Teaching Global History

May 23, 2013 § Leave a comment

globalhistoryThe above image was taken by the the fabulous Jonathan Massey.

Last weekend, thanks to Nori T.,  I was invited to participate in a workshop on how to teach Global History. The conference was hosted at MIT by Mark Jarzombek and Jeffrey Ravel. OK … Global History… always already impossible… as it’s supposed to cover, by implication the whole of the world for all time… no privileging of the diachronic (history) or the synchronic (the globe). So basically what I argued, and I’m surprised that more weren’t arguing the same thing is that this should be a conversation about heuristics. Most people agreed that global history shouldn’t be taught as a series of precedents, most people agreed that one couldn’t possibly cover all that’s suggested by “global history,” but for the most part, for me anyway pedagogical strategies thus far have centered around what we shouldn’t and can’t do.

The old spectre of Lynne Cheney and the culture wars came up—and thus the “global” was invoked as a positive category, something that we could somehow separate from the dirtier force of “globalizaton” as if diversity was the solution, or at the very least a soothing ointment. But it seems to me the problem, or wound as it were is still ill defined. For me the problem isn’t that we haven’t covered the world, or even that we can’t access all of the information about all of the world, but rather how we are implicated as practitioners (since at least 74% of those at the workshop teach architects or engineers) who either witness or play a role in shaping the conditions of the world.

Others argued that we need to develop a global database… but then isn’t that what wikipedia is for? Granted we need a deeper archive but as far as indexing goes it seems to me not just a good model but also a good infrastructure (save for all the storage space we would need) for all of the images and stuff.

OK… these are just some initial thoughts jotted down very early in the morning before jury duty. Will think about this more.


Dream Diary

May 18, 2013 § 1 Comment

Ted-High-Res-004A huge body of water at least 40 meters down from the platform we were standing on (like the river behind the Taj Mahal)  had huge ducks/ swans with pigeon markings on them—like enormous swan pigeons. Ted Allen (the food guy from queer eye) was there, we had given him a big photography book of Helen Levitt’s. Some young gay kid in a lemon yellow sweater whisked it away screaming about how wonderful it was, all the while pointing out details. I think he was wearing chambray Keds. And then he and Jonathan Massey who’s also at the conference I’m attending this weekend (and was camping it up wearing a fabulous spring plaid blazer… in real life AND the dream)… started running in a cricle. I was running in the circle with both him and Ted. Suddenly we were flamenco clapping and declaring that we had given birth to spanish music. I had trouble keeping up with the syncopation. Somehow there were also two beautiful twin sisters involved. They were in the pool next to the white circular pavilion we were in… they were in these waterproof mint green gowns that were all the rage. I’m going to work out now. 

The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire & The Bangladesh Building Collapse

May 13, 2013 § Leave a comment


benetton 41099-large


Above is a Benetton ad with a rainbow coalition of models set in a grid surrounding the first sentence of the 1st article of the declaration of human rights—a campaign launched to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the declaration in March of 1998. The entire article reads: “Human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.”Below it is an Benetton ad, and it should be obvious what is happening there. Below that is a photo of a Benetton shirt made in the Bangladesh factory collapse.

So, during my amazing weekend with friends, building a deck for our wedding… we got to catch up a bunch…  One of the topics of conversation that came up a couple of times was the building collapse in Bangladesh, where astonishingly the death toll has risen to over 1000 people. It is amazing to me that even after an event like this, news coverage talks about a ‘balance’ between the necessity of economic development and human safety (i.e. human LIFE). I’m so sick of hearing how regulations impinge upon the creation of jobs and the good work of ‘job creators.’ Maybe we can start talking plain old fairness again.

The minimum wage for garment workers in Bangladesh is $37/ month.

Benetton made clothes in this factory.  F***ing Benneton!!!!!  This was the company that funded COLORS magazine… As a young high school student I was drawn in by the arresting images and full bleed layouts of cultures, the varied human condition, and the conditions humans were living in around the world. The following quote is from Olivier Toscani, who founded the magazine along with graphic design icon Tibor Kalman.

“We set up Colors as a way of communicating the intelligence of the Benetton brand to an extremely sophisticated consumer. That consumer doesn’t respond so well to traditional advertising. Colors is a real magazine about the rest of the world, but it’s also a way of marketing the ideological commitment of the Benetton company.”

I guess we are all aware of these contradictions… maybe there are so many it’s starting to all sound like grey noise. Let’s compare what’s happened in Bangladesh to the Triangle shirtwaist fire where 146 workers tragically died in a factory fire.  In 1911 the rapidly developing country of the United States had to face the grim realities of ‘progress’—many of New York’s citizens filed past coffins placed on display (this was set up for the purposes of identification, though many more just came to see) in front of the building that many of them died in.  This turned into what was essentially a huge public wake, for women who were now less invisible, less anonymous. We don’t have an equivalent experience for this event. I haven’t seen very many photos of bodies… something I think we all need to see—far more than we need to see the rainbow of faces celebrating a notional ‘diversity,’ and an apparent ‘ideological commitment’ to human rights. It doesn’t take a genius here to understand how absolutely and tragically ridiculous this all is. 

The Triangle Shirtwaist fire resulted in meaningful changes in the regulation of manufacturing conditions, and in the enforcement of the laws thenceforth governing those conditions. It resulted in the galvanization of unions—especially women’s unions. The problems of governance are of course far more complicated in this instance because we are talking about clothes here almost entirely produced for a foreign market, by multi-national companies. It seems, that as consumers the most we can ask for is supply chain transparency… (see below). I can only hope labor organization has more room to breathe in Bangladesh now that this has happened. Life depends on it. How will whatever small reserve of outrage we have left help to transform this situation? For one, I will be reading clothing labels every single time I buy an article of clothing, not that I didn’t already—and not that I shop that often… but I will be more wary of or curious about countries of origin that I am less familiar with, (e.g. did anyone ever notice how many clothes are made in Moldova?).  I will also do some extra research on global supply chains, which is made at least a bit easier because of California’s transparency in supply chains act (made effective January 2012).  There’s much more to say about this, of course, but I wanted to put this here as a placeholder for now.

The globalization of capital is not the same as capital’s universalization. 

Friends Are the Best!

May 13, 2013 § Leave a comment

My Friends are awesome. Now I have proof, not that I haven’t always had proof, but now I have awesome built proof, a modest monument to their super awesome generosity. They are not only awesome to me, but awesome to my future hubs Owen, who was really sad to have missed this.Image

From left is Josh, Rafie (his face doesn’t always look like that—sorry about the terrible photo Rafie), Adam, Nick, Alexis, Taeryn, Frej, Dong and Alda. Did I mention how much I love these guys??? I love these guys! It was a great weekend, and YES, we did pick more ramps, and we did eat yet another ramp frittata, and yes we had more ramp pizza. It’s amazing actually that we finished the deck and still managed to have time to dip in the hot tub (in shifts), drink plenty of beer, build a small fire, make  delicious food, take a couple of lovely hikes, catch up (most importantly) & sleep soundly.

Notes to Self

May 6, 2013 § Leave a comment

Michele’s studio… “why pretend”… Is architecture the subject position you take or the object you make? 

Where Am I?

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