G. Chapter 7 Approaching Citytext

CHAPTER 7

APPROACHING THE CITY AND CITYTEXT

INTRO

Modern forms of urban governance are being produced and contested in increasingly neoliberal Western European cities in public speeches by city government officials promoting new campaigns of ‘civic participation’, conversations in meetings rooms of private development corporations, and personal arguments and debates between neighbours on the streets. Foucuault located these discourses within the ‘apparatus’s of security’, as part of the breath of governability, in terms of logics and embedded in institutional and material reproductions of the ‘State’. He went on to theorize the study of power relations in the ‘antagonisms’ of strategies in which institutional ‘state’ power meets resistance. By considering within the apparatuses of institutions how these discourses ‘produce’ certain kinds of cities and citizens we can make them more available for critique. Our research was based on the entanglements and tensions we found entering an urban context and trying to think and reflect about the way in which urban governance was being produced and resisted. We gathered texts surrounding two examples of urban interventions by the city government of Barcelona to reflect on their productivity and resistance as indicative of shifting tensions in terms of urban politics. In this chapter we look at how the critical examination of text can help us unravel their discursive productivity.

Power relations and discourse in context I followed the line that Foucauldian work on language is a [121] useful resource for discourse analysis, but that it is possible to employ criteria for the identification of discourses and that a realist account is necessary to contextualise those discourses. This means that we need to resist the view popular in postmodern accounts that there is nothing more important than language and the view popular in psychology that internal cognitions allow us to use discourse. (Parker, 1992. pg.121). Discourses ‘live and breathe’ as they produce and make available certain relational contingencies by (re)producing narratives and subjectivities which serve as a ‘conduit’ for the interchanges of everyday lives. They relate directly to questions of which accounts of ‘reality’ are made possible, dominate, constrict, limit and in some cases; don’t exist in any given social interaction. Paying attention to text and considering the coherency of discourses can be used to reproduce and/or challenge power relations; there is nothing inherently progressive in making text or discourse an object of study (Burman, 1991). There are many ‘types’ of discourse analysis ranging from detailed conversational linguistic analysis to much broader ideological representational analysis. What they have in common according to Parker and Burman is ‘a concern with the ways language produces and constrains meaning, where meaning does not, or not only, reside within individuals heads and where social conditions give rise to the forms of talk available`(Parker, 1992). Critical discursive analysis studies the way in which language affects meaning and power relations. The important differentiation lies in the word ‘critical’; referring to the critique of power relations in colonial/capitalism. The debate then centers on the theorization of power relations one is going to ‘locate’ the text one analyzes. Discourses refer to texts which work to annunciate positions and to define who speaks, about what, in relation to what, and under what conditions, as well as the contrary. Discourses structure the possibilities which are considered valid and the agents that have access to political power and debate and those which are excluded. Yet every text is not necessarily a discourse. Íñiguez comments; ‘what transforms a specific text into a discourse is the fact that it defines the social space of an identity or enunciating identity with a spatial and historical circumscription’ (1977; pg.150). Parker states that a discourse is a ‘system of statements which construct an object’ (Parker; 1992, pp. 5). Our interest in discourses is based in the work of Foucault and other critical social researchers who use discourse as a means to ‘inform political practice and struggles’ (Burman, 1993) by challenging claims to truth and their related ideological and practical agendas. Foucault as a post structuralist was interested in the historical production of discursive formations, which consists of ‘complexes of relationships working as rules; (that) proscribes what has to be related in a discursive practice in order that it might refer to this or that object, bring this or that statement into play, use this or that set, organize this or that strategy’ (Ìñiguez, 1977; 150). Foucault differentiated discourses from text when he focused on the productive capacity of discourses; meaning ‘a group of statements which provide a language for talking about- a way to representing the knowledge about- a particular topic at a particular time’ (Hall, 1992, pg.291). He focused on institutional apparatuses and how discursive formations were always contextual and historical, how they provided the subject formations in which certain subjects could speak according to certain rules. Derek Hook adds that ‘discourse analysis should hence busy itself not only with the search for a plenitude of meaning, but also with a search for the scarcity of meaning, with what cannot be said, with what is impossible or unreasonable within certain discursive locations (Hook, 2001, pg. 527). Hook stresses discourse as action and occurrence in real material conditions that must be studied in historical detail to understand the occurrence, the ‘violence’ of how discourse exclude and reproduce dominant power relations (Hook, 2001, pg.532). ‘…that ‘text’ itself is not a reference point from which one can base any type of critical analysis, that the ‘analyst of discourse needs to appeal to certain stable reference points outside of text (although not those of the truth and falsity, for obvious reasons). The point here is that one needs to reference one’s analytical conclusions, wherever possible, to a double epistemology; to corroborate findings to extra-textual dimensions, like those of space (geopolitics), time (history), architecture or material forms of practice (cf.Foucault, 1979). In relation to time, Hook looks at history as a produced event, such that ‘a history of the past is essentially a work of the present, strongly anchored in the current socio-political realm (Hook, 2001;pg. 533). Hook also discusses Foucault’s notion of ‘series’ as useful in examining how discourses work in discontinuous and often contradictory ways, not by mistake, but by the fact that they can be used that way to justify, legitimize and work together at times in even more powerful ways than if they were more located and specific. Hook’s comments are useful in relation to a needed emphasis in discursive representational practices to ‘map discourse, to trace its outline and its relations of force across a variety of discursive forms and objects’ (Hook, 2001; pg. 541), thus theoretically positioned in relation to the actualities of power relations in terms of geopolitical histories and local dynamics and within particular contexts, as operations and practices of power rather than symbolic significations out of context. He goes on to stress three key aspects of language: contradiction, construction, and ‘practice’ as useful directions in the analysis of discourses. We can ask then about multiple meanings in texts or multiple positions of construction and how they relate to actual political debate or in terms of dominance and hierarchies of power. We can ask how the texts are actually constructed in their functional meanings; who they enlist, what histories, from what locations, and to what purposes. Thirdly, we can ask what discourses are ‘doing’, what actions or options do they generate, what they permit, limit, invisibilize, or excercise? (Parker, 1999; pg. 6-7). Ideology as association We use the term ‘ideology’ in a very limited sense as proposed by Parker (1992) referring to ‘a description of relationships and effects, and the category should be employed to describe relationships at a particular place and historical period’ (Parker, 1992; pp.20). Rather than use the term ‘ideology’, Parker goes on to recommend ‘showing how discourse connects with other discourses which sanction oppression and how discourses allow dominant groups to tell their narratives about the past in order to justify the present, and prevent those who use subjugated discourses from making history’ (Parker, 1992; pp.20). If ideology works by masking or ‘erasing’ connections to actually existing political and economic relationships and structures, then one ‘cure’ is to historically spatialize them, to locate them within the lines of historical discourses and in actual geographies. The practices of ideology are historical in that they reflect within a given time period an ‘effort’ by various historical movements and geopolitical bodies to ‘do something’. ‘We are in ideological space proper the moment this content- ‘true’ or ‘false’ (if true, so much the better for the ideological effect) – is functional with regard to some relation of social domination (‘power’, ‘exploitation’) in an inherently non-transparent way: the very logic of legitimizing the relation of domination must remained concealed if it is to be effective. In other words, the starting point for the critique of ideology has to be full acknowledgement of the fact that it is easily possible to lie in the guise of truth’. (Zizek, 1994; pg 8). For Zizek ideological analysis is inherently problematic in that ideological reference is always in relation to another ideology, in other words the attempt to escape from ideology is paradoxically ‘the very form of our enslavement to it’ (pg. 6). Zizek makes an outline of Heglelian’s three moments of ideology by speaking of three axis’s: Ideology as a complex of ideas; Ideology in its externality; and the ‘spontaneous’ ideology at work at the heart of social reality itself. He uses the example of liberalism as ‘a doctrine materialized in rituals and apparatuses and active in the ‘spontaneous’ (self) experience of subjects as ‘free individuals’ (pg. 9). He goes to comment on that; ‘…the very notion of an access to reality unbiased by any discursive devices or conjunctions with power is ideological. The ‘zero level’ of ideology consists in (mis)perceiving a discursive formation as an extra-discursive fact. (Zizek, 1994; pg. 10). Zizek speaks about not closing any critique of ideology because to do so would be ideology ‘par excellence’, so instead he speaks for an open reading; Perhaps, following Kant, we could designate this impasse the ‘antinomy of critico-ideological reason’: ideology is not all; it is possible to assume a place that enables us to maintain a distance from it, but this place from which one can denounce ideology must remain empty, it cannot be occupied by any positively determined reality- the moment we yield to this temptation, we are back in ideology. (Zizek, 1994;pg.17). Ideology refers to the tendency for a concept to reference other levels of meaning through association, either by absence or presence. Focusing on the ideological practices of urban political discourses is useful because it takes us into debates which often are hidden and even rejected from political debate, such as the legitimacy of capitalism as an economic and political project. We take a somewhat limited approach to the complex and deeply philosophical debates concerning language, knowledge, power and what has become known as ‘discourse analyses. We assume that texts are historically based and linked, that they are located expressions that represent ‘realities’ in which the producer of these texts attempts to put forward or ‘do something’. Thus the analysis of discourse occurs when one party reads another parties text and comments on its ‘meaning’. As an interpretive exercise then the results of one party’s reading is always debatable and thus open to ‘other readings’. In this way a type of academic, philosophical and political debate can be useful, to question the production of knowledge in regards to what claims it is making about what world it claims is occurring. For Parker the issue is more related to the type of project on is engaged in, given that the analysis of discourses could never be an essentialist task, or getting at some real meaning, then it is both political and academic which should mean a certain type of rigour being applied to ones politics. In our perspective then there is no substantial difference between discourse analyses or deconstruction, the attempt is to open up the exploration of the ideological and linguistic connections a given text is trying to make within particular geohistorical contexts. Parker emphasizes; ‘The practice of discourse analysis is bound up with the multiplicity of practices that academics, researchers and subjects engage in. It should be part of a greater project (to identify and challenge processes of power and ideology), and the notions of ‘discourse’ and ‘text’ employed within that project are both necessarily parts of the problem and ‘as if’ devices to help us understand it’. (Parker, 1990. Pg 156-157). In relation to analysis, it is the questioning itself which holds promise as to how any particular text works or doesn’t ideologically. The goal would be to make this process open and the focus of attention in order to make power relations and power itself more visible. If a discourse such as capitalism becomes ‘total’ in the sense that its logic and premises become what Billig calls ‘common sense’ meaning assumed to be the system that is acceptable and the ‘future’ whether we like it or not, then power becomes structurally hidden, you can’t find the borders and limits because they are assumed to be the only ‘field of play’ that is available or acceptable. Political and critical social theorists in a variety of academic and activist traditions have worked with the concept of ideology as part of contemporary discourses of western political systems in the manner in which they limit and delineate ‘objects’, subjects and boundaries of appropriate discourse. What is important in terms of our paper is the process of unravelling signification in relation to the way in which discourses work ideologically and in practice, in other words what ideological practices are at work in terms of urban debates. Thus we are particularly focused on how we may ‘get at’ ideological practices through the analysis of discourses. Billig discusses ideology in discourse from a number of areas including argumentation discourses and ‘nationalism’. In contrast to ideology being a top-down process of oppression, he sees ideology as being an interactive an contested dialectic in that arguments and dilemmas always surround ideological thinking and thus should be analyzed as forms of debate. People justify their beliefs using ideological statements and associations, without debate their attitudes do not act, they don’t perform. Ideology for Billig also occurs as embedded in the discourse of a culture; ‘banal’ in the sense that by not being stated directly they function through inference, as a type of discourse in which you are enlisted without explicit consent. He uses the example of the nationalism in the United States as ‘everywhere’, but implied rather than directly stated. Western discourses often function in this manner, with unstated values or principles, identities and/or perspectives that you are assumed to hold or even further if you are not included, and your identity is positioned in opposition or outside of some particular frame of reference. When we speak of democratic nations, we of course are also constructing the national identity of non-democratic nations. These discourses in urban terms are potent in the manner in which urban politics uses terms such as civic citizen and civil behaviour. Billig’s termed this ‘banal nationalism’ is particularly interesting in his description of ideology as working through its assumptions of what is ‘normal’ and common sense (Billig, 1995). He focuses on the reproduction of ‘nationalism’ in the United States refuting the common assumption that the term nationalism best refers to ‘extreme’ separatist groups in American and European societies that tend to use racist and xenophobic discourses. He states that nationalism is wide spread in Western countries only it occurs in a form that is common sense, so the ‘nationalism’ is considered ‘banal’ or not really nationalistic. Yet what is produced is an allegiance not only to a particular governing body in terms of territory, but to an ideology of the western nation/state itself and the deeply rooted assumptions that go along with this construct, related to the historical time period in which we are speaking. Billig states that; ‘Nationalism can be seen almost everywhere but ‘here’. If nationalism is a widespread ideology, then a different perspective is in order’. This would take nationalism to include the patterns of belief and practice which reproduce the world-‘our’ world- as a world of nation-states, in which ‘we’ live as citizens of nation-states.’ (Billig, 1995; pg.15). Ideology in Billig’s sense comes in contextualized signifiers that enlist assumptions and produce realities as ‘given’ and then as such are often unavailable for debate. In any particular level of debate then there are multiple levels of assumptions that are being reproduced simultaneously. Billig focused on nationalism, or the level of the nation state, and we can use this strategy to look at all forms of urban identifications; as being a citizen, a city resident, a neighbour of a particular neighbourhood, etc. Each type of identification signifies its context within particular contingent historical structures and social relations. Approaching Urban Text In describing discourse analysis, Burman (et.al) outlined four important aspects: 1. First, discourse analysis should be considered as movement rather than a fixed method, a ‘sensitivity to language’ that is betrayed if it is reduced to a series of steps. 2. Second, discourse needs to be considered as part of the problem rather than as automatically a solution to the problems of traditional psychology. To take account of this we need to see representational practices as embedded in other practices such that analysis of one bit of text entails analysis of the texts that provide its conditions of possibility. 3. Third, the study of discursive practice is always itself historically embedded, something that can be captured in the notion that capitalism is ‘textual’, trapped in a tension between change, evoked in the phrase ‘all that is solid melts into air’ (Marx and Engels, 1965, p. 37), and the fixity of commodification and reification. 4. Fourth, discourse analysis is always already also something that is carried out outside academic institutions, and it reflects, refracts, replaces modes of reading that already take place in culture. Here we learn from some of the forms of action research that has looked to political action as the key site of psychological processes. Our task then is to reframe and rework discourse analysis so that it is also the analysis of action and change (Burman et al., 1996; Goodley and Parker, 2000). (Parker, discourse practice, pp.168-169). Parker describes ten characteristics of discourses which outline how they are historically located and produce objects, subjects, and coherent systems of meanings as well as reproduce power relations, have ideological effects and refer to other discourses . The political discourses surrounding the restructuring of the urban environment are full of assumed meanings, from assumptions concerning the existence of ‘democratic’ politics, to participatory political processes and legitimizations based on the presumed existence of ‘globalization’ as an evolutionary (and assumed progressive) economic process. Further from the particulars of urban politics, we have to consider the realm of what is assumed in terms of larger epistemological politics if we want to get at what in a broader sense is being constructed ideologically. As we mentioned in an earlier section, western urban politics tends to speak of its cities in reference to the world, of history and change from its self-reference as the center of ‘truth practices’. These associations have deep and foundational effects in relation to how western urban subjects are created and particular political practices are legitimized. Critical discourse analysis makes this a central topic of concern in the analysis of power relations and brings itself, as a European originated academic practice, also into question. Discourses provide maps upon which we can ask central questions regarding how power relations are constructed, by whom, and to what purposes. Our Study We looked at governmentality within the neoliberalization of Western cityspace by studying a concrete urban example and attempted to gain an understanding of particular aspects of what appeared to be going on in terms of power relations. We focused on text from city debates in Barcelona, Spain to explore the antagonisms between the strategies used by the city to promote their urban restructuring plans and the strategies of the resident’s opposition. Our first example uses general city texts from the city government in Barcelona, Spain; then we look texts surrounding conflicts over a new civic law in the city (2006), and finally we examined debates generated in an urban conflict between the city and one particular neighborhood. In these examples we focused on the ‘antagonistic’ strategies in actual urban debates to see how they could be read theoretically and how they relate to conceptions such as ‘governmentality’ and ‘technologies of self’ in practice. In the following chapters we present examples of these city texts which were used to promote the city’s urban restructuring efforts often alongside their opposing texts to explore what Foucault had proposed as a means to study power relations. We reflected on actual textual meaning throughout these examples but maintained a broad focus as to how these ‘meanings’ could be read in terms of power relations, focusing more on the overall logic of the texts and their subjective productivity. We collected texts from a variety of sources including the media, city documents, and our own formal and informal interviews; and then presented them to illustrate the productive qualities which we feel were significant in terms of the reproduction of urban power relations in this context. In the first two examples of the citytexts of Barcelona in general our sources were mostly city official websites, interviews and historical documentation as well as opposing critiques. In the last example where we discuss the urban conflicts in the neighbourhood called ‘la Barceloneta’ we did five formal interviews with representatives from two associations and the city mediator as well as a series of informal conversations over the five year period we followed the debates (2006-2010). We transcribed these interviews and used selected portions of the interviews in our paper. Both opposing groups published monthly articles in the neighbourhood paper, had websites and had been interviewed by media sources. There is a web page with interviews from various residents and representatives from the neighbourhood concerning their opinions about how the neighbourhood was being developed. There are a series of videos that have been made about the neighbourhood, some focused on the urban conflicts and others more focused on the community culture or history. Our choice of text and material reflected our interest in a more general contrasting of the cities published promotional texts and the ‘voices of resistance’ in terms of the counterarguments given by those that opposed the cities plan. We did selective interviews in the neighbourhood and ended up presenting extracts which we felt representing the themes which best articulated the disagreements between the supportive and opposing texts, as well as the city mediators position. We did this theoretically following Focuault’s consideration of working outside of institutions to get at power relations as well as from the ideological critique of Parker to examine the ‘gaps’ between what people were saying and what was happening in the ‘world’. The resistance to the cities plans in one sense could be considered as accusations of ‘gaps’ between what the city was saying what happening in the neighbourhood and what was happening according to the residents. This made sense to us, but it was important to think about who was angry and about what because some of the residents were much more supportive of the plans. The debates concerning these differences and the variability about perceptions of the cities intentions and what was happening in the urban reality they lived in was full of rich and meaningful debate in terms of contemporary urban power relations. The case example uses ‘text’ as a method of reflection toward the discursive options and contingencies operating in this context, and as such, the object of our study is language, as the medium in which options for thought and action are made available. These discursive possibilities are constantly being reworked through social relations to reproduce forms of power relations. We comment on important discursive possibilities which seemed to exist in this context, how these worked to reproduce particular relations, and then interpret their significance within our understanding of the historical political conditions in which they appeared. The world is global, there are winners and losers, Barcelona is going to win. Joan Clos. Former mayor of Barcelona. APPENDIX I APPENDIX II SEVEN CRITERIA FOR IDENTIFYING DISCOURSES, AND THREE AUXILARIES Ian Parker (1982) Critical analysis for social and individual psychology. Routledge; London/New York;PP.6-17. 1. A discourse is realized in texts; a. Treat our objects of study as texts which are described, put into words. b. Explore connotations through some sort of free association, which is best done with other people. 2. A discourse is about objects; c. Ask what objects are referred to, and describing them (turtles, diseases, ghosts, etc.) d. Talk about the talk as if it were an object, a discourse. 3. A discourse contains subjects; e. Specify what types of person are talked about in this discourse, some of which may already have been identified as objects (turtles, doctors, mothers, benefactors, etc). f. Speculating about what they can say in the discourse, what you could say if you identified with them (what rights to speak in that way of speaking). 4. A discourse is a coherent system of meanings; g. Map a picture of the world this discourse presents (running in accordance with God’s plans, through the operation of discourses, at the mercy of hidden conspiracies, etc.) h. Work out how a text using this discourse would deal with objections to the terminology (sinful doubt, crude out-of-date materialism, receipt of Moscow gold, etc.) 5. A discourse refers to other discourses; i. Set contrasting ways of speaking, discourses, against each other and looking at the different objects they constitute (brains, souls, epiphenomena, etc.). j. Identifying points where they overlap, where they constitute what look like the ‘same’ objects in different ways (secretions of neural matter, immortal spiritual essences, rhetorical devices, etc.). 6. A discourse reflects on its own way of speaking; k. Refer to other texts to elaborate the discourse as it occurs, perhaps implicitly, and addresses different audiences (in children´s books, advertisements, jokes, etc.) l. Reflect on the term used to describe the discourse, a matter which involves moral/political choices on the part of the analyst (describing discourses about ‘race’ as ‘racist’ discourses, for example). 7. A discourse is historically located. m. Look at how and where discourses emerged n. Describe how they have changed, and told a story, usually about how they refer to things which were always there to be discovered. 8. Discourses support institutions o. Identify institutions which are reinforced when this of that discourse is used. p. Identify institutions that are attacked or subverted when this or that discourse appears. 9. Discourses reproduce power relations q. Look at which categories of person gain and lose from the employment of the discourse. r. Look at who would want to promote and who would want to dissolve the discourse. 10. Discourses have ideological effects s. Show how a discourse connects with other discourses which sanction oppression. t. Show how the discourses allow dominant groups to tell their narratives about the past in order to justify the present, and prevent those who use subjugated discourses from making history.