STUDY GUIDE Unit Seven Part Two: URBAN
Reading Questions:bell hooks, "Black Vernacular: Architecture
as Cultural Practice," in Art on My Mind; Jane Jacbos,
"The Uses of Sidewalks: Safety"; Chapter
5, The Urban Experience: Social Groups in the City, Primary Groups
AudioVisual Resources: "Sweet Home Chicago: The Chicago Bungalow"
bell hooks, "Black Vernacular: Architecture as Cultural
Practice," in Art on My Mind
- bell hooks also considers the idea of vernacular architecture.
We have considered the politics of architecture (architecture as ideology)
in our discussion of the 1893 World's Fair.
Hooks wants to consider the politics of black vernacular architecture.
Before continuing your analysis, be sure to clarify this term as discussed
in Sciorra's essay.
- hooks begins by recalling that when designing the house of her dreams in
high school, she "did not think that any of the decisions [she] made were
political." (145) Why not? How are they political? How could imagining the
"house of your dreams" be an ideological practice?
- The author wishes she had "learned to think about space politically, about
who controls and shapes environments." (146) She continues, "Many narratives
of resistance struggle from slavery to the present share an obsession with
the politics of space, particularly the need to construct and build
houses." (147) What does it mean to think about space politically? Hooks adds
that she "learned to see freedom as always and intimately linked to the issue
of transforming space." (147)
- The focus of the essay is 1) "to acknowledge the oppositional modes
of psychic decolonization that marginalized, exploited, and oppressed
black folks envisioned;" and 2) "to document a cultural genealogy of
resistance." Reflect on these two purposes. Explain each. What would
it mean to de-colonize oneself psychically? What is a cultural genealogy of
resistance? What does the work genealogy signify? Why is it chosen here? Why
would it be necessary or important to perform these two intellectual tasks?
How do these two tasks of acknowledgment and documentation help us learn to
think about space politically, about who controls and shapes environments?"
- Why does hooks see "Freedom as always and intimately linked to the issue
of transforming space?" (147)
- How does a "genealogy of resistance" help us learn from and build "on strategies
of opposition and resistance that were effective in the past and are empowering
in the present"? (148)
- As hooks reflects on her favorite house, she discovers that "the absence
of material privilege did not mean that poor and working-class black folks
[such as her grandparents] did not think creatively about space." (148) Explain
- In thinking about the creative making of homespace amongst migrants, immigrants,
and the poor, hooks examines the talents of people who were not schooled in
the profession or even in the arts of building. Instead she examines vernacular
architecture as a language of cultural expression. Explain. (149)
- Hooks notes the importance of adjacent outdoor
space for poor folks. (149) Compare this value to that expressed by the outdoor
space of casitas.
- The essay discusses the necessity of preserving the cultural memory of
ordinary folks. Hooks adds that "in today's world we are led to believe
that lack of material privilege means that one can have no meaningful constructive
engagement with one's living space and certainly no relationship to aesthetics."
Eager to critique this presumption, the author notes, "I am often disturbed
when folks equate a concern with beauty, the design and arrangement of space,
with class privilege." (149) Why is hooks disturbed? How does she challenge
the assumptions we may have about beauty and design?
- Continuing her argument about class bias, the author notes that poor people
have been "socialized by the mass media and the politics of consumerism to
see themselves as lacking 'taste and style' when it comes to issues of architecture
and aesthetics that they have surrendered their capacity to imagine and create."
(150) How have you been socialized to presume a certain relationship between
class and taste? How can you challenge those ideas? As
hooks adds, "Lack of material privilege need not be synonymous with poverty
of spirit or imagination." (150)
- Hooks essay while by no means celebrating the poverty that necessitated
black life in rural shacks, does see one aspect of such housing as superior
to the urban projects of the 20th century. She notes that the such projects
[state-owned and -designed dwellings for the economically disadvantaged] "brought
an end to the dwelling in shacks that allowed for individual creativity and
an assertion of aesthetic engagement with space and one's environment. The
state-built dwellings erase all chances for unique perspectives to shape living
space and replace them with a blueprint of sameness...Clearly, these structures
inform the ways poor folk are allowed to see themselves in relationship to
space." (150) Explain this critique.
- Many urban studies have examined the multiple ways in which urban projects
failed. hooks' analysis is unique in its emphasis on the psychological and
sociological effects of the aesthetics of public housing. She asserts
that Standardized housing brought with it a sense that to be poor meant that
one was powerless, unable to intervene in or transform, in any way, one's
relationship to space." (150) Explain the effects of this "lesson" of powerlessness.
- hooks concludes her essay by renaming the methodology used in it.
She calls such writing subversive historiography. Explain this term.
She adds that "Subversive historiography connects oppositional practice
from the pat with forms of resistance in the present, thus creating spaces
of possibility where the future can be imagined differently." (151) How does
this method apply to our studies in this unit of immigrant and migrant communities?
Jane Jacobs, "The Uses of Sidewalks: Safety"
Chapter 5, The Urban Experience QUESTIONS