This thing about cities, language and anarchy that is on the tip of my
February 24, 2017 8:18 AM   Subscribe

Ugh, this is on the tip of my brain. I read a blog post reviewing a book that talks about how cities are standardized, or normalized or otherwise legitimized using either policy or language or possibly the land grid system promoted by Jefferson. It may have been an anarchist-anthropologist who was posting about this. I do recall that that the setup for the blog post may have said something like [word x] means literally to "make legitimate" or something like that. It may have had something to do with James C. Scott's Seeing Like a State. I ask because I'm teaching a class on the Introduction to Rhetoric and came across this line: "Important to Pico's philosophy was the conviction that humans employ language to order teh chaotic world of nature." So I guess I'm trying to dig up the original concept of making cities readable through imposing law or language on them. Thanks, smart Mefistianeros.
posted by mecran01 to Law & Government (9 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
 
I don't know the specific post, but was it David Graeber? He's the most prominent anarchist anthropologist that I know of.

Independent of the specific post, the ideas you are getting at above immediately make me think of some related sources:

Voices of Modernity: Language Ideologies and the politics of inequality by Bauman and Briggs

Aurality by Ana Maria Ochoa, especially her concept of vocal immunity and her discussion of Colombia's philologist presidents.

Marxist geographer David Harvey's work

The Lettered City by Angel Rama
posted by umbĂș at 8:45 AM on February 24, 2017 [2 favorites]


It probably wasn't Jane Jacobs, but she did write the book on modern cities. If you check it out and enjoy it, Robert Caro's "The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York" is also excellent.
posted by Mr. Fig at 8:48 AM on February 24, 2017 [1 favorite]


Is it this review of Seeing Like A State?
posted by Aravis76 at 10:51 AM on February 24, 2017 [2 favorites]


Big Scott fan -- are you looking for the word legible rather than "legitimate", perhaps? If so, could be thinking of this overview from Rao?

If not, do you remember any other details about book being reviewed, even hazily?
posted by Chipmazing at 10:56 AM on February 24, 2017 [3 favorites]


Seconding the concept of legibility. Scott uses the city of Bruges as an example in chapter 2 of Seeing Like a State "Cities, People and Language." Analyses of Haussman's reorganization of Paris discuss how states try to impose order on cities.
posted by spamandkimchi at 1:43 PM on February 24, 2017 [1 favorite]


It probably wasn't The Vatican to Vegas (Norman M. Klein), but you might like that anyway.
posted by clew at 2:28 PM on February 24, 2017 [2 favorites]


I was coming in to say this sounds like something about Seeing Like A State--maybe this blog?
posted by purple_bird at 4:57 PM on February 24, 2017 [2 favorites]


Thank you all so much. The specific blog post was found by Chipmazing, who gets super bonus points, but everything else you have pointed me at is just so cool I can't stand it.

I figured out the answer earlier today when I realized one of the key words was "anarchy" in my Pinboard bookmarks, but knew that this thread would be full of amazing-ness when I got back to it after work. Thank you.
posted by mecran01 at 6:05 PM on February 24, 2017 [1 favorite]


It probably wasn't Jane Jacobs, but she did write the book on modern cities. If you check it out and enjoy it, Robert Caro's "The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York" is also excellent.

Apparently there was a chapter about Jane Jacobs in The Power Broker that was edited out.
posted by craniac at 8:16 AM on February 17, 2018


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