Neutralizing Poverty: Governing Homelessness in San Francisco
Lecture by Chris Herring for Fall 2018 Colloquium The City and its People.
Fall 2018 GUH Colloquium student Edmundo Fitzgerald wrote the following reflection on the November 13th lecture given by Chris Herring, PhD Candidate in Sociology.
Chris Herring’s work looks at how cities attempt to mitigate homelessness. His presentation shared the results of his research as a PHD Candidate at UC Berkeley. He first showed us a brief history of cities incorporating anti-homeless legislation, the legacy of which being that 50% of all cities have at least one anti-homeless ordinance while some have as many as nine. It has been speculated that this is a type of class warfare but Mr. Herring postulates that the inhumane treatment of homeless people reflects the decline of a social democratic welfare state and the rise of the use of a penal state to try to mitigate the problem. Mr. Herring’s presentation is a reflection on his substantial field work, which includes twenty-three ride-alongs with SFPD, eleven community police meetings, eight city hall hearings, more than one hundred police on homeless person observations, and more than one hundred coalition outreaches with homeless people.
I asked Mr. Herring if he felt that there was a mutually beneficial relationship between homeless people and the city institutions that mitigate it-to which he immediately said no. But he mentioned that some literature was published on the “Homeless industrial complex”. When I researched that the first result was a Huffington Post article published in 2016 by Carey Fuller a former homeless advocate in Seattle. In it, she chastised the then mayor for not having adequate services to accommodate homeless people. Another article in the Washington Post by Daniel Stid in 2012 provides a compelling argument toward the existence of the “social services industrial complex”. In it he states, “the dirty little secret of the social sector is that once government money starts flowing, the nonprofits that have advocated for it and/or who are benefitting from it have a vested interest in keeping it going, even as evidence shows weak or no positive effects.”
Seattle is like San Francisco in some demographics. It too has had a tech boom, which means a steady crop of salaried, college educated millennials will continue to arrive to compete for a finite amount of housing. Young, smiling faces with satchels full of cash and career mobility have brought out the worst in San Franciscan landlords, using legal apparatuses such as the Ellis Act to evict tenants and develop their property. The most important difference between San Francisco and Seattle is the climate. While ending up homeless in San Francisco can be uncomfortable, being homeless in Seattle can be deadly. It would be interesting to see if homelessness is regarded more seriously in colder climates, using Mr. Herring’smmings scale of welfare state against therapeutic penal populism. Are cities addressing the homeless problem with outreach, substance abuse treatment, and mental health services? Or are they kicking the can down the block by having law enforcement and public works employees criminalize the homeless by writing citations that they can’t pay or forcefully throwing away their few worldly possessions?
The passing of Proposition C in San Francisco might represent a concept of the Homeless Industrial complex. While San Francisco has been lax in combating Ellis Act evictions, ravenous property developers have flooded the market with luxury lofts; many of which stay vacant. The tech sector cannot be blamed for homelessness, nor should we blame the hordes of educated young people flocking to the Bay Area. The generators of so much revenue are themselves creating a new bureaucracy with the extra 1% tax levied upon them as written in Prop C—all of which to combat a problem that was exacerbated by San Francisco property owners. This large sum of money has to go somewhere, and will most likely be a boon to many city contractors as they build navigation centers, clinics, and public bathrooms. Proposition C is a neoliberal solution to a neoliberal problem.
Of the great amount of revenue for city contractors that San Francisco’s homeless population are about to generate, how much of it will actually benefit them? This will be the important metric moving forward with regards to San Francisco, Seattle, or any city in the world. If two years down road, the homeless population of San Francisco significantly drops, I too could declare that homelessness and the state are not entwined.
Neutralizing Poverty: Governing Homelessness in San Francisco
Lecture by Chris Herring for Fall 2018 Colloquium The City and its People.
Fall 2018 GUH Colloquium student WeiJie Zhu wrote the following reflection on the November 13th lecture given by Chris Herring, PhD Candidate in Sociology.
Chris Herring’s lecture focused on discussing the relationship between the police and the homeless community in San Francisco. He began by explaining that there has been a history of discriminatory laws and ordinances that have negatively affected homeless people. An example is the Ugly Law (revised in 1970s), which makes it illegal for “unsightly or disgusting” people to appear in public. Another one is the Vagrancy Law (revised in 1961), which criminalize a person’s housing status rather than behavior.
The number of anti-homeless laws also show an increasing trend over the decades. According to Herring, in 1980s, only 74 anti-homeless laws were enacted in the state. The number of such laws has now increased to 97. Today, an average city in California has around 10 anti-homeless laws. What also increased with the number of laws is the number of complaints and police calls regarding the homeless population. From 2013-2018 alone, there has been 46% increase in 911 calls and 700% increase in 311 calls regarding homeless people. From these trends, legal control has not been effective in resolving the homeless issue. There is still a significant homeless population in San Francisco, causing much social instability and civil unrest.
Herring believes that the change from aggressive policing to therapeutic policing is a big step forward in resolving the homeless issue. The difference between the two is that aggressive policing adopts “rabble management” and relies heavily on police command. Homeless people are often arrested and punished. In contrast, therapeutic policing adopts “recovery management” that treats the homeless people with discretion. Their rights are relatively more respected and secured.
In my opinion, the police have very limited power and influence in the homeless issue. The community generally relies too much on police, which only have enough power to temporarily relieve problems instead of resolving their roots. Very often, the police are caught in between the demands of the residents and the homeless people’s complaints. All they can do is to either send homeless people from one district to another, or temporarily put them in a shelter. Herring describes this as playing a game of whack-a-mole—only tackling problems from the surface, never addressing their roots. The police do not have the resources to provide more shelter space or service for mental health. Nor can they create employment opportunities and get them back into work.
I believe that the homeless issue is a complex social phenomenon that involves many different parties, and the most important players are the policy makers. The homeless issue is resulted from many factors—elevated housing costs, social inequality, poverty, legalization of soft drugs and even the A.B 109 Realignment Bill passed in 2011 to reduce of prison population. Many of these social problems can only be effectively tackled with good policies. For instance, to address high housing prices, policy makers can enact laws that cap the soaring prices, or build more affordable public housing. After all, police forces, non-profit organizations and social workers are all but supportive forces that enhance the effect of good policies. These parties play important roles in executing policies and establishing effective communication between the homeless and public. However, without effective policies, they have very limited power and influence.
Impossible Exiles: Palestinians in Arab Cities
Lecture by Ahmad Diab for Fall 2018 Colloquium The City and its People.
Fall 2018 GUH Colloquium student Saeed Nassef wrote the following reflection on the October 16th lecture given by Ahmad Diab, Assistant Professor of Near Eastern Studies.
Ahmad Diab posed the idea of an impossible exile by investigating the works and lives of two of the most famous Palestinian artists and poets: Mahmoud Darwish and Jabra Ibrahim Jabra. Both of these authors were born in Palestine at the time of the British mandate. Darwish stayed in Palestine during the Israeli occupation and left in 1970 to study in the USSR. After one year of study, he moved to Egypt and then Lebanon, where he joined the Palestinian liberation organization and was banned from returning to his homeland. Jabra left to study at Cambridge and Harvard, returning to Baghdad instead of his hometown of Bethlehem.
Throughout his talk, Diab showcased the work of both of these authors to discuss the effect of exile on these particular two people and their views of identity and statehood. As we were taken on a tour through the political landscape of the Middle East, Darwish writes “Beirut how much I love you, Beirut how much I do not like you.” Darwish found himself working with the PLO (Palestinian Liberation Authority) in Beirut, of which he was a longtime member and critic. Diab stated that if 1948 was the epidemiological death of Palestinians in Lebanon, it was the rebirth of Beirut’s political and cultural sphere with the influx of Palestinian political and cultural exiles.
Diab went on to talk about Darwish’s first visit to Egypt: “The most remarkable thing for me [Darwish] was that for the first time I could see an entire city speaking in Arabic… for the first time I found myself in an all Arab country.” Darwish was struck with euphoria, he was raised in occupied Palestine, where speaking Arabic was taboo. It is ironic that a poet writing in the Arabic language had not experienced living in an Arab country until the middle of his life. Yet, the euphoria that he experienced did not last. Darwish was quickly made to feel as an outsider in the country as he was expelled with only a suitcase in his hands. This happened to him again and again. This was a difficult moment for him as it pushed him to come to grips with what being an Arab is; what it means to be a Palestinian. Through the recounts of Darwish’s work, we see that he eventually understands the the definition of being Arab is not universal. The standards are different. While Palestinians might consider themselves Arab in Palestine, Egyptians might not consider them Arab in Egypt. Darwish self-characterizes as the archetypal Palestinian.
Ahmad compares Darwish’s experience with that of Jabra, another prominent Palestinian writer. After the Nakbah, Jabra found himself in Baghdad where he produced a majority of his work. In one of his most notable works Jabra criticizes the term “refugee.” He says, “I was not seeking refuge, we were offering whatever talent or knowledge we had, in return for a living.” He says that Palestinians in exile are wandering together, using their own means, to secure survival.
These experiences resonated with me as part of the SWANA diaspora. My mother is Iranian, my father Egyptian. I was raised speaking both Farsi and Arabic and when I am on the streets of Cairo and Tehran, I feel at home. I feel a sense of warmth and euphoria that is unknown to me in the US. But in Egypt or Iran, when I try to express my identity as an Egyptian or Iranian many times people don’t recognize it. And when I am in the US I am not considered an American. This allowed me to sympathize with Darwish and Jabra, but I recognize that my isolation is very different than that of a palestinian in exile as they have been expelled without any hopes for repatriation.
Overall, Diab investigated the effects of the Nakbah on the Palestinian people – how the Palestinian perception of themselves changed, how people’s perceptions of Palestinians have changed. Through poetry and art, we understood how dislocation affects people, their desires, investments, and relationships to space on the micro level.
'My Bad Attitude Toward the Pastoral': The Country and the City in the Poetry of C.S. Giscombe
Lecture by Chiyuma Elliott for Fall 2018 Colloquium The City and its People.
Fall 2018 GUH Colloquium student Sunya Berkelman-Rosado wrote the following reflection on the October 23rd lecture given by Chiyuma Elliott, Assistant Professor of African American Studies.
Chiyuma Elliott, Assistant Professor of African American Studies tells us that great pieces of art teach us how to analyze them. The analysis of such art, in turn, is an important tool for social analysis. In her lecture, ‘My Bad Attitude Toward the Pastoral': The Country and the City in the Poetry of C.S. Giscombe, Elliot explores dimensions of race, place and belonging through C.S. Giscombe’s book length poem Here. Elliott demonstrates that the reading of poetics is a necessity for social analysis. She shows us the importance of metaphor (when things are not present in a literal way but rather in nuance) in illuminating the blurring of time/space and urban/rural geography.
Elliott notes that in Giscombe’s text the specter of blurring is ever present. Set on the edges of the rural south and the border of New York and Canada Here is a meditation on the blurring of borders, place and race. Likewise, the text jumps backwards and forwards in time blurring the past/present/future. Elliott highlights that the text follows a creative and emotional logic rather than a linear one. She tells us this opens up the possibility of representing the forging of selfhood and identity in a dynamic, layered, diachronic way. Elliott observes that the feelings of confusion and being unsettled lace through the text. The unpredictability of the poem belies the complexity and tension of experience where racially charged moments blend with nostalgia on the page. In terms of geography and the blurring of place, Elliott observes places “where the rural sometimes springs up the heart of the city.” This nonlinear and hybridized representation of place and experience is perhaps disorienting. It is perhaps illuminating.
Through an analysis of the poetics of Here, Elliott draws our attention to a racially inflected geography. One in which place and historical memory fuse and intertwine. Where racialized place names, the shifting edges of neighborhoods and locations as hybrids of other locations take shape. Giscombe’s poem exposes examples of what Elliott terms “an embodied regional hybridity” and complicates the question of belonging and how we know we belong. What can we learn from this analysis of poetics in service of the understanding of regional hybridity and racialized geography? Of the blurring of place, time, and race?
For me, the valuable lesson here is both that “a great piece of art teaches us how to analyze it” and that the exploration of meaning and belonging through poetics and art is a significant ethnographic tool. When memory, emotion and experience circulate in nonlinear ways it makes sense to look towards art and poetics to illuminate the nuance, the metaphor, of these experiences and conditions. This allows for a better understanding of the dimensionality of human experience and can capture more of the essence of the memory, senses and belonging of people as they shift through changing and nonlinear places and expressions of self. The use of poetics to explore the blurring of geography and the racialized experience of place helps us to better understand the ways that power and disenfranchisement circulate, and as Elliott states, the “legibility of white supremacy on the land and on the people.”
Professor of Architecture Andrew Shanken has published two new articles this year. He wrote “Unit: A Semantic and architectural History” in the summer issue of Representations and “The Visual Culture of Planning” in the Journal of Planning History. Shanken co-taught the GUH course City of Memory with Prof. Lauren Kroiz, and will be co-teaching with her the Spring 2020 Graduate Interdisciplinary Studio on Berlin.
Shanken, Andrew. “Unit: A Semantic and Architectural History.” Representations 143, (Summer 2018): 91-117. Find the article here.
This essay peers through the peephole of the word unit to reveal the word's journey across multiple fields from the mid-nineteenth century through the present. A keyword hidden in plain sign, unit links science and the world of measurement to society (family units), politics (political units), architecture (housing units), cities (neighborhood units), and, more recently, big data, the carceral state (crime units), and managerial oversight.
Shanken, Andrew. “The Visual Culture of Planning.” Journal of Planning History 17, no. 4 (2018): 300-319. Find the article here.
Over the course of the twentieth century, American planners deployed an array of visual techniques to analyze, represent, and promote the American city. Early planners looked to maps of poverty, disease, ethnicity, war, and land use, as well as archaeology, world's fairs, and the photography of social reform. They became adept at combining drawings, diagrams, and charts to map information and make visual arguments for urban transformation. These techniques were tools of cultural critique and anticipation that shaped American understandings and expectations of cities. This essay surveys the imagery of urban planning as a prompt to historians to pay close attention to the visual culture of urban planning.
Metropolis in Ruins. Berlin's Interval of Time, 1943-1947.
Lecture by Stefan-Ludwig Hoffmann for Fall 2018 Colloquium The City and its People.
Fall 2018 GUH Colloquium student Vincent Buckwitz wrote the following reflection on the October 30th lecture given by Stefan-Ludwig Hoffmann, Associate Professor of History.
Stefan-Ludwig Hoffmann (Associate Professor of History) was from 2017-2018 Fellow at the Wissenschaftskolleg/Institute for Advanced Studies Berlin and Guggenheim Fellow. He shared his research about the history of Berlin from 1943 to 1947 as it was transformed from the capital of Nazi Germany to a divided metropolis of the Cold War. In the beginning of the presentation, Prof. Hoffmann citied the speculations of the architecture critic, Karl Scheffler, who was asked in 1920 about how the “Potsdamer Platz” (one of Berlin’s main squares of the time) would look like in 25 years. Karl Scheffler replied to the question with a fictitious dialog of his friends stating three different assumptions of how the square will change. The most significant out of the three is: the square will become even more international, lively and licentious or an abandoned city of ruins which is characterized by devastation. Scheffler’s foreshadowing precisely captured expectations of the time about how Berlin will develop as urban critics of the early 20th century made Berlin appear like a overly fast-growing city which will fall apart like Babylon. Urban criticism from left-intellectuals to right-wing extremists was expressed implying megacities to bundle problems of late capitalist societies. Movies such as “Metropolis” from Fritz Lang produced in 1927 orchestrated mass riots to be a consequence of urbanization leading to megacities downfall. Common belief even among city planners was the collapse of cities in the absence of profound social reforms. But what happens if the worst expectations not only come true but are exceeded? Indeed, the worst expectations were exceeded through the outbreak of World War II.
Prof. Hoffmann pointed out the lack of histories about daily life in European cities during World War II and the importance of including the years before and after the war to understand urban ruination. Contemporaries such as Theodor Adorno reflected about the suddenness of wartime events, which impacted their experiences immensely. Theodor Adorno one of the 20th century's foremost thinkers on aesthetics and philosophy wrote in 1944: “Just as the war lacks continuity, history, an ‘epic’ element, but seems rather to start anew from the beginning in each phase, so it will leave behind no permanent, unconsciously preserved image in the memory.”
This quote inspired me to think about the impact of the suddenness of historic events accompanied by the impossibility of continuity in people’s life and perception. Leading me to the question of how this mentioned discontinuity causes inevitably memory bias and impacts today’s culture of remembrance. An example for the German struggle of remembrance is the 8th of May 1945 when the unconditional capitulation of Nazi Germany was signed by the Wehrmacht (Nazi Germany’s army). The 8th of May 1945 was officially first recognized as a day of liberation from national socialism by Richard von Weizsaecker (German president from 1984 to 1994) in 1985. 40 years after the end of World War II the debate about remembrance of Nazi Germany’s capitulation finally started within German government and hasn’t stopped until today. Hoffmann shed light on the circumstance of a lack in continuity which might be a reason for this ongoing uncertainty about how Germany should remember World War II. Through portraying opinions of the time, Hoffmann’s talk inspired me to consider different arguments such as the discontinuity of time when thinking about German’s culture of remembrance.
By 1941 about half a million forced laborers, mostly from Eastern Europe and Russia, were in Berlin which was throughout the war a multinational place. Despite the terror of the Nazi regime prohibiting any mingling of foreign workforce and inhabitants of Berlin, there still was an exchange between those two groups in everyday urban life. Wartime and Postwar Berlin was an international city. Just after the end of the war in summer of 1945, nightclubs and music bars opened again. While Berlin was under Allied occupation Russian, English, French and German was spoken all over the place. Daily life within Berlin started off immediately after the end of World War II which was used as evidence by Hoffmann to point out the resilience of multinational urban life in Berlin.
Hoffman pictured how global urbanism carried by the people of Berlin could be preserved even through times of war and suppression. Hence, Hoffmann’s presentation of the post-war time is saddening as urban planning within the Soviet Union sector, just as in the American sector of Berlin was a step towards reduced urbanism, a desired goal of Nazi Germany. After listening to Prof. Hoffmann’s talk, I strongly believe in the need of global urbanism in order to achieve intellectually stimulating environments based on people’s free exchange within neighborhoods. Today’s Berlin is characterized by its diversity of people, architecture and culture illustrating modern urbanism. Taking into consideration the extreme circumstances under which people conserved global urbanism, it should be our duty to preserve this lasting idea in times of gentrification of cities due to global capitalism. Summing up, Prof. Hoffmann`s powerful analysis of Berlin’s development from 1943 to 1947 pictured the importance of urbanism and made me think about German remembrance culture.
What does Infrastructure do? Water in Mexico City
Lecture by Ivonne del Valle for Fall 2018 Colloquium The City and its People.
Fall 2018 GUH Colloquium student Vivian Tran wrote the following reflection on the November 6th lecture given by Ivonne del Valle, Associate Professor of Spanish and Portuguese.
In the early 16th century, the conquest of Mexico-Tenochtitlan by the Spanish Empire brought about changes that radically altered the city's semi-aquatic environment. While the indigenous populations strived for a system of water management (using lakes and rivers surrounding the area), Spaniards from very early on had done the opposite by exposing a model of water expulsion. Professor Ivonne del Valle’s (UC Berkeley’s Department of Spanish and Portuguese) research focuses on how the two different models of water management and control came about. Del Valle uses an interdisciplinary approach to help answer this question, utilizing visual art (paintings, murals, photographs etc.), literature, and archives.
Religion, economics, technology, and knowledge was a central theme for Professor del Valle’s research, and all are intertwined. In indigenous communities the treatment of the environment and humans have been imposed by religious beliefs and rituals. The value of knowledge developed during the pre-Hispanic era to manage water and its uses (e.g. agricultural cycles) involved a combination of religious practices and technical skills that constituted a way to respond to and manage variation in water levels. Under this paradigm, water was central to the life of indigenous peoples of the basin of Mexico. The control of water was so important that they based their rituals around it.
The Spanish conquest of Mexico meant a complete break from this model, first through the destruction of the city, later through the neglect of the Mexica (Aztecs who lived in Mexico-Tenochtitlan) hydraulic system. Mexico City was built by the Spaniards on top of the ruins of the Aztec city. The Mexicas were able to build a network of dikes, levees, and canals to keep floodwaters at bay. The Spaniards ignored all of the water infrastructures and chose to simply drain the waters (Tortajada and Castelán). In addition, Del Valle revealed that the Spaniards had a distrust of lakes, after their initial defeat by Mexica in 1520 (Del Valle). From then on Spaniards held a negative view of stagnate waters.
Mexico City is one of the five largest cities in the world and has an estimated population of 8.6 million, with a growth rate at approximately 2% per year (Camposortega Cruz). As of right now, Mexico City is facing a water shortage and currently needs radical improvement of the current water supply, as well as its wastewater management practices, which has contributed to the deterioration of the environment, health, and socioeconomic conditions. During Professor del Valle’s lecture, an audience member asked, “What are some ways to fix this water crisis?” del Valle is still working on answering this question herself. In my opinion, the population is way too large to meet the demands for water supply; the city is overcrowded. Investments need to be made for infrastructure construction to transfer water from the interbasin to the city.
It is important to acknowledge what has been done to water resources in the past, to understand the reasoning behind current problems, and try finding solutions for the future. Archival findings of previous literature and imagery has placed a different spin on this research by diving back into history to understand the beginning of water management, and not a lot of work has been done using these methods. An understanding of how water management draws from the history of Mexico-Tenochtitlan and encourages longer-term commitment to the problems at hand. Understanding Mexico City’s water infrastructure can be challenging, but by analyzing gaps in the literature it is possible to learn about the indigenous populations who have been overlooked by earlier scholarship. It is also possible to get a better understanding of the environmental destruction and social oppression caused by the drainage of Mexico City's lakes from colonial times to the present.
Camposortega Cruz, S. “[Demography of Mexico City. The same problems with less population].” Demos (Mexico City, Mexico), no. 4, 1991, pp. 23–24.
Tortajada, Cecilia, and Enrique Castelán. “Water Management for a Megacity: Mexico City Metropolitan Area.” Ambio, vol. 32, no. 2, 2003, pp. 124–29.
Image credit: Cristóbal de Villalpando, Plaza Mayor, Mexico City, 1695
Neutralizing Poverty: Governing Homelessness in San Francisco
Lecture by Chris Herring for Fall 2018 Colloquium The City and its People.
Fall 2018 GUH Colloquium student Tom Lindman wrote the following reflection on the November 13th lecture given by Chris Herring, PhD Candidate in Sociology.
Chris Herring—a Ph.D. candidate in Sociology at UC Berkeley—studies anti-homelessness laws in the United States. His presentation for the City and its People provided a history of anti-homelessness laws and their impact in San Francisco. His work sheds light on how these laws are currently enforced and their effect on the unhoused.
The talk began by situating current responses to homelessness within the history of United States anti-homelessness laws. From warnings to outlaws in the American West to sundown towns in the late 1800s through the 1950s, Herring places law and order at the center of the United States response to homelessness. This approach evolves through the twentieth century into 1990s broken windows policing (Kelling and Wilson, 1982). Herring couples this history with a punitive turn in United States welfare policy, arguing that this produced the current focus on “treating”—or medicalizing—homelessness.
Herring’s ethnographic research in San Francisco examines homelessness policy from above and below. We begin by riding along with San Francisco Police Officers. Responding to a call from homeowners about a person camping on the sidewalk, the officers speed past homeless encampments. After arriving on the scene of the call, officers inform an unhoused man that he must move or receive a citation. The man does not argue and gathers his belongings. The police move on to their next call.
The image of disinterested police officers responding to a complaint underscores a central theme in Herring’s work: that homeowners drive local responses to homelessness. Quotes from police officers, civil servants, and unhoused San Franciscans elaborate on this theme. A portrait emerges of a system framed as responsive to the health and wellbeing crises of homelessness but in practice criminalizing unhoused individuals and responding to homeowner complaints.
We also see that contact with systems of care and enforcement traumatize unhoused individuals. Herring describes a fear among unhoused San Franciscans of Department in regards to the Public Works (DPW) cleaning crews that are sent to dismantle homeless encampments. Herring argues that fear of DPW cleaning crews surpasses the fear of police officers among unhoused San Franciscans, showing that services framed as addressing the health and wellbeing crises of homelessness mainly address the concerns of housed residents. Law and order policies have been re-branded to meet the demands of progressive citizens interested in maintaining neighborhood character and property values.
Herrings’ work problematizes local responses to homelessness while acknowledging the challenges faced by local governments. The voices of police, civil servants, and politicians humanize the system that designs and implements anti-homeless laws. Juxtaposing the voices of government workers with unhoused San Franciscans shows an interesting alignment between police that enforce anti-homelessness laws and unhoused San Franciscans. Both groups understand that the homelessness crisis is not improved by current policies. In fact, both acknowledge that destruction of property and trauma resulting from these policies exacerbate the effects of homelessness. A disconnect emerges between the voices of front-line workers and politicians guiding San Francisco’s response to homelessness. While policy is framed in terms of outreach and connection with services, implementation focuses on enforcing anti-homelessness laws. The result is local policy described as helping unhoused individuals but implemented to relocate and reinforce homelessness.
Kelling, G., Wilson, J. (1982, March 1). Broken Windows. Retrieved November 21, 2018, from https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/1982/03/broken-windows/304465/
Image Credit: Jessica Christian/ S.F. Examiner. Taken March 1, 2016
Metropolis in Ruins. Berlin's Interval of Time, 1943-1947
Lecture by Stefan-Ludwig Hoffmann for Fall 2018 Colloquium The City and its People.
Fall 2018 GUH Colloquium student Lily Leveque Eichhorn wrote the following reflection on the October 30th lecture given by Stefan-Ludwig Hoffmann, Assistant Professor of History.
Stefan-Ludwig Hoffmann’s work focuses on uncovering a new perspective on people’s experiences in Berlin before, during, and after World War II. In introducing his work, he comments on the enormous amount of attention the World War II period has received from historians and scholars. He explains that despite people’s fascination with this point in history, little is known about the urban experiences of post-WWII. Hoffmann suggests that much of what we know about the daily experiences of people in the summer of 1945 is skewed or outright false. For example, people tend to understand this period as a time dominated by military control, restricted movement of people, and mass genocide of Jewish people. However, Hoffmann paints a different picture. His work reveals that many “tourists” traveled to and from the city during this summer, creating a sense of movement and excitement within the city. Hoffmann comments on how there is a unique conflict within the city’s landscape post-WWII— in one way the city is bustling and alive, yet in another way it is scarred deeply by the signs of war and destruction. Hoffmann uses different people’s accounts of Berlin during this time to trace this duality. While some accounts reflect the shock and tragedy of the war, other verbal and visual representations focus more on the vibrancy of the city and indeed, the “hectic gayety” that seemed to sweep over the city (Hoffmann). Furthermore, movie houses, nightclubs, and other social gathering spaces were among the first to reopen, which contributed greatly to a general bustle in the city immediately after the war.
Hoffmann goes on to draw a comparison between pre-WWII and post-WWII urban experiences. Focusing his argument on the famous picture depicting Café Josty on Potsdamer Platz, Hoffmann talks about the widespread feeling that Berlin was in decline after WWI. As a result of the 1920s Wall Street Crash in the United States, the German economy, which was reliant on American loans, took a turn for the worst. The economic struggles of this time led to great unemployment and a concentration of homelessness within Berlin. In this context, people believed that the vibrant city they had once known was on a downward spiral.
Ironically, the Nazis made Berlin their target for anti-urbanism sentiments, destroying much of the city’s infrastructure during the war. Yet, the city miraculously made it out of the war more alive than before. As part of their regime, the Nazis rejected the idea of urbanization and instead, advocated for a countryside lifestyle. However, it seems that if we trace people’s experiences in Berlin across this time period we find that despite the massive amounts of damage caused by the war, the city thrived in the following years.
Overall, Hoffmann uses this understanding of urban experiences through time, specifically from the WWII period, to comment on the theme of temporality, especially with regard to “historical events of rapture”. Theodor Adorno, a German Philosopher, wrote in 1944 about this temporality referring to it as a “timeless succession of shocks”. Hoffmann suggests that instead of limiting our understanding of this period to a linear succession of events, we must think of this time as a series of plural experiences.
The work Hoffman does exposes the question: how do we learn about history accurately when we are so fixed in our modern perspective? In order to capture the facts and events justly we must suspend are linear perception of time and dig into how time is experienced differently, especially in moments of great disturbance and shocking realities. Perhaps, for every past there are two histories: one which outlines events chronologically, and one that is more chaotic, reflecting how people experienced these events.
Image caption: Berlin’s Potsdamer Platz as Seen from Café Josty (c. 1930). © Süddeutsche Zeitung Photo
Associate Professor of Art History Lauren Kroiz published a new book on the American Regionalists titled Cultivating Citizens: The Regional Work of Art in the New Deal Era. She also has an essay in the Ashmolean catalogue America’s Cool Modernism: O’Keefe to Hopper that was informed by her work with the Global Urban Humanities Initiative. Read the abstracts and find the books below.
Kroiz, Lauren. Cultivating Citizens: The Regional Work of Art in the New Deal Era. UC Press. March 2018. Find the book here.
During the 1930s and 1940s, painters Grant Wood, Thomas Hart Benton, and John Steuart Curry formed a loose alliance as American Regionalists. Some lauded their depictions of the rural landscape and hardworking inhabitants of America’s midwestern heartland; others deemed their painting dangerous, regarding its easily understood realism as a vehicle for jingoism and even fascism. Cultivating Citizens focuses on Regionalists and their critics as they worked with and against universities, museums, and the burgeoning field of sociology. Lauren Kroiz shifts the terms of an ongoing debate over subject matter and style, producing the first study of Regionalist art education programs and concepts of artistic labor.
Kroiz, Lauren. "Leaving the Body: The Empty Spaces of American Modernism." In America's Cool Modernism: O'Keefe to Hopper. Find the catalogue here.
(about the catalogue) As some American artists began to eliminate people and remove extraneous details from their compositions, they often employed neat, orderly brushwork or close-up, unemotional photography. Artists as diverse as Patrick Henry Bruce, John Covert, Georgia O'Keeffe, Paul Strand and Arthur Dove navigated European and American avant-garde circles, picking and choosing new ideas and methods. Inspiration ranged from cubism and machine parts to new technologies, and they found ways to bring order to the modern world through extreme simplification. For them, abstraction involved absence and presence - the evacuation of human beings but also the desire to depict something that would not otherwise be visible or to render visible unseen natural processes like the passage of time, sound waves, or weather patterns. Their artworks provide a new context for the precisionist works in the subsequent sections and point to modern ideas about what art could be. How does a crisp painting technique relate to an aesthetic of absence?