Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Jersey City, NJ

I largely agree with Ben’s assessment of Jameson. One of the questions Ben raises is in regards to the effectiveness of “visualizing global totality” and its ability “change the inequalities and injustices that occur continually on a very local scale”. Jameson, in his example of “Detroit: I Do Mind Dying,” seems to gloss over or fail to account for the very real local problems and injustices occurring in these cities at the time period.
Perhaps I’m missing what exactly Jameson is trying to say with his example of Detroit, but I can’t help but notice that he does not address the very real local problems that black workers in Detroit would have been facing at that time. While it’s a nice story, I don’t think that their ultimate failure in the local center of Detroit can solely be chalked up solely to Jameson’s “spatial problem.” Detroit continues to suffer from the devastating effects of post-war deindustrialization and blacks in the city at the time faced overwhelming racism that has been linked to contemporary inner-city poverty and inequitable policy. Their difficulties in the city, I believe, extended far beyond a mere diversion of resources. I don’t think these local conditions should be ignored and I don’t think the movement’s failure, then, can solely be linked to their turning their attention away from Detroit.
My point is this: I think Jameson’s suggestion to visualize a global totality in the end ignores varying local conditions that affect very real ways that people attempt to bring about change. From what I know about Detroit, the League made huge strides in the city and I think Jameson’s ultimate project would devalue and ignore this progress; Jameson calls their entire project a “defeat” (352).
As a side note, because it bugged me, I attached a map of downtown Jersey City, one of the cities referenced by Lynch and Jameson as so chaotic as to induce urban alienation. I live on the border and know that the downtown area is the only place in Jersey City that is not only a grid but also uses numbers instead of names. I find it difficult to believe that residents could not mentally map such an area.


Braxton said...

I think this is a very good point -- that the situation on a local level was much more complex than offered by Jameson in the article we read. The "failure" -- and Jameson was quick to point out that it was not a failure since many local reforms came about because of the movement -- could not simply be chaulked up to "spatial problems" or to the more national/global attempts of the movement. To say a word in support of Jameson: as a theorist he is alwaus super- concerned with the specific historical and local contexts of cultural events. I think in this essay he pointed toward the book that was written about the movement as a concrete analysis of the events...which, unfortunately I haven't read, but I imagine it does a more detailed job of describing the events in more detail.

I totally agree with you though that Jameson's theorization of the "cognitive map" might sacrifice important insights on the local level. It is certainly a way to push his idea of the cognitive map -- that maybe local affairs, after all, are more pertinent to the betterment of people's lives than attempting to articulate local-global connections. But, this is also the difficulty he is pointing to make progressive movements beneficial on a local level and then extend that success outward toward a global level.

shimmer said...

While you might critique Jameson for not spending more time on the local issues, I do think you're missing his central point. Why was Detroit changing the way that it was at that time? The reasons for these changes were not "in Detroit." Detroit was changing because of a global process. What Jameson was attempting to do with cognitive mapping is find some way to connect the very real local issues with an understanding of their place and their origins on within a global system.