Spaces of New Colonialism

Reading Schools, Museums, and Cities in the Tumult of Globalization

by Cameron McCarthy (Volume editor) Koeli Moitra Goel (Volume editor) Ergin Bulut (Volume editor) Warren Crichlow (Volume editor) Brenda Nyandiko Sanya (Volume editor) Bryce Henson (Volume editor)
Textbook XXX, 402 Pages

Table Of Content


In Memory of Toni Morrison February 18, 1931–August 5, 2019

A city like this one makes me dream tall and feel in on things. (Jazz, 1992, p. 7)

As Spaces of New Colonialism goes to press, we note the passing of one of the great contemporary commentators on the intersection of art, schooling, and city life: the incomparable Toni Morrison (Jazz, Song of Solomon, Tar Baby, The Bluest Eye, Love). The quote above, taken from Morrison’s searing account of the urban condition in the novel Jazz, sets the tonal parameters of our book—the antithesis and dialogue between critique and hope. These nodes of understanding, after all, are the terms by which Stuart Hall, after Gramsci, announced the task of the intellectual in our time: “pessimism of the intellect, optimism of the will.” Many in our collective remember Toni Morrison as the spark driving us forward to deeper problematization of the transforming relationships articulated at the nexus of schools, museums, and the city. These transformations are both profoundly local and global in dimension and scale, deeply connected to a past linked to colonialism and slavery and to a present and future to which colonialism has returned as irony and behind a new mask, the mask of neoliberal globalization.

We want here to acknowledge Morrison’s great hovering intelligence and presence in what follows in New Spaces of Colonialism. We acknowledge her clarion call to our cast of transnational intellectuals to look at the fullness of city life, at the complexity of the unfolding present in the gentrification and respatialization of city space and its ramifications across other critical institutional sites. We take ←xi | xii→up in Spaces of the New Colonialism, particularly, the school and the museum and their coarticulations to the city. Morrison’s quote above underscores the obligation of the contemporary intellectual, the Third World intellectual no less, to view the world unfolding in the new era complexly (“A city like this one makes me dream tall and feel in on things” [Morrison 1992, p. 7]). We therefore have come together as a collective with our eyes wide open propelled by the social thickness of understanding generated in the writing of Morrison and fellow travelers such as Stuart Hall and Walter Benjamin.

Spaces of New Colonialism is true testimony to the value of camaraderie and tenacity of a group of international scholars that has met online for the past 5 years to discuss the contemporary fate of cities, schools, and museums in light of rapid and drastic patterns of respatialization of urban milieus across the Global South and North. As editors, we want to first thank our contributors to this volume for staying the course, even as we have had to change thematic directions in keeping with developments in the international arena: developments of such enormous significance that they forced us to rethink the meaning of the nexus of schools, museums, and cities we were studying. Key among these were the uprisings in the urban settings of the MENA regions and the attendant Arab spring, the pitched battles fought in US cities such as Ferguson, Chicago, New York, Baltimore, and Charleston over police brutality and assaults on poor black and brown communities, as well as the rise of feral nationalism on both sides of the Atlantic epitomized by Brexit-Trump.

We owe special thanks to Catherine Hall for granting us permission to publish the late Stuart Hall’s extraordinarily insightful talk on the future of museums, their ethical and political responsibilities, and their redirection in contemporary city space. Similarly, we are grateful to Saskia Sassen and filmmaker John Akomfrah as well as his interviewer, Brad Evans, for allowing us to republish their generative essays on the meaning of current developments in the urban setting for present research and thinking about the future of human societies. We are indebted as well to Pauline Lipman who granted us an extraordinary interview regarding her insights on transforming school environments in the light of the racial banishment of the minority poor in cities such as Chicago and across the USA as well as drawing the readers’ attention to the ominous resurgence of white supremacism in city space. We would be remiss if we did not acknowledge the extraordinary technical support that Susan Akello Ogwal, Hannah Tomlin, and Samaa Haniya provided in their facilitation of our live synchronous Blackboard Collaborate sessions throughout the entire time. Many of us have had the opportunity to test our ideas within our universities and community settings and at international conferences across the world. We are grateful to those who have read our manuscripts and responded to our presentations with keen criticisms and insights. As our scholarship spanned the megacities across the globe, groups of scholars, activists, and ordinary folks ←xii | xiii→from all over the world opened up their lives and communities to us so we could tell their stories. We are grateful for all they gave as gatekeepers and facilitators—from focus groups crafted in coffee shops and pubs to prized photographs and artifacts—this group allowed us glimpses of their urban rhythms which we would have missed otherwise. Thus we applaud the generosity of many like Samrat Bose, Jashodhara Dasgupta, Shilpa Jain, and Nurur Khan. Our team spirit has held, and grown stronger even while delivering an exceptional peer review process; and connections have been made for life and across the world. We critically acknowledge the contribution of Karishma Desai to this volume and its gestation. Though Karishma was unable to see the book through to the end, her thoughtful interventions and observation influenced its final shaping profoundly. Similarly, we acknowledge our editor Erika Hendrix and her team who provided momentum and assistance to our project on behalf of our publishers, Peter Lang.

Many of us would not have progressed to our critical limits without the patience and support of our first author and revered teacher, Professor Cameron McCarthy. Many other professors like Norman Denzin, Benjamin Bross, and D. Fairchild Ruggles, as mentors and advisors, also guided our group of emerging scholars in mastering the art of critical interpretive inquiry and creatively presenting academic literature for classrooms as well as wider global audiences. Last but not the least, our deepest gratitude to our colleagues Angharad Valdivia of University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Natalie Fenton of Goldsmiths, University of London, for generously agreeing to give their time and expertise in writing the Foreword and Afterword, respectively, and masterfully delivering them with precision, within schedule and with deep critical understanding of our project.

No book, no edited volume is produced without extraordinary expenditure and exertion of human labor. And we have become incredibly conscious over the years of the particular special entanglements of our own intellectual labor in the contemporary moment and its generalized precarity. We have come to deeply understand how gentrification and respatialization are themselves reordering the spaces in which we work, our labor processes, and the very organization of knowledge within the university. This book is therefore launched with a keen sense of the altered terms of existence in which we live and the existential threat to thought itself in a time when hypercapitalism, as the great Marxist George Lukacs had maintained, has “penetrated the brain.” We know now that we are not simply helpless Razumovian spectators dwelling as it were in some version of Joseph Conrad’s Under Western Eyes. We write this book with a sense of urgency of engaged intellectuals drawing on our collective energies and intending Spaces of New Colonialism not simply as a manuscript “in itself” but as a policy intervention articulated as a plea to halt the programs of negation generated in the wake of the hypercapitalist and supremacist assaults on the contemporary urban poor in our cities around the world. We therefore issue an indictment of globalization and the global city as ←xiii | xiv→they orchestrate and reorder the spaces of urban life and the fate of social subjects therein in the carnage that globalization produces and which its most celebratory proponents studiously ignore and disavow.


Morrison, T. (1992). Jazz. New York: Knopf.

Foreword: Citification, Mediatization, Theme Park-ification of the Contemporary US Midwest University

angharad n. valdivia

“We don’t need more books,” she said, “we need furniture.”

—A librarian’s response to an offer of a book endowment

In their provocative and important contribution towards “Understanding the spaces of new colonialism,” McCarthy, Goel, Bulut, Crichlow, Sanya, and Henson declare: “we aim to draw attention to different specific spatial logics of neoliberalism and commodification of social commons as these are violently or spectacularly realized within schools, museums, and the broader urban contexts both in the Global North and Global South.” I want to explore the peculiar spatialization of the university as a privileged site of schooling that dispossesses a multiplicity of populations while containing local versions of the Global North and the Global South. Through spatial logics of neoliberalism, the university has become both a gentrified city and a collection of museums through a range of transitions and displacements. Using my land grant university as a brief case study, we can discern the conversion of the social commons into a spectacularly organized location for privilege and consumer subjects through the commodification of an ever-increasing number of formerly free and accessible aspects of the university.

My brief statements address the overlap between schooling, represented by a large Midwest US Research 1 university, and the keywords identified by this research team: spatial, neoliberalism, commodification, globalization, colonialism, and social commons. I choose my university as a specific spatial site to explore the disappearance of the social commons and the deployment of neoliberal ←xv | xvi→city-fication that shifts the focus from public education to marketization through theme park-ification. As with similar processes, this city as theme park process once again normalizes whiteness as it marginalizes local racialized populations. Despite uninformed characterizations of the university as an “ivory tower,” the contemporary Research 1 university in the United States represents all of the contemporary shifts identified by the coeditors of this volume.

The university is not an ivory tower but rather a contact zone. The major university is at once a school, a city, and a museum. McCarthy et al. add “As we operationalize the term new colonialism, we want to especially register its function of commodification of social relationships through a paradoxical deployment of freedom, diversity, and multiplicity as they are materialized in specific historical and spatial contexts.” The university is one such specific historical and spatial context. Within the university we find postcolonial scholars, artists, and curators. Within the university we find postcolonial subjects, in the flesh as students, faculty, administrators, and staff. Within the university we find intellectual and artistic embodiments. Within the university we find the imbrication of political economic and cultural forces, which, of course, always function in tandem. Within the university we find vast inequalities, among its faculty, its students, its paradigms, deployments of technology and technological expertise, uses of space, funding streams, and its division of labor.

Between the university and its surroundings these inequalities proliferate as well. In the elite settings of Oxford and Cambridge (Oxbridge), walls and gates separate the public city commons from inside university spaces of privilege. However, in the “public” US university, there are no such walls or gates but there might as well be moats full of alligators, for thus do the townies perceive the permeability of the lack of physical barriers. Uses of space, human mobility, and labor flows mark the university as a zone of exception in relation to nonuniversity related town residents who nonetheless depend on the university for their economic well-being and that of their community.

In the case of the land grant Midwest universities, populating the university is accomplished via a number of historical displacements. The original displacement attacks indigenous property and way of life. This displacement reterritorializes the university first as a privileged site of “learning and labor,” the official motto of the university, as students quite literally had to work daily to go beyond “mere ‘book learning’” (Annual Register, 1868, p. 15).1 The university as a site for rationalization of agricultural knowledge does not acknowledge its colonization and displacement of previously existing populations. Settler colonialists displaced the indigenous. Then the regional population displaces the locals—as in Chicago area students overrepresent the students in relation to the local population. Despite administrative skirmishes regarding precisely these issues of local, regional, and national emphases; all is well as long as the state keeps its funding commitment to the ←xvi | xvii→university. However, when this implicit social contract no longer is honored, the university as a living institution with economic imperatives seeks other sources of funding. The most immediate source is students from other states charged higher out of state tuition. In-state students, especially in the most highly coveted access to the College of Engineering, have to compete against a much stronger pool of applicants and frankly can attend neighboring states universities, whose own efforts to make up for reduced state funding include in state tuition for out of state students. As with capitalism at large, a national strategy inevitably expands to the global. The university has a long history of recruiting international students, and in the latest fiscal crisis, this becomes yet another way of economic survival. The cycle of displacement of populations of students of the university is complete: the settlers displace the indigenous, the regional displace the locals, the national displace the regional, and the international displace the national. However, do not mistake the global displacement to include the marginalized of the world. By and large the globally diverse students hail from pockets of privilege. As well, the number of students does not grow exponentially so that this global inclusion is partly accomplished through the displacement of temporarily included groups of minoritized and working-class students.

power: inclusion and exclusion through submerged ethnic histories

In late modern societies’ aggressive neoliberal turn, universities become key sites for the deployment of new technologies of power. As McCarthy et al. note: “throughout the course of history the school, the museum and the city have rationalized systems that produce power asymmetrically, and exacerbate inequalities.” To be sure, universities operate simultaneously as sites of exclusion and inclusion—this schizophrenic impulse reveals power asymmetries where the former functions much more strongly than the latter. Admissions, hiring, and a strong ethos of meritocracy serve as the rhetorical raison d’être for the contemporary university (Littler, 2018). The official rhetoric holds that only the worthy are admitted, graduated, hired, and/or promoted through standards of excellence, which purportedly remain objective and neutral. However, many waves of inclusionary politics, stemming from gender, race, and global populations, resulting from the intractability of exclusionary practices have resulted in demands placed upon the university to reexamine its policies of exclusion and its pretense of neutrality.

One of the many elements that troubles the ivory tower fantasy narrative is the colonial history of the university (Wilder, 2013; Smith and Ellis, 2017). Indeed, the university exhibits long histories of colonial spoils and ethnic displacement. ←xvii | xviii→The US Morrill Land-Grant Acts of 1862 and 1890 “granted” universities in the United States lands that belonged to indigenous populations. Universities exerting property expansion over recently appropriated indigenous lands via the Morrill Act represent an instance of settler colonialism (paperson, 2017), colonization matters (Byrd, 2011), and economies of dispossession (Byrd, Goldstein, Melamed, and Reddy, 2018; Harootunian, 2000). Many US universities are recently acknowledging their location over sacred indigenous grounds and slave burial places and their history of slave labor, as in the case of the University of Mississippi (Smith-Barrow, 2018) or of donations from slave owners and donors who made their fortunes through the slave trade as in Harvard (Binkley, 2017). The university is part and parcel of settler colonialism funded and fueled by the colonial slave trade. Iconic heroes of US education and government, such as Thomas Jefferson, one of the “founding fathers” of the US constitution as well as the founder of The University of Virginia, have been revealed to have had long-term “relationships” with slaves they owned and to have derived their wealth from slave labor with whom they reproduced (Gordon-Reed, 1997 and 2008). This is but the briefest of histories of the lack of purity and colonial and ethnic violence undergirding the history and establishment of today’s universities. No, the US university is not an ivory tower but rather the illustration of power and wealth applied to the construction of exclusionary educational institutions with the rhetorical veneer of inclusion through the simultaneous dispossession of the indigenous.

The University of Illinois is part of this colonial history that erases the presence of the indigenous. Founded in 1867 through the Morrill Land Grant, it remains the flagship public university of the state of Illinois. The Illini were the largest tribe on the land now known as the State of Illinois, and their name was adopted by the university for the school mascot, “Chief Illiniwek.” The symbol of the chief remains divisive for a university that has been sanctioned by both the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) in 2005 for use of native American imagery and by the AAUP (American Association of University Professors) in 2017 for violating free speech rights of Steven Salaita. The former refers to an embattled history of the use of the native American logo and impersonator in sports events and materials, and the latter refers to the internationally covered controversy over the hiring and firing of Steven Salaita. As of 2007 the university retired the chief but seldom polices his unofficial appearances. Created in 2003, the American Indian Studies Program [AISP] at the University of Illinois in 2013 sought to expand its profile and transnational reach by offering a position to Steven Salaita, a transnational indigeneity scholar, which the university in 2014 rescinded due to what some perceived as anti-Semitic tweets. The effort to study indigeneity and settler colonialism from a global perspective proved to be too threatening to many stakeholders of the university, especially donors who figured prominently in the calls to rescind the faculty position to Salaita. One of the many outcomes of ←xviii | xix→this controversy was that nearly all AISP faculty left the program, either for other departments or other universities. The Salaita controversy overlapped with that of the figure of the “fighting Illini,” which remains a divisive issue for university students, alums, and community members (Rosenstein, 1997). Repeated efforts to replace the use of this mascot, such as removing it from official university events since 2007, have met with resistance and barely unofficial displays of the symbol and the mascot at sporting and other university events. A recently released university statement underscores how fraught and contested this issue continues to be. In it the university ambiguously announces its intention to retire the indigenous mascot while simultaneously celebrating the intent and history of mascot supporters (http://chancellor.illinois.edu/NativeImageryReport.html, June 7, 2019). The charge given to the commission by the chancellor demonstrates both the tone and ranking of tasks:

Provide closure, healing, and reconciliation for stakeholders

Facilitate the establishment of new traditions

Remember the history of the Chief—with a focus on both the intent and impact of the tradition Honor and partner with the Native Nations for whom Illinois is their ancestral home (http://chancellor.illinois.edu/NativeImageryReport.html)

This conciliatory approach to supporters of the chief through respecting and honoring the “intent and impact of the tradition” is the most up to date status on the university’s acknowledgment of its complicity with settler colonialism.

the university as a city and in relation to the city

I take McCarthy et al.’s suggestion that conceptualizing “the city, school and museum as operating separately in disconnected flows was a flawed perspective” and continue my brief application to the contemporary major university as a city, school, and museum. Major universities are small cities. Indeed, cities spring around and depend on universities, especially when universities are located in small towns in which a major university is the biggest employer and economic engine. Entire small cities feed off the large university. Rows of bars and cheap and quick food establishments cater to the needs and budgets of students. More upscale restaurants cater to wealthier students, their parents, the faculty, and highly paid administrators. Stores and hotels organize their supplies and sales around student calendars. Local grocery stores, for instance, stock up on toilet paper and sundries at the beginning of each school year and packing supplies at the end of the school ←xix | xx→year. Hotels survive on sports events attendees as well as other major university functions such as Mom’s Day and commencements (of which there are three very year: Spring, Summer, and Fall). Private dorms spring up around the university as do vendors and franchises, the lucky ones of which actually gain a foothold within dorms, libraries, and other university buildings with high student traffic: Starbucks and Subway in the student union, a local coffee chain in the library, etc.

Education begets education. Faculty expect a high-quality education for their children. Unless public schools meet faculty standards, private preschools, elementaries, and high schools begin to spring up. Faculty all but colonize the university sponsored pre- and secondary schools. STEM faculty found and grow pricey “countryside” schools. Local churches also draw students from parents who find the public system below their standards—educationally and/or socially. Communities of color argue that the public school “gifted” classrooms are mainly populated by dominant culture students. Even parents who support public education try to move within the catchment areas of the more highly ranked ones—communities wherein lower income families cannot afford to live. Exclusion reaches from the infant care facilities through high school. Moreover, tutor systems also proliferate: Kumon, Kaplan, and private math and science favorites. A university community is a lucrative place to peddle commodified supplemental educational products and services.

Workers in the university live in communities and neighborhoods that accord their status and income. Between the university and the surrounding community, spaces of wealth and privilege also continue to price out the local population. Many in the staff cannot afford to live in town. They have to drive into campus, which poses difficulties in inclement weather when their cars are not in great condition. Other than the professionals employed by the university and a monopoly health care organization, many working-class staff and others find it unaffordable to stay in the twin cities resulting in resentment toward the university that fuels a divide between liberal politics of the university and conservative politics of the surrounding area. On the other hand, entire neighborhoods cater to faculty and highly paid administrators. Walking distance faculty ghettos contain the highly coveted bilingual primary school. Their tree-lined avenues paved in cobblestones with historic lamp posts are the stuff of postcards. However, as the university expands its highly paid personnel—mostly at the administrative level—new neighborhoods full of McMansions are built in the outskirts of town, where there used to be corn fields. State-of-the-art “public” schools are built in those neighborhoods. The YMCA, formerly located downtown, close to working-class communities, moves to the McMansion neighborhood, effectively beyond the geographic reach of working-class youth. Also, as the university recruits wealthy international students who are not necessarily fond of university dorms, much more upscale high rises mushroom around the campus, with plenty of parking for their residents who prefer ←xx | xxi→imported luxury brands, displacing former residents in small single-family units and locally owned small businesses.

The large university becomes a city as well as the city surrounding it grows in response to the university creating a brilliant micro-urban network. Within the university, city-fication, in the neoliberal sense, becomes normalized. As previously mentioned, major transnational as well as local economic concerns gain a foothold not just within the university space but within actual buildings. This encroachment of profit-driven islands was unthinkable even a couple of decades ago, but now it is de rigueur due to the neoliberal defunding of public institutions. Through the 1960s the university received two thirds of its budget from the state while 90 percent of its research was federally funded (Brichford, 1970/1983). As a “public” university with minimum federal and state economic support, it has begun to treat students as customers: citizens as customers for the greater democracy and students as customers for the educational meritocracy. The university is colonized by transnational capital and by processes of neoliberalism.

The university’s educational mission becomes secondary to “revenue streams.” Faculty meetings seldom mention the words “education” and “students” but revolve around discussions of “revenue streams.” Anything can be commodified into a “revenue stream”: summer “camps” for high schoolers, online paying masters degrees, online certificates, consulting, and renting halls and auditoriums for private events, such as weddings, etc. In sum, how can the university sell itself to consumers other than its enrolled students? Even endowment funds (see below) are articulated to the development of online revenue streams, announced as improvements in educational access, as Dean Jeffrey R. Brown explains below (Lee, 2017):

The donation from the Gies family will be used to create graduate programs and use “technology to democratize education,” according to school officials. One example is the business school’s iMBA program, a master’s program started in January 2016 that is conducted entirely online and costs about a third of what equivalent degrees cost, school officials said. The university sees it as a way to reduce barriers to geography, cost and access, officials said.

branding the university

How can the university be sold? Bricks, actual benches, endowed professor chairs, classrooms, buildings, and colleges begin to be “named” after the donors, corporate or individual, who donate millions of dollars for that recognition. At the front and/or in the back of new buildings one encounters bricks on the ground and/or the wall with donor names. Courting for named parts of the university, in essence, leases buildings and academic units, as depending on the sum of money a new higher paying donor can supplant the name of the previous endowment. Fundraising or ←xxi | xxii→“advancement” bureaucracies that supposedly pay for themselves appear in academic and other (such as sports) university units. Resources that should be going to students and faculty such as space, technology, and money now are diverted to this group of bureaucrats who often have little knowledge of the work being done by the academic side. In fact, “advancement” personnel bemoan the presence and input of the faculty, as if they had anything to sell without faculty and students. Rosalind Gill (2016) identifies the contemporary presence of feminism in popular media as feminism light or even weightless feminism. This is akin to the “lightness” of race deployed in the globalization of multiculture in the city as highlighted in McCarthy, Sanya, and Goel’s Chapter 2 in this volume. The contemporary approach to advancement follows this pattern of education light or even weightless education, as fundraising seldom is pursued on educational goals. Bricks and mortar development, as in fancy high-tech classrooms, are highly touted despite very little research as to how the fancied up classroom improves learning outcomes.

Endowments are managed by the university, with investment returns spent on the identified recipient. At this point, endowments range from a minimum $5,000,000 for a Named Dean to $25,000 for either a Named Scholarship or a Named Fund. Like the prices of steak and high-end fish in restaurants, endowment minimums for Named College or School and Named Department or Unit are “Minimum value determined by reviewing market, and upon recommendation of campus Chancellor and Provost, subject to Board of Trustees approval” (https://uif.uillinois.edu/endowment-levels). Seeking donors takes precedence over educational goals. Of course, the university prefers “unrestricted” endowments and donations, which allow for expenditures “as needed.” Often large endowments and donations are given to the sports system and infrastructure, such as stadiums and performance spaces. For instance, the University of Illinois’ Memorial Stadium, built in memory of students who died in World War I, has undergone many renovations. Recent renovations move the student sections to less desirable areas in order to make more seats available for the general paying public. Even more recent updates will be paid by the luxury boxes that will go to corporate sponsors and wealthy donors. The indoor sports and performance arena formerly known as Assembly Hall was renamed State Farm Center in 2013 after that company paid for naming rights. Other recent donations include the $20 million given by brothers Chris and Dale Smith in honor of their parents Henry Dale and Betty Smith for the Football Center now named after them in perpetuity. The bulk of the money, $15 million, goes to the football performance center, while $3 million goes to scholarship for former athletes and $2 million for the Carle Illinois College of Medicine (https://fightingillini.com/news/2018/8/29/football-henry-dale-and-betty-smith-recognized-with-20-million-gift-to-u-of-i.aspx). The university had previously announced donations of $8.975 million towards this football performance project https://fightingillini.com/news/2018/6/27/twelve-donors-add-millions-to-football-performance-center-project.aspx?path=football), ←xxii | xxiii→which in addition to the $15 million Smith Endowment make it a $24 million enterprise, more than most educational donations other than for the Colleges of Engineering and Business. The College of Engineering has received a total of $300 million from the Grainger Foundation, whose latest $100 million 2019 donation will change the name of the college to the Grainger College of Engineering (Rhodes, 2019). Already the College of Engineering has an endowed Grainger Library, following a previous donation by the Grainger Foundation. Similarly, the College of Business became the Gies College of Business in 2017 after a $150 million endowment from Larry Gies (Lee, 2017). One wonders how much it costs to endow the entire university? Surely this can be had for a price as well.

Concurrently, with the growth in donations and endowments, the cost of attending “public” universities rises exponentially and prices many prospective students out. For instance, the price of books increases, partly because subsidized book prices from university presses no longer exist given that many of these presses either have closed or have switched to market practices. Especially in introductory and required courses in STEM, books cost in the hundreds and contain lectures, exams, and other online aspects. The price of room and board increases along with tuition. Financial aid decreases, and many students are offered packages of high interest loans, which amount to long-term financial servitude, especially in the social sciences and the humanities when the likelihood of gaining entry to high-paying jobs is low. Saddling low-income students with unpayable student loans is one of the most egregious examples of the unethical neoliberal aspects of contemporary “public” education. In response to the mounting outcry over the rising cost of education, in 2019 the University of Illinois announced the “Illinois Commitment”: state of Illinois students with a family income of $61,000 or less as well as less than $50,000 in family assets receive free tuition. The exclusionary measures of rising costs of education are somewhat mitigated by the inclusionary tuition for low-income students.

Nonetheless, despite the “Illinois Commitment” the university wants to attract students who can pay to attend. The effort to attract and keep students from attending or transferring to other universities, those who are not enrolled, and to recruit foreign students who pay highest fees, takes the form of online access, gentrification, and countryclub-ization. The university ramps up its efforts to compete for students with upscale private universities, other state universities who have not raised their prices as much as ours, and other countries who are exporting students until they grow their internal national ability to educate their own. Via donor and student fees the university invests in state-of-the-art stadiums, sports facilities, and health clubs that aim to interpellate the upper middle-class consumer child and parent. Whereas in a not so distant past students could work part time, piece together some small scholarships, and with a small amount of savings attend ←xxiii | xxiv→a public university without incurring major debt, contemporarily this is nearly impossible. Thus, many students who attend the university rely mostly or solely on parental funding, and the university has to appeal to these parents with an environment that screams safety and comfort. Wary of raising funds for educational purposes, universities demonstrate no such reticence when providing desirable study abroad opportunities and funding world-class health clubs through long-term student fees. While there is an abundance of meaningful study abroad experience, there are also many instances that amount to little more than touring Europe for credit. If a student stays in the university, sport facilities beckon: indoor and outdoor pools, large amounts of stationery machines looking out over floor to ceiling glass, saunas, weight rooms, tracks, massage rooms and services, and beautifully landscaped and architecturally innovative spaces welcome students as a showplace and gathering center of the university. The student union, the first point of contact for visitors, is inundated by franchise food, brand technology sales, and university branded clothing stores. Recently while walking through our union I overheard the tour guide telling prospective students and their parents that our basement “rivals the food options of any mall.” The union has transitioned into a facility fully integrated into brand consumer culture. Prospective students and their parents are guided through the university as if it were a theme park, presenting a simulacrum of learning much like the center of Disneyland represents a simulacrum of Main Street (Moe and Wilkie, 1997), designed for multiple visits and ever-increasing consumption of branded intellectual property.

The theme park of the university includes the performativity of an inclusive education as a backdrop for fun and privilege. As with theme parks, one enters the university through a gate. Our university offers two options: the traditional one with the alma matter and the one with the brick trim and the date of our founding. The meticulously manicured lawns, flower islands, and buildings around a quad that looks as if it is “right out of the movies” complete the vision of a university. Visitors are shepherded through the union/mall, up the beautiful sidewalks, past the state-of-the art sports facilities/health clubs, by the new dorms, past the libraries, and back to an air-conditioned auditorium where they are encouraged to apply or to reaffirm the wisdom of their decision, if they have already been accepted. The students leading the tour are no different than “cast members”2 at Disney theme parks for they are performing a pre-scripted narrative, answering questions according to equally pre-scripted answers. Student guides are chosen for their “student look” and wear university colors clothing without being overtly uniformed. The university proudly boasts its standing as the largest Greek system in the country while underplaying the scientifically documented sexual assault statistics that go hand in hand with fraternity activities (e.g., Armstrong, Hamilton, and Sweeny, 2006). Minimal engagement with faculty or students other than that with the cast members/guides ensures a coherent narrative whose message ←xxiv | xxv→is: come to this university, you’ll have fun, we have big sports, big parties, we have tons of computers and health clubs, you can travel abroad and do same, and you’ll also get a world-class education. This message is delivered in person and through mediatized formats: online, via social media, press releases, and endless emails if one gives them one during one of those theme park visits.

Meanwhile the library, as the former showcase of the university, where knowledge is actually stored, recedes in importance. In short, the material library, with books, media material, maps, etc., transforms into a museum of modernity—when actual humans engaged with actual books and library materials, which are now moved to remote storage, only accessible through digital requests. The library transitions into something other than an essential element of a democratic system that depends on an informed citizenry. It becomes bifurcated into the museum of democracy and access and the present of digital consumption. Once touted as the centerpiece of our university’s commitment of excellence, in constant competition with UC Berkeley’s library as the top public university library—other than the Library of Congress—the library recedes in importance and salience in the public relations material the university distributes. In fact, the library becomes regularly and progressively depopulated of books and repopulated by “smart” furniture, desks, and coffee shops, the ultimate signifier of late twentieth-century and early twenty-first-century disposable consumption.

I shift now to two actual conversations I have had with administrators and librarians regarding the library. The first incident occurred when as head of an academic unit, I was included in one of the dinners the new provost hosted with academic heads. In my group was the then head of the university library. The provost asked the university librarian if we needed a library, given that he was able to download all engineering articles he needed from online academic journals. The librarian, the three other departmental heads, and the provost’s handler were visibly shocked by his question. His handler said something like: “The Provost doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have a library. He is just inquiring about the shifts to online journals in many fields.” Nice save! But the provost was asking about whether we needed a library, and we all knew it. A second instance happened when a colleague and I decided to endow the publication of dissertations from our academic unit. Since the beginning of our doctoral program, dissertations had been bound, printed, and kept in the library. We used to take the incoming doctoral students to look at the history of our program through these dissertations. I used to advice students to choose two of them to use as models for writing. But few years ago, the university stopped printing dissertations, making them available only online. Many students decline the online access as it threatens theft of intellectual property. My colleague and I met with the librarian to ask how much it would take to endow a fund that would pay for the printing of dissertations. Her response was as revealing as the provost’s: “We don’t need more books,” she said, “we need ←xxv | xxvi→furniture.” A librarian turning down funds for books—that is the epitome of contemporary university double-speak.

The many buildings and spaces that formerly housed books for the library now host computer stations, “smart” furniture with built in plugs for electric and digital access, or coffee shops. The shift to online access has been amply documented, but lest one be labeled a Luddite, there are actual ramifications. Whereas a member of the public could enter libraries and look at books or journals, now a paywall is required to browse online—so access is limited. As well the university does not extend online access to alums. Moreover, I found many a major and interesting source by physically going to the stacks and running into books and material around the one I had pre-identified. This is much more difficult online, though there are programs that seek to replicate this proximity experience. Piggybacking to previous comments I’ve made about the uneven distribution of wealth in the university, engineering and business online journals are far more expensive than social science and humanities journals—a differential of $300 vs. $5000 for yearly subscriptions is not unusual. Unsurprisingly, despite the contemporary digital library, expenditure differentials in material spaces continue. The former College of Agriculture now branded as ACES, the College of Consumer, Economics and Environmental Sciences, as well as the College of Engineering sport shiny new libraries with huge windows, wide-open spaces, and massive amounts of digital technology, as showcases of wealth and privilege within the university setting.


The above have been but opening salvos for a discussion and research project deserving much more space and time. The “cultural wars” cast knowledge production within an inescapably political, ideological, and economic battle between a range of opposing forces, displacing education as the major task of public universities and replacing it with mediatized commodification of the university, its grounds, its buildings, and its practices (Brown, 2015). Historically the university as an institution bears all of the traces of culture at large: the impositions of power, the displacement of less privileged, the instability of funding, and the global switch to neoliberal policies. Within the university, the reaffirmation of the primacy of STEM and the value of business as an academic yet thoroughly commodified discipline reify what was already the best funded component of the university, and continues the long tradition, dating back to the beginning of the university, of favoring these disciplines with resources, such as recruitment of globally competitive faculty and students, space and land assignations, massive new buildings, and huge private endowments, with most of senior faculty and entire colleges basking in the funding provided by private and corporate sources. Differential tuition rates ←xxvi | xxvii→further enhance the competitive advantage of these two colleges. The rest of the university limps along, hoping for collaboration with the big two, while also providing the veneer of a liberal arts focus and education, which the university fully draws on for its mediatized branding strategies. The university has succeeded in perpetuating its ecosystem of exclusion and thus is part and parcel of larger global processes identified by the editors of this volume. Never a separate ivory tower, the contemporary public university has been colonized by global forces of capital that belie the very meaning of “public” and turn its supposed meritocratic learning into yet another gentrified, theme-parkified exclusionary space.


1.Under the subheading “The Labor System” the archived register from 1868 states: Practice in some form, and to some extent, is indispensable to a practical education. It is the divorcement of the theoretical and practical which renders so much of education mere “book learning.” To guard against this fatal defect, the trustees have directed that the manual labor system shall be thoroughly tried, and all students who are not excused on account of physical inability are required to labor from one to three hours each day, except Saturday and Sunday. During the Spring term the labor occupied two hours each day. During the autumn it will occupy less rather than more time.

2.At Disney theme parks all workers are called “cast members” as they are essentially there to perform the illusion of a magical place. As such, they have scripted responses. For example, if you ask a Disney worker at Disneyland why Princess Elena of Avalor is not appearing at the scheduled place and time, a cast member will answer something like: “because she is very busy attending to affairs of state.”


Armstrong, E. A., Hamilton, L., & Sweeney, B. (2006). Sexual assault on campus: A multilevel, integrative approach to party rape. Social Problems, 53(4), 483–499. doi:10.1525/sp.2006.53.4.483

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Binkley, C. (2017, March 03). Harvard publicly acknowledges historical ties to slavery. Retrieved June 14, 2019, from https://www.apnews.com/6b25d83deacd4133ba6a723442958916

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Gill, R. (2016). Postfeminism?: New feminist visibilities in postfeminist times. Feminist Media Studies, 16(4), 610–630. doi: 10.1080/14680777.2016.1193293

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Wilder, C. S. (2013). Ebony and ivory: Race, slavery, and the troubled history of America’s universities. New York, NY: Bloomsbury Press.


Understanding the Spaces of New Colonialism: The City, the School, and the Museum

cameron mccarthy, koeli moitra goel, ergin bulut, warren crichlow, brenda nyandiko sanya, and bryce henson

Lurking in the civic problems of a multi-cultural city is the moral difficulty of arousing sympathy for those who are Other. (Richard Sennett, 1994, p. 376)

This book, Spaces of New Colonialism, began as a response to various urban upheavals, formations, and emerging practices in the last decade. What prompted us to collect these chapters that follow include events and movements such as the Arab Spring; brutal police killings of black and brown minorities in key cities in the USA; school closings; and the emergence of postcolonial scholars, artists, and curators (e.g., Stuart Hall, John Akomfrah, Okwui Enwezor, Gordon Bennett, Arnaldo Roche-Rabel) who questioned the old uses of the museum in light of its role as a contact zone in the persistence of colonizing practices and social relations. From the very beginning, we saw these political economic developments and cultural forces as imbricated in neoliberal globalization that now extended forms of colonization of space and aggravated inequality deep within the so-called global and smart cities across the world. In such contexts, we sought to examine these developments by exploring the discontinuities in the uses of space. We centered our discussion of these emerging spaces of new colonialism on institutional relations in this trio of transforming spaces: the city, the school, and the museum. Our use and presentation of new colonialism as a heuristic, an organizing principle, acknowledges the continuities of colonial residues in our current neoliberal economic order with the recognition of its shift(ing) forms. That is, we maintain that colonial legacies are interwoven and colonial agendas well and alive even within ←1 | 2→the newly decolonized societies, along with the formation of Western liberalism, and the liberal subject (Hall, 2001; Lowe, 2015). As we operationalize the term “new colonialism,” we want to especially register its function of commodification of social relationships through a paradoxical deployment of freedom, diversity, and multiplicity as they are materialized in specific historical and spatial contexts. Through our emphasis on colonialism, we aim to draw attention to specific spatial logics of neoliberalism and commodification of social commons as these are violently or spectacularly realized within schools, museums, and the broader urban contexts both in the Global North and Global South. In other words, colonialism, for us, specifically pins down the broader structural neoliberal processes and maps them in their contradictory ways of unfolding.

We considered these three spaces to be a critical nexus in the evolution of neoliberal globalization that we regard as important to try to grapple with. For us, these institutions had a lot to do with each other. For example, the school and the museum were not innocent in the intensifying processes of gentrification, absorption, and expulsion in the city. They were staging grounds involving “voluntary” or coerced participation in what David Harvey calls processes of “accumulation by dispossession” (2003, p. 45) that wracked and shook out ever-new areas of the social commons. The school and the museum have indeed been key to a neoliberal knowledge economy materialized in the city that is now remaking itself as an exhibition complex linked to hypercapitalism. But we had in part treated these key entities as noun-like, self-enclosing and self-sufficient institutions.

However, some questions emerged organically from our discussions: Did they play a role in center-periphery relations? Could their relationship be conceptualized as a form of an alliance, a coordination of almost discrete, functioning elements and structures? Gradually, as our conversations advanced, and our explorations matured towards theoretically and methodologically new directions, we realized that to conceptualize the city, school and museum as operating separately in disconnected flows was a flawed perspective.

As readers will observe in the following chapters, our evolved perspective now casts these entities in a different light. We treat the city-school-museum nexus and its institutional elaboration and ramifications as a more fluid set of associations. These institutional entities for us are more liquid, more rapidly face shifting. They are better thought of, not as nouns but as verbs, as active, constantly morphing into each other, assuming different guises in an unequal policy universe and in the brutal contemporary urban contests over needs, interests, and resources. More and more, the city thrives, for instance, on its pedagogical knowledge-making, its asymmetrically sensualized and glittering appeal to corporations, on providing parks, museums, high-end restaurants, and magnet schools to the restless global professional middle classes (PMC). Similarly, the city is invested in commodifying cultural pluralism and multiculture beckoning the tourist and the traveler to ←2 | 3→sample the sanitized cultural forms of the Other at every turn. The city has, indeed, become the showcase and cabinet of curiosities of the representative furniture that all must want and have (Schielke, 2012).

Beginning with Angharad Valdivia’s rumination on citification in the university context in her elegantly written Foreword, this volume seeks to drill down on an increasingly volatile complex of issues linked to the nexus of schooling, cities, and the museum. These issues of deepening economic, cultural, social, and ideological differentiation, as she notes, have centrally to do with the perverse uses of respatialization in all of these sites and the way they affect the differential quality of life experiences for social actors dwelling within the new terms of the 21st century. Following up on these matters, Saskia Sassen urges us to more systematically theorize empirically given accounts of the neoliberal transformations taking place in contemporary institutional and social life often summarized under the fraught geographical term: “global city.” In Chapter One (“The City: Its Return as a Lens for Social Theory), Saskia Sassen leads off the main body of chapters in Spaces of New Colonialism. In it, she provocatively urges scholars to use the city as as a prompt to new research on the transforming spatiality of the urban context. Building on Sassen’s insights, this volume foregrounds a set of theoretically, methodologically, and empirically based interventions that seek to diagnose and look beyond contemporary socioeconomic relations and uses of space in the city, the school, and the museum, recognizing as a further condition their colonial historicity and present. The volume calls attention to the persistent discursivity of these transactional entities, to the political, economic, and ideological powers that reside in their textuality and their face-shifting practices and energies. We also recognize that we are living in a historical moment that is twisting globalization, turning the global city towards alt-right narratives of isolationist nationalism and banner-waving revanchism. We are calling this moment one of feral nationalism that refutes the presentations of Friedman (2005) and others, who once contended that globalization was a flattening set of processes.

This feral nationalism has arisen in the existential cracks and fissures of globalizing city space in which particularly white working classes claim grievance, displacing their economic and cultural insecurities onto the immigrant Other and the racialized poor. A form of popular authoritarianism has gestated within the brutal patterns of uneven development that have intensified under globalization and have made the city a staging ground. Whether originating in the rural enclaves or within tendentious groups of state elites, it has exercised itself most powerfully not only at ports and borders where society’s perimeters are drawn in and around non-citizens, but also inward deep into city spaces and normalizing institutions like schools and museums where, for better or worse, marginalized social entities deal with the upthrust of exclusions, and pathologizations, and the agonisms of belonging, as Bryce Henson, Koeli Goel, and others note within this volume. ←3 | 4→Some mainstream thinkers see this resurgence of nationalism and isolation as the trumping of globalization and the cessation of its logics. We say: not so fast! We believe this assertion of nationalism is a masking logic in which the structural forces unleashed by globalization, its hypercapitalized partitioning of space, its breeding of relentless processes of individualization and conflict—the emergence of the new analytic borderlands and fronteras, as Sassen calls them—operate more relentlessly than ever before. It is within this mask of nationalism, trade wars, etc., that global patterns of wealth inequality are intensifying in which city spaces and city institutions such as schools and museum have become the most viciously contested grounds: fought over and coveted social entities. We probe sharply into this scenario, ruminating deeply on the couplet “global/city” as we go along.

The book is divided into three sections (“Precarious Entanglements,” “Fraught Circuits of Citizenship,” and “Futurities”), each foregrounding a set of key arguments and perspectives on the present uses and demarcation of city spaces and their face-shifting features. Above all, contributors seek to intervene in the broad contestation over the iconography of late modern city life and the transactions prosecuted in schools and museums in its name. The volume brings together a rich interdisciplinary stream of literature which, by focusing on the city, the school and the museum, underscores why it is crucial to understand the city as an important receptacle in this juncture of the 21st century for urban theorists, cultural scholars, and global studies historians alike. It illuminates what connections exist in the triangulation of late capitalism’s desperate struggle to amass more in the hands of the few, to push further for extensive accumulation by dispossession, and the renewal of dubitable transactions between Western corporations and economies of the Global South to create conditions most simply read as “spaces of new colonialism” spreading across the world. As social problems become more and more globally connected, the need for collaborative work across societies is called for.

Responding to calls for critical interpretive inquiry into urban reorganization from authors like Sassen, we embark here upon a deeper and nuanced scrutiny of late-modern societies’ aggressive neoliberal turn. This neoliberal turn has come at the expense of the interests of the disadvantaged, violently facilitating the latter’s displacement and dispossession as cities in the Global North and South spatially reorganize and restructure at considerable transitional human costs to the poor. This book’s sharp-edge, provocative thrust presents textured and wide-ranging studies from North and South America, Asia, and Europe—to push the boundaries of academic scrutiny in all directions. Our work aims to contribute towards an epistemological shift in the study of globalization as it has been carried on so far. Advancing Global Studies by excavating underlying connections between Global Cities and educational institutions such as schools, universities, and sites of public culture and learning like museums, we must address the very pertinent question: What do we mean when we talk of a “City” in our contemporary historical ←4 | 5→moment? What is meant by a “global city” particularly in non-Western contexts where massive city-regions are germinating, maturing, and prospering? What kind of theorizations are required within global urban studies to prepare the students for a future history of the world where human life is mainly lived in vast city-regions, but in various segregated clusters: of the international elite, the PMC, or the perpetually dispossessed and underprivileged indigent laboring classes/refugees/migrants? The latter, routinely left out of all decision-making processes in the most recent versions of citification, are casually bypassed in urban plans. They are relegated to the fringes of discussions on organizing human habitation for the coming centuries on racially, communally, and class-oriented segregations. Ravaged across the world, even while they valiantly engage in ideological and cultural struggles to hold onto vestiges of their heritage, which in turn are also being commoditized and sold to the highest bidders across the globe, the marginalized never get a foothold, often never get their voices heard. Who, then, will finally get to tell the history of these vast, respatialized urban expanses? Regions often termed “megacities” in some of the world’s most populous areas like India and China (and their administrative agencies) are regularly being expunged of their penurious marginalized communities—sometimes chaotically (as in the case of India) and sometimes methodically (as in China), while they create their shining megalopolises by way of building glass and steel citadels—in order to powerfully project “particular visions of the world” (Ong, 2011, p. 1). This volume’s various chapters are geared here to scrutinize what Ong calls the “two universal principles of globalization—capitalism and postcolonialism” (2011, p. 2), even as we acknowledge their entangled, intertwined nature and each of their associated and unified sets of economic effects or political outcomes for shaping global spaces.

We have chosen here to focus on the institutions of schooling, the museum, and the city as venues prompted by urban protests (Cairo, Chicago, Charlotte, Ferguson, London, New York, and Paris); because they each in themselves and in tandem carry the weight of tremendous struggle over efforts of the powerful to purify and purge urban space of collectivism, diversity, and alterity—all the vestiges of the more humanist themes of the North Atlantic model of modernity expressed in the three pillars of the caring state, the self-sufficient worker and the enfranchised and engaged citizen (Grossberg, 2005).

section i: precarious entanglements

Precarious Entanglements, theoretical in emphasis, begins with Sassen’s call for new theorization on globalization and urbanization. As one of the leading contemporary theorists on the consequences of the globalization of space in the urban context, she encourages us to lay out new ground of developments within globalization that ←5 | 6→make the city, the school, and the museum such productive and generative sites for understanding the transactions of power and human entailment in new systems of governance and regulation linked paradoxically to freedom, consumerism, and possessive individualism. In this section, contributors collectively explore the ways in which these institutions—and the social agents within them—are interconnected, interdependent, and simultaneously precarious (Berlant, 2011; Butler, 2004). Contributors to Precarious Entanglements illustrate how the circulation of global capital, exacerbated by neoliberalism, results in concentration and uneven development, stratified and unequal spatial temporal ordering (Harvey, 2003), and the differential distribution of precarity registered in the corporeal vulnerabilities (Butler, 2004) experienced by minoritized and marginalized communities around all corners of the world whether Ferguson, or Gaza, or Paris.

Just as Walter Mignolo conveys colonialism as the underbelly to modernity (2011), we see New Colonialism as the underside of the neoliberal dispensation and as revealed in radically exacerbated wealth inequality and the disempowering of the minority poor. As these institutional spaces have become even more deeply imbricated and triangulated to each other and to the unfolding new institutional order sparked by neoliberalism, academic and activist interventions are called for. Spaces of New Colonialism is intended as an intervention in these developments in which the new organization of rule and power introduced by neoliberal globalization is appropriately identified as “new colonialism.”

In a historical sense, colonialism refers to the act of appropriating a place or domain for one’s use, establishing political, economic as well as legal control over it, and finally embedding one’s way of life deep in this terrain’s cultural and social practices. This invariably comes at the cost of oppressing and even displacing local inhabitants or indigenous populations already residing in the area—in a rapacious profiteering from the hapless of the land. New colonialism aims toward the same but evolves differently. New colonialism is best seen as the predatory progeny of globalization which has flourished from neoliberal exploitation of spatial, economic, and human resources following the past 30 years’ worldwide (forced) consensus on the advantages of globalization, which opened up markets and societies across the world. It garbs colonization in terms borrowed from globalism’s high points and operates disingenuously through tropes of “rejuvenation” and “transformation,” always promising a Utopia that is right beyond the horizon. Military power has not disappeared but has largely been replaced by financial power and debt. Soft powers of global culture: flows of images, music, and literal and visual texts are all deployed in the interest of new colonialism.

Whereas in the earlier colonialism, power emerged from armies, from strategies and techniques through which the sovereign, the state, and the various assemblages of governance present in the society carried on the function of controlling, ordering, and organizing individuals as well as populations within the modern ←6 | 7→state, in new colonialism, power is not limited to, in effect, hardly present, in the old way, the state. Whether it is a failure of the neoliberal state or laurels for the global capitalist machinery, power now is inscrutable, arriving from unfathomable corridors of multifaceted, multilocated corporations and nexuses.

In the act of making the individual useful to the state, the function of the neoliberal state is to ensure the production of a live, active, productive citizen, or in other words, see beyond the “being” of man to his “well-being” and further to the well-being of man as a collective entity—as citizens within society—population, as Collier (2009) and other Foucauldian scholars have observed. But that “citizen” has now acquired copious layers of varnishing depending on various race, class, gender, ethnicity, caste, and indigeneity factors. We look back at Agamben’s (2005) “State of Exception” which takes place when “naked life” is explicitly put into question and revoked as the ultimate foundation of political power. Agamben examines the suspension of law itself and the establishment of a legal civil war, by means of the state of exception, that allows for the physical elimination of entire categories of “citizens” who for some reason cannot be integrated into the political system. The ambiguous contradiction lies in the fact that the ultimate subject that “needs to be at once turned into the exception and included in the city is always naked life” (Agamben, 2000, p. 5). It is here we find meaning in his analysis of naked life as the basis to understand contemporary existence. Whereas earlier, the true object of the state in population management was to take care of population, en masse, so as to maximize their utility in the service of enhancing the existence of the state, in contemporary colonization, the usefulness or otherwise of particular bodies has already been predetermined. Those who are deemed undesirable are stripped of their human or citizen’s rights—formally or informally—and methodically removed from spaces of new colonialism: the shining glass towers, multiplex malls, and even educational institutions.

New colonialism is faceless, and its nefarious power circulates insidiously reminding one of Foucault’s work on the “policing” function of modern government, which in many ways anticipated the developments towards securitization of society and the culture of crisis that we are experiencing in the 21st century. The ways in which people think or work, live or love; how they connect and reach out to the world around them; and how they talk or travel, make friends or enemies are all monitored, recorded, and guided by a nameless, faceless power as it emerges through ever-new ways—ways in which the postmodern transnational public’s life is configured and reconfigured through incessant circulation and intermingling of political, economic, cultural, and social influences developing out of a world in violent flux.

Mutability of power is one of the markers of New Colonialism, and one of its strengths. Disciplinary institutions and forms of power have not disappeared but are also now strongly accompanied by diffused power relations within what ←7 | 8→Deleuze (1992) calls “societies of control.” When deployed, among many other channels, through cultural and educational institutions, it creates vicious cycles of disempowerment where the disempowered themselves become part of the assemblages of power as emerging from disciplinary, regulatory, and security regimes. As the inner-city denizen emerges somewhat unharmed and makes it to her community college program, the shining new colonial spaces appropriate her talents, energy, and ideology with laudatory discourses on a new “connected global world” of opportunities, transnational positions, and foreign vacations: an entire aspirational universe.

The second marker distinguishing New Colonialism is that it is unbounded from national or spatial moorings. Less governmental, more capitalistic and corporate, many of the strategies of New Colonialism are created in boardrooms rather than elected parliaments. Any resistance is swiftly portrayed by media corporations as chaotic, illegitimate, secessionist, and “anti-national” where the state is but another arm of a global governance assemblage, deployed to the ends of capitalist maneuvers. New Colonialism prospers even as its aspirational universe is projected on new media platforms. Though eventually just as ephemeral as were dreams of El Dorado, they still suffice to pull the newly initiated into the dreams of the “global” marketplace. They still are herded into the educational spaces for indoctrination into the credos of this worldwide, omnipresent “new colonialism.”

Contributors in this section seek to call attention to the material infrastructures and the expression of lived contradictions of 21st-century life in specific institutional sites critical to the hopes and futures of contemporary subjects—institutional sites that are themselves the flash points of ideological and cultural struggle over the iconography and meaningfulness of late modernity, the radical turn to possessive individualism, and the ravaging of the social commons and the commonwealth. In Chapter Two (“Trading in Multiculture: The City and the University in the Age of Globalization”), Cameron McCarthy, Brenda Sanya, and Koeli Goel investigate the new spatialization of the North American university through marketing and branding. They argue that the University of Illinois at Chicago has blurred the boundaries between educational, commercial, and urban institutional goals, becoming a city within the city of Chicago. In turn, its administrative maneuvers are not incommensurate with Chicago as a city in its strategic and opportunistic deployment of race as “multiculture.” McCarthy, Sanya, and Goel examine citification, especially the use of the city as a cultural text, and its spaces and architecture as museologically oriented exhibitionary complexes not simply as a fixed spatial/temporal arrangement or geographical location, but as a powerful organizing metaphor and project of discursive will formation, integrating new resources, populations, and identities in the contradictory and radically volatile environment generated by gentrification and speculative capital.

←8 |

As Stuart Hall (in this volume) and, some years ago, Sanjay Srivastava (2012) have maintained, aesthetic practices, once identifiable solely within the four square walls of the museum, have in fact now broken out of institutional confinement to mark the applied practices of everyday existence of the care of the self, the care of the home, and the new spatial politics of urban and suburban residential living. In the examination of megaprojects supported by politicians, planners, and boosters; Ergin Bulut, Başak Can, and Nurcin İleri—(“Cementing Hegemony in New Turkey: The Construction Spectacle of Istanbul and the Rise of Right-Wing Masculine Populism”)—in Chapter Four present an incisive commentary on Istanbul’s rapacious real estate developments, top-down urban transformation, and the rise of authoritarian right-wing populism, which have become the dominant signifiers of Turkey’s political economy. This chapter targets presentist, psychological, and electoral explanations of right-wing populism and suggests the top-down, masculine, and technocratic “politics of concrete” as an alternative understanding beneath Turkey’s broader authoritarianism, revealing intricate connections between pragmatic urbanism, kitsch entrepreneurialism, and rejection of expert authorities in urban decision-making processes.

Societies are themselves engaged in reordering in the light of new developments linked to the intensification and movement of cultural and economic capital, mass migration, and the amplification and proliferation of images. The city’s cultural sites are some of the best crucibles for observing and evaluating present-day changes linked to globalization and neoliberalism. Since the onset of modernization, these institutions have been instantiations of the numerous ways in which power relations have been produced, secured, and revised. In Chapter Three (“Stage of Exception: Carnaval, Political Violence, and Black Life”) Bryce Henson scrutinizes the remaking of the city as a text within a larger exhibition complex, and an intensified security state that facilitates global capitalism via practices of Black erasure. Against the intricately textured materiality of the 2017 Carnaval and politico-performances of musical group Baiana System in Salvador da Bahia, Brazil, Henson foregrounds an analysis of which Afro-Brazilian bodies are celebrated and privileged in national culture and nation-making discourses and where black bodies are undesirable, and therefore deemed non-citizen and non-human. Following the work of Walter Benjamin (1969), he illuminates how the state of emergency is the rule for the non-citizen rather than any exception from the norms. At the same time, he brings forth the hidden erasures of Black life that exist beyond citizenship and the polis.

The ever-increasing chasms between various “kinds” of citizens—some privileged to possess multiple passports where others are disenfranchised in their own communities where they were born—are a recurrent theme in this volume. The ever debt-driven spending commitment of the aspirant middle class and the casualization of labor in an increasingly precarious informal sector in developing ←9 | 10→societies like India are explored by Koeli Goel in Chapter Five (“The ‘Megacity’ as the Face of 21st-Century India: Rethinking Urban Life Beyond the Binaries of Globalism”). Here, Goel also investigates the various attempts at branding and burnishing city images, particularly the image of the “global city” of Gurgugram and New Delhi within the National Capital Region (NCR) for crafting the “face” of a “new India” which is global, urban, digital, and complexly, simultaneously, and inexorably tied to an epic Hindu past. This intricate national-identity work and politicization of the city is used to push through innovative political agendas and as Ong (2011) mentioned, can be found in many domains and scales of renovation.

Furthermore, the neoliberal recalibrations of the state on one side and the contestations from various factions who claim ownership of urban space without or within legal parameters on the other create tensions which result in new volatilities. The emergence of megacities brings in inequalities arising from secessionary dynamics of urban, gated communities of affluence and the squalor into which the disadvantaged masses keep getting pushed back in the face of rapid gentrification programs. However, in this focus on the city, an epitome of the “new culture” of the global age, we do not merely focus on the urban anxieties, insecurities, or the vulnerabilities which develop in the interstices of newly crafted power relationships and differential citizenship, but also capture the sense of carpe diem evident in the lives, lifestyles, and worldviews of citizens in these new urban areas.

section ii: fraught circuits of citizenship

In Spaces of New Colonialism, our central argument is that throughout the course of history the school, the museum, and the city have rationalized systems that produce power asymmetrically, and exacerbate inequalities. These systems have emerged as workable frameworks for governing different populations and the creative destruction that characterizes the tumultuous change that we are now seeing associated with our times. In this manuscript, however, we are not claiming that these institutions are identical. We understand that they can be conceived as carrying out different functions.

Contributions to Section II: Fraught Circuits of Citizenship thread discussions of the fate of 21st-century subjects through the complex enmeshments of these institutions that are centrally foregrounded in this volume. Chapter Six foregrounds our interview with Pauline Lipman (“The Right to the City”), an international expert on urban studies. In it, Lipman explores how capital uses supremacism and supremacism profits from the displacements within the city. Against this bulwark of neoliberalism and state-led coercion and violence in the city, new counter-hegemonic formations are emerging among women (Me Too) and minorities (Black ←10 | 11→Lives Matter), which though fragmented and diffused are, however, resilient and carry within a positive optimism for change and renewal.

To put this matter in broader transnational perspective, most of these chapters explore what Gail Lewis calls “failed/unfulfilled citizenships” (Lewis 2006, p. 336). A particular focus following on from Lewis is on the aspirant desires and interests of peripheralized subjects of the Global South and North seeking to contest or breakout of existential constraints articulated in the restructuring of institutional spaces in the school, city, and the museum. These strategic institutions seek to mold different populations of the young into citizens compliant with the state and social order, and they serve overall in massive processes of social reproduction (not without conflicts and contestations, deviations and redirections) that are necessary to keep societal systems working into the future. In Chapter Seven (“Colonial Pasts and Global Presence in Citadels of Education: Crafting ‘World-Class’ Futures by Digitalizing Traditions”), Koeli Goel and Cameron McCarthy investigate the different meanings and makings of the term “global education” through examination of digitally propelled intensification of enclavism and cultural exceptionalism of two different school systems and curricular programs in postdevelopmental societies like Barbados and India. The recurrent claims of “world-class education” that aims to equip students with the skills and insights they need to thrive in this new, global age emphasize not merely the incessant mobilities but also the contentious rather than participatory nature of education aimed at bending these youth subjectivities towards neoliberal global citizenship. This is a highly intricately woven affair involving complex itineraries embedded in preparing students to compete in a global environment. The authors here emphasize how the momentum of these elite schools championing the cause of a globalized future develop in deeply textured scenarios on social network websites like YouTube and Facebook. These new school subjects are the troopers of a “brave new world,” an urbs dei (city of god), vastly transformed by the digital age, and who creatively play out their own realities, their versions of school experiences: very often in refutation of the institution’s official image.

Schools have now, in our times, become a key flash point of the articulation of neoliberal redirection of society in the age of globalization but they also serve as major venues for the revolt of minority masses over the stratified patterns of spatialization of the city that neoliberal gentrification has engendered using schooling as a pawn in the transformations.

In broaching the singularity of the times we live and work in, Spaces of New Colonialism attempts to refigure ideological, economic, and cultural relations across the divide of First World/Third World. We seek to mark out how each of these institutions in the city-school-museum nexus articulates new contradictory demands on Third World countries to operationalize neoliberal globalization even as they play critical roles in the quest for national identity and economic ←11 | 12→sovereignty. In the metropolitan centers, these institutions are called upon to manage the human and epistemological ruptures generated by globalization while simultaneously bolstering the ground of competition, innovation, and entrepreneurship that ride roughshod through “practices of everyday life” (de Certeau, 1984). In an age when loyalty to specific geography is constantly subverted and interrupted by mass migrations, ecological changes, or waves of economic mobility, Nubras Samayeen’s chapter (“A Tale of Two Cities: Dhaka’s Urban Imaginary in the Twenty-First Century”—Chapter Eight) aptly brings forth a discussion of how Dhaka in Bangladesh becomes the site for two cities simultaneously, representing two dimensions of today’s megacity: one is designed, ordered, permanent, legitimate, and evidently the result of Western and modernist influences. The other is organic, erratic, temporal, illegitimate, and apparently lacks any formal design. While the first is accepted as a national symbol, the latter is regarded as an eyesore by Dhakaites. The museum and the city are coarticulated to this dynamic that is dissolving even the idea of a public sphere and a commonwealth. To follow Henri Lefebvre (2000), we are interested in the “production of space” in the age of urban neoliberalism. For Lefebvre, production of space has a double meaning. As urban space becomes a crucial site for fixing capitalist crisis, policy makers and rent-seeking capital will conveniently turn the public commons into profit-making outlets. In this first meaning, human subjects produce space. Yet, as Lefebvre argues, it is not possible to think about space outside relations of hegemony. In that sense, space is productive. That is, these new spaces produce new forms of citizenship and material practices. It is the tensions within this conjuncture—the tensions between “conceived” and “lived” space—that this volume aims to investigate and explore.

The third space here is the museum, the great vault of the past, an active site where history and memory are oriented to the present and the future (Benjamin, 1969). The museum is our great Janus institution, the angelus novus navigating the iconography of the present as it is buffeted by the past, Walter Benjamin (1969) tells us in his “Thesis on the philosophy of history.” Here, society’s most savage secrets are as publicly displayed on white cube walls and in vitrines, as they are buried in its archives. Its task in the new age is to work out transactions that link it, through the market, to both the city and the school. Taking up Enwezor’s new universalism (Papastergiadis, 2009) to engage with dialogue beyond cultures and “modern technologies of racial administration” (Lowe, 2005, p. 410), the chapters in this section of the volume collectively explore the museum.

The museum is seen then as a lynchpin in the grand transition of the city from the administrative and industrial centers of the last century to the creative global city of the new. While the museum reifies and simultaneously rewrites the “glorious” past of the old nation, it also repositions itself towards the conditions of the neoliberal moment within which citizens are supposed to be good consumers of culture, display their markers of social class, and transmit urban affect in the ←12 | 13→increasingly digitalized and connected spaces of the museums (Bourdieu & Darbel, 1991; Karp et al., 2006). In relation to the school, the museum is seen as an extension of the teaching learning process—a repository of cultural artifacts that society has discarded or elided altogether and a great resource and reference system for building up the cultural knowledge bank of the school and society in light of the urgencies of the conflicted and contested present.

Public culture operationalized in the school, the museum, and the city emerges as a zone of contestation in the 21st century. This volume calls attention to the transactional role of the museum and seeks to spotlight how certain dominant norms are elevated within the overarching ideological representation of the times at the cost of certain aspirations and practices of marginalized groups. In the 20th century, museums had become the vanguards in the making of a public—culturally savvy and suitably accomplished—to function within the erstwhile new societies’ representational politics. In the post-national reorganization of the globalized state in the new century, such forms of self-regulation, education, and social means of accumulating lessons from the past have gained new meaning. In Chapter Nine (“Seeing the Future in the Mirror of the Past: Technologies of Cultural Governance and the Reclamation of Creative History in Seoul”), Chamee Yang focuses on the state’s complicated transactions to show how museological practices combine with public visual culture to present politically appropriate discourses even as the narrative of globalization repurposes the story of the nation. The city’s past, present, and future all get imbricated in a complicated folklore as the cultural administration in South Korea use the city as a backdrop of the recent national and urban policy and try to integrate Seoul into the global network of “creative cities.” By reading the city of Seoul as a “critical text,” this chapter keenly observes the “work of history” in the present. It involves identifying techniques and technologies of the government that are inscribed in the monuments and spaces of the exhibition, where the past is narrated in a way that forges a nostalgic relationship between the past and the present. The present selectively relates itself to a “useful and usable past,” as that past is temporally equated with the potential present and the future. This strategy to conjure the useful past was instrumental for the government to induct the city of Seoul and the population of South Korea into the global imperative of the creative economy. Yang’s study here becomes the most appropriate means of studying the micropolitics or “politics of aesthetic” (Rancière, 2013) by which diverse populations are incorporated into the folds of the newest hegemonic discourse.

We pursue these issues further in the third section in which we contemplate the future more directly.

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section iii: futurities

Stuart Hall’s “Museums of Modern Art and the End of History” (Chapter Ten) opens up the third section of our Spaces of New Colonialism volume. Here, Hall crafts a searing critique of the malaise that has overtaken post-critical scholarship on the topic of the future and the role of the aesthetics and the museum in the unfolding of late-modern society. The chapter foregrounds a marvelously sly rereading of the significance of the litany of “posts” (as in “post-modernism,” “post-colonialism,” “post-structuralism,” “post-history,” etc.) that have piled up in the efforts of critical scholars to understand the contemporary turn of events at the nexus of aesthetics and society in the Age of Neoliberalism. The prompt for his vigorous confrontation with a certain kind of malaise in current post-critical scholarship is the working title of a conference on the future of museums: “Museums of Modern Art and the End of History.” Hall willfully reverses the terms of the conference suggesting that history has not come to an end but museums have, particularly on the terms that we have for far too long used to define these institutions: the enclosed structures and almost inquisitional proceedings that we have become too complacently familiar with. Hall maintains that within the past couple of decades, the contents of the museum have exploded outward into the world; and aesthetic practices are now linked to the work of the imagination of ordinary people in their everyday lives and are connected even more earnestly to the work of capitalism and its reorganization on a global scale. This for Hall is the moment when new subjects are born and enter the arena of aesthetic production and the circulation of aesthetic forms. It is a new time and an emergent history in which subaltern and postcolonial subjects everywhere seek out new purposes for art and probe the limits of center-periphery relations in society and in the world.

But throughout the volume, while engaging with the 21st-century city and the museum, we are also consistently fascinated with schools as the key catchment area of the future. Schools are the most commonly accessible sites of significant ideological state apparatuses (Althusser, 1971). They are expected to hold all the promise of the future and typically prepare society’s young for the dynamic responsibilities of self-sustaining individuality of approaching adulthood.

Schools and universities have now, in our times, become a key flash point of the articulation of neoliberal redirection of society in the age of globalization but they also serve as major venues for the revolt of minority masses over the stratified patterns of spatialization of the city that neoliberal gentrification has engendered using schooling as a pawn in the transformations. In Chapter Eleven (“Blackqueer Pedagogy: (Un)making Memory, Citizenship, and Education”), Durell Callier examines the classroom space in which these relationships and actions unfold in the city as it also stands as a social apparatus and functions as a backdrop to these landscapes. Studying the contestation of belonging and care as experienced by ←14 | 15→Black denizens—exploring the questions of when, where, and to whom is mattering conferred, at the intersections of Blackness and queerness—Callier crafts “Blackqueerness” as a concept that forecloses possibilities of the cared-for subject citizen, deploys a differently constituted memory, troubling ideals of the cared-for subject citizen as they are translated through the pedagogic markers generated in public education.

Analyzing the restructuring of capitalist globalization as it is articulated in key sites and institutions that cut an ecumenical swath across human societies, the diverse iterations of the school or university are articulated in complex ways that may not be abstracted from their actual contexts. Brenda Sanya and Malathi Iyengar (“Rural Global City: The US Midwestern Land-Grant University as a Palimpsest of Colonialisms”—Chapter Twelve) argue that the rural US Midwestern land grant university, located hundreds of miles from any major metropolis, in fact performs all the ideological and material work of the global city, including the normalizing functions of the school and the exhibitionary undertakings of the museum. In other words, the Midwestern land grant university is the city, the school, and the museum. In order to make this argument, they take the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC), and the twin college towns it dominates, as a case in point. During the 1950s–1960s, as anticolonial movements were coming to formal fruition in Africa and Asia, the UIUC was simultaneously functioning as a transcontinental apparatus of neocolonialism and making the Champaign-Urbana area of Illinois “global.” Positioning itself as a fountainhead of international technological progress and intercultural goodwill by putting both knowledge and people on display, the UIUC in fact became a global city at a time when actual Midwestern cities—Chicago, for instance—still revolved around tariff-protected heavy industry. In other words, the Midwestern land grant university was a global city long before Midwestern cities became globalized.

In her chapter (“The Territory as an Extractive Network: A Reading from the Mining Museum”—Chapter Thirteen), Karla Palma excavates how the neoliberal state is implicated in dubious negotiations, colluding with mega mining corporations in Chile where museums have become part of an extractive and political technology that mediates memory and materiality accommodating scientific and public memories within a narrative of production. Through the articulation of museums, the past serves the interests of the present by redefining what can and cannot be remembered and what should be seen or hidden. In her analysis of two museums owned or funded by the mega mining project Los Pelambres, which began its operations in 1999 in the Choapa Valley and at present is ranked among the 10 largest mines in the world, Palma shows how museums constitute a vital part of copper mining’s ideological and cultural mobilization in the context of the retreat of the state from zones of extraction and conflict.

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Continuing this exploration of the perverse and violent register of new colonial relationships on the land and the physical environments in which subaltern and minoritarian subjects dwell on the periphery of an increasingly cruel geography, Brad Evans’ interview with John Akomfrah, “Landscapes of Violence” (Chapter Fourteen), concentrates our attention on the urgency of the task of revaluing history from the standpoint and point of view of the disenfranchised. Evan’s John Akomfrah interview was conducted for “Histories of Violence” series of dialogues with artists, writers, and critical thinkers of the question of violence. It fittingly serves as a densely reflexive coda on the considerable issues raised in the volume regarding the new colonialization of built space. The book closes with Natalie Fenton’s Afterword which speaks back to the contributors and to the volume raising profound questions about how we navigate from current circumstances, connecting a useable past to the challenges of the present and future and building out efficacious action towards emancipatory change and transformation.

Ultimately, then, contributors in this volume look at the present respatialization of the city-school-museum nexus by delving into the past and orientating to the future. We have sought to cast an understanding of the complex developments related to neoliberalization and globalization of these institutional spaces in light of the emerging new colonialism that masks itself through the persuasions of an alluring iridescent gentrification deposited at the core of city space across the Global North and South. We maintain that in each setting of citification, of exhibitionism, and of the proliferation of knowledge that there is the backstory of colonializing interests articulated to hypercapitalism. In this story of new colonialism, space is commodified, held at a premium, and rearticulated in a manner that constantly generates asymmetrical relations. In this logic, the laboring poor, the refugee, the migrant, and the minority Other are cast as non-citizens, as unwelcome elements in these newly forged arrangements. Our ethical calling in these circumstances as scholars is to write, advocate, and act against the savage terms of this new colonialism—to work towards the reappropriation of the spaces of the city, the school, and museum for the social good and for the reinstatement of the excluded.


Althusser, L. (1971). Lenin and philosophy and other essays. New York, NY: Monthly Review Press.

Agamben, G. (2000). Means without end: Notes on politics. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota.

Agamben, G. (2005). State of exception. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago.

Benjamin, W. (1969). Theses on the philosophy of history. In W. Benjamin (Ed.), Illuminations (pp. 253–264). New York, NY: Schocken Books.

Berlant, L. G. (2011). Cruel optimism. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

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Bourdieu, P., & Darbell, A. (1991). The love of art: European art museums and their public. Cambridge, England: Polity Press.

Butler, J. (2004). Precarious life: The power of mourning and violence. London, England: Verso.

Collier, S. (2009). Topologies of power: Foucault’s analysis of political government beyond ‘governmentality.’ Theory, Culture and Society, 26(6, Special Issue on Michel Foucault), 78–108.4

De Certeau, M. (1984). The practice of everyday life. Berkeley: University of California.

Deleuze, G. (1992). Postscript on the societies of control. October, 59, 3–7.

Friedman, T. (2005). The world is flat. New York, NY: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

Grossberg, L. (2005). Cultural studies, the war against kids, and the re-becoming of U.S. modernity. In C. McCarthy, W. Crichlow, G. Dimitriadis, & N. Dolby (Eds.), Race identity and representation in education (2nd ed., pp. 349–368). New York, NY: Routledge.

Hall, S. (2001). Museums of modern art and the end of history. In S. Hall & S. Maharaj (Eds.), Annotations: Modernity and difference no. 6 paperback (pp. 8–23). London, England: Institute of International Visual Arts (INIVA).

Harvey, D. (2003). The new imperialism. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press.

Lewis, G. (2006). Journeying toward the nation(al): Cultural difference at the crossroads of old and new globalisations. Mobilities 1(3), 333–352.

Lefebvre, H. (2000). The production of space. Malden, MA: Blackwell.

Karp, I., Kratz, C. A., Szwaja, L., & Ybarra-Frausto, T. (2006). Museum frictions: Public cultures/global transformations. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

Lowe, L. (2015). The intimacies of four continents. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

Mignolo, W. D. (2011). The darker side of western modernity: Global futures, decolonial options. Durham, NC: Duke University Press Books.

Ong, A (2011). Introduction: Worlding cities, or the art of being global. In A. Roy & A. Ong (Eds.), Worlding cities: Asian experiments and the art of being global. Oxford, England: Blackwell.

Papastergiadis, N. (2009). Spatial aesthetics: Rethinking the contemporary. In O. Enwezor, N. Condee, & T. Smith (Eds.), Antinomies of art and culture: Modernity, postmodernity, contemporaneity (pp. 363–382). Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

Rancière, J. (2013). The politics of aesthetics. New York, NY: Bloomsbury.

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Sennett, R. (1994). Flesh and stone. New York, NY: W. W. Norton.

Srivastava, S. (2012). National, identity, bedrooms and kitchens: Gated-communities and new narratives of space in India. In R. Heiman, C. Freeman, & M. Liechty (Eds.), The global middle classes: Theorizing through ethnography (pp. 57–84). Santa Fe, NM: School for Advanced Research Press.

chapter one

The City: Its Return as a Lens for Social Theory

saskia sassen

Reprinted from City, Culture and Society, 1, Saskia Sassen, “The city: Its return as a lens for social theory,” pp. 3–11, (2010), with permission from Elsevier.


The city has long been a strategic site for the exploration of many major subjects confronting society and sociology. But it has not always been a heuristic space—a space capable of producing knowledge about some of the major transformations of an epoch. In the first half of the 20th century, the study of cities was at the heart of sociology. This is evident in the work of Simmel, Weber, Benjamin, Lefebvre, and most prominently the Chicago School, especially Park and Wirth, both deeply influenced by German sociology. These sociologists confronted massive processes—industrialization, urbanization, alienation, a new cultural formation they called “urbanity.” Studying the city was not simply studying the urban. It was about studying the major social processes of an era. Since then the study of the city, and with it urban sociology, gradually lost this privileged role as a lens for the discipline and as producer of key analytic categories. There are many reasons for this, most important among which are questions of the particular developments of method and data generally in sociology. Critical was the fact that the city ceased being the fulcrum for epochal transformations and hence a strategic ←21 | 22→site for research about non-urban processes. Urban sociology became increasingly concerned with what came to be called “social problems.”

Today, as we enter a new century, the city is once again emerging as a strategic site for understanding some of the major new trends reconfiguring the social order. The city and the metropolitan region emerge as one of the strategic sites where major macro-social trends materialize and hence can be constituted as an object of study. Among these trends are globalization, the rise of the new information technologies, the intensifying of transnational and translocal dynamics, and the strengthening presence and voice of specific types of socio-cultural diversity. Each one of these trends has its own specific conditionalities, contents, and consequences. The urban moment is but one moment in often complex multi-sited trajectories.

Urban sociology can capture some of these features. Other branches of sociology can use the urban moment to construct their object of research even when it is non-urban. Cities are also sites where each of these trends interacts with the others in distinct, often complex manners, in a way they do not in just about any other setting. This resurgence of the city as a site for research on these major contemporary dynamics is also evident in other disciplines. Anthropology, economic geography, cultural studies, and literary criticism all have developed an extensive urban scholarship; most recently, economists are beginning to address the urban and regional economy in their analyses in ways that differ from an older tradition of urban economics, one that had lost much of its vigor and persuasiveness.

All of this raises one of the questions organizing this chapter. Can the sociological study of cities produce scholarship and analytic tools that help us understand the broader social transformations under way today as it once did early in the preceding century? One critical issue here is whether these larger transformations evince sufficiently complex and multivalent urban instantiations as to allow us to construct such instantiations as objects of study. The urban moment of a major process makes the latter susceptible to empirical study in ways that other phases of such a process might not. At the same time, this urbanization, albeit it partial, of major dynamics repositions the city as an object of study: what is it we are actually naming today when we use the construct city? This is the second question organizing this chapter.

Here I examine these questions of research and theorization by focusing particularly on globalization, the rise of the new information technologies, the intensifying of transnational and translocal dynamics, and the strengthening presence and voice of specific types of socio-cultural diversity. All of these are at a cutting edge of actual change that social theory needs to factor in to a far greater extent than it has. By far the best developed conceptually and empirically is socio-cultural diversity. Thus as regards this subject I will confine my treatment here to those issues of socio-cultural diversity that are bound up with the other major trends ←22 | 23→on which I am focusing. There is a strong emerging new literature on the other three trends, but mostly in disciplines other than sociology and, specifically, urban sociology.

These trends do not encompass the majority of social conditions; on the contrary, most social reality probably corresponds to older continuing and familiar trends. That is why, much of sociology’s traditions and well-established subfields will remain important and constitute the heart of the discipline. Further, there are good reasons why most of urban sociology has not quite engaged the characteristics and the consequences of these three trends as they instantiate in the city: current urban data sets are quite inadequate for addressing these major trends at the level of the city. Yet, although these three trends may involve only parts of the urban condition and cannot be confined to the urban, they are strategic in that they mark the urban condition in novel ways and make it, in turn, a key research site for major trends.

conceptual elements

Among today’s dominant forces reconfiguring the social, the economic, the political, and the subjective are globalization and the new information technologies. Globalization and telecommunications have enabled a proliferation of transnational and translocal networks that cut across the boundaries of cities and states—that is to say, across the boundaries of major sociological framings and data sets. The traditional tools of sociology and social theory, let alone urban sociology, can accommodate only some aspects of these trends.

The exception is an early generation of sociologists in what is today a still small but rapidly growing scholarship that has explicitly sought to theorize these new conditions and to specify them empirically (among the earlier beginnings of this scholarship, see e.g. Abu-Lughod, 1999; Castells, 1989; Chase-Dunn, 1984; Gottdiener, 1985; King, 1990; Lash & Urry, 1994; Rodriguez & Feagin, 1986; Zukin, 1991, to cite but a few). Economic geography (e.g. Knox & Taylor, 1995; Short & Kim, 1999) and cultural studies (e.g. Bridges & Watson, 2010; Palumbo-Liu, 1999) also saw an early generation of key contributions.

A number of social theorists (e.g. Giddens, 1990; Taylor, 1997; Beck, 2005; Brenner, 1998) have examined the “embedded statism” that has marked the social sciences generally and become one obstacle to a full theorization of some of these issues. At the heart of embedded statism is the explicit or implicit assumption that the nation-state is the container of social processes. To this I would add two further features: the implied correspondence of national territory with the national, and the associated implication that the national and the non-national are two mutually exclusive conditions.

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These various assumptions work well for many of the subjects studied in the social sciences. But they are not helpful in elucidating a growing number of situations when it comes to globalization and to a whole variety of transnational processes now being studied by social scientists. Nor are those assumptions helpful for developing the requisite research techniques. Further, while they describe conditions that have held for a long time—throughout much of the history of the modern state since WWI and in some cases even earlier—we are now seeing their partial unbundling.1 For instance, I find (Sassen, 2007, 2008: chaps. 1, 5 and 6) that one of the features of the current phase of globalization is that the fact a process happens within the territory of a sovereign state does not necessarily mean it is a national process. Conversely, the national (e.g. firms, capital, cultures) may increasingly be located outside national territory, for instance, in a foreign country or in digital spaces. This localization of the global, or of the non-national, in national territories, and the localization of the national outside national territories, undermines a key duality running through many of the methods and conceptual frameworks prevalent in the social sciences—that the national and the non-national are mutually exclusive.

This partial unbundling of the national has significant implications for our analysis and theorization of major social transformations such as globalization and the possibility of focusing on the city to get at some of their critical empirical features. And it has significant implications for the city as an object of study. The city has long been a debatable construct, whether in early writings (Castells, 1972; Harvey, 1973; Lefebvre, 1974; Timberlake, 1985) or in recent ones (Brenner, 2004; Global Networks, 2010; Lloyd, 2005; Paddison, 2001). The unbundling of national space and of the traditional hierarchies of scale centered on the national, with the city nested somewhere between the local and the region, raises the ante in terms of prior conceptualizations. Major cities have historically been nodes where a variety of processes intersect in particularly pronounced concentrations. In the context of globalization, many of these processes are operating at a global scale cutting across historical borders, with the added complexities that bring with it. Cities emerge as one territorial or scalar moment in a trans-urban dynamic.2 This is, however, not the city as a bounded unit, but the city as a complex structure that can articulate a variety of cross-boundary processes and reconstitute them as a partly urban condition (Sassen, 2001). Further, this type of city cannot be located simply in a scalar hierarchy that puts it beneath the national, regional and global. It is one of the spaces of the global, and it engages the global directly, often bypassing the national. Some cities may have had this capacity long before the current era; but today these conditions have been multiplied and amplified to the point that they can be read as contributing to a qualitatively different urban era. Pivoting theorization and research on the city is one way of cutting across embedded statism and recovering the rescaling of spatial hierarchies under way.

←24 | 25→

Besides the challenge of overcoming embedded statism, there is the challenge of recovering place in the context of globalization, telecommunications, and the proliferation of transnational and translocal dynamics. It is perhaps one of the ironies at the start of a new century that some of the old questions of the early Chicago School of Urban Sociology should resurface as promising and strategic to understand certain critical issues today. One might ask if their methods might be of particular use in recovering the category place (Park, Burgess, & McKenzie, 1967; see also Duncan, 1959) at a time when dominant forces such as globalization and telecommunications seem to signal that place and the details of the local no longer matter. Robert Park and the Chicago School conceived of “natural areas” as geographic areas determined by unplanned, subcultural forces. This was an urban sociology that used fieldwork within a framework of human ecology and contributed many rich studies mapping detailed distributions and assuming functional complementarity among the diverse “natural areas” they identified in Chicago.3

Yet the old categories are not enough. Some of the major conditions in cities today, including the urban moment of nonurban dynamics, challenge mainstream forms of theorization and urban empirical analysis. Fieldwork is a necessary step in capturing many of the new aspects in the urban condition, including those having to do with the major trends focused on in this chapter. But assuming complementarity or functionalism brings us back to the notion of the city as a bounded space rather than one site, albeit a strategic one, where multiple trans-boundary processes intersect and produce distinct socio-spatial formations. Recovering place can only partly be met through the research techniques of the old Chicago School of Urban Sociology (see e.g. the debate in Cities and Communities vol. 1(1) 2001 and in Urban Geography, 2008). I think we need to go back to some of the depth of engagement with urban areas that the School represented and the effort towards detailed mappings. The type of ethnographies done by Duneier (1999) or the scholars in Burawoy and et al. (1991), or the type of spatial analysis developed by Harvey (2007) and the authors in Global Networks (2010) are excellent examples, using many of the techniques yet working within a different set of framing assumptions.

But that is only part of the challenge of recovering place. Large cities around the world are the terrain where a multiplicity of globalization processes assume concrete, localized forms. These localized forms are, in good part, what globalization is about. Recovering place means recovering the multiplicity of presences in this landscape. The large city of today has emerged as a strategic site for a whole range of new types of operations—political, economic, “cultural,” subjective (Abu-Lughod, 1994; Bartlett, 2007; Bridges & Watson, 2010; Bryson & Daniels, 2005; Dawson, 1999; Drainville, 2004; Thrift & Amin, 2002; Valle & Torres, 2000; Sampson & Raudenbush, 2001). It is one of the nexi where the formation of new claims materializes and assumes concrete forms. The loss of power at the national ←25 | 26→level produces the possibility for new forms of power and politics at the subnational level. Further, insofar as the national as container of social process and power is cracked (e.g. Beck, 2000; Lustiger-Thaler, 2004; Parsa & Keivani, 2002; Taylor, 1995) it opens up possibilities for a geography of politics that links subnational spaces across borders. Cities are foremost in this new geography. One question this engenders is how and whether we are seeing the formation of a new type of transnational politics that localizes in these cities.

Immigration, for instance, is one major process through which a new transnational political economy is being constituted both at the macrolevel of global labor markets and at the microlevel of translocal household survival strategies. It is one largely embedded in major cities insofar as most immigrants, certainly in the developed world, whether in the US, Japan or Western Europe, are concentrated in major cities (Boyd, 1989; Castles & Miller, 2003; Hondagneu-Sotelo, 2003; Mahler, 1995). It is, according to some scholars (Castles & Miller, 2003; Chinchilla & Ham- ilton, 2001; Cordero-Guzman, Smith, & Grosfoguel, 2001; Espinoza, 1999; Farrer, 2007; Sassen, 2007: chap. 6: Part One; Skeldon, 1997), one of the constitutive processes of globalization today, even though not recognized or represented as such in mainstream accounts of the global economy. The city is one of the key sites for the empirical study of these transnational flows and household strategies.

Global capital and the new immigrant workforce are two major instances of transnationalized actors with features that constitute each as a somewhat unitary actor overriding borders while at the same time in contestation with each other inside cities (Bartlett, 2007; Sassen, 1988: chap. 1). Researching and theorizing these issues will require approaches that diverge from the more traditional studies of political elites, local party politics, neighborhood associations, immigrant communities, and others, through which the political landscape of cities and metropolitan regions has been conceptualized in sociology.

In the next three sections, I focus on some of these issues in greater detail.

the city as a site for research about the global information economy

The concept of the city is complex, imprecise, and charged with specific historical meanings (e.g. Castells, 1972; Hall, 1966; Harvey, 1985; Kresl & Ni, 2010; Lloyd, 2005; Park et al., 1967). A more abstract category might be centrality, one of the properties constitutive of cities, and, in turn, one they have historically provided and produced. Historically centrality has largely been embedded in the central city. One of the changes brought about by the new conditions is the reconfiguring of ←26 | 27→centrality: the central city is today but one form of centrality. Important emerging spaces for the constitution of centrality range from the new transnational networks of cities to electronic space (Castells, 1996; Ernst, 2005; Graham & Marvin, 1996; Parnreiter, 2002).

A focus on centrality does not necessarily address matters such as the boundaries of cities or what cities actually are. These are partly empirical questions (each city is going to have a different configuration of boundaries and contents) and theoretical ones (is a city necessarily a civitas, is any large urban agglomeration a city). The question is, rather, what are the conditions for the continuity of centrality in advanced economic systems in the face of major new organizational forms and technologies that maximize the possibility for geographic dispersal at the regional, national and indeed, global scale, and simultaneous system integration?

A second major issue for thinking about the city as a site for researching non-urban dynamics concerns the narratives we have constructed about the city and its relation to the global economy and to the new technologies.4 The understandings and the categories that dominate mainstream discussions about the future of advanced economies imply the city has become obsolete for leading economic sectors. We need to subject these notions to critical examination. There are at least two sets of issues that need to be teased out if we are to understand the role if any of cities in a global information economy, and hence the capacity of urban research to produce knowledge about that economy. One of these concerns the extent to which these new types of electronic formations, such as electronic financial markets, are indeed disembedded from social contexts. The second set of issues concerns possible instantiations of the global economy and of the new technologies that have not been recognized as such or are contested representations. I have addressed these issues at greater length elsewhere (2010) and return to them only briefly in the last two sections of this chapter.

Finally, and on a somewhat more theorized level, there are certain properties of power that make cities strategic. Power needs to be historicized to overcome the abstractions of the concept. Power is not simply an attribute or a sort of factor endowment. It is actively produced and reproduced. Many of the studies in urban sociology focused on the local dimensions of power (e.g. Clark & Hoffman-Marti- not, 1998; Domhoff, 1991; Logan & Molotch, 1987) have made important contributions in this regard. Beyond this type of approach, one of the aspects today in the production of power structures has to do with new forms of economic power and the relocation of certain forms of power from the state to the market, partly due to deregulation and privatization. In the case of cities, this brings with it also questions about the built environment and the architectures of centrality that represent different types of power. Cities have long been places for the spatialization of power. More generally, we might ask: Does power has spatial correlates, or a spatial moment? In terms of the economy, this question could be ←27 | 28→operationalized more concretely: Can the current economic system, with its strong tendencies towards concentration in ownership and control, have a space economy that lacks points of physical concentration? It is hard to think about a discourse on the future of cities that would not include this dimension of power.

To some extent, it is the major cities in the highly developed world which most clearly display the processes discussed here, or best lend themselves to the heuristics deployed. However, increasingly these processes are present in cities in developing countries as well (Amen, Kevin, & Martin Bosman, 2006; Cohen, Ruble, Tulchin, & Garland, 1996; Gugler, 2004; Knox & Taylor, 1995; Santos, De Souze, & Silveira, 1994). Their lesser visibility is often due to the fact they are submerged in the megacity syndrome. Sheer population size and urban sprawl create their own orders of magnitude (e.g. Dogan & Kasarda, 1988; Gugler, 2004); and while they may not much alter the power equation I describe, they do change the weight, and the legibility, of some of these properties (e.g. Bridges & Watson, 2010; Cohen et al., 1996; Marcuse & van Kempen, 2000).

One way of framing the issue of centrality is by focusing on larger dynamics rather than beginning with the city as such. For instance, we could note that the geography of globalization contains both a dynamic of dispersal and of centralization, the latter a condition that has only recently been recognized in macrolevel globalization studies. Most of the latter has focused on dispersal patterns. The massive trends towards the spatial dispersal of economic activities at the metropolitan, national, and global level which we associate with globalization have contributed to a demand for new forms of territorial centralization of top-level management and control operations (Sassen, 2001: Parts One and Two). The fact, for instance, that firms worldwide now have well over half a million affiliates outside their home countries signals that the sheer number of dispersed factories and service outlets that are part of a firm’s integrated operation creates massive new needs for central coordination and servicing. In brief, the spatial dispersal of economic activity made possible by globalization and telecommunications contributes to an expansion of central functions if this dispersal is to take place under the continuing concentration in control, ownership and profit appropriation that characterizes the current economic system.

It is at this point that the city enters the discourse. Cities regain strategic importance because they are favored sites for the production of these central functions. National and global markets as well as globally integrated organizations require central places where the work of globalization gets done. Finance and advanced corporate services are industries producing the organizational commodities necessary for the implementation and management of global economic systems. Cities are preferred sites for the production of these services, particularly the most innovative, speculative, internationalized service sectors.5 Further, leading firms in information industries require a vast physical infrastructure containing strategic ←28 | 29→nodes with hyperconcentration of facilities; we need to distinguish between the capacity for global transmission/communication and the material conditions that make this possible. Finally, even the most advanced information industries have a production process that is at least partly place-bound because of the combination of resources it requires even when the outputs are hypermobile; the tendency in the specialized literature has been to study these advanced information industries in terms of their hypermobile outputs rather than the actual work processes which include top-level professionals as well as clerical and manual service workers.

When we start by examining the broader dynamics in order to detect their localization patterns, we can begin to observe and conceptualize the formation, at least incipient, of transnational urban systems. The growth of global markets for finance and specialized services, the need for transnational servicing networks due to sharp increases in international investment, the reduced role of the government in the regulation of international economic activity, and the corresponding ascendance of other institutional arenas with a strong urban connection—all these point to the existence of a series of transnational networks of cities. These are of many different kinds and types. Business networks are probably the most developed given the growth of a global economy. But we also see a proliferation of social, cultural, professional, and political networks connecting particular sets of cities.

To a large extent, the major business centers in the world today draw their importance from these transnational networks. There is no such entity as a single global city—and in this sense, there is a sharp contrast with the erstwhile capitals of empires.6 These networks of major international business centers constitute new geographies of centrality. The most powerful of these new geographies of centrality at the global level binds the major international financial and business centers: New York, London, Tokyo, Paris, Frankfurt, Zurich, Amsterdam, Los Angeles, Sydney, Hong Kong, among others. But this geography now also includes cities such as Bangkok, Seoul, Taipei, Shanghai, Sao Paulo, and Mexico City. The intensity of transactions among these cities, particularly through the financial markets, trade in services, and investment has increased sharply, and so have the orders of magnitude involved. There has been a sharpening inequality in the concentration of strategic resources and activities between each of these cities and others in the same country. This has consequences for the role of urban systems in national territorial integration. Although the latter has never quite been what its model signals, the last decade has seen a further acceleration in the fragmentation of national territory. National urban systems are being partly unbundled as their major cities become part of a new or strengthened transnational urban system.

But we can no longer think of centers for international business and finance simply in terms of the corporate towers and corporate culture at their center. The international character of major cities lies not only in their telecommunication infrastructure and foreign firms: It lies also in the many different cultural ←29 | 30→environments in which these workers and others exist. This is one arena where we have seen the growth of an enormously rich scholarship (Bridges & Watson, 2010; King, 1990; Krause & Petro, 2003; Lloyd, 2005; Sennett, 2008; Zukin, 1991). Today’s major cities are in part the spaces of post-colonialism and indeed contain conditions for the formation of a postcolonialist discourse. This is likely to become an integral part of the future of such cities.

a new transnational political geography

The incorporation of cities into a new cross-border geography of centrality also signals the emergence of a parallel political geography. Major cities have emerged as a strategic site not only for global capital, but also for the transnationalization of labor and the formation of translocal communities and identities or subjectivities. In this regard, cities are a site for new types of political operations. The centrality of place in a context of global processes makes possible a transnational economic and political opening for the formation of new claims and hence for the constitution of entitlements, notably rights to place. At the limit, this could be an opening for new forms of “citizenship” (e.g. Bartlett, 2007; Holston, 1996; Torres, Miron, & Inda, 1999). The emphasis on the transnational and hypermobile character of capital has contributed to a sense of powerlessness among local actors, a sense of the futility of resistance. But an analysis that emphasizes place suggests that the new global grid of strategic sites is a terrain for politics and engagement (Abu-Lughod, 1994; Bridges & Watson, 2010; King, 1996; Sandercock, 2003).

This is a space that is both place-centered in that it is embedded in particular and strategic locations; and it is transterritorial because it connects sites that are not geographically proximate yet are intensely connected to each other through various networks. Is there a transnational politics embedded in the centrality of place and in the new geography of strategic places, for instance the new worldwide grid of global cities? This is a geography that cuts across national borders and the old North-South divide. But it does so along bounded vectors. It is a set of specific and partial rather than all-encompassing dynamics. It is not only the transmigration of capital that takes place in this global grid, but also that of people, both rich, i.e. the new transnational professional workforce, and poor, i.e. most migrant workers; and it is a space for the transmigration of cultural forms, the reterritorialization of “local” subcultures.

If we consider that large cities concentrate both the leading sectors of global capital and a growing share of disadvantaged populations—immigrants, many of the disadvantaged women, people of color generally, and in the megacities of developing countries, masses of shanty dwellers—then we can see that cities have become a strategic terrain for a whole series of conflicts and contradictions (Allen, ←30 | 31→Massey, & Pryke, 1999; Fainstein & Judd, 1999; Gugler, 2004; Massey & Denton, 1993; Nashashibi, 2007; Sandercock, 2003). We can then think of cities also as one of the sites for the contradictions of the globalization of capital, even though heeding Katznelson’s (1992) observation, the city cannot be reduced to this dynamic.

One way of thinking about the political implications of this strategic transnational space anchored in cities is in terms of the formation of new claims on that space. The city has indeed emerged as a site for new claims: not only by global capital which uses the city as an “organizational commodity,” but also by disadvantaged sectors of the urban population, frequently as internationalized a presence in large cities as capital. The “de-nationalizing” of urban space and the formation of new claims by transnational actors, raise the question: Whose city is it?

Foreign firms and international business people have increasingly been entitled to do business in whatever country and city they chose—entitled by new legal regimes, by the new economic culture, and through progressive deregulation of national economies (Sassen, 1996: chaps. 1 and 2; 2008: chap. 5). They are among the new city users. The new city users have made an often immense claim on the city and have reconstituted strategic spaces of the city in their image. Their claim to the city is rarely contested, even though the costs and benefits to cities have barely been examined. They have profoundly marked the urban landscape. For Martinotti (1993), they contribute to change the social morphology of the city; the new city of these city users is a fragile one, whose survival and successes are centered on an economy of high productivity, advanced technologies, and intensified exchanges (Martinotti, 1993). It is a city whose space consists of airports, top-level business districts, top of the line hotels and restaurants, in brief, a sort of urban glamour zone.

Perhaps at the other extreme are those who use urban political violence to make their claims on the city, claims that lack the de facto legitimacy enjoyed by the new “city users.” These are claims made by actors struggling for recognition, entitlement, and claiming their rights to the city (Body-Gendrot, 1999; Drainville, 2004; Fainstein, 1993; Hagedorn, 2007; Sandercock, 2003; Wacquant, 1997; Wright, 1997). These claims have, of course, a long history; every new epoch brings specific conditions to the manner in which the claims are made. The growing weight of “delinquency” (e.g. smashing cars and shop windows; robbing and burning stores) in some of these uprisings over the last decade in major cities of the developed world is perhaps an indication of the sharpened socio-economic inequality—the distance, as seen and as lived, between the urban glamour zone and the urban war zone. The extreme visibility of the difference is likely to contribute to further brutalization of the conflict: the indifference and greed of the new elites versus the hopelessness and rage of the poor.

There are two aspects in this formation of new claims that have implications for the transnational politics that are increasingly being played out in major cities. ←31 | 32→One is the sharp and perhaps sharpening differences in the representation of claims by different sectors, notably international business and the vast population of low income “others” immigrants, women, people of color generally. The second aspect is the increasingly transnational element in both types of claims and claimants. It signals a politics of contestation embedded in specific places but transnational in character. One challenge for urban sociology is how to capture such a cross-border dynamic with existing or new categories and, in doing so, how not to lose the city as a site.

cities and political subjectivity

This chapter started with a consideration of the Chicago School of Urban Sociology and its possible contribution to some of the challenges current developments pose for urban theory. This concluding section of the chapter goes back to Weber’s The City in order to examine the production of political subjectivity signaled by the preceding section.

In his effort to specify the ideal-typical features of what constitutes the city, Weber sought out a certain type of city—most prominently the cities of the late middle ages rather than the modern industrial cities of his time. Weber sought a kind of city which combined conditions and dynamics that forced its residents and leaders into creative and innovative responses/adaptations. Further, he posited that these changes produced in the context of the city signaled transformations that went beyond the city and could institute often fundamental transformations. In that regard, the city offered the possibility of understanding far-reaching changes that could—under certain conditions—eventually encompass society at large.

There are two aspects of Weber’s The City that are of particular importance here. Weber helps us understand under what conditions cities can be positive and creative influences on peoples’ lives (Isin, 2000; Sassen, 2008: chap. 6). For Weber, cities are a set of social structures that encourage individuality and innovation and hence are an instrument of historical change. There is, in this intellectual project, a deep sense of the historicity of these conditions. Modern urban life did not correspond to this positive and creative power of cities; Weber saw modern cities as dominated by large factories and office bureaucracies. My own reading of the Fordist city corresponds in many ways to Weber’s in the sense that the strategic scale under Fordism is the national scale and cities lose significance. It is the large Fordist factory and the mines which emerge as key sites for the political work of the disadvantaged and those without or with only limited power.

Struggles around political, economic, legal, cultural, issues centered in the realities of cities can become the catalysts for new trans-urban developments in all these institutional domains—markets, participatory governance, rights for ←32 | 33→members of the urban community regardless of lineage, judicial recourse, cultures of engagement and deliberation. For Weber, it is particularly the cities of the late Middle Ages that combine the conditions that pushed urban residents, merchants, artisans and leaders to address them and deal with them. These transformations could make for epochal change beyond the city itself: Weber shows us how in many of these cities these struggles led to the creation of the elements of what we could call governance systems and citizenship.

The particular analytic element I want to extricate from this aspect of Weber’s understanding and theorization of the city is the historicity of those conditions that make cities strategic sites for the enactment of important transformations in multiple institutional domains. Today a certain type of city—the global city—has emerged as a strategic site for innovations and transformations in multiple institutional domains. Several of the key components of economic globalization and digitization instantiate in this type of city and produce dislocations and destabilizations of existing institutional orders and legal/regulatory/normative frames for handling urban conditions. It is the high level of concentration of these new dynamics in these cities which forces creative responses and innovations. There is, most probably, a threshold effect at work here.

The historicity of this process rests in the fact that under Keynesian policies, particularly the Fordist contract, and the dominance of mass manufacturing as the organizing economic dynamic, cities had lost strategic functions and were not the site for creative institutional innovations. The strategic sites were the large factory at the heart of the larger process of mass manufacturing and mass consumption, and the national government where regulatory frameworks were developed and the Fordist contract instituted. The factory and the government were the strategic sites where the crucial dynamics producing the major institutional innovations of the epoch were located. With globalization and digitization—and all the specific elements they entail—global cities emerge as such strategic sites. While the strategic transformations are sharply concentrated in global cities, many are also enacted (besides being diffused) in cities at lower orders of national urban hierarchies.7

A second analytic element I want to extricate from Weber’s The City is the particular type of embeddedness of the transformations he describes and renders as ideal-typical features. This is not an embeddedness in what we might think of as deep structures because the latter are precisely the ones that are being dislocated or changed and are creating openings for new fundamental arrangements to emerge. The embeddedness is, rather, in very specific conditions, opportunities, constraints, needs, interactions, contestations, and interests. The aspect that matters here is the complexity, detail, and social thickness of the particular conditions and the dynamics he identifies as enabling change and innovation. This complexity and thickness also produces ambiguities in the meaning of the changes and innovations. It is not always clear whether they are positive—where we might interpret positive as the ←33 | 34→creation or strengthening of some element, even if very partial or minor, of participatory democracy in the city—and in what time frame their positiveness would become evident. In those cities of the late Middle Ages he saw as being what the city is about, he finds contradictory and multi-valent innovations. He dissects these innovations to understand what they can produce or launch.

The argument I derive from this particular type of embeddedness of change and innovation is that current conditions in global cities are creating not only new structuration of power but also operational and rhetorical openings for new types of political factors that may have been submerged, invisible, or without voice. A key element of the argument here is that the localization of strategic components of globalization in these cities means that firstly, the disadvantaged can engage the new forms of globalized corporate power, and secondly, that the growing numbers and diversity of the disadvantaged in these cities under these conditions assume a distinctive “presence.” This entails a distinction between powerlessness and invisibility/ impotence. The disadvantaged in global cities can gain “presence” in their engagement with power but also vis-à-vis each other. This is different from the 1950s to 1970s period in the US, for instance, when white flight and the significant departure of major corporate headquarters left cities hollowed out and the disadvantaged in a condition of abandonment. Today, the localization of the global creates a set of objective conditions of engagement, e.g. the struggles against gentrification which encroaches on minority and disadvantaged neighborhoods and led to growing numbers of homeless beginning in the 1980s and the struggles for the rights of the homeless, or demonstrations against police brutalizing minority people. These struggles are different from the ghetto uprisings of the 1960s that were short, intense eruptions confined to the ghettos and causing most of the damage in the neighborhoods of the disadvantaged themselves. In these ghetto uprisings, there was no engagement with power.

An important element is Weber’s emphasis on certain types of innovation and change: the construction of rules and norms precisely because deeper arrangements on which norms had been conditioned are being destabilized.8

Herein also lie openings for new political actors to emerge, as well as changes in the role or locus of older norms, political actors, and forms of authority. This is a highly dynamic configuration where older forms of authority may struggle and succeed in reimposing themselves.9

The conditions that today mark the possibility of cities as strategic sites are basically two, and both capture major transformations that are destabilizing older systems organizing territory and politics, as briefly discussed in the first half of the chapter. One of these is the rescaling of what are the strategic territories that articulate the new politico-economic system. The other is the partial unbundling or at least weakening of the national as container of social process due to the variety of dynamics encompassed by globalization and digitization.10 The consequences for ←34 | 35→cities of these two conditions are many: What matters here is that cities emerge as strategic sites for major economic processes and for new types of political actors. More generally one could posit that insofar as citizenship is embedded and in turn marked by its embeddedness (Sassen, 2008: chap. 6), these new conditions may well signal the possibility of new forms of citizenship practices and identities.11

What is being engendered today in terms of political practices in the global city is quite different from what it might have been in the medieval city of Weber. In the medieval city, we see a set of practices that allowed the burghers to set up systems for owning and protecting property and to implement various immunities against despots of all sorts.12 Today’s political practices, I would argue have to do with the production of “presence” by those without power and with a politics that claims rights to the city rather than protection of property.13 What the two situations share is the notion that through these practices new forms of political subjectivity, i.e. citizenship, are being constituted and that the city is a key site for this type of political work. The city is, in turn, partly constituted through these dynamics. Far more so than a peaceful and harmonious suburb, the contested city is where the civic is getting built. After the long historical phase that saw the ascendance of the national state and the scaling of key economic dynamics at the national level, the city is once again today a scale for strategic economic and political dynamics.


1.There have been many epochs when territories were subject to multiple, or at least more than one, system of rule (Sassen, 2008: Part One). In this regard, the current condition we see developing with globalization is probably by far the more common one and the period from World War I—when we saw the gradual institutional tightening of the national state’s exclusive authority over its territory—the historical exception. However, the categories for analysis, research techniques, and data sets in the social sciences have largely been developed in that particular period. Thus we face the difficult and collective task of developing the theoretical and empirical specifications that allow us to accommodate the fact of multiple relations between territory and institutional encasement, rather than the singular one of national state and sovereign rule.

2.I have theorized this in terms of the network of global cities, where the latter are partly a function of that network. For example, the growth of the financial centers in New York or London is fed by what flows through the worldwide network of financial centers given deregulation of national economies. The cities at the top of this global hierarchy concentrate the capacities to maximize their capture of the proceeds so to speak.

3.We can see this in the early works such as The Taxi Dance Hall and The Gold Coast and the Slum and later in, e.g. Suttles (1968).

4.For an explanation of issues concerning narratives in this domain (see, for instance, Holston, 1996; Sandercock 2003).

5.For instance, only a small share of Fortune 500 firms, which are mostly large industrial firms, have their headquarters in NYC, but over 40% of firms who earn over half of their revenues ←35 | 36→←36 | 37→from overseas are located in NYC. Furthermore, even large industrial firms tend to have certain specialized headquarter functions in NYC. Thus Detroit-based GM, and many other such firms, has its headquarters for finance and public relations in Manhattan.

6.The data are still inadequate; one of the most promising data sets at this time is that organized by Taylor and his colleagues (GaWC; Taylor, 2004) and the type of data elaborated by Beckfield and Arthur (2006). But much remains to be done in this field.

7.Furthermore, in my reading, particular institutions of the state also are such strategic sites even as there is an overall shrinking of state authority through deregulation and privatization.

8.Much of Weber’s examination focuses on the gradual emergence and structuring of the force-composition of the city in various areas under different conditions and its gradual stabilization into a distinct form. He traces the changing composition of forces from the ancient kingships through the patrician city to the demos of the ancient world, from the episcopal structures and fortresses through the city of notables, to the guild dominated cities in Europe. He is always trying to lay bare the complex processes accompanying the emergence of urban community which for Weber is akin to what today we might describe in terms of governance and citizenship.

9.Cf. His examination of how these types of changes and innovations derive from his key concepts, or categories for analysis: social actions, social relations, and social institutions—all critical to his theory of the urban community.

10.The impact of globalization on sovereignty has been significant in creating operational and conceptual openings for other actors and subjects. At the limit, this means that the state is no longer the only site for sovereignty and the normativity that comes with it, and further, that the state is no longer the exclusive subject for international law and the only actor in international relations. Other actors, from NGOs and minority populations to supranational organizations, are increasingly emerging as subjects of international law and actors in international relations.

11.This can also be extended to the transnational level. The ascendance of a large variety of non-state actors in the international arena signals the expansion of an international civil society. This is clearly a contested space, particularly when we consider the logic of the capital market—profitability at all costs—against that of the human rights regime. But it does represent a space where other actors can gain visibility as individuals and as collective actors, and come out of the invisibility of aggregate membership in a nation-state exclusively represented by the sovereign.

12.This raises a number of questions. For instance, in Russia, where the walled city did not evolve as a center of urban immunities and liberties, the meaning of citizen might well diverge from concepts of civil society and cities, and belong to the state rather than the city.

13.I use the term “presence” to name a particular condition within the overall condition of powerlessness. There is a distinction to be made between powerlessness and being an actor even though lacking power. In the context of a strategic space such as the global city, the types of disadvantaged people described here are not simply marginal; they acquire presence in a broader political process that escapes the boundaries of the formal polity. This presence signals the possibility of a politics. What this politics will be will depend on the specific projects and practices of various communities. Insofar as the sense of membership of these communities is not subsumed under the national, it may well signal the possibility of a transnational politics centered in concrete localities.


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chapter two

Trading in Multiculture: The City and the University in the Age of Globalization

cameron mccarthy, brenda nyandiko sanya, and koeli moitra goel

For the first time since the birth of the industrial revolution, we can think and dream about cities as the philosophers of old once did. (The Commercial Club of Chicago, Chicago Metropolis 2020, 1999, p. 7)

America is becoming much more global and diverse … The world may not be quite as flat as Thomas Friedman suggests in his recent book, but one of the de facto measures of “globalization” is the almost universal “internationalization” of the world’s research universities as they work not only to retain their own countries’ students and researchers, but also to attract students and research from around the world. (University of Illinois at Chicago, 2006, p. 9).

We love diversity here in Chicago (Zeshan Bagewadi in performance at Millennium Park, Chicago, 6/29/17)


At the turn of the last century, the CEO-laden Commercial Club of Chicago, in collaboration with the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, published a remarkable policy document—Chicago Metropolis 2020. This ambitious sweeping plan announced a project of citification that sought to directly turn the city toward education, cultural diversity, and the knowledge economy as the new drivers of a future of sustainability in the era of globalization. Firmly grounded in neoliberal principles, this momentous policy document conjured up a harmonious vision of Chicago as a global city breaking free of the downside of “the industrial revolution ←41 | 42→[and] manufacturing and packing plants” that had characterized the city’s landscape for over a century and a half. As such, the document sought to separate the new Chicago from its now forbidden past expressed in “a terrible tension between the city as an economic engine and the city as a center of culture” (The Commercial Club of Chicago, 1999, p. 7). The new city would reverse the opposition between economy and education and culture and embrace knowledge, not the factory, as the powerful driver of change and productivity of the future. This globally imagined city was a space of “knowledge-based industries,” “smart buildings wired with high speed communication lines” characterized by what economist Michael Porter called “fluidity, flow and innovation … the most precious assets in the global economy” (Porter quoted in The Commercial Club of Chicago, 1999, p. 7). But the Commercial Club’s global vision of a renovated Chicago also offered a construction of the city’s other: that of the “hyperconcentration” of the residentially “isolated minority poor” (The Commercial Club of Chicago, 1999, p. 9). Two visions, two worlds, are laid out before us: one a thriving city and the other its collision with the tragic ballast of the minority poor.

In 1999, the authors of Chicago Metropolis 2020 articulated a worldview that anticipated the real existing city now being lived out in the second decade of the twenty-first century. It is expressed in a particular spatialization of the city with which this chapter seeks to grapple. As educators and scholars of cultural studies, we feel an urgency to examine the implications of the paradox of the global city of Chicago, and the contradictory gifts and products it bears forth as part of an engagement with the complex of interests, needs, and desires transacted at the intersection of economy, education, and culture in these new times. In this, we understand the city as an archive of memory, a museum of projected images, markers of change not only etched on its geography and spatiality but fully extended into a broader universe of mediations in contemporary popular mediascapes (Appadurai, 1996). That is, the city’s histories and artifacts are curated in an exhibition-conscious orchestration of space and modulated iconography that constitute a social narrative of workable multiculture obscuring the messiness of historical and contemporary frictions that are part of everyday Chicago life. Centering on the topics of economic vitality, transportation, recreation, and land use, Chicago Metropolis 2020 focuses on the need to educate the public on the virtues of planning and recommends streamlining governing agencies. Thus, while Chicago Metropolis 2020 puts an emphasis on better schools and improved services for low-income families, it turns to charters and privatization, at the same time ignoring the historical formations that make distinct the preserved raced and classed logics that already produce difference.

By analyzing logics that produce difference in the school, museum, and city, this chapter seeks to open up a sharpened discussion on the fate of poor people of color within the new spatial configuration and to identify the ideological ←42 | 43→work of multiculture which we see as centrally committed to pasting over the contradictions associated with the maturation of neoliberal capitalization of the social commons and public space in the city and the university. We point especially toward the radical recontextualization of stratified city life and the strategic use of anodyne models of multiculture which both seek to assuage the rough edges of globalization as well as fuel new forms of accumulation by dispossession that rapaciously commodify minority traditions and cultural forms.

But the processes of rearticulation of minority subjectivity and cultural form to new purposes do not stop at the geographical boundaries of the city. Arguably, these processes of citification also define the new spatial organization of the American university as it globalizes through marketization, branding, and the development of satellite campuses all over the world. Drawing on the work of Richard Sennett (2017), David Harvey (2012), Saskia Sassen (2014), Aihwa Ong (2006), and Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing (2005), we look at the city not simply as a fixed spatial-temporal arrangement or geographical location but as a powerful organizing metaphor and project of discursive will formation, integrating new resources, populations and identities in the contradictory and radically volatile environment generated by gentrification and speculative capital. In this radically dynamic environment, race has achieved a peculiar lightness of being and is deployed as a strategic multiculture for managing the rough edges of the transformation of the city from an industrial and administrative complex to a luminous proliferation of signs open to the world’s peripatetic professional middle-class subjects.

Global Studies of Education’s Limited Understanding of the City

Understanding these developments brings us into full collision with the disciplinary orientation of global studies in education, a field that has given us warrant to explore the intersection of the city, culture, and education even as it still continues to lionize an extension of the modernization theory paradigm and suppress critical traditions coming out of subaltern periphery spaces. As such the new policy programs conducted at the intersection of citification and education are only partly understood through global studies in the education framework of thought. We particularly contend with the ways in which the emerging scholarly field of global studies in education has chosen to situate globalization processes as happening in a world space outside of the national contexts and populations of the minoritized and oppressed of US urban centers. In other words, as global studies of education proponents take up the disciplinary ground left over from the post-partum arguments emerging from the comparative and international studies in education field in which global studies perspectives were gestated, they have failed to look at the ways in which globalization and its attendant expansions of capitalism have touched down in the urban core of the metropole where poor communities of ←43 | 44→color have received a cruel knock. Bypassing these communities dislocates policy planning and social service provision needed to sustain the lives and livelihoods of the minority poor. This has had an effect of not only excluding poor communities of color (both youth and adults) from the transformations taking place in their own lived contexts but at the same time construing entire sections of the population as existing outside of the productive processes of internationalization and globalization altogether.

Within higher education, we are also seeing a heightened commodification of internationalization and a reorganization of space and structures that suggest a core-periphery dynamic very similar to the spatial asymmetry now propelled by gentrification in the urban setting. Across America’s heartland a new speeded-up pattern in the university’s investment in internationalization is trumping their land-granted commitment to local populations and to US racial and ethnic minorities (Mullen, 2017). This is one of these potentially tremendously volatile sleeper issues. As Roderick Ferguson describes, this turn away from US ethnic minorities is also a turn away from the institutional gains of the radical student movements of the 1960s and 1970s that worked toward equitable material distribution and racial representation. In these ways, universities in service of global capitalism have focused on representation to contain demands for material redistribution, activating instead vectors of accumulation as they become “conduits for conveying unprecedented forms of political economy to state and capital, forms that would be based on an abstract—rather than a redistributive—valorization of minority difference and culture” (Ferguson, 2012, p. 8). Thus, internationalization becomes an institutional deployment of identity, difference, and multiculture, as a ubiquitous concept exclusive of its historical attachments to power, nationalism, and racial hierarchies. Thus, the rearticulation of programs of multiculture is not simply an example of improved globalization and power relations. Rather, it represents a shift within hierarchical frameworks toward a model of cultural pluralism whose ubiquity “did not usher in a season of unbridled liberation but provided the building blocks for a new way to regulate” (Ferguson, 2012, p. 111). In this sense, institutional deployment of multiculture takes the practical form of racial representation, without material redistribution, that elides the salience of race and class as interconnected inequalities.

Furthermore, globalization theory in education has failed to acknowledge its antecedents in prior discourses coming out of subaltern critical discourses generated in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Caribbean that offered powerful critiques of modernization theory and called central attention to inequality, unequal flows of trade, uneven development, and the colonizing propensity in core-periphery arrangements. We are talking here, for example, about dependency theory that gestated in the ECLA (United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America) group and in the writings of Samir Amin, Theotonio Dos Santos, Ronald ←44 | 45→H. Chicolte, Enzo Falleto, Ariel Dorfman, Raul Prebisch, Andre Gunder-Frank, and George Beckford who all foreground the issue of the savage inequalities that have come about as a consequence of conquest and imperialism. They maintained that underdevelopment was not an original state of affairs but had been generated as an effect of development of metropolitan countries. While “the conditions of contemporary globalization have made evident the insufficiency of ‘difference’ as a critical analytic,” as Lisa Lowe explains, an engaged globalization theory in education must surpass the evaluation of “‘difference’ in terms of its adequacy, but more to situate it within the 20th-century duration of its institutionalization, to understand the reasons for its role within modern technologies of racial administration” (Lowe, 2005, p. 410) These lines of analysis anticipate the core-periphery logic we now see orchestrated in the built environment of the city and in the university in the metropole itself.

The term “city” is being deployed heuristically in what follows. We want to bring some of the theoretical intuition underlying this subaltern scholarship to our ruminations about the new terms of race and the specific cultural and ideological work of multiculture in the fast-changing context of the city. The term is used, here forth, to refer to both the concept of geographical urban enclosure as well as the notion of the academic “city on the hill” (Cantor and Englot, 2013). We understand both these locations—the geographical city and the academic city—as material and discursive sites of discrimination and the grading of citizenship and affiliation through processes of respatialization and repopulation. All of this is prompting a new social aesthetics around race that is grooved into the class conquest of the city. It is revealed, for example, in the kind of racial aesthetics of property and real estate that Zaire Dinzey-Flores identifies as a new spatial colonialism in her essay called Racial Aesthetics of Real Estate in the Emerging White Hood (2015). Assessing current developments in Bedford Stuyvesant, New York, she maintains that gentrification has produced a particular type of place swapping through dispossession in which PMC whites are raiding properties formerly held by African Americans, stripping these neighborhoods of nonwhite markers. She points brilliantly to this paradox:

Although still predominantly Black/African-American today, Bed-Stuy’s demographics have been dramatically shifting since the 1990s. Attracted by Bed-Stuy’s historic architectural brownstones and “cheaper” housing than that found in Manhattan, many Whites (native and especially Europeans) and non-Blacks have recently settled in Bed-Stuy. Some of the new residents are the “returning children of the white flighters.” Others, as a realtor suggested, are Europeans: “You’ve got the most unexpected, diverse people moving into the neighborhood now …. ‘I’m getting a lot of Europeans, and actually lots of Germans, who were the people that originally built the neighborhood back in the 19th century.” (Gregor, 2014). These new residents are attracted to what is purported to be “the largest collection ←45 | 46→of intact and largely untouched Victorian architecture in the country, with roughly 8,800 buildings built before 1900” (Dinzey-Flores, 2015).

This logic of accumulation by dispossession is integral to what Norman Fairclough (2006) calls “hegemonic” or “hyperglobalist” (pp. 14–15) understandings of contemporary life in which globalization is seen as an inevitable and overwhelmingly positive, pluralizing, cosmopolitan and modernizing force in human societies and contexts. Dinzey-Flores (2013) links the cultural beautification of the city to a colonial project of defensive spatial organization to regulate diversity and the colonized other:

Elaborate gates—external and internal—were considered necessary when constructing the foundations of colonial America. In San Juan, in Havana, and Santo Domingo, centuries ago, fortresses and gated towns helped imprint the Spanish empire on American geography … In colonial San Juan during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries the wall distributed power and aided in segregation, distinction, and control of a growing urban population. (Dinzey-Flores, 2013, pp. 11–12).

Fast forward to contemporary times in which spatialization of the city in Puerto Rico and mainland United States—prompted by the same post-New Deal ambitions of bending cultural diversity to social control and neoliberal accumulation—carry us toward the globalization of the city via markers of culture as a tesoro of malleable human differences. At the heart of this hegemonic framework of reference is the recruitment of multiculture and diversity discourses and practices to a deeply motivated and strategic cosmopolitan project that portrays globalization processes as liberalizing and pluralist sui generis. We know this multicultural framework exists in tremendous tension with real existing circumstances of the social combustion chronically present in city life marked by police brutality, homelessness, and relentless forms of displacement. Confronting this notion of globalization as some kind of transcendent technological sublime, scholars such as Saskia Sassen (2011, 2014), Melissa Greg (2011), Doreen Massey (2007, 2008), Aihwa Ong (2006), Anna Tsing (2005), and David Harvey (2012) have noted that globalizing processes do not sit abstractly outside or above the specificity of local settings but actually touch down somewhere. These scholars call attention, specifically, to the way in which globalization touches down in the city with tremendous consequence. As Massey has observed, globalization is linked to material expression of “power geometry” (Massey, 2008, p. 259). Accordingly, we build on these insights on globalization toward taking into account the real existing consequences of globalizing processes.

We explicitly call attention to these developments in Chicago and elsewhere where respatialization marks the transition of the city from an industrial, administrative complex to a global city. We associate globalization fundamentally with neoliberalism, and we will hereafter be blending the terms “globalization” and ←46 | 47→“neoliberalism,” deploying the concept of neoliberal globalization. We suggest that neoliberal globalization’s fundamental features (the intensification and movement of cultural and economic capital, the radical liberalization and global integration of markets and financial processes across borders, the preeminence of transnational capitalist interests, the broad diffusion of the enterprise ethic, and the deepening precarity of labor defined by the race to the bottom) generate tremendous uneven development in the city. All these globalizing processes, we further ague, are now fully articulated to schooling as part of the deepening appropriation of the social commons in the age of late capitalism in which the three pillars of the North Atlantic model of modernity (“the caring state,” “the self-sufficient worker,” and “the engaged citizen”)—as Larry Grossberg (2005) has told us—have all but collapsed.

i. globalizing urban domains: the city and the terms of the new multiculture

Chicago’s transformation can be understood in the context of its drive to be a “global city”—a command center of the global economy (Sassen, 1994, 2004).

Over the past 25 years Chicago has been transformed from an industrial hub to a corporate, financial, and tourism center (Lipman and Hursh, 2010, p. 164).

In the years leading up to the recession and housing bust, hordes of frenzied buyers, flippers, and real estate speculators scrambled to capitalize on undervalued land and housing in the far-flung Chicago neighborhoods with the greatest profit and transformation potential, assuming an inevitableness of rapid appreciation. While the downturn wreaked havoc on developments and investments throughout the city, most of the purported “next big neighborhoods” (Hyde Park, West Town, Logan Square, Humboldt Park, Pilsen, Bridgeport, Andersonville, etc.) not only weathered the free fall, but are now surpassing their pre-recession desirability (The Chicago Advocate, March 2, 2015).

According to the Chicago-based global management firm, A.T. Kearney, the world is rapidly urbanizing. Cities are becoming the coordinating and primary institutional complex and archetype of late modernity. They are now, according to A.T. Kearney, the central repositories of humanity and will in the near future (2050) account for two-thirds of the world’s population. (A.T. Kearney, 2016). This present and future buoyancy of investment in the city has led to a proliferation of indices of measurement, to the generation of numerous markers of transnational comparison and rankings, and reams of reports and evaluation documents that assess and situate cities within a global scheme of significance. All of this raises the matter of the representational environment surrounding the city and the tremendous significance of its discursive momentum in the organization of the material ←47 | 48→lives of human actors in the twenty-first century. We understand that the articulation of this urbanizing logic, as A.T. Kearney representatives maintain, expresses itself in an unevenness in the very physiognomy of city space. Globalizing processes propelling such urbanization are not innocent but, according to Sassen, are generating a relentless “geography of centrality and marginality” (Sassen, 1998, p. xxvi). In major world cities, this is reflected in deepening inequality that is visible in the organization of city life.

We believe that there has literally been a material war over signs pertaining to the city, as groups like Black Lives Matter can testify. For as scholars such as Lipman and Haines (2007) and Dinzey-Flores (2013) maintain, cities not only receive, but expel populations. Cities stratify the world in which their subjects dwell, allocating different ranges of life efficacy, life sovereignty, and life agency and quality of existence. Even as policy actors and stakeholders such as A.T. Kearney and the Commercial Club of Chicago articulate a quest for the global city of the future embracing all inhabitants with equal investment, we know otherwise. We understand that the energies driving the city toward globalization are capitalistic and rabidly acquisitive.

We want to look at the city, then, as a site of a great struggle over the iconography of the present and the future—with a powerful neoliberal dimension consequential to the new terms of multiculture operating in the built spaces of the twenty-first century, an era of neoliberal globalization. In this sense, the city might be understood to have a double strategic logic in contemporary globalizing affairs. First, we look at the city not simply as a settled matter of geography but as a constantly productive site of discursive and material mobilization of difference, unequal powers, authorities, resources, and spaces.

Second, we argue that the discursive mobilization of the city—as a site of rejuvenated desires and will formation that appropriates and deploys multiculture—is not only focused on the spatial enclosure of the city but is now deployed in the acquisitive appropriation of the cultural form of minority poor, even as minority populations are increasingly being expelled from the center of the new global acropolis. As the editors of this volume have noted, we are living in such times in which the conflict-ridden environment of the urban setting—witness Fergusson, Charleston, Nashville, Baltimore, New York and Chicago—belies any facile claim or celebratory rhetoric trumpeting the frictionless nature of globalization. What minorities experience of globalization is a great abridgement and check on their very right of existence, on their claim to citizenship status in the emerging political order, and the deregulated, market-oriented economic environment that runs through the city.

We believe that concerns over the contradictions in policy development and the fortunes of city dwellers are generally suppressed in the sweeping representation of city futures by investment firms and developers. Investment and real ←48 | 49→estate entities such as Newmark Knight Frank, for example, cast a world of endless growth and possibility built on the conjoining of culture to the technological sublime:

Rapid population growth and innovative infrastructure projects are creating new business hubs and transforming the geography of our Global Cities. These hubs are increasing in importance as investors cast their nets wider when pursuing real estate opportunities, increasing cross border money flows. Global Cities explores the future of the built environment, and is intended to help investors, occupiers and city planners with their future business strategy. (Newmark Knight Frank, Global Cities: The 2017 Report p. i)

Indeed, we find this elevated bright-futures language, too, in mainstream policy discourses in education and the social sciences (Friedman, 2007; Jibeen and Khan, 2015). There is, after all, a tremendous policy investment in linking globalization to cities articulated as a broad neoliberal goal. This chapter puts this tendency under analytical pressure. We believe we are living in the times of the maturation of neoliberal policy commitments transacting globalization. This high-water point of neoliberal governance is met by the co-appearance of sharp downsides for disadvantaged sectors of society. A proper understanding of the material and ideological work of neoliberal globalization must therefore go beyond platitudes. In this sense, it is not enough—as scholars such as John and Jean Comaroff (2009) or Nandini Gooptu (2013) have done—to tie neoliberalism to “the acceptance or universalization of the norm of the ‘enterprising self’” (Gooptu 2013, p. 8). Instead, we join scholars such as Harvey and Lipman in calling attention to the extraordinary violence of neoliberalism and its destructive effects on the real existing lives of, particularly, the displaced minority poor. We must pay attention to neoliberal globalization’s association with the great unmooring of things, of long-held social relations, and the disembedding or ripping up of social bonds and social categories that we have used to apprehend modern life and modern institutions. Categories such as “work,” “class,” and “race” are now having their old contents emptied out and are being assigned new meanings that can evoke and call up contradictory moral resources and political purposes (Beck, 2009; Bauman, 2017). The spaces of existence of the urban poor are being ripped up and remade. Their expulsion is being secured even as the parvenu PMC moves in to take up residence in what was formerly the Cabrini Green Housing Project or Robert Taylor Homes on Chicago’s near north side and south side, respectively.

We are living in an epoch in which these aggressive acquisitive developments associated with capitalism, flexible capitalism, and hyper capitalism could be described as a new primitive or predatory stage—a time of the relentless search for new sources of value in ever new quarters of everyday life, and immaterial reality. We are living in the age of the dominance of “accumulation by dispossession”1 ←49 | 50→practices of capital powerfully articulated in the logic of absorption and expulsion in the city (Harvey, 2005 p. 149).

In his brilliant essay, “The Foot-soldiers of Modernity,” Paul Willis (2005) makes the insightful observation that capitalism exerts tremendous accumulative pressure on a wide range of the leisure and nonwork activities of the chronically unemployed and underemployed—the “working class without work,” as Lois Weis calls this group of the displaced (Weis, 1990). Willis maintains that in the contemporary context, capitalism is not simply appropriating from nature but is engaged in the excavation of human nature or the fomenting and raiding of desires, anxieties, fears, and needs for identity and affiliation in a world in which movement, restlessness, and ephemerality define existence and experience. As Gillian Rose (2016) notes, we live in a time of this convergence of work and leisure. Nature is accessible, modifiable, and commercializable. It can be drawn on as a constantly renewable source from which to recruit symbolic characteristics to describe scenarios of freedom and autonomy that then can be glibly assigned to the winners of neoliberalism’s competition for scarce resources. The new globalized urban life marries technology to nature, demonstrating humankind’s “second nature” and our ability to repurpose built space. Space then is codified and enlaced with social meaning and social differentiation. This is at the heart of the project of gentrification; the building of a world for professional middle-class subjects that corrects presumed misuse, dilapidation, and lawlessness associated with the urban underclasses. In Rebel Cities (2012), David Harvey calls attention to these developments with respect to the radical appropriation of space, the radical privatization of public resources and services once firmly within the municipal, city, and state governance. Harvey notes the “dark side” of these radically destructive processes prosecuted upon the city:

Surplus absorption through urban transformation has, however, an even darker aspect. It has entailed repeated bouts of urban restructuring through “creative destruction.” This nearly always has a class dimension, since it is usually the poor, the underprivileged, and those marginalized from political power that suffer first and foremost from this process. Violence is required to achieve the new urban world on the wreckage of the old (Harvey, 2012, p. 16).

Harvey’s point is well taken. There is a relentless raiding of the urban environment, an unleashing of rabidly acquisitive practices of accumulation by dispossession in the cityscape. This is revealed in the keen foraging for new value and for new areas of the life world to absorb within the grip of profit-making. As an instance of this radical neoliberal tendency, there are spreading instances of public school districts of cities like Chicago or New Orleans that have been turned over to the profit-making enterprises of charter schools and Educational Management Organizations (EMOs). Indeed, evermore areas of the social commons articulated ←50 | 51→across a wide swath of postindustrial societies are absorbed into capitalization in this neoliberal era. And of particular relevance to us, as academics and policy intellectuals, knowledge production, creative practices, and cultural archives come under the grip of new identities generated in the wake of capitalization and commodification. The logics of what Richard Sennett (2007) calls “new capitalism” are articulated to a broad range of developments linked to the state and social institutional dynamics of class, race, and gender in which cultural institutions such as schools (even as they become less of a guarantor of the nexus between schooling and work) are crucial sites for playing out expanded and predatory programs of new capital.

In this context, the resources of the state are up for grabs, particularly in the areas of health, information gathering and manipulation, data processing, surveillance, prison construction and management, vision scanning, and in education—as Luis Mirón, Brian R. Beabout, and Joseph L. Boselovic (2015) have documented with respect to the city of New Orleans. As they maintain, public educational resources are rapidly being annexed and capitalized by private interests. It is post-Katrina New Orleans, as they point out, where the Orleans Parish public school system was transformed almost overnight into a system of private, charter schools. By these arguments, cultural institutions and cultural practices stand squarely in the crosshairs of this radical orientation of acquisitive capital toward the conquest of immaterial resources.

In the discussion of globalization, we are too often preoccupied with how these logics are working outside the metropolitan centers of the western world. It is now urgently important to redirect attention, as contributors to this volume have done, to the way in which the neoliberal privileging of the enterprise ethic is working back within metropolitan societies themselves. We need to pay attention as to how these developments are impacting groups differentially located in the city and how globalization is, in an uneven manner, throwing ethnic groups up against each other in real existing circumstances and in the contexts of the imaginary universe of simulation produced in the processes of electronic mediation. The scenarios of globalization are not a happy summary of difference and plurality. They are, instead, aggravated venues of the playing out of inequalities, social contestation, and combustion.

In exploring the impact of forces of globalization in the metropolitan context, we might look more closely, for example, at the postindustrial landscape of the Anglo-American metropolitan world and what it has proffered on both sides of the Atlantic: deeply racializing and polarizing politics and accompanying policy environments that have for some time targeted immigrants and the urban poor as the undeserving beneficiaries of a too-tolerant state. Donald Trump’s travel bans and BREXIT anti-immigrant policies seek to carve diversity out of the city, out of the state. We have seen how the rough edges of globalization play themselves out ←51 | 52→as an existential threat to the nation that urban centers harboring immigrants and the poor represent (Taub, 2016). Globalization and immigration, the rapid movement of capital, the hyper scrutinized-limited movement of working poor, and globalizing culture mean that postcolonial theories have come into significance in addressing the persistent question of who counts as human, who has rights, who is valuable, and what epistemologies are privileged. In Unsettling the Coloniality of Being/Power/Truth/Freedom Towards the Human, After Man, Its Overrepresentation—An Argument, Sylvia Wynter writes of the “struggle of the new millennium” (2003, p. 261). Leveraging Aníbal Quijano’s argument that the coloniality of power is at the crux of the global capitalist system, Wynter’s locates the colonial and postcolonial in a global sphere. Accordingly, for Wynter,

[C]entral to this struggle also is the usually excluded and invisibilized situation of the category identified by Zygmunt Bauman as the “New Poor” (Bauman 1987).

That is, as a category defined at the global level by refugee/economic migrants stranded outside the gates of the rich countries, as the postcolonial variant of Fanon’s category of les damnés (Fanon 1963)—with this category in the United States coming to comprise the criminalized majority Black and dark-skinned Latino inner-city males now made to man the rapidly expanding prison-industrial complex, together with their female peers—the kicked-about Welfare Moms—with both being part of the ever-expanding global, transracial category of the homeless/the jobless, the semi-jobless, the criminalized drug-offending prison population (Wynter, 2003, p. 260).

It is with regard to this “struggle” that a number of feminist scholars have called for a transnational approach to studying gender and sexuality (Kaplan & Grewal, 1994; Puri, 2002, 2004, Miraftab, 2016).

The fictive world of film and television serves both to stoke and stage striking problematizations of the way in which globalization brings groups into sharpened conflict and combustion. There is a growing emergence of a cultural imaginary, a sense of the resurgence of nationalism that parks itself alongside and responds to the new multiculture. This imaginary highlights how globalization cuts into the sense of nativist ownership of place that the white lower middle classes especially feel—a breeding ground and a starting point to the ideological incitement to the politics of ethnic cleansing.

As an example of these developments, Anoop Nayak presents readers with a materialist reading of this moment in his book Race, Place and Globalization: Youth Cultures in a Changing World. Nayak (2003) brilliantly documents how globalization affected the conurbation known as the “White Highlands” of Tyneside, Newcastle in the Northeast of England at the turn of the last century. It is here, according to Nayak, that with the dissolution of shipbuilding and coal mining and the arrival of new multinational corporations like Samsung foregrounding microelectronics and the whole shift to service industries (more open to the ←52 | 53→dexterousness and interpersonal skills of young women) that more and more white working class young men see themselves taking a last stand against a radically changing world, and the invaders—black and brown immigrant youth from the former colonies, from Pakistan, India and the Caribbean islands. This collision of ethnic groups within the logics of globalization is underscored again in Shane Meadows’ revealing account of the everyday practices and fortunes of white working class youth in the film, This is England (2006). The film joins a growing volume of films such as Fish Tank (2009) and the The Neds (2014) that have plumbed the thematic line of the fragility of the white working classes in an era of globalizing change. This is England foregrounds a group of isolated white youth, skinheads, who are trying to make sense of the postindustrial world of immigrants, chronic unemployment, and constrained futures. The world constructed in this film is one of an uneasy multiculture in which group hostilities to the newcomer are raw and violent.

We can look away from film and television to real existing circumstances and contexts. In Chicago, for instance, we might again take a look at the adventurist capitalist environment of the city of Chicago where the powerful forces of gentrification are unleashed in the radical absorption of a new multicultural group of upwardly mobile professionals and the simultaneous expulsion of the minority poor from the newly coveted city center. We see a cruelly optimistic (Berlant, 2011) policy document, Chicago Metropolis 2020, which advances the ruse that public and private interests can, actually rather must, be yoked to remake a metropolitan public community for the benefit of everyone. Disregarding the reality that private and public sector goals are often at odds with each other, the city’s growth and development can only be activated and sustained by disciplining the public sector and those who heavily depend upon it. Part of this material perspective of the city and space provides clear explanations of how race and class are used as a narrative to support the transformation of the city. Pushing racially resistant subjects out of the city, while absorbing and showcasing their historical artifacts stripped of their political contexts, situates the global city as open to “diversity” only if difference is a “good fit” for the neoliberal project. The visibilization of this collision between ethnic groups is writ large in the piling up of urban minority deaths at the hands of the police in Chicago itself and in cities—New York, Baltimore, Charleston, Nashville, Ferguson and others—across the US. It is visible too in the full-scale displacement and appropriation of places of dwelling and historically significant spaces of reference associated with black life and their rearticulation to hegemonic multiculturalism. Hegemonic multiculturalism uses race for capitalistic purposes and exercises the most unkind cut of all: the use of oppressed cultures, subjugated minority histories and memories, in the forging and creation of an inuring ethnic mosaic for the purposes of strategic appropriation and extraction.

←53 |

A telling example of the operation of these logics is the razing of the Robert Taylor Homes (the largest housing project in the United Sates) and its transformation into the new mixed-income housing development called “Legends South” of Chicago in which the available wings of condominiums and apartments for sale carry the names of major African American artists such as Loraine Hansberry, Mahalia Jackson, and Gwendolyn Brooks. The retention of these names alludes to a time when this area of Southside Chicago in which Robert Taylor Homes was located was called “Bronzeville”—a black metropolis into which migrant African Americans from the US South retreated from the blatant racial hostility they experienced on their arrival to the city. Bronzeville was literally a city within a city where elite black performers such as Mahalia Jackson, Nat King Cole, Coleman Hawkins, and Duke Ellington would live and perform. As such, replacing the displaced poor, the new gentrified residents now get to bask in the Chicago South Side summers of Lorraine Hansberry’s To Be Young, Gifted and Black, or enjoy contemporary performances of A Raisin in the Sun dislocated from Hansberry’s “complete political solidarity with the upsurge of anticolonial activity in Africa” (Wilkins, 2006, p. 191). Legends South rearticulates and recontextualizes African American History and dwellings as a usable and marketable tradition:

Today, the South Lakefront is becoming more economically and racially diverse, driven by market forces as well as conscious policies of the City of Chicago and Chicago Housing Authority. Over the last 20 years, the Chicago Housing Authority has demolished all 36 of the 16-storey high-rise towers that once stood alongside the Dan Ryan Expressway—the Robert Taylor Homes and Stateway Gardens developments, being redeveloped as Park Boulevard and Legends South (The Chicago Community Trust, 2015).

Bronzeville is a site of an aggressive gentrification offensive. Rearticulated and recontextualized, Legends South functions in a “flexibly neocolonial state,” commodified thereby available for consumption (Hong 2006, p. 144), where hip, professional middle-class new comers are driving out the African American poor even as their distinctive past becomes a cultural archive that can be raided for value-added features of new housing stock (See also Lipman and Hursh, 2010; Taylor, 2012). In the next section, we turn toward a closer examination of the museumization of city space and the ideological and cultural work of the museum in the globalizing city.

ii. citification in a global economy: public culture at crosshairs of public policy

Chicago’s quest to capitalize on the gentrification of vast tracts of “prime” real estate is not only in Bronzeville but also in private and corporate sponsorships ←54 | 55→such as the enthusiastic project of landing a deal with Amazon and its search for its second headquarters—its HQ2 plan. As part of selling the city, displaying history demands curating public space as spectacular, entertaining, but most importantly consumable. There is no time or funding for cultural analysis or engagement with complexity. The transactional is central. This leaves fertile ground to resituate history and how, in Trouillotian terms, history works. Battles of history ranging from the Great Migration to working class struggles are marginally curated with complexity dulled and analysis foreshortened. Thus, all avenues are marshalled to deploy historical representations in service of packaging the city, these “[h]istorical representations—be they books, commercial exhibits, or public commemorations—cannot be conceived only as vehicles for the transmission of knowledge. They […] establish some relation to that knowledge” (Trouillot, 1995, p.149).

Yet, they betray the communities which produced those consumables. This section continues our examination of respatialization. It specifically considers the way city officials consecrate space by displacement and dispossession, absorbing and overrunning in the process the collective histories of marginalized groups. City authorities play a double hand, as they push along transactions on the lines of “public-private interests” but which, in the end, only add to vicious cycles of dispossession and devastation for those banished from these prime grounds and from the shining towers of metropolitan community circulated over and again in globalized imaginaries.

The razing of the Robert Taylor Homes in 1999—called the “largest displacement of public housing residents in the nation” (Crane, 2005)—generated a huge crunch in the availability of affordable housing in the Chicago area. Bronzeville still struggles to hold on to a rich history of supporting and uplifting a Chicago Black community (Jackson, 2015). The area, which once was the center of Black life in Chicago, was emptied out following a long-term demolition project following decades of deterioration and neglect, leaving behind both land and capital up for grabs.

While the federal Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) “Hope 6” program provided the funds to tear down high-density public housing, its goal to build “replacement housing that mixes public housing with private-market renters in low-rise, more neighborhood-friendly settings” (Crane, 2005) is yet to materialize. The Hope 6 wiped away generations of cultural and social legacies, causing thousands of Chicago residents, mostly the working poor and public aid recipients, to move upstate, downstate, and elsewhere in the country in search of what HUD officials called “opportunity communities”—in smaller towns like Rantoul, Danville, Urbana-Champaign, and Bloomington-Normal.

As enormous land parcels owned by Chicago Housing Authority lie unused, Chicago’s Mayor Rahm Emmanuel’s office was hard on the heels of the Amazon ←55 | 56→HQ2 team, offering financial incentives up to billions to attract Amazon’s corporate relocation project (Ori, 2018).

For instance, the Burnham Lakefront, a Bronzeville development that includes the Michael Reese Hospital site, barely a few miles from the Robert Taylor Park and Legends South was offered as one of the most lucrative sites in the Chicago area for Amazon’s $5-billion east-bound headquarters. Both Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Governor Bruce Rauner emphasized the role of Chicago’s acclaimed educational institutions, large educated labor-pools, and its urban connectivities as pivotal to a bipartisan push to make the area attractive and productive for the global e-commerce giant’s mammoth expansion. Analytics for the project are promising for Chicago’s financial future—starting from 7.4 billion in construction-related spending to $71-billion in salaries and wages—but the motivation also arrives from the project of crafting a unique metropolitan identity as an exceptional global urban region, and an “ideal city” (Emanuel, cited in Ori, 2017). This engagement with crafting an identity for the city becomes a connection between citification as a mission and the enterprise of showcasing it as a central vision for urban authorities.

Museums are not merely memory banks of a nation or its cities, but are epistemological tools deployed in the project of educating the public, contributing to the collective memory and the development of a public culture. While the museum “is a crucial site of cultural reproduction” (Bosch, 2005), it has also been frequently mobilized in the project of crafting ideological discourses in the elaboration of patriotic and hegemonic identities. Even when the “nation” exerts complete control over its territory, population, and borders, the archivist’s decisions may embody a certain power in the collection, accumulation, and representation of archival artifacts. Such decisions are neither isolated from political realities nor divorced from the public agenda of the dominant class. In post-national negotiations, and a global economy bringing in various demands and opportunities across porous borders, museum-making must be examined through wider lenses, where the city itself evolves as a showcase and exhibition complex—under myriad connectivities and pressures of a global network of consumer citizens. Spatial aesthetics often get imbricated in global as well as local ideas of place and their entanglements with contemporary neoliberal maneuvers: “The idea of representing a local place or reacting to political issues can no longer occur in isolation from global concerns” (Papastergiadis, 2010).

While population migrations, diasporic cultures, social movements, and community initiatives all play a role, the production of place-based identities are now influenced by corporate agendas and neoliberal rollbacks initiated by the state. Demands from a late-capitalistic global economy, determined to monetize lucrative real-estate parcels, also play a huge role—turning cityscapes into spectacles for publics gleaning incessantly from ever-new attention platforms. Though “new” ←56 | 57→is often the catch word, critical scholars have, for long, insisted that “perpetual re-invention is also one of the markers of globalization” (Bosch, 2005) in which ever-new products and markets closely follow a global first-world model, while basic relations of power remain unchanged.

As early as 1997, a UNESCO study on development and cultural tourism established that museums and tourism are the fastest growing businesses across the world. While corporatization of institutions and declining public funding have differential effects on public amenities like museums and schools, urban spaces are being dressed up to compete in this market for cultural tourism. Some countries and cities are better positioned to capitalize on these recent global trends, and Chicago is one such city, where urban planning has taken over cultural reproduction, and the city is increasingly being deployed as a museum. Not only has the city acquired primacy but it has also been successful in attracting global capital to adorn its lucrative real estate with new, modernistic structures. Chicago has gained in reputation as a repository of a particular brand of Midwestern culture—highlighting a range of products and services—be it world-class aquariums or planetariums; jazz or blues music clubs and concerts; baseball games, improve comedy, or water sports. Where the museum has been depleted, the city has gained.

State agencies are always already incorporated in the narrative of globalism. Where globalization is seen to bring unilateral progress, state actors get ideologically positioned to accommodate global businesses. In representing “glocal” cultures, which might or might not be attached to the location, urban-planning often arrives at “mixed-use” concepts far-removed from local realities. Inscribed with novel practices of exhibitionary protocol often seen in museums, and often pushing spatial, temporal and environmental boundaries, the skylines of cities like Chicago emerge under corporate draftsmanship—the epicenter of projects and inter- and intra-city competition among a profusion of exotic locations, all rivaling with each other to plant another Burj Khalifa, Shanghai Tower or John Hancock on the contested ground of a Cabrini Green.

Stuart Hall (2001) discussed how contemporary aesthetic practices were being distributed on a global scale by a massive culture industry. This incessant circulation, and a particular “notion of a modernism” that is found inscribed “on the face of everyday life, in everyday fashion, in popular culture and in the popular media, in consumer culture and the visual revolution,” does not merely question but also obviously jeopardizes the whole concept of “gathering together the best of all this in one place and calling it ‘a museum’” (Hall, 2001, p. 10). Under current globalizing circumstances, when not only corporations but also nations, states, and cities vie for international attention and marketing or branding exercises actively seek out global capital, architects routinely design urban sites with hard objectives of how to extract financially lucrative solutions from these spaces, rather than engaging in the history of the surrounding environment. Along with constant quantitative ←57 | 58→evaluations in which cities are pitted against one another with variables like quality of its airports, conference-centers, trade-fair locations, traffic-flow mechanisms, business headquarters or shopping malls, superiority of a city’s skyline adds to the lifestyle it offers and is publicized aggressively. The earnest and the aggressive push forward to be included in the coveted list of “the network of global cities.”

Cultural studies scholars have often examined the tendency of museums to centralize cultural capital. Hall argued that in late modernism, the symbolic has gained in significance as never before: and “the languages of the aesthetic [are] as appropriate within popular culture or public television, as they are within the most recherché rooms of the Museum of Modern Art” (Hall, 2001, p. 2, italics added). Are museums nearing their end? Not so, they indeed provide “stabilization,” Hall (2001) said, and maybe a degree of centralization in an increasingly dispersed and widely disseminated environment of recording and preserving culture. While Hall was keen to focus on how the “modern artistic impulse” played out in proliferation of sites and places, engaged in “explosion of boundaries”—symbolic, material and physical—this section takes a different direction. Our examination of intersecting vectors of late capitalism, rapacious real estate capitalization, corporate manipulation, and corresponding consumerist resurgence are all colluding toward a public culture and aesthetics emerging under excruciating “lines of force” drawn by global political-economic realities. Confronted by technological advances that allow for curating and archiving of the world’s cultural and material productions in cyberspace as well as real spatial arrangements, urban aesthetics routinely play out on digital and material platforms (Goel, 2012) that contest and also counteract institutional representations. However, though museological efforts at categorization and homogenization are being challenged, instead of encouraging robust heterogenization, everyday practices of planning, zoning and urban development strategies frequently return to homogenization of diverse cultural ensembles and assemblages on racial lines, and frequently on the “North Atlantic” model. In attempting an alternative way of understanding urban planning, we find the city itself emerging as an exhibitionary space, with exhibits exploding out of the white cuboid wall of the museum. Spatialization, spatial action, and spatial re-organization have initiated new practices of categorizing and marginalizing human lives and histories. Urban planning boards, in conjunction with real-estate corporations, have assumed the curator’s role, drawing out tapestries of infinite consumerist meccas in palatial high-rises, spiral malls, and “mixed-use” buildings: “New architecture performs the same function as the big travelling exhibitions and retrospectives of great artists that bring a museum or city into the limelight of the worldwide media” (Bosch, 2005).

The market value of a city in a globalized economy is complex. Museums are now competing with city malls for consumers who are less interested in the originality of the art and more intent on buying a good print that matches the mosaic ←58 | 59→backsplash of their gourmet kitchens. In this situation, the city provides far more abundant opportunities for consumption and interaction. City planners are thus more inclined to strategically position and optimize the impact of the skyline—in visual and material culture—and market the city accordingly. City architects design “mixed-use” buildings which strive to compound the glories of many different worlds—their facades compete with the likes of the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao; their shopping opportunities with the Water Tower Mall on Chicago’s Michigan Avenue; and concierge services for its high-end condominium residents with the New York Four Seasons.

On the other hand, as Chicago vies with other global cities in this competition for the high ground of urban culture—it toys with art, architecture, and urban planning in exuberant prolificity so as to override its earlier history as an extinct industrial hub. Here, in the “development” of privileged locations across its terrain, we see the City of Chicago shaping up under the dynamics of a recolonization of metropolitan space in various projects. The demolition of the Robert Taylor Housing Project or the Cabrini Green buildings or the former’s renaming as Legends South, and relocation of its residents to “opportunity communities” around the region (Crane, 2005), are just few of the markers of far wider cycles of deprivation. Whereas Bronzeville had once been the bustling home of Black art and culture and echoes of the Black Arts Movement, showcased through sites like the Regal Theatre, the Parkway Ballroom, the Sunset Café, and the Dreamland Café where many numbers of famous Black entertainers performed, and some of Black America’s most storied figures like Gwendolyn Brooks, Sam Cooke, and Lou Rawls captivated a rich cultural milieu, all that has remained is its reputation as a Chicago Housing Authority corridor—the State Street Corridor—with the rich cultural history all but erased along with the mass evictions. Chicago is now branded through the glitzy marketing of the Riverline Project or the 62-acre riverfront “city within a city” nicknamed “Rezkoville” (referring to political power broker Tony Rezko), or more recently in the redevelopment of the Chicago Spire site and well-guarded efforts to usurp public space—the DuSable Park. In this way, the city of Chicago emphasizes “public visibility to enhance its multicultural public image while in reality actively [avoiding] the multicultural work it publicly claims to welcome” (Ferguson, 2012, p. 3). Further, this tactic is used by universities, businesses, and policy makers who transform spaces and policies to neutralize and absorb multicultural demands, appropriating the histories and imagery of social movements and redirecting their power momentum to market purposes.

Starting from the “post-museum” dynamics that Hall (2001) presented, which while not portending the end of all museums, did refer to the radical transformation of the museum as a concept: “the relativisation of the museum,” our engagement is with the city as it rises to accomplish what the museum once did—represent public culture—but within a new garb of “multiculture.” The museum ←59 | 60→can now be perceived as only one site among many in the circulation of aesthetic practices (Hall, 2001). While the museum remains a privileged, relatively well-funded site closely tied to the accumulation of cultural capital, power and prestige, future development trajectories of Chicago and the many ways in which the street and other coveted urban spaces have been demarcated by museological practices can easily be seen on one hand as educative exercises for the international tourist and on the other, western practices of city-modelling. Out of prestigious and lucrative urban locations along Lakeshore Drive: East Illinois Street, or River East or the Ohio Street Beachwalk, Navy Pier, River North, or Streeterville, urban-planning practices in the Metropole carve out museum-like “high-end exhibits” in new upscale buildings with limestone walls and exotic palms decorating 29th-floor sundecks. At the street level, parks, fountains, gardens, shops, and restaurants intersperse landscaped plazas for public gathering, expensive cafes and breakfast clubs, manicured squares to hold farmers’ markets and outdoor niches for dining. In claiming the sought-after Lake Shore Drive real estate, high-profile corporate designers aim for iconic, mega-tall, competitive structures and often overlook the human costs. As such, urban projects often become grounds for contestations of identity in which the “minority poor” have no place. As this new colonialism builds its Towers of Babel, vicious cycles of social exclusion and displacement unleash further marginalization.

Developers and architects focus more on adding landmark structures to the city’s profile to bolster its “world-class” reputation and architectural legacy rather than solving persistent, decades-long problems of low-income housing shortfalls (Crane, 2005). The Centennial Vision, a plan for the redevelopment of the Navy Pier, was completed in Summer 2016. It aimed at creating a “world-class public space” for year-round dining, entertainment, and cultural activities. With the Polk Foundation pouring $20 million for beautification through compelling designs and landscaping, the Navy Pier regained its glory as an iconic Chicago landmark, but it also articulates recent trends in citification: of introducing specifically curated spatial aesthetics deployed for attracting suitable urban audiences. Another such superstructure on the drawing board was the Chicago Spire, meant for the prized lakefront parcel adjoining the Ogden Slip in the Streeterville area. Whereas plans of the much-publicized Chicago Spire failed to materialize and dissolved millions in the 2008 meltdown, designers at architectural firm Gensler are already in the late stages of a conceptual design for another high-profile tower at this lucrative waterfront location: the Gateway Tower. Now owned by Related Midwest, the parcel is being prepared for an “anti-tower” according to Gensler’s website. Described enthusiastically in local real estate updates, but otherwise kept under wraps, competitive drafting plans project an iconic, mixed-use, mega-tall attraction. Taking lead in a competitive designing project, the Gateway Tower conceptually retains the same 2,000-foot height of the original Chicago Spire design, ←60 | 61→but trades the twisting whimsicality of Calatrava’s “narwhal tusk” (as shown in previous Chicago Spire plans) for more of a Chicago-style aesthetic expressed through “structural X-bracing.” Corporate curators are enthusiastically planning their exhibit, spotlighting the superstructure’s highlights which will represent a particular Chicagoan aesthetics: “Our solution was to create an anti-tower, one that was not designed purely as an object to look at but rather one that is engaging at different scales to the entire city, one that would welcome newcomers as it simultaneously embraces locals,” (Koziarz, 2016). The questions of heritage, public use, or ownership are not far from such discussions, but also quite inevitably, the designers’ perspectives represented current enthusiasm and ambition much more in terms of the stunning tower’s commercial value, displacing any discussion of the repercussions of, for example, annexing the adjoining DuSable Park and all the consequent effects on this area as usable public space. Related Midwest’s President Curt Bailey’s words left no doubt as to the direction of this land use:

We recognize the importance of this site to the City of Chicago and look forward to creating an architecturally significant and thoughtful development befitting this premier location. We are proud to have a long track-record of developing landmark buildings with world-class architects … (Bailey, quoted in Latrace, 2014).

The common understanding is that a tall building with a rooftop skydeck or observatory brings in far more revenue, (Koziarz, 2016) considering that New York’s Empire State Building’s observatory brings in more revenue than all its commercial tenants combined. In the Streeterville site, the designers are promoting plans to override city codes, which prevent private land-use east of Lake Shore Drive. Gensler’s plans propose using DuSable Park for a dramatic base for its “outrigger-style stilts” that reach east of LSD, and can accommodate funiculars, which give tourists the opportunity to ride up and down the tower in gondola-like vehicles.

The key connection between museums and urban development has been long recognized. Now globalization and its dynamics combine with public policy and neoliberal governance to usher in new ways of conceptualizing the museum as a citywide venture. We must explore this further. Recent discussions on changing responsibilities of museums as the repositories of public culture have pointed toward a focus on place—especially contested space—as a significant area in future urban-studies projects. As Bosch notes, “Concepts of place, such as the national and the local, and even concepts of memory and history” so often now represented in the museum, have become subjects of debate (Bosch, 2005). Whereas previous discussions engaged in re-envisioning audience and addressing transformations now taking place in audience identities in light of globalizing circumstances, our discussion points toward corporate curators and their agendas. We examine the “turn” that is challenging the museum (Hall, 2001, p. 13) and museum ←61 | 62→studies—contending with the conventional, with heralding public culture outside the boundaries of a curated, high-culture enclosure. While accepting how wider artistic practices have democratized cultural life, we also argue that we “consider the proliferation of sites and places in which the modern artistic impulse is taking place,” (Hall, 2001, p. 13) and also create the academic and theoretical framework for studying those urban spaces which are built up in the contact zones where neoliberal globalization has made its rough landfall.

In this complexly hierarchical zone, the encounter is not necessarily between high and low culture but between the rich and the poor, the majority white and the hypervisible minoritized populations of color, between toughly negotiated corporate agendas and organically sprouting artistic expressions. And, this encounter develops in terms of the former as “natives” and the latter as “refugees” or “migrants,”—a disposable population, even though it is the latter’s generationally held home turfs that are being spirited away in rapacious real-estate wagers. Furthermore, even while generations of Black grassroots histories in Chicago are being sold as the “attractions” and a global public, largely placed outside this color-hierarchization, is ravenously consuming this space and culture (in jazz festivals and architectural tours), most of the contemporary dwellers of the black metropolis within Chicago city have been displaced through the “lucrative” Section 8 housing vouchers. They are, therefore, by this strategic device expelled to the dying mining and industrial towns down in south/ central Illinois.

According to reports published by News Gazette, a central Illinois publication, the demolition of Chicago’s high-rise public housing projects started in 1999 under the federal HUD program called Hope 6 (Crane, 2005). The 10-year, $1.5 billion plan to demolish more than 16,000 public housing units in the Robert Taylor project of Chicago was not merely the largest displacement of public housing in the United States that subsequently relocated tens of thousands, as noted earlier, but it also created unforeseen pressure on school, health, and law-enforcement services to the “opportunity communities” which saw sudden influxes of Chicago populations in the middle of an academic year. While some families with Section 8 vouchers took up all low-income housing in the Chicago area, many histories were silenced (Trouillot, 1995), and other low income families who had no vouchers were squeezed further away from the metropolitan area to central and south Illinois communities like Peoria, Decatur, Danville, Champaign-Urbana, or Bloomington-Normal, many leaving behind generations of family connections and histories.

Local government agencies often deploy the “discourse of globalization” (Fairclough, 2006) to create a competitive space ripe for investment of international capital, initiating an exuberant celebratory discourse of a consumer culture. Ong’s theory on “stratified citizenship” in Southeast Asia provides us valuable grounds for examining how globalization has linked neoliberal governance to differential ←62 | 63→treatment meted out to different groups of population, based on their compatibility to and their efficiency and competitiveness in turbulent market conditions. What Ong (2006) called “neoliberalism as exception” has helped to refine our understanding of the interaction between global markets and local regulatory institutions, where sovereign power invokes exception in ways that create, on one hand, citizenship elements such as entitlements and benefits for an increasingly mobile, substantially empowered global elite and professional middle-classes, and on the other citizens who are judged not to have such tradable competence or potential. The latter become devalued and thus vulnerable to exclusionary practices (Ong, 2006, pp. 6–7) much like the African American folks who have historically called Chicago home. Meanwhile, a globally savvy public, empowered by neoliberal self-help ideology, and technological expertise arrive as highly valued consumers on Chicago’s Magnificent Mile, easily exercising citizenship-like claims.

In the Afterword to Orientalism, Said argues that the critical scholar’s focus should be on the constant negotiations in every society over whose story takes precedence, over which history is preserved for posterity, and which social structure dominates. This constant “struggle over historical and social meaning” is the essence of meaning-making (1979, p. 331). Contentions between various groups are part of every society, and in Culture and Imperialism (1993), Said pointed out that all of us were in one way or another implicated not only in history-making but also in the struggle over geography, over territory, and over space and place. While he was speaking of the Palestinian struggle, face-offs between colonizing and decolonizing groups hold true today for many urban communities across the globe. The politics of space usually plays out to the advantages of a technologically gifted professional middle-class, empowered by novel practices of geo-tagging, global positioning, or Google-satellite mapping, which allow them to assimilate seamlessly in any urban milieu and navigate unfamiliar terrain even better than locals. State agencies and city administrations also operate with agendas undergirded by ideological scaffolding of neoliberal globalism—welcoming, aiding, and abetting the newcomers. All those who are not considered to fit this “model city” are up for dispersal and relocation. After the ground has been cleared of all “aberrant” communities, only subjectivities which are considered “appropriate” and compliant are encouraged and enabled to partake of the city’s offerings. Neoliberal exceptionalism allows them to navigate new and newer urban set-ups, and all parties—urban planners, cultural producers, and cultural and real-estate consumers join in this vision of a dream urban life, public dispensations, and conservation of minority heritage sites for “every one’s use.”

As cities all over are being remade, tremendous contestations erupt over youth subcultures, schools, and the future. Cities such as Chicago, New York, Buenos Aires, and Manchester have not only transformed themselves from administrative and industrial centers to brand, new spanking global metropolises, but they keep ←63 | 64→revitalizing and remaking their real estate for the multicultural array of the global professional middle-class. It may be that—because of their roles as catchment areas of the play of the new energies in the late modern world and because cities operate as beachheads of finance capital, tourism, and the multinational and multiethnic elite classes in hot pursuit of recreational parks, magnet schools, high-end shopping and restaurants (Chicago is home to half of the nation’s most expensive restaurants [CBS Chicago, 2012, January 23])—the city might be the most pivotal place to capture the dynamic respatialization precipitated by globalization.

We have argued here for greater attention to the ideological and cultural work of these new formations of citification. We seek to raise the ethical and political dimension of the evolving asymmetrical organization of built space in the urban setting as well as educational institutional space in the following section. We maintain that the city as an organizing and orienting principle both derive from and set off tremendous discursive, moral and political force and will formation not only as a protected and fortified space—”a human settlement where strangers are likely to meet” as Richard Sennett (2017, p. 39) famously calls it in The Fall of Public Man—but as a productive political trope or metaphor, a vector, a heuristic, and workable platform through which the volatile economic, cultural, and social currents let loose in globalization can be negotiated, the rich teeming spoils of globalization can be harnessed. The city then is also a space of the political imaginary in which late modern subjects, much like the citizens of Honoré de Balzac’s and Honoré Daumier’s works describing the human foibles of the middle classes in nineteenth-century France—extending to the period of Louis Napoléon III’s regime—can hitch a ride to the rollicking and rambunctious future (Harvey, 2003).

iii. the global city on the hill

The great malleability of city—the fact of its harboring of a radical plurality of agendas, projects, and narratives of identity—had been laid out wonderfully and trenchantly by Jonathan Raban in the last quarter of the previous century in a book called the Soft City (1974/2017). This idea of the city not only as a play of discourses but as a usable field of references in social policy and the politics of belonging has been more recently taken up by Zhou Wei Hui in her novel, Shanghai Baby (2002). Coco the central character in that novel is a protagonist of a new world of rabid appetites and risk-taking. She is indicative of the neoliberal age in which modernization has been taken on as life’s project by youthful actors around the world. Many of those actors are headed to North America, identifying the university as the grand bazar of opportunity (Ong, 2006).

Our higher education institutions have become central to the risk-taking effort of these Argonauts. And, as such they have become city-like venues for renovation ←64 | 65→and revitalization. Like the geographical bounded political unit, the American university has expanded its signifying reference to transnational and global reach. This is an observation that Aihwa Ong has made with terrific force: “In recent decades, leading universities in North America have resolutely expanded beyond the national space to educate elites on a global scale … Increasingly universities have become extensions of world trade” (2006, pp. 139–40).

If the first part of this chapter addressed the city’s appropriation and incorporation of culture and education within its acquisitive economic purposes, and the second part outlined the explosion of the museum out into city space as Chicago face-shifts into an exhibition complex which all global cities are doing, this third section directs attention to higher education’s appropriation of the city as a workable metaphor for resource mobilization and the narration of its distinctiveness to the world. This section engages with the idea of the city as it usurps the state as a workable trope in the struggle over the iconography of modern life taken on by institutions and units such as the school and the university. In this sense, educational institutions are both sites of management and modulation critical to riding the hurly burly futures of the new gentrifying global city. But they are also sites engaged in identity makeovers as “cities” or “citadels” in their own right. It is from this discursive vector of the city that these institutions reimagine themselves as players in the global arena. The Office of the Vice Provost for International Affairs at the University of Illinois at Chicago situates the university as a player in the city’s transactions with globalization:

The University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) is a globally engaged university located in the heart of Chicago, an architecturally and culturally dynamic city of nearly three million people. The city is home to a number of Global 500 Fortune companies including Boeing, United Airlines, and Caterpillar. Fifty-four million people visit the city each year to take advantage of its rich history, arts and culture, architecture, diverse communities, sports and outdoor activities. UIC is Chicago’s largest university and its only public Research I university. The university welcomed more than 6,000 international students and scholars to our campus during 2016–17 and sent more than 230 students abroad for study. UIC also houses a number of internationally recognized and globally engaged research centers in urban studies, architecture, public health, social work, medicine and engineering (University of Illinois at Chicago, Office for the Vice Provost for International Affairs, 2017).

Going further, the University of Illinois at Chicago underscores the importance of its turn toward internationalization and globalization, trumpeting the economic importance of global diversity and its intake of international students to its financial bottom line:

The University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) is a top destination for international students and scholars, according to the Institute of International Education’s 2015 Open Doors report. Fiscal year 2015 data places UIC as one of the top five institutions for international ←65 | 66→students in the state of Illinois. Already a diverse campus that can proudly state that it has no racial or ethnic majority student enrollment, UIC continues to add to the global diversity of its students, faculty, and staff. A total of 3,966 international students, representing 102 countries and territories, make up the international student population at UIC for Fall 2015, an increase of 10.9% from Fall 2014 (3,577 students from 105 countries). The international student population for Fall 2015 comprises 13.6% of the total number of enrolled students (29,048). The 3,403 international graduate and professional students represent 30.6% of all students at this academic level … In the state of Illinois, over 46,500 international students contributed nearly $1.5 billion dollars to the economy and supported 20,881 total jobs (6,403 directly, 14,478 indirectly) in 2014–15. (University of Illinois at Chicago, Office of international Affairs, 2017).

Recent estimates released by NAFSA show the significance of revenue derived from International Students to the US economy: “NAFSA’s latest analysis finds that the 1,043,839 international students studying at U.S. colleges and universities contributed $32.8 billion and supported more than 400,000 jobs to the U.S. economy during the 2015–16 academic year” (NAFSA International Student Economic Value Tool, 2017). This is clearly illustrated in Roderick Fergusson’s The Reorder of Things: The University and Its Pedagogies of Minority Difference (2015). Reflecting on the proposed University of Illinois at Chicago cluster initiative to increase diversity and interdisciplinary culture, Ferguson notes that this would be the first time an academic institution “would reinvent itself based on interdisciplinary categories, categories produced in fields such as ethnic, cultural, gender, postcolonial, disability, and queer studies.” He writes:

It would have also been an epic achievement for a university with a working-class student body. This vision of what could have been, and indeed, what should have been, attracted those of us recently recruited from other institutions to the exciting but now short-lived UIC experiment (Ferguson, 2015).

Chicago again, proposing a first, and in the stalled process, the global city still holds this promise of globalizing its public university.

Almost a decade ago, Alan Ruby, in an article for University World News Report, put the international student industry, that the University of Illinois at Chicago is directing its attention toward, at over a hundred billion dollars worldwide (Ruby, 2009). The extraordinary investment of the global middle classes in education and the explosion in international student mobility really set the larger context for the remaking of universities as catchment areas for tapping into the revenue streams generated in the international student market. The figures and the stakes in what Ruby calls the “global business” of international student education has simply continued to increase. “By 2017,” according to WENR (World Education News and Reviews), “the global middle class is projected to increase its spending on ←66 | 67→educational products and services by nearly 50%—from US$4.4 trillion in 2012 to US$6.2 trillion” (Ortiz, Chang and Fang, 2015).

The goal here is to liberate and tap new revenue streams in the vast reserve army of international students and to harness their intellectual labor. This strategic play for the world in the city or the university takes on a frenetic urgency as these educational institutions struggle to respond to futures that are constantly being stirred up, dirempted and unsettled. Chronic funding crises afflict universities like the University of Illinois at Chicago and global diversity, and multiculture has therefore a strategic use. It is a framework that neuters race and redirects it to new purposes:

The United States is expected to be the major net receiver of international migrants, with projections estimating 1.1 million immigrants annually from 2005 to 2050. It is also projected that the Caucasian population will drop to around 50 percent by 2050 in the United States. America is becoming much more global and diverse. Given this trend and the increasingly global nature of markets, employers will require greater knowledge of other countries and cultures, as well as increased language capabilities. (UIC Strategic Plan, 2006, p. 9)

Bad Multiculture

Unfortunately, multiculture often slips into a showcase of difference, and “[c]ontemporary racial theorization in education still separates race from the dynamics of our late-modern society, particularly with respect to the organizing theater of the city” (McCarthy & Sanya, 2014, p. 989). Tracking the use of the discourse of multiculturalism, one recognizes that multiculture can be put to many ideological purposes. Multiculture not only can be invoked to stress positive themes of plurality and inclusion. It can also be used to assert the obverse; that is the way it is increasingly deployed by right wing detractors (witness Brexit and Trump’s base of supporters). It can be used as a very potent sign of malaise, weakness, and collapse. It can be dragged up and deployed in a diagnosis of the continued dilution of the purity of the American or English nation by the flood of immigrants pouring across our borders. It can serve as the cautionary tale in conservative policy discourse on what goes wrong when we pander to minorities.

It is thus the case that the university’s positive deployment of multiculture is not the only model of the lifting up of diversity out of the self-correcting context of immigrant plurality or minority cultural assertion. In the war over signs that continues to spread deeper and deeper into the institutional fabric of society, multiculture can therefore follow a profoundly disturbing path as well, serving to unstitch as well as to paste over the contradictions of modern life. It is in this context in which all forms of modern institutional identities are being stirred up—a ←67 | 68→context in which a great struggle over the iconography of the present and the future is taking place that racial logics are achieving paradoxically a lightness of being—lifted out of the old forms of structuration and grids linked to particular group identities by ancestry and geography and put into new volatile, cultural, political/economic and semiotic asymmetries—put to new work.

For some time now one of the most powerful illustrations of the post-Civil Rights world (Jacobson, 2008) in which we live has been the fact that “race,” “racialness,” and even “racism” as a critical moral resource and property has been put to new work by unbenevolent authors of revanchism2—vitriolic forms of resentment and moral evaluation in which the white middle classes blame the minority poor for their problems (McCarthy, 2013; Desmond, 2016). We have for instance witnessed in the United States the recent election of a president who prosecuted his campaign on the racialized nostalgia of rebuilding the White Nation. “Make America great again,” his winning campaign slogan, was his thinly veiled declaration of race restoration: protecting the white citizen against the hoards dwelling illegally in the country and those in the urban centers responsible for black-on-white crime. Trump-like Brexit promoter, Nigel Farage, denigrates immigrants on both sides of the Atlantic—linking refugees to terrorism, immigrants to crime, and minorities, generally, to a disproportionate dependency on the welfare system. This strategic attack on diversity spreads deeper into the language of conservative policy intellectuals who continually point to the bad multiculturalism that has invaded educational institutions pre-empting the free speech of politically surrounded conservative white students. The reach and force of bad multiculturalism should not be underestimated. It draws deeply on a poisoned well of resentment that drives urban policy discourses responding to the politics of fear of difference. Any number of rightwing politicians defend brutal policy actions against Latino and African American city dwellers. They might choose at any moment to blame urban protest movements like Black Lives Matter or liberal professors for spreading hate against the authorities and police officers.

The fact is that racial discourses are coming under new forms of authorization, and racial identities are being dirempted from place, ancestry, geography, and language by forces of late modernity linked to the amplification of images and processes of cut and mixing of commodified culture and consumerism. This liquid modernity is being played out in the class conquest of the city, as we have argued earlier, as well as it deeply informs the reorganization of knowledge in the educational setting such as the university. Race enters into the programmatics of the university as useable multiculture, fully absorbable into the agendas of neoliberal globalization.

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contextualizing the new formations around race and education

The powerful neoliberal environment that informs the collision of racialized subjects in the globalizing urban setting has also penetrated the institutional fabric of schooling. The ideological commitment to the exaltation of entrepreneurial interests has spread deep into education institutions generally, radically redefining educational commitments along more instrumental and commodified lines (Giroux, 2014, Mullen 2017). A new environment now dwells within the walls of the university as the so-called “city on the hill” (Traub, 1995). These institutions are not inured from dynamic material practices associated with neoliberalism. Drawing on the work of scholars such as Melissa Gregg (2011) and Nancy Cantor and Paul Courant (2003), we explore three dimensions of new neoliberal and globalizing logics that are in our view transforming the racialized context and life world of schools and universities understood as institutions for the optimization of the public good—molding culture, economy and politics, and ideology into a template of the new educational order. These three neoliberal programmatic tendencies can be identified as follows.


To start with, we should consider how technological innovation, particularly digitalization, has helped to alter the higher educational institutions and their environs. We are calling this first logic virtualization. In this formulation, we are acknowledging the steadily increasing trend of administering the university’s affairs through digitalization. The university is, therefore, transacting a new intensification of the attachment of entrepreneurialism to academic life via a strategic shifting of its activities online. This is a quest for a frictionless, paperless world in which tasks can be done at lower costs, by fewer hands, and often outside the university’s own public square. This tremendous investment in information craving, speed, and efficiency suppresses the very idea of communication as the ritual of community making in face-to-face collectivities and the fostering of the crucial value of empathy in human relations (Srinivasan, 2017). Virtualization within the university now platforms one-way edicts from administration downwards to the plebs rather than the two-way street of the superhighway to openness proffered in the early prophecies of the workings of online communities (Deuze, 2007, Srivanasan 2017). The ubiquity of online affordances has expressed itself in a central paradox. On the one hand, these affordances have allowed for the multiplication of the reach of branding strategies of the university and for the university to expand its menu of curriculum offerings to students from many points of the globe. This ←69 | 70→ubiquity contributes to a liquid sense of diversity and plural community. But on the other hand, digitalization is expressed in greater management centralization as the university administrations inoculate themselves from the difficult issues that diversity presents to curriculum reform and the organization of knowledge. Our commitment to internationalism, enhanced by our increasing powers of digitalization, has also produced a fracture in our university community between center and periphery much like the geographical city. We are as such reproducing a graded order in which the valued internationals are likely to be members of a new rising global elite, and the locals, particularly of US minority backgrounds, are struggling materially and academically to maintain their status in the university community. We are now more lightly to trade in quotas and representative numbers of groups rather than in an intellectual culture of diversity, which we are arguing virtualization should and must be used to enhance.


The powerful logics of virtualization are now keenly co-articulated to the intensification of yet another structuring set of dynamic processes remaking the university context. Here we identify the deepening pattern of vocationalization of university knowledge and experiences. Vocationalization involves the central insistence on derivable and demonstrable returns on education. The goal is to maximize returns on investment as in the market. This, according to Schram, has reached “a tipping point” (Schram, 2014, p. 427). For as he argues: “US institutions of higher learning are now prioritizing cost-efficiency in the provision of education as a commodity at the expense of promoting the liberal learning essential to fostering a democratic citizenry” (p. 427). Almost a decade and half ago Cantor and Courant had made a similar observation pointing to the concrete curricular effect of such pressures: “our students’ course-taking preferences often focus on areas likely to maximize future returns (pre-professional, technology-intensive-globalization)” (Cantor & Courant, 2003, p. 5). There is therefore a tremendous investment in the enterprise ethic within the university. And this has meant that on many campuses there has been an eroding of support for humanities and humanistic social sciences generally and minority curricular enhancements. This has been noted by scholars such as Michael Bérubé sounding bells of alarm in the Chronicle of Higher Education: “Let me start with the bad news. It is not even news anymore; it is simply bad. Graduate education in the humanities is in crisis” (Bérubé, 2013). The decline is also quite dramatic in the undergraduate divisions of the “core disciplines” in the humanities:

As a percentage of all bachelor’s degrees, the core disciplines in the humanities disciplines fell in 2014 to their lowest recorded level, 6.1 percent, in all years going back to 1948, the ←70 | 71→period for which the academy has reliable numbers. As recently as the early 1990s (well after STEM fields were open to women and many preprofessional programs grew), the equivalent figure was 8 percent. The highest level ever was 17.2 percent in 1967 (Jaschik, 2016).

But, it is precisely these humanities courses, now shunted off to the side in the university, that provide the best preparation for democratic citizenship and critical thinking. Vocationalization of school knowledge also has the effect of both marginalizing and re-narrating subjugated knowledges such as African American Studies, Asian American Studies, or Latino/a Studies as professional competencies, expertise useful largely for managing the tensions between competing groups over the scarce resources in the university setting.

The status of these minoritarian subjects’ identities in the new terrain of university organization has been framed in subordinate relations to its more powerfully gentrifying centers around internationalism as the university expands to build apartments and entertainment centers for the more up-scale elites coming in from around the world. This phenomenon can be seen, for example, in the city-based university environments of London where the influx of international students has set off a building boom contributing to the conjoining of gentrification in the city and the university:

Across London, from the Olympic Park in the east to White City in the west, universities are breaking new ground. A surge of international students keen to combine the attractions of the capital with a good university education has spawned campus extensions, building projects and acquisitions already worth a combined total of more than £4bn. (Warrell, 2015).

Similar dynamics are articulated in the university towns of the US. The University of Illinois’ flagship state university campus, core to the micro-urban sectors of the twin city of Urbana and Champaign, also is a new context of the remapping of space and the diversification of affiliations. Under the pressure of the conjoining of internationalization with the tremendous emphasis on vocationalization and the bottom line, university life is changing, sometimes altering the status and relationship of students to faculty, according to Elizabeth Redden:

At Illinois, one joke I heard is that during the day the engineering parking lot is a sea of Hondas and Subarus—the faculty members’ cars—while at night it fills up with the BMWs and Mercedes driven by Chinese undergraduates. The increase in Chinese students at Illinois has also without a doubt contributed to a boom in off-campus housing construction—much of it higher-end—in Champaign. (Redden, 2015)

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One way of diagnosing the changed environment in higher education and the challenges facing the administrative regimes of globalizing universities is to look at the tremendous fiscal pressure that is being exerted on these institutions. William Bowen calls attention to this in his book Higher Education in the Digital Age (2013). For Bowen the solution to chronic budgetary crisis is to pay greater attention to productivity and cost-effective spending. This notion of cost effectiveness also extends to the management of diversity. For him minority students should be better matched to institutions that are compatible with their ability and aptitude. This relentless emphasis on accountability and efficiency is what Cantor and Courant call fiscalization.

This third tendency in the process of remapping education, fiscalization, is the practice of bottom-line budgeting as the ruling measure of viability of all departments and units of educational institutions. We live in a context of expanding budgetary crisis within the economy generally and within education. There are increasing demands for accountability and fiscal prudency—the application of bottom-line rationality to all aspects of educational decision-making. These pervasive measuring, accountability, and feasibility pressures have forced the humanistic disciplines and alternative postcolonial and indigenous minority knowledges on the defensive. The pressure of rationalization has placed humanistic programs in doubt, forcing them to establish new codes and rules of the game. Even programs such as literature, art history, philosophy, and so forth that are unlikely to be ever profit-making enterprises are feeling the pressure of the bottom line. We are trapped in the market place logic of student credit hours and sponsored research objectives. The most vulnerable are the usual suspects: critical humanistic disciplines and their institutional support. Among these, the most immediate casualties are ethnic and area studies programs, interdisciplinary research, collaborative research, and writing projects. Ultimately, education as a public good is being compromised to privatization. Our greatest challenge, then, is to preserve the autonomy of the teaching learning process, the autonomy of intellectual production, and the reproduction of critical minority and majority scholars.

Bowen (2013), and earlier Nancy Cantor and Paul Courant (2003), offer a reading of these three central logics—virtualization, vocationalization, and fiscalization—within largely budgetary terms, calling attention to the revenue crisis of contemporary higher education. While this insight is invaluable, we believe that these developments must be more broadly construed in the context of the remapping of space. We are stressing here visibilization (Rose, 2016) of the cultural and behavioral elements of university life as it organizes itself toward a future of privatization and gentrification and the core-periphery character of evolving global cities. Deploying the principles of virtualization, vocationalization, and fiscalization, ←72 | 73→the globalizing university is now staging a radical rearticulation and reconfiguration of interests, needs, desires, beliefs, and system-wide behavioral practices in its life world. This is expressed in the very ethos and milieu and the organization of knowledge, the regulation of individual and group relations in these institutions, and the sorting and sifting of social and cultural capital of different class and ethnicity-based groups.

Higher education institutions like the University of Illinois at Chicago stress their diversity as systemic and as a vital driver in their remaking as a global institution. On the front page of one of its recent online ads, the university offers a picture of this diversity and its multicultural branding. In the center of the opening search page (University of Illinois at Chicago, 2017), a group of undergrads, an admixture of nationals and internationals, of a wide range of ethnic backgrounds are shown embracing each other looking directly into the eyes of the viewer as if to underscore an unbreakable human chain of multiculture. Just above their heads and over to the right side of the photo the website visitor is informed about UIC:

Located in the heart of one of the world’s great cities, the University of Illinois at Chicago is a vital part of the educational, technological and cultural fabric of the region … UIC is proud to be recognized as having one of the most ethnically and culturally rich college campuses in America. Our welcoming environment and diverse student body engender deeper learning and provide new perspectives on life. Come experience the strength of multiple voices, races, cultures, beliefs, identities, orientations and points of view. (University of Illinois at Chicago, 2017).

But the assertion of national and global diversity pastes over the double logic of the discourse of the university as a multicultural city. For on the one hand, the deployment of the discourse of multiculture is oriented toward enhancing revenues from fee paying international students, while on the other, the commitment to minority programming in the university is being undercut. The new work of multiculture underscores the great struggle over the identity and representation of the university to itself and to the world. The university echoes the city in its search for a new self and effective control over the narration of its identity. And in the contemporary circumstances, competitive and acquisitive principles more clearly mark out the mission of the university for these desperately acquisitive times—far away from the starting principles that defined these educational institutions as organizations for the public good and in the public’s interest.


But the story of the tension working through the assertion of multiculture in the global city and in the university does not stop there. We have seen, as we have ←73 | 74→discussed above, the strategic and variable uses that multiculture has been put to in the remaking of city space. We have seen the relentless efforts in higher educational institutions to rebrand themselves as portals of cultural and global diversity. It has been accepted as best policy practice that the investment in diversity best positions the university to draw on the tremendous revenue potential that internationalization of its student body offers. Multiculture, as we have pointed out earlier, helps to remap the university and the city as new cultural sites of accumulation with respect to knowledge, technology, and financialization, and the movement of economic and cultural capital. It also serves to remap university and city spaces in terms of a brandable model linked to gentrification and globalization. There is a radical sense of an elaborated core and periphery organization, a sense of the new and old, of internationals versus local ethnics in this relentless grading of subjects and their environments in the building out of educational markets and marketed-to-communities for the expanded global city. This has not been a smooth process. Globalizing processes have rough edges, and the disadvantaged bear the transitional costs of acquisitive actions articulated to accumulation programs.

What we have tried to underscore in this chapter, then, are all the ways these tensions around culture, space, neoliberal economics, and public policy now play out vis-à-vis higher education and city life. As scholars such as Dinzey-Flores (2013), Gregg (2011), and Sassen (2014) have alluded to, we live in an age of fundamental insecurity and vulnerability—the precarious Age of flexible capitalism. A central flash point precipitated by these developments is the redrawing of lines of institutional and social affiliation within educational and city spaces. It is in our view irresponsible to separate out policy debates around multiculturalism from race and class inequality and from these developments which see specific localities being engulfed in the radical challenges associated with globalization.

Always we must read these developments back into the historical context of radical dynamics overtaking everyday life, connecting education to the material fortunes and political complexes in flash points such as the city and the university—key sites of the orchestration and coordination of the privatization of social commons and the handing over of education to instrumentalism and refeudalization. Under these circumstances, race and education are articulated to each other in new terms—wholly absorbed into the logics of neoliberal globalization.


1.Rather than Marx’s term of primitive accumulation, Harvey proposes “accumulation by dispossession” to grasp the complexities of our contemporary times which include: “the conversion of various forms of property rights (common, collective, state, etc.) into exclusive private property rights; the suppression of rights to the commons; the commodification of labour power and the ←74 | 75→suppression of alternative (indigenous) forms of production and consumption; colonial, neo-colonial, and imperial processes of appropriation of assets (including natural resources)” (Harvey, 2005, p. 145). While these seem to suggest structural tendencies of capitalism, “accumulation by dispossession can occur in a variety of ways and there is much that is both contingent and haphazard about its modus operandi” (Harvey, 2005, p. 149).

2.Revanchism refers to the strong retributive thoughts and actions of members of dominant white groups that are expressed against immigrants and minorities, often in the form of resentment-filled violence. (See David Wilson’s Cities and Race: America’s New Black Ghetto, 2007.)


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XXX, 402
ISBN (Book)
Publication date
2020 (April)
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Oxford, Wien, 2020. XXX, 402 pp., 13 b/w ill.

Biographical notes

Cameron McCarthy (Volume editor) Koeli Moitra Goel (Volume editor) Ergin Bulut (Volume editor) Warren Crichlow (Volume editor) Brenda Nyandiko Sanya (Volume editor) Bryce Henson (Volume editor)

Cameron McCarthy is Communications Scholar and University Scholar in the Department of Educational Policy, Leadership and Organization (EPOL) and in the Institute of Communications Research at the University of Illinois at Urbana. Koeli Moitra Goel is an independent researcher and writer from Chicago, who also devotes her time to community organizing and filmmaking. She holds a doctorate in Communications and Media from University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. Ergin Bulut is Assistant Professor at the Department of Media and Visual Arts at Koc University, Istanbul and Visiting Researcher at the Institute for Advanced Studies, Princeton University. Warren Crichlow is Associate Professor, Faculty of Education, York University. Brenda Nyandiko Sanya is Assistant Professor in Educational Studies, Colgate University. Bryce Henson is an Accountability, Equity, Climate, and Scholarship Fellow and Visiting Assistant Professor of Media, Culture, and Identity in the Department of Communication at Texas A&M University.


Title: Spaces of New Colonialism