Some Random and Barely Connected Thoughts on Our Recent Reading

6 Apr

Although Planet of Slums is chock full of shocking revelations and useful analysis, I was most taken with Davis’ illustration of just how global the issue is. Even in our class, which I believe to be made up of forward thinking, enlightened people, I think we have a tendency to equate “global” with “everything that’s not American” or, a bit more broadly, “African, South(east) Asian, or South American.” While Davis–as he should–focuses on cities such as Lagos, the evidence of this problem is as globe spanning as the roots are.

I still cannot truly fathom the slums of Lagos or Manila having never seen them but I believe we see the slum problem manifest itself here in this city. As America has urbanized, Wards 7 and 8 have dramatically declined. While I worked at the DC Dept. of Employment services, the citywide unemployment rate during and after the recession hovered around a depressing 12%, while the rate in Ward 8 was closer to 30%. As working class families, in many cases barely above the poverty line, were forced out of Northwest by increasingly expensive housing due (gentrification, but also economic downturn), neighborhoods east of the Anacostia river saw an uptick in overcrowded housing and crime.

Totaly unrelated to anything above:

I also think this is a good week to mention a bit of overlap between my Film class, which is focused on Alfonso Cuarón. Prof. Middents has introduced to us the idea of transnational cinema with the chief examples being the films of Cuarón and Alejandro González Iñárritu, which is interesting in light of the criticisms that we are exploring of not only capitalism but neoliberalism.

In Y Tu Mama Tambien, Cuarón intersperses bits of political commentary, including references to the Zapatistas and the first electoral defeat of the neoliberal PRI party in 70 years. In Children of Men, Cuarón explores the slums of a future UK that is the stable country left after 18 years of global infertility.

The idea of transnational cinema and Cuarón’s ability to show similar issues in vastly different productions–particularly productions that use cast, crew, and money from multiple countries–seems worth exploring in light of this Global Novel course. If you have been interested by the subject matter of our more recent reading, I would recomment Cuarón and González Iñárritu.

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