Visible Cities

I’m reading Latour and Hermant’s Paris: Invisible City (2006) & De Boeck and Plissart’s Kinshasa: Tales of the Invisible City (2004) in parallel at the moment.  Both are urban ethnographies produced in collaboration between an ethnography and a photographer.  Apart from the similar titles, they are on the surface a bit of an unlikely pair.

Although neither is addressed to infrastructure explicitly, I’m finding the contrast between them productive for thinking about the relationships between infrastructure and ethnography, and the visibility of different kinds of networks, material and imaginative, in urban life.

There are some spectral links to Wittgenstein (late) on meaning and religion that link nicely with Thrift and affect too…

Also some parallel with Deleuze and Guattari’s Treatise on Nomadology – (as Worlding Cities / Policy Mobilities work has with Of the Refrain) reading them always guilty pleasure:

Georges Dumézil. in his definitive analyses of Indo-European mythology, has shown that political sovereignty. or domination, has two heads: the magician- king and the jurist-priest, Rex and flamen, raj and Brahman, Romulus and Numa, Varuna and Mitra, the despot and the legislator, the binder and the organizer. Undoubtedly, these two poles stand in opposition term by term, as the obscure and the clear, the violent and the calm, the quick and the weighty. the fearsome and the regulated, the “bond” and the “pact,” etc. But their opposition is only relative: they function as a pair, in alternation, as though they expressed a division of the One or constituted in themselves a sovereign unity. “At once antithetical and complementary. necessary to one another and consequently without hostility, lacking a mythology of conflict: a specification on any one level automatically calls forth a homologous specification on another. The two together exhaust the field of the function.” They are the principal elements of a State apparatus that proceeds by a One-Two, distributes binary distinctions, and forms a milieu of inferiority. It is a double articulation that makes the State apparatus into a stratum.

It will be noted that war is not contained within this apparatus. Either the State has at its disposal a violence that is not channeled through war-either it uses police officers and jailers in place of warriors, has no arms and no need of them, operates by immediate, magical capture. seizes” and “binds,” preventing all combat-or, the State acquires an army, but in a way that presupposes a juridical integration of war and the organization of a military function.  As for the war machine in itself, it seems to be irreducible to the State apparatus, to be outside its sovereignty and prior to its law: it comes from elsewhere. Indra, the Warrior god, is in opposition to Varuna no less than Mitra.  He can no more he reduced to one or the other than he can constitute a third of their kind. Rather, he is like a pure and immeasurable multiplicity, the pack, an irruption of the ephemeral and the power of metamorphosis. He unties the bond just as he betrays the pact. He brings a furor to bear against sovereignty, a celerity against gravity, secrecy against the public, a power (puissance) against sovereignty, a machine against the apparatus. He bears witness to another kind of justice, one of incomprehensible cruelty at times, but at others of unequaled pity as well (because he unties bonds . . .).  He bears witness, above all, to other relations with women, with animals, because he sees all things in relations of becoming,rather than implementing binary distributions between “states”: a veritable becoming-animal of the warrior, a becoming-woman, which lies outside dualities of terms as well as correspondences between relations. In every respect, the war machine is of another species, another nature, another origin than the State apparatus.  (ATP 2004:388)

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