in some years, but women are still expected to one day become Mothers.

Where I live is supposed to be a poster free zone, as requested by the tidy towns committee…

I have seen several NO posters where there should not be any! I am an adamant YES voter so obviously I am infuriated by the lies put forth by the NO campaign. Anyone who is campaigning for YES knows the (I’m trying to think of a neutral word…) tactics the NO side have pulled. I also fight the urge to tear them down, to deface them. I walked past a man on a bridge with a 4 foot poster of a pregnant woman and the fetus in her belly saying “Me Too.”

As a rape survivor I was furious! I find these posters to be overwhelming. While I know I am surrounded by loved ones voting YES, it feels like I’m trapped; like when I leave my home I’m entering a hostile environment.

While I live out in the country, I am in Dublin very often. Thankfully I have received very little grief for what I wear. I have grinned with glee seeing REPEAL jumpers and t-shirts across the road. I’ve blushed with joy when I bump into YES campaigners. It’s a wonderful feeling of solidarity. I wore a pair of leggings by Isleen Designs, when I covered the door for a friend’s event. Nearly everyone attending was voting yes, but it opened up a lot of conversations about women’s rights, non nationals and voting rights. I also recently wore Godless Repeal Harlots when back in the country…. That did not go down well, but again I received grief from older men….. How dare a woman reclaim her body.

I have noticed that people have interesting thoughts when it comes to HOW a woman should show her support and solidarity… The way some men are being harrassed or attacked for wearing these things is toxic masculinity. The comments on women’s clothing…. It’s that akin to the “what was she wearing” argument?

If people have a problem with what one wears but not posters with absolute lies…. It says a lot more about those people.

Art is Political, weather you intend it to be or not. Art is subjective, it won’t always provoke the reaction you want. Sometimes… a lot of the time… it’s intuitive and you don’t know entirely what you were expressing or releasing until it’s finished.

For the Maser Repeal heart across my chest, I was painted by Mannequin_blue. She was in the States when the heart went back up and came home the day after it was painted over. We, like many others, were upset. You can’t paint over an issue.

Art reflects the environment it comes from it questions and challenges. When I started modelling I never thought it would wake up my Feminist self. Considering Bodypainting and Burlesque is a huge majority of women… Yes! It absolutely combats these barriers! I think one of the best ways to realize your worth as a woman, as a human being!, is that you are not in competition with each other. Your body is the most personal thing about you. Using it to create and express should always be encouraged and supported. These spaces are also open to men, and I’ve seen some incredible men express themselves. Art and creation is your soul!

Wow! Loads of things!

Your vote, especially when it comes to a constitutional referendum, MATTERS! It’s easy to feel overwhelmed, just remember you can’t change or control everything. Take care of yourself, learn to rest. The world isn’t going to change or disappear tomorrow.

 

I hope that this piece has given you some insight on how the Repeal has transformed Irish space and place. More importantly, I hope it has opened your eyes to the cruelty inherent in some of the landscapes created in Ireland for women. As the polls open tomorrow, please consider the impacts of your vote. Ireland, you have the opportunity to undo a grave injustice against your peers, your mothers, your sisters, your daughters, your friends, your colleagues… against women. Ferries and planes no longer need be symbols of oppression… of a harrowing journey. The Repeal is just one step forward to gender equality and promoting a society based on consent.  Thank you for reading.

[1] https://elpais.com/internacional/2017/09/28/colombia/1506602671_999834.html

Fostering Social Acceptance of Energy Transitions: The Prospects and Limitations of Community Fund Provision

Please see this flyer for “Fostering Social Acceptance of Energy Transitions: The Prospects and Limitations of Community Fund Provision” by Dr. Patrick Devine-Wright – Friday 27th April 2018 in the Museum Building. Event will be streamed on the Planet-Geog Facebook Page in case you cant make it in person!

Patrick Devine-Wright 2018

 

Hoping for the Best: Urban Regeneration and the Atlanta BeltLine

By Veronica Nitkin

Atlanta, Georgia is infamous for its sprawling nature and limited transportation. In 1999, Georgia Tech student Ryan Gravel proposed an idea: to use an abandoned rail line around the city to create a 22 mile ring of trails, parks, mass transit, and urban redevelopment (Kirkman, Noonan and Dunn, 2012). This ring is now known as the BeltLine, and the 6500 acre project (Immergluck, 2008) is one of the United State’s largest redevelopment projects underway (Roy, 2015). The BeltLine has lofty goals which it has been clear about since the project’s inception. It expects to generate $20 billion of new economic development, 30,000 new jobs, and over 5,000 units of affordable housing between 2005-2030 (Immergluck, 2008). The BeltLine has used public-private partnerships to make great strides towards achieving these goals. While 73% of Atlanta residents responded in a survey that they believe the BeltLine is a good idea, taking on such a large project still creates many challenges, even with public support (Kirkman, Noonan and Dunn, 2012).

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A large scale redevelopment project, such as the BeltLine, can help a city move from an industrial to postindustrial stage. The BeltLine is an excellent example of the use of public-private partnerships to generate economic growth. Part of the development is funded by tax increment financing, while the rest of the development is privately funded (Immergluck, 2008). The project takes great pride in its ability to inspire $1 billion in private redevelopment (Roy, 2015). Driven by the economic priorities of encouraging private real estate development, improving tax-base, and creating more jobs, the BeltLine exemplifies neoliberal planning (Roy, 2015). The BeltLine is run financially and administratively by Atlanta BeltLine Inc., which works closely with City of Atlanta departments to define details of the plan, determine construction, secure public funding, and engage members of the community (beltline.org, 2017). The BeltLine transformed from a student’s master’s thesis idea to reality through grassroots efforts, so it is no surprise that the public is still highly involved through the Atlanta BeltLine Partnership (beltline.org, 2017). This is a non-profit organization created in 2006 to engage the public and empower residents in the surrounding area to have a voice. Unfortunately, within a neoliberal political-economy, this public-private structure can actually limit citizen ability to disrupt, because community members were hypothetically involved in the planning process. In the case of the BeltLine, there have not been any significant protests from marginalized members. Part of this can be attributed to the fact that much of the development on the BeltLine is done in mixed income and mixed race neighborhoods, where many people don’t have internet access, thus limiting their ability to really become involved (Roy, 2015). The local district councilman in the Historic Fourth Ward Park area in east Atlanta commented that the development of a 35 acre park was mostly the wish of the relatively new, middle/higher-middle income, white residents (Roy, 2015). This discrepancy between the population able to voice its opinion and the entire population who is affected by the BeltLine development contributes to the gentrification of areas surrounding the BeltLine.

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This large scale project has resulted a significant increase in property value, especially in areas within a quarter mile of the BeltLine (Immergluck, 2008). Because the BeltLine has been such a public and highly documented initiative, property values actually began to increase with initial media coverage of the BeltLine planning process (Immergluck, 2008). From 2000-2006, the City of Atlanta has seen the median price of single-family property values increase by 12.4% annually, and prices within one-eighth mile of the BeltLine increase by more than 15% annually over this same period, and construction did not actually start until 2005 (Immergluck, 2008). This preemptive increase was due to press about the BeltLine and expectations that property value would increase. Tax rates have also increased substantially. A typical homeowner with a house worth $100,000 and within an eighth mile of the BeltLine would have seen a change in property taxes from $540 in 2001 to over $1400 in 2006 (Immergluck, 2008). These changes in property taxes have pushed out some lower-income homeowners near the BeltLine. Since the BeltLine encompasses the whole city, it also encompasses a wide range of socio-economic levels. The southern tracts of the BeltLine touch predominantly on lower-income residential neighborhoods, where 20-30% of residents are below the poverty level (Immergluck, 2008), however price premiums on the southside within a quarter mile of the BeltLine increased 15-30% between 2002 and 2005 (Immergluck, 2008). The significant increase in property values and low income level of the area led to gentrification in many areas of the beltline, but especially the south side (Immergluck, 2008). It is often assumed that high property values are desired, but that perspective leaves little regard for the adverse consequences in the form of displacement (Immergluck, 2008). To maintain affordable housing in these areas, substantial planning is required early in the process to mitigate potential gentrification and displacement.

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The Atlanta BeltLine is an exciting example of a flagship redevelopment project in the United States. The promises are lofty: to improve public transportation, create urban green spaces, create affordable housing, spur economic redevelopment, and generate job opportunities, all within a 25 year period. So far, support for the BeltLine has remained overwhelmingly positive, in part thanks to public-private partnerships and advanced planning. Atlanta BeltLine Inc., working closely with the City of Atlanta, has been very receptive to the voices of non-profit organizations, the public, and private interests. Despite these efforts, some voices, especially low-income minorities, remain unheard. This has caused increasing gentrification of the areas around the BeltLine. If the expected completion year remains, the BeltLine is now almost halfway complete, and Atlanta residents are eager to see if the BeltLine will live up to its initial hype.

Bibliography

Beltline.org (2017). Atlanta BeltLine Overview. [online] Available at: https://beltline.org/about/the-atlanta-beltline-project/atlanta-beltline-overview/ [Accessed 2 Nov. 2017].

Kirkman, R., Noonan, S. and Dunn, S. (2012). Urban transformation and the individual responsibility: The Atlanta BeltLine. Planning Theory, 11(4), pp. 418-434.

Immergluck, D. (2008). Large Redevelopment Initiatives, Housing Values and Gentrification: The Case of the Atlanta Beltline. Urban Studies, 43(8), pp. 1723-1745.

Roy, P. (2015). Collaborative planning — A neoliberal strategy? A study of the Atlanta BeltLine. Cities, 43, pp. 59-68.

Urban Nomads: The Olympic Curse.

By Wolfe Purcell

The Urban Nomad

A slum is defined by the Oxford English dictionary as, “A squalid and overcrowded urban street or district inhabited by very poor people.” This definition however, is too simple as our modern day slums begin to take new forms and unprecedented sizes.

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Dharavi Slum, Mumbai. Pauline C

The first global assessment of slums took place in 2003. “The challenge of slums report,” was carried out by the UN in response to growing urban populations and increasing rural exodus we see today. Cities like Mumbai where 60% of the population live on 6% of the land.[1] Now aptly named, “Slumbai”.

A staggering one in eight people live in slums.[2] That’s over one billion people living in, “squalid or overcrowded conditions”.

These people’s lives are not secure by any means and while researching the topic I discovered the term, “Urban Nomads”.[3] These are people that face the threat of eviction and forced relocation. They are constantly living on the brink.

The Olympics is one of the many mechanisms and institutions that create these, “Nomads”.

The question of who has the right to the city rages while these poorly represented people are being pushed around on a rich mans monopoly board.

Mike Davis

Davis is a person who has never shied away from criticising the modern city. He writes in his book The Planet of Slums that, “rather than being made out of glass and steel as envisioned by earlier generations of urbanists, are instead largely constructed out of crude brick, straw, recycled plastic, cement blocks and scrap wood.”

He refers to Cairo’s City of the Dead, “where one million people use Mameluke tombs as prefabricated housing components”. This example is possibly the most shocking he uses as people are literally living side by side graves as overcrowding becomes such an issue.

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Asmaa Waguih, City of the Dead, Cairo

Davis takes no step in his criticism of cities as the debates of urban utopia vs dystopia ensue. This has led to him being labelled, “a city-hating socialist”, in the New Times Los Angeles. His work provides few solutions to the the issues he writes on but what is always evident is his Marxist views and brutal honesty.

 

Olympic Nightmare

Just being granted the Olympics is an achievement in itself. It is seen as, “an opportunity for a massive physical and image make-over”.[4] However, especially in poorer countries the question of, “Whose Olympics?”, is asked. Who benefits from hosting the games, and is displacement of the urban poor a hallmark of modern Olympic Games.[5]

Beijing

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“One World, One Dream”. The slogan for the 2008 Beijing Olympics was released a year prior to the games. Directly after the announcement 40 well known scholars, lawyers and writers wrote an open letter to Chinese and world leaders. It expressed deep concerns over China’s human rights policies prompting their own slogan, “One World, One Dream, Universal Human rights”.[6] 

In preparing for the games, the government conducted many, “environmental improvement projects”. In reality all these projects aim was to demolish and displace. The areas targeted were what are known as chengzhongcun or ,“villages in the city”,(VIC’s). They are what Mike Davis would refer to as, “peri urban”, settlements. Areas inhabited by mainly migrants far from the centre of cities. These VIC’s were no different, with few Beijing residents living in the area. This meant there was little organised opposition to the Games locating in these districts.

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Chengzhwongcun, Beijing

“Environmental improvement”, took place in 231 VIC’s across Beijing containing 33’935 households.[7] Accompanying this was a citywide social cleansing operation with an aim to clear the streets of people who would be an eye sore for visitors and competitors. Beggars, street vendors and unlicensed businesses were among those severely affected.[8] The government enforced ID checks for city-bound travellers to discourage migrants from the surrounding area. This discrimination was introduced by the Beijing Organzing Committee as, “management of floating populations”. Poorer migrants the clear targets.[9]

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Jeff Jacoby, NYT

In cases where the government was challenged, lawyers and human rights campaigners were harassed and silenced. This prompted a response from US Congressmen Frank Wolf and Chris Smith. “Tragically, the Olympics has triggered a massive crackdown designed to silence and put beyond reach all those whose views differ from the official ‘harmonious’ government line.” Accompanying this they presented a list of 734 political prisoners to the Chinese authorities.[10] The New York times reported on the evictions and were detained by government officials.See below.

World: Evictions in Beijing

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Dayuanfu hutong: Text reads “Welcome the Olympics, Leave early receive benefits, Wait around and lose out.”

In total a report by the Centre on Housing Rights and Eviction indicated that the number of Beijing residents displaced as a result of Olympics-related urban (re)development projects between 2000 and 2008 was estimated to be  1.5 million.[11] Even by Olympic standards this scale of displacement was unprecedented.

 

 

We are brought back to the unfortunate question of, “Whose Games?”. As Chief sports writer Keith Duggan of the Irish times aptly put, “How do you rationalise a $11.5 billion sports party”. For us in the west it is easy to hold the Olympics up high as this catalyst of urban regeneration. Barcelona is often used as an example. But unfortunately this is often not the case, we have seen examples of forced eviction at six summer Olympics dating back to Seoul 1988. [12] We are left pondering, do the poor have any right to the city at all? An event like the Olympics would suggest not.

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Rio de Janeiro, Reuters.

[1] https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2014/nov/28/slum-loaded-term-homegrown-neighbourhoods-mumbai-dharavi
[2] https://unhabitat.org/slum-almanac-2015-2016/
[3] Megacity Slums: Social Exclusion, Space And Urban Policies In Brazil And India

[4] 2 Short, John R (2008), “Globalization, cities and the Summer Olympics”, City Vol 12, No 3, page 339. pages 321−340

[5] https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/olympics-poor-rio-atlanta_us_57aa27a2e4b0db3be07bde67

[6] http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/08/09/AR2007080902009.html

[7] 9 Shin, Hyun Bang (2009), “Life in the shadow of mega-events: Beijing Summer Olympiad and its impact on housing”, Journal of Asian Public Policy Vol 2, No 2, page 134. pages 122−141

 

[8] Watts, Jonathan (2008), “Beijing announces pre-Olympic social clean up”, The Guardian, 23 January, accessed 19 May 2012 at http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008/jan/23/china.jonathanwatts.

 

[9] See the BOCOG website, accessed 26 May 2012 at http://en.beijing2008.cn/07/93/article211929307.shtml.

 

[10] ‘Smith in China on Major Human Rights Appeal in Run-up to Olympics’, [press release], (1 July 2008) and Christopher Bodeen, ‘US Lawmakers: Bush Should Skip Olympics’, Associated Press (1 July 2008).

 

[11] COHRE (2007), Fair Play for Housing Rights: Mega-events, Olympic Games and Housing Rights, Centre on Housing Rights and Eviction, Geneva,

 

[12] https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/olympics-poor-rio-atlanta_us_57aa27a2e4b0db3be07bde67