I read John Berger―no. I read over John Berger. No, not even that, not quite. I slowly scan through the pages and investigate his words, returning to favourite passages and devouring new ones. I try to find what it is that makes these such a pleasure to read. I come to realise it is not the use of words alone―aberrant, disconcertingly, urgent and mute. No, it is not the use of the beautiful words. For all the joy I derive from encountering these, there is something in the mastery of their use, something in the way in which they have been moulded, crafted, slowly taken over. There is something in these words that radiates, in glaring lucidity, how they have travelled from afar to land onto the page, and how they have done so slowly. Slow: this great, unreachable luxury of a time that devours and diminishes; a time of so much action yet so little interaction where, from skimming through a text to skirmishing with the police, there is never the depth, never quite the prolonged quality that will turn the fleetingness of an ever-nonsensical moment into the substance of a coherent present.
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Very happy to be joining the Political Geography team, standing in as Associate Editor while Fiona McConnell is on maternity leave. PG is the leading journal in the subfield, and Fiona is an outstanding colleague, so these are some pretty big shoes to fill! I am joining the journal in January, shortly after Filippo Menga, who is going to be the Setting-the-Agenda Editor.
Two new editors at Political Geography
Political Geography has brought on two new associate editors, joining our ever-expanding editorial team.
Today is the first day on the job for Filippo Menga, who is replacing Jo Sharp as associate editor for the Setting-the-Agenda section. Filippo is a lecturer at the University of Reading where his research focuses on the geopolitics of water supply. As editor of the Setting-the-Agenda section, Filippo will be responsible for all non-peer-reviewed content (e.g. review forums, review essays, interventions, guest editorials) as well as online content.
Political Geography is also happy to announce the appointment of Antonis Vradis, who will be replacing Fiona McConnell when she is on maternity leave (January-June 2018). Antonis, who is a Vice Chancellor’s Research Fellow at the University of Loughborough, has expertise in urban and migration issues.
The entire Political Geography editorial team — Tor Benjaminsen, Halvard Buhaug, and Kevin Grove, in addition to Fiona and myself — welcomes Filippo and Antonis, and we look forward to maintaining our standing as the leading international journal in political geography.
The next morning, nothing happened. No jubilant crowds, no fuming protestors, no bewildered
Excited to be part of a volume with an excellent cohort of anti-gentrification comrades the world over. Here, I take a first shot at “Gentrination”, the idea that global capital flows may be reshaping parts of the global semi-periphery in a way much akin that the same flows reshape the urban.
This book pays homage to Neil Smith’s ideas, offering a critical approach and rich collection of insights that draw on Smith’s work for inspiration and debate. With interdisciplinary and international contributions from leading experts, the book demonstrates the impact of Smith’s ideas on understanding the role of urbanization in general and gentrification, in particulate, in contemporary society. The book demonstrates how gentrification varies significantly from city to city, across different cultural and political-economic regimes, and in terms of the timing of urban transformations.
Against the electric-like shock and violence of the current, Berger was the grounding: a serene reminder to stop if we are to ferociously act in any meaningful way. I pause. I find myself unable to put together any further thoughts. I listen to one of the last recordings, I suspect perhaps even the last one; an audio-recorded interview with a frail John Berger calling in from a Parisian suburb somewhere. A broken voice that pauses longer than the usual. I quickly travel back to a long Greek summer evening, back home, when I had the pleasure of taking a similar call myself. A request for a written interview turned down in the most humble of ways. “In transcribing an interview”, you tell me, “there is so much that is lost”. Pause. “There are the gestures”. Another pause. “There is the significance of the pauses, of the silences”. The sturdiness of a sonorous voice wrapped in a fleeting French accent: “Do you see?” I do see. A text, then? A text it will be.
A text that was―as always―not like most. I read it over. There is something in these seemingly fragmented notes that brings together the hard-to-remove packaging of modern-day commodities, the calculated rigidity of modern work, the Goulag, undocumented Mexicans in the States, and a young girl learning how to swim in a municipal indoor swimming pool. The images are jotted down in a stream of consciousness; separate but not fragmented, they come together to sketch out the great mystery of experiencing freedom in our prison-like world. Their prose, weaving fragments into a constant, has the serenity of playing punk music and the viciousness of painting a portrait. Their energy smells nothing of an auditorium. It reminds me of the scent of a favourite basement, where friends come together every now and then to enjoy the rawness of an improvised gig.
Friends tell me a sense of loss is near-irrational for someone your age. Of this I am not sure. I have now stood enough on this planet as it orbits around the sun to have witnessed what might very well be, statistically speaking (if this is even a fathomable quality), my fair share of loss. From the utterly unexpected―the loss of a dear childhood friend―to what would, I imagine, count as the “expected”: the departure of those up in the genealogical line. What is rational, anticipated or logical in the timing of our loss? There is of course the calculation of biology, the linearity of life, its trajectory, the timing of its end. But what remains of life when you break these linearities and trajectories apart? The timing becomes irrelevant. It would never be too soon or too late to say goodbye. Still, there is something deeply poetic in losing you at this moment of utter absence of meaning, when time whizzes so agonizingly fast, leaving us struck, frozen.
In the days passed since your passing, Athens has descended into a paralysing cold; vehicles coming to near-halt on its roads, passers-by evaporating from its pavements. Our freezing city might be trying to freeze time. I think it might even be trying to say goodbye.
Punk painter of words, prophet of the present: so long, so beautifully long, Johnny B._
We interviewed Apostolis Fotiadis* trying to understand the various ways in which the current increased migration / refugee flow has become the new EU crisis. We publish part of this interview here.
*Apostolis Fotiadis is a freelance journalist and owner of the blog apostolisfotiadis.wordpress.com and twitter account @Balkanizator. He has published the book “Border Merchants” («Έμποροι των συνόρων. Η νέα ευρωπαϊκή αρχιτεκτονική επιτήρησης»)
In a society sinking into oblivion and compromise, the handsome few still standing act as our haunting collective consciousness: a reminder of what we could, and we should have become.
Magda Fyssa, mother of the Paulos, assassinated by the Golden Dawn, tossing a bottle of water to her son’s murderer. Athens, November 6, 2015.