The City to Sea Project | David Kendall and Rebecca Locke

   we are paper, we are celluloid, we are digital-Rebecca Locke-2015

we are paper, we are celluloid, we are digital, Rebecca Locke, 2015

The City to Sea Project brings together artists, photographers and urbanists to present and exhibit artistic, sociological and scientific research. Organisers, Rebecca Locke and David Kendall wish to generate collaborative projects that investigate how tourism, migration, urban ecology and biodiversity interlink with arts and cultural practice. Thus, transforming social perceptions, environmental and geographical links between cities, coastal towns and surrounding regions worldwide.

Cova do Vapor- Stefano Carnelli-  2014

Cova do Vapor, Stefano Carnelli, 2014

The project was Initiated by Rebecca Locke at Goldsmiths, University of London and evolved into the 2011 symposium, City to Sea, curated by David Kendall and Rebecca Locke. However since 2011 City to Sea has extended to include site-specific exhibitions, film screenings and workshops. These events aim to scrutinise self-identity, collective memory, migration, tourism, architectural redevelopment and regeneration processes in and around Global coastal towns and cities. Locke and Kendall’s collaborations include Magnum City to Sea (with Magnum Photos, 2013), ETNOFILm (with the Ethnographic Museum of Istria, Croatia, 2014-15) and City to Sea: Coney Island (with Goldsmiths, University of London, Tate Britain, London, Urban Photo Fest and the Association of Urban Photographers, 2015).

The City to Sea Project aims to foster innovative partnerships with arts practitioners and academic researchers. The photographs that accompany this text come from projects in the USA and Croatia, and work made by associates in Portugal, the USA, Georgia and the Crimean Peninsula. Consequently, the image selection presents an evolving portfolio of work that aims to explore links between art practice, sensory research and critical urbanism.

Georgia-Georgia-Yanina Shevchenko -Kyler Zeleny- 2013-2015

Georgia-Georgia, Yanina Shevchenko / Kyler Zeleny, 2013-2015

In early September 2015 Kendall and Locke will lead an intensive three-day workshop at the seaside resort of Coney Island in Brooklyn, New York City. Workshop participants will produce new exploratory projects, identify photographic narratives and contemplate aesthetic and ethical considerations that surround photography practice and sensory research.

Crimea-Konstantin Sergeyev-2012

Crimea, Konstantin Sergeyev, 2012

Programme highlights include a night walk led by New York resident photographer and photo editor, Konstantin Sergeyev (New York Magazine). Konstantin was born in Odessa, Ukraine, and moved to Brighton Beach, Coney Island at the age of twelve. The area continues to inspire and influence his photography practice that documents social / spatial change and migration in and out of New York City.

Material For Reconstruction, David Kendall, 2014

Furthermore, the workshop programme will be accompanied by contextual presentations, discussions and tutorials with researchers affiliated with The City to Sea Project, the Centre for Urban and Community Research and Goldsmiths’ Sociology Department including Paul Halliday (Goldsmiths, University of London / Urban Photo Fest), Yanina Shevchenko and Kyler Zeleny (Association of Urban Photographers).


To register for the workshop please visit:

More information about The City to Sea Project can be found at

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Feminist Struggles in Photography in Argentina by Lieta Vivaldi and Valentina Stutzin

Our aim in this short text is to display a photographic slant on issues that, transversally, have covered the feminist agenda in Argentina during the past few years. Since the first feminist groups emerged in Argentina during the late nineteenth century, women’s movements have iteratively experienced expansive and contractive periods. At the present time, feminist groups organise themselves from the neighbourhoods, and from there stand on the streets and make themselves visible, resist and fight. The Argentinian feminist movement has transitioned from initial struggles concerning the feminist vote and political recognition, towards domestic violence, the defence of sexual and reproductive rights, women’s equal inclusion in the labour market and the vindictive struggle of sexual dissidence. With the rise of the feminist movement after the dictatorship, there emerged a strong critique against the notion of ‘woman’ and the so – called subaltern gender categories, framing them through a perspective that includes the intersectionality between gender, race and class.

The Women’s National Meeting has been promoted in Argentina during the last twenty nine years, creating a self – convened space hosted every year by a different province. It is organised by autonomous committees, with no interference of political parties or NGOs. In this way a democratic, horizontal and heterogeneous space is articulated; a space that belongs to every woman, who year after year meet to share their diverse experiences and points of view. The Women’s National Meeting seeks to highlight and unite the female voices, usually silenced by the social oppression it is inscribed within. These meetings are an expression of the meaningful struggles that women conduct in their own territories, and in each of these encounters women occupy the city and the streets, marching and painting its walls.

The first meeting took place in Buenos Aires in 1986, hosting more than a thousand women, and since then onwards it has been uninterruptedly celebrated every year. The last of them, in 2014, was hosted by the Provincia of Salta, gathering more than forty thousand participants from all over the country.


Women’s National Meeting, 2013. San Juan de Argentina. During the last demostration some women changed the word ‘Direction’ to ‘Liberation’

Photograph by: Valentina Stutzin.

Beyond this large women’s movement there are some issues that transversely demand the attention of current feminist agendas: legalization of abortion; violence against women,with special concern on the increasing femicide rates in the country -; and women’s disappearance in democracy due to sex trafficking and exploitation.


Transversal issues of the feminist agenda: the legalization of abortion – Virgin Mary demands to abort – and the struggle against violence and sexual exploitation. Painted on the walls of San Juan during the National Meeting of 2013.

Photograph by: Valentina Stutzin.

In recent years, young voices have emerged from the photography field capturing images of diverse themes related to the feminist agenda. From a committed documentary view, they have made original proposals to design, visualize and represent, on the one hand, different forms of violence suffered by women and, on the other, the courage of resistance. We present in this article a brief account of three projects: 11 semanas, 23 horas, 59 minutos. Aborto Clandestino en Argentina (’11 weeks, 23 hours, 59 minutes. Clandestine Abortion in Argentina’) by Guadalupe Gómez Verdi, Lisa Franz and Léa Meurice; Esclavas 2.0 (’Slaves 2.0’) by Cecilia Antón, on missing women through trafficking for sexual exploitation; and photographs of a work in progress on femicide in Argentina, made by Agustina Ciccola, Gisela Orieta and Valentina Stutzin.

These works have in common that they address issues which have been widely discussed but not necessarily observed from photography. The authors have addressed them from thoughtful and politically powerful places that refuse to repeat the graphics and re – victimising models that are used by mass media. They seek to bring to the public and political agenda urgent issues focusing on personal stories and social frameworks on which they are held. That is, to show those women that ‘use their body’. Women who use their bodies through clandestine abortions to reaffirm their autonomy despite everything; women who are not there any more, whose bodies have been disappeared or killed by patriarchal violence; and women who fight for justice, using their bodies for their daughters, organizing themselves and raising orphaned grandchildren. These are works that explore the female body as locus of control and resistance, exposing the faces and names behind statistics.

These works can also be seen as maps of ‘becoming’ (devenires) of women’s bodies in the patriarchal and capitalist Argentinean society: maps of the territories of abortion; maps of the disappearance, maps of gender violence taken to the extreme of femicide. The ‘intimate’ space appears, thus, as reaffirmation of autonomy in a clandestine abortion or the intimate space as the fatal locus on a femicide. However, these territories have nothing intimate, they are public and political. These works also are a map of objects which speak of women who refuse to disappear in the memory of their families and the women’s movement. The women’s body is a battlefield.


 The work ’11 semanas, 23 horas, 59 minutos – Aborto Clandestino en Argentina’, by Guadalupe Gómez Verdi, Lisa Franz and Léa Meurice, was completed in 2013 by three young photographers from different countries (Argentina, Germany and France). They joined together to focus and describe how clandestine abortion exists in Argentina. They share the deep conviction that motherhood is a choice rather than an obligation and that “beyond any political, religious and cultural position, we embrace the right to legal abortion, believing deeply in each individual freedom.”[1] They sought to avoid victimizing images like ‘abortion is equal to death’, but rather to show women from their courage, associating abortion with a female’s physical rights.


Camila 2007

Voluntary termination of pregnancy. 21 years old. Surgical abortion.

Photograph by: Guadalupe Gómez Verdi, Lisa Franz and Léa Meurice.

“My concern was always that I knew there was no place which could take care of me. Everything was so illegal that I did not want to expose myself to a situation where I could even die”.

’11 weeks, 23 hours, 59 minutes – Clandestine Abortion in Argentina’.


Liliana 1980, 1986

Voluntary termination of pregnancy. 17 and 24 years old. Surgical abortions.

Photograph by: Guadalupe Gómez Verdi, Lisa Franz and Léa Meurice.

“I had an abortion in 1980, under the military dictatorship government here in Argentina, and another abortion in 1986, just at the beginning of democracy. I highlight my abortions over the years and in different governments just to show that in both dictatorship and democracy, I practiced abortions clandestinely.”

’11 weeks, 23 hours, 59 minutes – Clandestine Abortion in Argentina’.


Mara C. 1980, 1986

Voluntary termination of pregnancy. 23 years old. Abortion with pills.

Accompanied by the help of La Revuelta, a feminist organization.

Photograph by: Guadalupe Gómez Verdi, Lisa Franz and Léa Meurice.

“I want to share my experience to ‘put a face’ to the problem and to show that it’s something I would not say ‘natural’, but I want people who are around me could realize that: your grandmother had an abortion, your aunt aborted, your sister had an abortion, or that they could realize that the woman that aborted could have been your neighbour, your sister, your cousin, the woman in the store next to you”.

’11 weeks, 23 hours, 59 minutes – Clandestine Abortion in Argentina’.


Photograph by: Guadalupe Gómez Verdi, Lisa Franz and Léa Meurice.

Sonia Sánchez

Five voluntary terminations of pregnancies. Abortion with pills.

“Do you know why I had the abortions? I never had a pimp, man or woman. The state was the pimp for me; hunger, lack of education, of work. It was not a man, it was hungry. To live five months in Plaza Once was what prostituted me.”

“When I had the abortion it was because I wanted to get that out, I did not want to have a child who I did not know who the father was. I felt it was something imposed (…) It never felt like a child. I had to get rid of such a violence that was getting inside of me. For me, to get pregnant was more violent, it was a stronger form of violence. ”

’11 weeks, 23 hours, 59 minutes – Clandestine Abortion in Argentina’.


Photograph by: Guadalupe Gómez Verdi, Lisa Franz and Léa Meurice.

’11 weeks, 23 hours, 59 minutes – Clandestine Abortion in Argentina’.

In Argentina the number of abortions is estimated as 400,000 per year. 80 women die each year. Currently, most abortions are performed with Misoprostol tablets but also by surgical abortion. There are legal abortions in cases of danger to the life or health of women, when the pregnancy is the result of rape and when is the product of indecent assault on a mentally disabled or insane woman.[2] However, due to bureaucratic hurdles and institutional and medical violence, the right to abort in these cases is not always guaranteed.


Photograph by: Guadalupe Gómez Verdi, Lisa Franz and Léa Meurice.

’11 Semanas, 23 Horas, 59 Minutos – Aborto clandestino en Argentina’.

Women trafficking and sexual exploitation

Cecilia Antón started to work in Esclavas 2.0 several years ago, documenting the disappearances of women trafficked for sexual exploitation in Argentina. Besides the photos presented in this article, her work includes images of families who tirelessly search for their daughters; of the places where they were kidnapped; of the rooms where the families are still waiting for them; of personal objects, and also of female survivors who have managed to escape and tell their stories. Argentina is a country of origin, transit and destination for men, women and children victims of trafficking for sexual exploitation and forced labour. Argentinian women, girls and children, especially from rural areas or northern provinces, are forced into prostitution inside the country. Additionally, a significant number of foreign women and children, mainly from Paraguay and Dominican Republic, are victims of trafficking for sexual exploitation within Argentina. There are no official national statistics on missing women, but some organizations estimate the number in about 400 per year. In December 2012 the National Law 26.842 against trafficking was enacted. In Argentina, 98% of victims of sexual exploitation are women, and of these, 72% are over 18 years old.[3] According to the Ministry of Justice since 2008 over 4,600 victims have been released in more than 2,100 raids across the country.

FOTO 09Photograph by: Cecilia Antón.

Ramona ‘Peli’ Mercado, from La Rioja, Argentina.

She disappeared at 13 years old. There were some clues but she has not been found yet. This happened in 2005. She went to the capital of La Rioja to study at the secondary school. Not long after, she was taken from the door of her house, or near there.


Photograph by: Cecilia Antón.

Susana Betker disappeared when she was 17 years old. Her friends told her mother Margarita, that Susana left with the ‘boy’ who forced her into prostitution. A year later she was found dead in an apartment on Tucumán Street (Buenos Aires).

FOTO 11Photograph by: Cecilia Antón.

Dana was born on October 1987, and was killed in November 20 years later. She was kidnapped and prostituted in Olavarria, Province of Buenos Aires. She tried to escape with her daughter but her pimp (father of the girl) killed her. Today the girl is in custody of the pimp’s family. Her maternal grandmother struggles to get her granddaughter back.


Agustina Ciccola, Gisela Orieta and Valentina Stutzin are working on a photographic project on cases of femicide in Argentina, where gender violence has increased with fatal consequences. The only official statistic is provided by the NGO La Casa del Encuentro, an Observatory that investigates cases of femicide in the country by following the news. In the period from January 31 to December 31, 2013, it was recorded 295 femicides and related femicides[4] of women and girls, as well as 39 related femicides of men and boys. Accordingly, every 30 hours a woman was murdered by gender – based violence in Argentina. Since the observatory was formed in 2008, there have been 1236 femicides in five years (2008 – 2013), 95 related femicides of men and boys. In 2011 they began to record the children who lost their mother. In two years 703 children were collateral victims of femicide.

In a similar way than Cecilia’s work, in this case photography is an exercise of the memory, which speaks of the presence of the victims through the remembrances of their families.


Photograph by: Agustina Ciccola, Gisela Orieta and Valentina Stutzin.

Beatriz Regal is holding her daughter’s childhood doll. Wanda Taddei, was killed at 29 years old by her husband Eduardo Vasquez, former drummer of the rock band Callejeros, the 21th of January 2010 in Buenos Aires. Eduardo sprinkled her with alcohol and then set her on fire, causing severe burns that killed her eleven days later in the hospital.


Photograph by: Agustina Ciccola, Gisela Orieta and Valentina Stutzin.

Anabela is the daughter of Gabriela Consme. Gabriela was killed at 24 years old by her partner, Walter Santiago Marker, the 25th of November 2013, in Morón, Buenos Aires. Since 2011 there are over 800 orphans for femicide.

Dealing with violence against women in Argentina, these projects capture in a particular way situations and modes which are common to most Latin American countries and elsewhere. These kind of projects are crucial not just for academic analysis but also for its contribution to public denunciation and political action.

Lieta Vivaldi is PhD Sociology Student at Goldsmiths College, London and Valentina Stutzin is Photographer and Anthropology Student at Universidad de Buenos Aires. 

‘Feminist Struggles’ is published in the 2015 edition of Streetsigns, the journal of the Centre for Urban and Community Research, Goldsmiths, University of London. You can read other articles here :

[1]           Project Statement.

[2] Article 86, Argentinian Criminal Law

[3]           Statistics from the Fiscal Assistance Unit for Research in kidnappings and Trafficking (UFASE) and the Institute for Comparative Studies in Criminal and Social Sciences (Inecip).

[4]           ’Femicidios vinculados’ or related femicides, according to the NGO, are those murders perpetrated while trying to kill a woman (for instance a person that is killed as a result of trying to stop the attack).

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Who are the new Chinese migrants in the UK? By Caroline Knowles


The Chinese are one of the UK’s smallest minorities comprising just 0.72% of the population of England (379,503 people). In population terms, London is the centre of Chinese Britain; official sources suggest a population of 124,250 (1.52% of the population) while estimates including undocumented migrants put more it at more than double, closer to 300,000. They are also one of the least studied minorities.

The small number of studies by ethnicity and migration scholars that do exist are focused on migrants from Hong Kong and Fujian who were long-settled, and on chain migration into restaurant trades. Thus the Chinese are fixed in the UK public’s imagination. But the UK now hosts many new kinds of Chinese migrants.

Chinese migrants are growing in numerical and financial significance and they are no longer predominantly from Hong Kong. Last year 40,000 Chinese migrants came to the UK – more than from any other country – in part due to a large number of students. The UK Higher Education Statistics Agency reported 47,740 Chinese students in UK higher education. Cambridge has the highest concentration of Chinese in Britain (3.6% of population) and significant clusters appear in Manchester, Newcastle, Nottingham, Oxford, Exeter, Liverpool, Sheffield, and Southampton – all cities with elite (Russell Group) universities. Chinese students in Britain pay £479 million in living expenses and £300 million in tuition fees. Students are, of course, young temporary migrants. New Chinese migrants (i.e. those who arrived in the last ten years), who tend to be born in the Chinese mainland rather than Hong Kong or Fujian, now outnumber settled migrants.

Though measuring the ethnic make-up of neighbourhoods is not necessarily representative of overall statistics, it is worth noting that significant numbers of Chinese are to be found in London’s wealthier areas. The boroughs of Camden, Westminster, Islington and Kensington and Chelsea, which have high property values and substantial clusters of high-net-worth individuals (HNIs) are in the top eight local authorities in England for high percentages of Chinese residents. The top ten postcodes for Chinese residence are in areas with higher than average London housing prices. These statistics inevitably exclude undocumented Chinese residents, who live as ‘sub-citizens’, not represented in the formal economy. Otherwise, Chinese London is materially rather well off.

This is not surprising. The new architectures of border control explicitly favour wealthy migrants. From 2008 (fully implemented in 2011), border control shifted from a historic focus on permanent migration for settlement to temporary migration. At the same time it shifted from ‘unskilled’ to ‘highly skilled’ migrants. The new rules and the points-based system favours wealthy, elite, migrants. ‘High value migrants’ meet the criteria for what the UKBA calls ‘tier one’ visas issued to those who display ‘exceptional talent’. These migrants must be ‘internationally recognised as world leaders or potential world-leading talent’. They will be entrepreneurs who want to set up or take over a business; graduate entrepreneurs with ‘world class’ innovative ideas or business skills wishing to establish business in the UK; and investors who want to make a ‘substantial financial investment in the UK’. This provision is aimed at HNIs with a minimum of a million pounds to invest. Meanwhile tier-two visas facilitate intercompany transfers ‘for employees of multinational companies’ wanting to deploy staff in their UK operations and those earning over £150,000. The elite status that is embedded in these changes, alongside the rise of the Chinese middle class in China, explains the changing face of Chinese migrants in the UK.

Meanwhile, those Chinese migrants who do not qualify under the new regime are at the mercy of traffickers, profiteers and exploiters of various stripes. They are left travelling by unsafe methods, sometimes left dead in the back of trucks. In cutting off legal channels of entry for less well off migrants, the new border controls can only increase illegal migration. In social terms, Chinese Britain is highly polarised in this way.

The changing role of China in the world is of course what has produced a new kind of Chinese migrant to Britain and elsewhere as new routes open up across China and in Chinese lives. With potentially the biggest emerging middle class on the planet, newly wealthy Chinese seek overseas education for their children and new routes for themselves as tourists and as investors.

Thus Chinese Britain has other significant textures too, beyond the bodies of migrants and their long-settled co-ethnics. UK businesses are keen to access what are potentially vast markets for luxury goods. Visits to Beijing by Mayor Boris Johnson and the Prime Minister underwrite these moves and encourage Chinese investment in UK infrastructure and other projects. With these developments in mind it is time to update our understanding of Chinese migration and to take account of the new streams of migrants that now compose Chinese Britain.

Professor Caroline Knowles is co-director of the Centre for Urban and Community Research. Her report ‘Young Chinese Migrants in London’ is published with Runnymede Trust.

You can download the report here :

This blog post was first published on Runnymede Race Card site:

Image : “London” by jo.sau is licensed under CC BY 2.0

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Nine Urban Biotopes: Art and Urban Sustainability ­– e book now available!! by Alison Rooke and Christian Von Wissel

AnthonycreditImage by Anthony Schrag

Between 2013-15 Alison Rooke and Christian von Wissel from the Centre for Urban and Community Research, Goldsmiths have been academic research partner to the international arts residency and cultural exchange programme Nine Urban Biotopes: Negotiating the Future of Urban Living (9UB), funded by European Commission EACEA.


9UB is an international arts/research project that took place across seven cities in South Africa and Europe in 2014. This transdisciplinary project brought together academics, practitioners and experts in participatory and socially engaged art, architecture and housing, to work in collaboration exploring the challenges of social urban sustainability – including the sustainability of cultural commissioning itself. Local ›biotopes‹, consisting of cultural partners, small NGO’s and their local publics, hosted visiting arts practitioners who responded to issues of regeneration and development, community safety, migration, housing, and economic subsistence in the thick of life.

The final publication is available under creative commons via google play or I Tunes.

9UB_ePublication-69As an experiment in e-publishing, the book incorporates hyperlinked interactive maps, versatile photo galleries, videos and interviews which are intertwined with scientific contributions in order to create a comprehensive visual panorama on issues at stake in the project. The book includes contributions by Alison Rooke and Christian von Wissel as well as by Bruno Latour (Sciences Po, Paris), Michael Keith (Compass, Oxford), Sophie Hope (Birkbeck, London), Henk Borgdorff (School of the Arts, Amsterdam) and Michael Guggenheim (Sociology Goldsmiths) among others.

The aim of 9UB was to establish both a ›trans-local‹ and ›trans-continental‹ dialogue by interweaving and connecting new context-specific social activities of these biotopes. It did so in order to expose, discuss and share different ›intentions, methods and techniques‹ of imaginative urban practices for building ›sustainable cities‹ and in order to learn from each other, theoretically and practically. By combining, linking and implementing 9UB within a South African-European partnership structure, local answers to global questions were discussed such that they were able to shed light on a range of sustainable solutions and innovative ideas regarding urban development issues on both sides of the equator.

9UB_ePublication-137Contributions include:

  • “Artistic research: unfinished thinking in and through art” by Henk Borgdorff
  • “The city as a metaphysical body” by Diego Ferrari
  • “About the transformative effect of contemporary information and communication technologies on our cities” by Adam Greenfield
  • “About commissioning, agency and evaluation of socially engaged art practice” by Sophie Hope
  • “About the social sustainability of cities and connections between innovation, migration, justice and citizen rights” by Michael Keith
  • “About art as a medium for ›making things public‹ and challenging the notion of art’s ›social engagement‹” by Bruno Latour
  • “Upgrading informal settlements” a conversation among Taswald Pillay and Alexander Opper
  • “About urban grass-root initiatives and their potentials for the planning and development of localities and cities” by Marcos L. Rosa
  • “Art practice and urban safety: a relational perspective” by Alison Rooke and Christian von Wissel
  • and many more…

Participating artists and architects:

Dan Halter (Cape Town, South Africa)

Rangoato Hlasane (Johannesburg, South Africa)

Doung Jahangeer (Durban, South Africa)

Terry Kurgan (Johannesburg, South Africa)

Armin Linke (Milan, Italy / Berlin, Germany)

Taswald Pillay (Johannesburg, South Africa)

Marjetica Potrč (Ljubljana, Slovenia / Berlin, Germany)

Athi-Patra Ruga (Johannesburg/Cape Town, South Africa)

Antje Schiffers (Berlin, Germany)

Anthony Schrag (Glasgow, Great Britain) 

Dr Alison Rooke is CoDirector at CUCR, Goldsmiths College.

Christian Von Wissel is a PhD Candidate in Visual Sociology at Goldsmiths College, London and teaching assistant at Munich Technological Univerisity. (TUM)

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Streetsigns Latin American Edition Launch

Sociology Department and the Centre for Urban and Community Research present: Streetsigns Latin American Edition Launch

Date : Friday 22 May 2015

Time : 18.00 – 20.30 hrs

Location : Small Hall Cinema, Richard Hoggart Building, Goldsmiths, University of London, SE14 6NW
SS Latin America Launch

With special guest: Ana Rosas Mantecón,

Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana, Mexico, speaking on :

‘Going to the Movies today: Diversity and Inclusion in the 21st Century’

Latin American film industries seem more alive than ever, if aspects such as production, screening infrastructure and audience development are considered in the analysis. Mexico, for instance, occupies the fourth place in numbers of cinemas and viewers worldwide. However, there are some paradoxes in the way the number of cinemas in big cities has increased hugely,  but numbers in rural areas have decreased to extinction; and while local film production is on the rise, movie theatres exhibit mostly Hollywood films which get prime time slots in the best cinema-going seasons of the year.

On the other hand, consumer choices have been reorganized, changing the place occupied by “going to the movies” in the cultural practices of Latin American viewers. Today we watch more films than ever but through television, pirate videos, mobiles and the Internet. This paper outlines this landscape and the features of a film policy that, going beyond the focus on production, might open the chances for a broader audience.

The presentation will be followed by reception and live music from Banda Condorito.

You can see the online edition of the journal Streetsigns 2015 here : 

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Stalking the Hardy Ash by Peter Coles

0910a17hpsl-hardycr-298x300 1007_Hardy_Ash_IR_bronica_corr1_small

On 29th and 30th May 29, Peter Coles will be leading a walk, in partnership with Andrew Stuck (of Rethinking Cities /  Museum of Walking), to the Hardy Ash – an extraordinary tree in the cemetery adjacent to St Pancras Old Church.

When poet and novelist Thomas Hardy was working as an architect in the 1860s he was responsible for overseeing the excavation of the old cemetery, to make way for the extension of the Midland Railway into the new terminus at St Pancras. The gravestones were stacked around an ash tree in the churchyard and have since fused with its trunk and roots, making it one of the most unusual trees in London, now known as The Hardy Ash or The Hardy Tree. There are some other unusual trees in the churchyard, too.

St Pancras Old Church is a wonderful little Anglican church on the banks of the Fleet River, which is now underground. It is one of the oldest in England, dating back before the Norman Conquest.

The walk is free, but places are limited and must be booked.  The walk coincides with London Tree Week, was commissioned by the Mayor of London. Please see the link for further details and to book a place. Currently there are still places available on 30th.

Peter Coles is a visiting fellow of CUCR, Goldsmiths College, University of London.

Images by Peter Coles.

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From America to Latino: Popular Music and the Kidnapping of Latin America by Jorge Saavedra Utman

IMG_0150‘René Pérez Joglar, aka Residente, from the Puerto Rican band Calle 13’ by Jorge Villa Moreno.

I am afraid that Latin America is a decaying concept. I have had that feeling listening to Latin music for some years, the one that sounds in mainstream radios, the one awarded here and there by the industry. Very often, when I go over contemporary lyrics I wonder: where is Latin America? In this article I provide an answer based on the analysis of lyrics from popular songs composed in the last 60 years, identifying three stages: a first moment when composers talked about America as a continent; a second step when Latin America emerged politically loaded; and a third one when the word America –and the political load- was evicted to create a new identity, just Latin. To put it bluntly, I argue that Latin America (as a concept) has been kidnapped in music (although it sometimes wanders around as a fugitive reminder of an unachieved past).

America (not yet the country): nature, voice, them and us

In the fifties and sixties popular music broadcast on radio stations, sold on LPs and played at music festivals, talked about America in a broad sense. These songs were about people and nations, united by a narrative attached to nature, including the green forest, rivers, waterfalls, flowers, hills and valleys. All of this existed in a context of harmony confronted to the brutality of the Spanish gun and fire that destroyed everything around. These songs of unity took elements of that nature to say that we were all just one: Americans, and that all singularities made the whole, but the whole was more than the sum of all of singularities.

Canción con Todos[1] (Song with Everyone, 1969) by the Argentinean composers Armando Tejada Gómez and César Isella reflects this feeling, speaking from the position of an imaginary inhabitant walking around the American countries: “I set out to walk across, the cosmic belt of the south/ I step upon the most fertile region, of the wind and the light/ I sense as I walk, all the skin of America in my skin/ And in my blood a river flows, that sets free in my voice its abundance/ Sun from high Peru, the face of Bolivia, tin and solitude/ Green Brazil, kiss my Chile copper and mineral”. This song carries on its naturalistic description a deep political sense rooted in the most basic condition of Latin – American situation: voice, presumably as a right of a sovereign land to name its name, to talk by itself, to not be subjugated by any master.

“Sing with me, sing/ American Brother/ Release your hope/ With a scream in your voice!” continues the song. It is remarkable, however, to observe that the invitation to take out the voice -and the rest of the lyric- is directed to all American brothers. This call occurs because the songs of this era sing about America not as a national territory but as a whole continent -something that today might cause confusion. Here Latin America does not appear yet.

In “Si Somos Americanos[2] (“If we are Americans”, 1965), another pinnacle song from the 1960s, Chilean singer and composer Rolando Alarcón depicts unity that defines a clear us (and therefore a clear them): “If we are Americans/ we are brothers/ we have got the same flowers/ we have got the same hands/ If we are Americans”. Here, the others (them) are described as those who are not close to dance “marinera, refalosa, zamba and son”, i.e. typical dances from the Andes, from the southern cone of South America, from the Brazilian area and from the Caribbean and Centre American axis. In other words, these songs do not consider the USA, Canada and other nations located on the same continent in their definition of America. Why? The answer is material for another debate, but let’s say that a narrow identity was in the making.

Latin America: resist, defeat, resist, defeat

A second moment appears Latin America, with an undeniable and clear political component. It shows up as a continent that, after the defeat of its emancipatory projects in the 60’s and 70’s, resists against the triumphant empire of 20th century: USA. Here Latin America is again a vegetal, human and mineral territory, inhabited by abused people and exploited resources, popular subjects that must resist if they want to overcome what seems the curse of their destiny. This is traceable from Mercedes Sosa’s song “Las venas abiertas”,[3] (“The Open Veins”, 1985) until the most recent “Latinoamérica”,[4] (“Latin America”, 2011) by Calle 13, among others. In “Latinoamérica” the Puerto Rican band sings: “I am/ I am what they left behind/ I am the leftovers of what they have stolen” before highlighting the natural spectrum of the continent and its dignity based on communitarian reciprocity: “Here we share, what is mine is yours” they declare.

However, I argue that Calle 13’s song is nothing but a 21st century reminiscence of old days. Not because of the rhetoric or the kind of vindication, but because since the 1970’s and after the neoliberal victory in the area, the notion of Latin America got drained from its former meanings, raising some questions: Did Latin America ever really mean something? If so, what happened in the middle? Two songs might answer these questions from two different perspectives. First, Pablo Milanés’ “Canción por la Unidad Latinoamericana[5] (Song for the Latin American Unity, 1975) and the finding that disunity has always been present in Latin America –therefore the lack of strength and collaboration to act as one force: “As the years passed resentments got accumulated/ loves were forgotten, we seemed strangers”. The disunity mentioned by the Cuban musician contributed, according to this song, to the servant condition of Latin America and to an evident defeat that restrained the continent in the quest for its emancipation. The second song, “Latinoamérica es un pueblo al Sur de Estados Unidos[6] (Latin America is a town south of the United States, 1984), by the Chilean band Los Prisioneros responds to the question of utopia and unity in a brilliant and brutal way. It acknowledges a cultural, political and social utter defeat. Latin America, they tell us, is not only the backyard of the USA, but is a continent living, following and trying to imitate the real and successful ‘Americans’, the distinguished and glamorous Europeans, i.e. Coloniality at large. [7]

Particularly pungent, Los Prisioneros lyrics describe Latin America as an “exotic place to visit”, prepared for tourists purchasing trips to the Rio Carnival and the Aztecs ruins. A land plenty of natives who will sell themselves for a few dollars and, furthermore, cry if Ronald Reagan (the song was composed in the 1980s) or the Queen (from any European nation, obviously) dies. A loose sentence in the middle of the lyrics – “to divide is to weaken” – comes up as a key and permanent topic with political and historical consequences.

Simply Latin: hips, rhythm and other spicy things from Miami

According to Daniel Party,[8] Miami not only “had become the heart of Latin American show business and the preferred production centre for Latin American pop artists wishing to internationalize their career” (65), but “[Miami] went from capital of Latin America in the United States to capital of Latin America” (66). Party’s assertion is an unavoidable argument on the historical journey proposed by this text as it points to a crucial shift: the capital of ‘us’ settled down in the land of the former ‘them’. ‘Latin America’ became a shorter concept: ‘Latin’. The obliteration of the ‘American’ part of the former compound word became a natural presence in contemporary lyrics recorded and distributed by mainstream music industry. It went so far as to receive coverage from ‘MTV Latino’, awards in the ‘Latin Grammys’ and available in the Latin channel of the music web

In this context, the identity of the ‘Latino’ appears as a US based story, as described in one of the songs by the Mexican band Maná:[9] “Warning, this is a call/ Your attention is valuable, they are discriminating Latinos/ I think they are not right/ We are people that never cower/ We are going to show who we are with courage and value”. Even though the song is called ‘Latinoamérica’ (Latin America, 2011), the subject in the lyrics is the Latino who lives his/her Latino experience on US soil. Therefore, the Latino condition is a matter of individuals, subjects; not nations, countries or federations in a context where he or she can be discriminated not by his/her brother – like in the 19th century and part of the 20th – but by those who own the place where the Latino is a foreigner or a significant other.

Nonetheless, in Maná’s song there is a trace of an historical claim, something that in most Miami styles of Latin music is not present. In most of the songs coming from the US, the Latin identity is a broad picture of wild nature, pretty bodies, frantic cadence, mystic secrets and spicy moods. The song “Mujer Latina”,[10] (Latin Woman, 1997) by Mexican singer, actress and dancer, Thalia, is an example. The lyrics says she is the blood of her land “from sea to the mountains, hot like the fire”, while other songs just take the meaning of Latino to a whole new level. Like in Don Omar’s track “Reggaeton Latino[11] (Latin Reggaeton, 2005), where the power of Latin music is to make women dance for the pleasure of men. No revolution, no dream of a better world, no history, no heritage, just dance in this vision of the Latin landscape, men are machos and women are (or must be) hot.

I am afraid – and with some degree of certainty due to the last football World Cup held in Brazil – that the less political, less emancipated Latino image, music and culture rather than a politically-loaded Latin America, will be the one occupying the global marquee in the next few years, especially in the context of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. And this should not cause surprise. The opening ceremony of Brazil 2014 World Cup featured J-Lo, Pitbull and Claudia Leitte (to add the local component), and there is no reason to think that in 2016 the set will be different. Sure there will be frantic hips, vivid colours, ‘Latin words’ like olé or caramba plastic flavours, good feelings and the best intentions. That will be the global image and lyrics of the ‘Latin’ world emerging on the global stage. The notion of Latin America, on the other hand, with its uncertainties, peculiarities and untold discourses, will be behind that noise in the cracks of that industry, wandering around, trying not to be subsumed by the so called Latin music.

‘From America to Latino’ is published in 2015 edition of CUCR magazine Streetsigns. This year it focusses on Latin America. For further articles go to : 

Jorge Utman is PhD candidate in Media and Communications at Goldsmiths, University of London.








[7] Grosfoguel, R. (2007) The epistemic decolonial turn. Cultural Studies, 21 (2-3), pp. 211-223; Quijano, A. (2008) “Coloniality of power, eurocentrism, and social classification”. In Moraña et. al. (eds) Coloniality at large. Latin America and the Postcolonial Debate. Pp.181-224. Durham: Duke University Press.

[8] Party, D. (2010) “The miamization of Latin American Pop Music”. In Corona, I. and Madrid, A. (eds.) Postnational musical identities.  pp. 65-80. Lexington: Lanham.




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