Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Update and Next Steps

Sorry to be silent. Got some bad news on Friday. Had hoped to defend on the 17th of Feb, but it looks like I've got some substantial changes to make, so now I'm looking at March 10. It's going to be fine. The changes will make the monster better for sure. Just tired. Hard to keep going. It's like mile 20 of the marathon. Come so far, but still have 6 miles to go. Ugh.

What's interesting me lately is that as I finish the thesis, I'm realizing how much this project mirrors an interest I've had for years and years -- since heading to school in Chicago, actually. Back then, I wanted to look at a particular intersection (no, I hadn't noticed that particular similarity until just now) north of Albuquerque. It's actually a freeway exit from I-25. If you head west, you pass through the town of Bernalillo, then Rio Rancho on your left, Santa Ana pueblo on your right. If you head east, you reach Placitas -- a quickly gentrifying area. The land immediately east of the freeway exit is U.S. Forest land. In other words, within a 2-mile radius, you've got jurisdictions that range from town to city to federal to Indian sovereign nation.

What do you do with the intersection? How do you mark such contested territory? Originally, my interest was in how all of these players could coordinate and plan together for the development of place.

Hmmm.... sound familiar?

And underneath that question is the more theoretical -- but more and more vital -- question the more I think about it: how do cultures assert themselves in space? In a multicultural world, how do you create multicultural spaces that value all, work for all, and make visible all?

This has been a slow surfacing realization. The more I realize I don't know, the more fascinated I get. I just headed back to the library and got 10 more books about ethnicity in space, particularly in cities, but really, this goes anywhere.

When you look at the most dangerous example in the world right now -- the deadly contest between Israel and Palestine -- the assumption seems to be either/or. Only one culture should exist in a space at one time. That's sovereignty, isn't it? It's the purest form of segregation, yet there is legitimacy to wanting and valuing the places where a group can exert power and control and be able to "regroup" and recharge its members and practice its own traditions.

bell hooks talks about the peace and rejuvenation of black folks in the South having their own communities where they don't constantly have to be in opposition to others. There is a necessity in speaking among ourselves, if only in certain places we control.

Yet the world is not big enough for us each to separate ourselves in this way, and global capitalism takes away this separatist option, anyway. And isn't there value in interacting with otherness, as well? Seeing ourselves anew because of outside perspectives? Don't we learn tolerance from having neighbors? Being neighbors?

I've always had an instinctual attraction to the concept of connection, but the more I learn, the more I see the need for us to explore the concept from all angles. Not just place but economics. Not just economics but linguistics. Communication. Architecture. Politics. International relations.

The New York Times featured an interview with linguist Deborah Tannen, first famous in the early 1990s for her book about the interaction of men and women called, You Just Don't Understand. She's just come out with a book about mothers and daughters.

When asked about the theme connecting all her books, here's what she has to say:

There's certainly a thread. My writing is about connecting ways of talking to human relationships. My purpose is to show that linguistics has something to offer in understanding and improving relationships.

There are many situations where problems arise between people because conversational styles vary with ethnic, regional, age, class and gender differences.

What can seem offensive to one group isn't to another. I've long believed that if you understand how conversational styles work, you can make adjustments in conversations to get what you want in your relationships.

What's true here of conversation is also true of place. The same considerations should be applied to place-making, whether approached through politics or planning or urban design or architecture.

So much to think about. So much to understand. So much work to be done before we can all live together and assert our culture in space and create shared places where we all belong.

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