The Corner

January 18, 2019

The Corner: Spatial Aesthetics and Black Bodies in Place

Public Lecture by
Brandi Thompson Summers

Assistant Professor of African American Studies
Virginia Commonwealth University

Lawrence Hall 206, 5:00-6:30pm

This talk focuses on public space and describes the ways in which various forms of power and the aestheticization of everyday life are linked to the control of space and place. It also considers the production of racial aesthetics through the management of black excess along the H Street NE corridor, a historic and rapidly-gentrifying area of Washington, DC. The talk discusses the multiple ways black bodies inhabit the street in an intimate manner – how public space is transformed by private acts often deemed aberrant. Where physical imaginations of the street are enforced as linear, blackness renders the street a site of paranoia, crime, danger, and excitement.

About the speaker:
Brandi Thompson Summers is Assistant Professor of African American Studies and Associate Executive Director of the Institute for Inclusion, Inquiry and Innovation at Virginia Commonwealth University. She is also co-founder of TEXTURES, a pop-up material culture lab creating and curating content at the intersections of fashion, bodies, and the built environment.

Aesthetics of Gentrification

Aesthetics of Gentrification: Art, Architecture, and Displacement

International Conference
UO Portland, April 5-6, 2019

Keynote Speakers:
Ayona Datta (Reader in Urban Futures, King’s College London)
Pheng Cheah (Professor of Rhetoric and Geography, University of California, Berkeley)

Organized by SLOW LAB, this interdisciplinary conference at UO Portland’s historic White Stag Block brings together scholars from across the humanities, social sciences, and art and design fields to explore the aesthetic dimensions of gentrification in the present era of accelerated urbanism.

Gentrification is reshaping cities worldwide, resulting in seductive spaces and exclusive communities that aspire to innovation, creativity, sustainability, and technological sophistication. Gentrification is also contributing to growing social-spatial division and urban inequality and precarity. In a time of escalating housing crisis and unaffordable cities, scholars speak of eco-gentrification, techno-gentrification, super-gentrification, and planetary-gentrification to describe the different forms and scales of involuntary displacement occurring in vulnerable communities in response to current patterns of development and the hype-driven discourses of the creative city, smart city, and sustainable city.

In this context, how do contemporary practices in art, architecture, and related fields help to produce or resist gentrification? What does gentrification look and feel like in specific sites and communities, and how is that appearance or feeling implicated in promoting stylized renewal to a privileged public? To what extent do the aesthetics of displacement travel globally between cities and cultures? And in what ways do those aesthetics express contested conditions of migration and mobility? Addressing such questions, this conference seeks to examine the relationship between aesthetics and gentrification in contemporary cities from multiple, comparative, and transnational perspectives.

Download the program here.

Christoph Lindner (
Raechel Root (
Gerardo Sandoval (

Extreme Cities

May 7, 2018

Extreme Cities: The Peril and Promise of Urban Life in the Age of Climate Change

Public Lecture by Ashley Dawson (Princeton Environmental Institute)

Lawrence Hall 115, 5:00-6:30pm

Ashley Dawson, author of Extinction: A Radical History, will speak about his newest book, Extreme Cities: The Peril and Promise of Urban Life in the Age of Climate Change (Verso, 2018).

How will climate change affect our lives? Where will its impacts be most deeply felt? Are we doing enough to protect ourselves from the coming chaos? In Extreme Cities, Ashley Dawson argues that cities are ground zero for climate change, contributing the lion’s share of carbon to the atmosphere, while also lying on the frontlines of rising sea levels. Today, the majority of the world’s megacities are located in coastal zones, yet few of them are adequately prepared for the floods that will increasingly menace their shores. Instead, most continue to develop luxury waterfront condos for the elite and industrial facilities for corporations. These not only intensify carbon emissions, but also place coastal residents at greater risk when water levels rise.

In Extreme Cities, Dawson offers an alarming portrait of the future of our cities, describing the efforts of Staten Island, New York, and Shishmareff, Alaska residents to relocate; Holland’s models for defending against the seas; and the development of New York City before and after Hurricane Sandy. Our best hope lies not with fortified sea walls, he argues. Rather, it lies with urban movements already fighting to remake our cities in a more just and equitable way.

About the speaker:
Ashley Dawson is the Currie C. and Thomas A. Barron Visiting Professor in the Environment and the Humanities at the Princeton Environmental Institute.

Inorganic Ethics

April 6, 2018

Chemical Life: John Ruskin’s Inorganic Ethics

Research Seminar by Marrikka Trotter (SCI-Arc)

Lawrence Hall 197, 11:00-13:00

This talk examines John Ruskin’s attempt to connect the essential workings of geology to architectural production by revealing a preexisting ethics common to both. Ruskin’s scientific theories were based on a conviction that all inorganic form was largely predetermined by internal chemical configurations. In his understanding, the entire mineral landscape – whether organized into crystals or decomposed into dust – perpetually strove to fulfill the formational blueprint contained in its atomic structure. Ruskin held that every fundamental “truth” of nature contained an emulable moral lesson for society, and his perspective on the formational processes of the natural world profoundly shaped his approach to the built environment. Ultimately, Ruskin believed that worthwhile architectural “crystallizations” could only be achieved by an ethical community that – like the inorganic world – obeyed inborn laws and committed to a continual process of self-improvement. Convinced that creativity could be modeled on geological principles, Ruskin attempted to align the human subject with nature’s own laws. Here I will focus on Ruskin’s “post-architectural” pedagogical and social experiments, and in particular, on a collection of siliceous minerals he catalogued and gave to the St. David’s School for Boys at Reigate in the 1870s. Ruskin’s interpretation of how silica-rich minerals formed, and his interpolation of this process to the formation of individual subjects and the island of Britain as a whole, contained a profound challenge to architectural production.

Space is limited. To attend, please RSVP to

About the speaker:

Marrikka Trotter is an architectural historian and theorist whose research examines the historical intersections between geology, architecture, agriculture, and landscape in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. She is co-editor of the contemporary architectural theory collections Architecture at the Edge of Everything Else  (The MIT Press: 2010) and Architecture is All Over(Columbia Books on Architecture and the City: 2017), and her writing has appeared in publications such as Harvard Design MagazineLog, and AA Files.

Digital, Urban, Human

February 15, 2018

Digital, Urban, Human: The Life of the Digital City

Public Lecture by Myria Georgiou (London School of Economics)

EMU Crater Lake North, Room 146, 5:00-6:30 pm

What kind of subjects does the digital city produce? And what difference does digital life make to the city? The unfamiliarity of these questions is striking, even paradoxical, especially at times when the language of “the digital city” has become ordinary, almost banal. In both its popular and its academic incarnations, the discourse of the digital city usually bypasses the ordinary: life in the city and the people that live and, in the process, make the city. This presentation advocates a cultural reading of the digital city, by reinstating the human at the core of the urban world. Adopting a communication approach to the life of the digital city, it offers a response to existing, disjointed conceptualisations by claiming that we need to more systematically study the ordinariness of communicative acts, relations and (dis-)connections, in order to understand how and why the digital matters to urban life.

About the speaker:

Myria Georgiou is Associate Professor and Deputy Head of the Department of Media and Communications at the London School of Economics. Her research focuses on media and the city; urban technologies and politics of connection; and the ways in which migration and diaspora are politically, culturally and morally constituted in the context of mediation. She is the author of Media and the City: Cosmopolitanism and Difference (Polity Press).

This event is co-sponsored by SLOW LAB and the New Media and Culture Certificate.