Jason Finch (Assistant Professor, Åbo Akademi University; Maxwell Woods (PhD, University of Wisconsin – Madison)

We are calling for contributions to Mediating and Representing Slums, a special issue/collection. Building on a series of sessions at the 2018 Association of American Geographers conference in New Orleans, recent debates surrounding Alan Mayne’s (2017) most recent work, and earlier widely circulated examinations of slums (UN-HABITAT 2003; Davis 2006), this special issue/collection seeks to examine the effect and function, as well as the cultural and urban politics, of representing and/or mediating those urban spaces referred to as ‘slums’. Interested participants are encouraged to contact Jason Finch (jfinch@abo.fi) or Maxwell Woods (mswoods@wisc.edu) prior to submission of abstracts with any questions they may have. Abstracts of 500 words are due to Finch and Woods by November 1.

The full call for contributions is available here: https://blogs.helsinki.fi/hlc-n/files/2018/07/CfC_Mediating-and-Representing-The-Slum.pdf

The novelty of this special issue/collection will consist in its bringing together contributions concerned with the nineteenth- and early-twentieth century genesis of the notion of the slum, chiefly in the industrialized cities and imperial capitals of what became the Global North as well as in cities tied to these industrial and imperial capitals through global colonial matrices of power, with work on the period post-1945 in which urban settlements labelled ‘slums’ have grown explosively on every continent. Equally, it is envisaged that the collection will bring together researchers in a wide range disciplines alongside one another, thus opening up several new cross-disciplinary conversations.
This special issue/collection therefore seeks to investigate the function and effect of the mediation and representation of slums throughout the world. We seek papers and presentations from a diverse set of areas, languages, and time periods. Diverse methodological approaches are welcome, including but not limited to those offered by participants with backgrounds in fields such as human geography, cultural geography, urban history, literary studies, anthropology, sociology, and the history of art, architecture, and design. We are interested in perspectives from all geographical locations.

Questions we are asking include (but are not limited to):

  • Should the word ‘slum’, viewed from the perspective of multiple disciplines, have continued currency in the mid-twenty-first century, or should it be replaced and if the latter then by what term or terms?
  • How are slums mediated, conceptualized, and represented in literary works, artwork, cinema, formal reports, planning documents, and news media?
  • What are the functions and effects of such mediations and representations?
  • How are slums differently perceived by different urban collectives and populations? How do residents or potential residents of areas labelled ‘slums’ view them differently than government agencies?
  • What is the relationship between ‘slums’ and discourses of modernization, development, and public health?
  • What relationship do representations and mediations of ‘slums’ have with discourses and practices of colonialism, coloniality, and/or imperialism?
  • How are slums being reconceptualized in the Anthropocene and/or the era of global climate change?
  • How do race, gender, and class participate in the mediation and representation of slums?
  • Can urban areas across time, space, and cultures be mediated through the concept of ‘slum,’ or should new modes of mediation be developed?
  • How do the contemporary and historicized local histories and topographies of individual ‘slum’ areas relate to the longer-term identities of individual cities grasped through notions such as citiness, Deep Locational Criticism (Finch 2016) or the ‘stratigraphy’ proposed by geocritics (Westphal 2011)?
  • How should the concept of the slum be related to notions of non-standard, non-traditional or provisional housing and urban living viewed not only negatively, including to notions of informality and improvisation?
  • How does the history of the concept of the slum, including the history of the word ‘slum’ and related lexical items, affect an understanding of actual urban areas?