t byfield | 4 Dec 08:16 2008
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Re: Saskia Sassen: Cities and new wars: after Mumbai

Interesting.

It isn't hard to see how and why it's tempting to hypostatize concepts 
like "war" and "city," but it'd be wise to treat each one skeptically,
and even more so in relation to each other. And one needn't reach very
far back in history at all to come up with absolute contrasts. These 
contrasts have many origins: the actual and theorized relationships 
between cities and their surroundings, the need for invading forces to
establish strongholds close enough to support command and logistics
needs, the various technical capacities of forces in conflict (of which 
there are, as often as not, many), styles of warfare that are much more 
complex than the simplistic dichotomy of a/symmetrical warfare, efforts 
to manipulate media (regional, global, sympathetic, etc), and so on.

Take, for example, the Vietnam War. Films of American bombers dropping
bombs in pairs seemingly at random across the Viet countryside have 
become a generic symbol of a futile effort to "bomb them back into the
stone age" or "turn the country into a parking lot" -- two strikingly
different historical vectors, yes? But this bombing wasn't random in 
some euphemistic sense of the term akin to "random violence," rather, 
it was *systematically random*: the purpose of this approach to bombing,
which left deep craters, was to disrupt rural water tables and thereby 
drain rice paddies. This, in conjunction with chemical warfare (Agent 
Orange is well-known, Agent Blue, Agent White and others less so) and 
armored bulldozers formed the doctrine of "Landscape Management": an 
effort to deny the Viet Cong any and every form of cover -- physical, 
social, nutritional -- *in order to urbanize them*. (If you're doing 
serious research on this, I recommend reading the pithy works of Viet 
strategists, like Vo Nguyen Giap's _People's War Against U.S. Aeronaval 
War_, which the Viets, being communists, thoughtfully translated into 
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Calin Dan | 4 Dec 11:46 2008
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Re: Saskia Sassen: Cities and new wars: after Mumbai


Although I find little entertainment in conspiracy theories, I cannot stop 
noticing that what prevails in the end of all those gory conflicts is the 
economics of reconstruction.

>From the afore-mentioned Groznyy, to the long-tested Beirut, to the very 
close to my direct experience Bucharest, one can make a long list of cities 
that miraculously came back from rubble - a clear sign of their indomitable 
vitality. Or so they say. Little (to my knowledge at least) has been written 
about the direct involvement of the secret services (the very same 
institutions playing an active role in the destruction process), old and 
new, retired and/or active, in the reconstruction, through joint ventures, 
off-shore companies, government contracts a.s.o. All sides previously 
involved in the conflict seem to shake hands in the phase of deal making for 
mending the past.

Now, while reconstruction, compromise, deals closed in the rarefied high 
zones of power are part of what we are used to perceive as "normality", one 
cannot stop wondering where does strategic decision stop in (urban) warfare, 
and where projections for future business opportunities are starting to 
influence the way in which armed conflicts are conducted.

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "t byfield" <tbyfield@...>
To: "Nettime" <nettime-l@...>
Sent: Thursday, December 04, 2008 8:16 AM
Subject: Re: <nettime> Saskia Sassen: Cities and new wars: after Mumbai

> Interesting.
>
(Continue reading)

Saskia Sassen | 4 Dec 10:25 2008

Re: Saskia Sassen: Cities and new wars: after Mumbai


i agree--my starting point, when i try to open a field is: what are we  
trying to name when we use the term: globlaization, citizenship, the  
nationale, etc.
The project i am developing now asks this about terms like "war" and "city."

both  are words deeply embedded in particular, albeit globally  
present, histories. Further, the current instances we have been  
describing here, resist the conventional meanings: so it is easy to  
use terms such as terrorism becasue this is a war that does not fit   
war as in word war 2 (though of course, there were lots of instances  
that fit into today's "terrorism" bit.
Question then is whether  these current situations are anomalous  
(which i think is the easiest way out of a problematic, and I resist  
going that way), or become heuristic (in the sense of producing  
knowledge about  the terms themselves: war and city.

saskia

Saskia Sassen
Robert S.Lynd Professor of Sociology
Department of Sociology
and
Committee on Global Thought
Columbia University
422 Fayerweather Hall
1180 Amsterdam Avenue
New York, NY  10027
USA
T - 212.854.0790
(Continue reading)

Felix Stalder | 4 Dec 14:37 2008

Re: Saskia Sassen: Cities and new wars: after Mumbai

It strikes me that the issue is perhaps less city vs open field, but the  
difference between the function of cities in conventional conflict (state vs 
state) and asymmetric conflicts which the events in Mumbai were a part of. 
The main difference relates to the goals pursued through these conflicts. 
In the first case, cities are attractive, as Ted noted, because they 
constitute the center of administration necessary to take over in order to 
govern the country as a whole. In the latter, cities, or more precisely 
particular segments of (inter)national significance, constitute what some 
theorists call "systempunkt", the critical node that can destabilize the 
entire system [1]. 

Why should the system be destabilized? Not in order to take it over. Al-
Qaeda did not plan to occupy the US after 9/11. Rather, the goal seems to 
be affect the overall dynamics of the system, either in the terms of 
weakening the state so the withdraws from certain areas / functions, or to 
force the state to over-react. In Mumbai, it seems that the goal was the 
latter, with the attacks occurring shortly before elections and in the 
context of a real attempt of both governments to ease hostilities between 
Pakistan and India. If the elections now shift to the nationalist right and 
the relations between the countries deteroritate, the attacks will have 
been successful. If not, they will have failed. 

In a way, it's violent, large-scale system's hacking, ie. use the resources 
of the system to make it do something that is counter to its stated goals. 

[1] 
http://globalguerrillas.typepad.com/globalguerrillas/2004/12/the_systempunkt.html

--- http://felix.openflows.com ----------------------------- out now:
*|Mediale Kunst/Media Arts Zurich.13 Positions.Scheidegger&Spiess2008
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mazzetta | 5 Dec 00:11 2008
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Re: Saskia Sassen: Cities and new wars: after Mumbai

Saskia Sassen ha scritto:
> i agree--my starting point, when i try to open a field is: what are we  
> trying to name when we use the term: globlaization, citizenship, the  
> nationale, etc.
> The project i am developing now asks this about terms like "war" and "city."
>
> both  are words deeply embedded in particular, albeit globally  
> present, histories. Further, the current instances we have been  
> describing here, resist the conventional meanings: so it is easy to  
> use terms such as terrorism becasue this is a war that does not fit   
> war as in word war 2 (though of course, there were lots of instances  
> that fit into today's "terrorism" bit.
> Question then is whether  these current situations are anomalous  
> (which i think is the easiest way out of a problematic, and I resist  
> going that way), or become heuristic (in the sense of producing  
> knowledge about  the terms themselves: war and city.
>   

I think, dealing with wars, that we're seeing anything anomalous
Following changes in western warfare, the frontline disappeared well 
before the appearance of 21th century "terrorism", this has driven 
changes in fights much more than any brainstorming on how to wage war 
against an overwhelming power
Most, i cannot see main differences between the so-called islamic 
terrorism and others fightings formerly seen in action. As different 
palestinian approaches weren't so original, we can consider qaeda-style 
actions as non-original at all. Just remember many national resistances 
in the 20th century and you'll find many examples that suggest we're not 
seeing nothing new or original. Suicide attack tactics too are not new, 
nor original. Just note, then, that despite a billion of potential 
(Continue reading)

t byfield | 5 Dec 00:00 2008
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Re: Saskia Sassen: Cities and new wars: after Mumbai

sjs2@... (Thu 12/04/08 at 04:25 AM -0500):

> The project i am developing now asks this about terms like "war" and 
> "city."
> 
> both  are words deeply embedded in particular, albeit globally  
> present, histories. Further, the current instances we have been  
> describing here, resist the conventional meanings: so it is easy to  
> use terms such as terrorism becasue this is a war that does not fit   
> war as in word war 2 (though of course, there were lots of instances  
> that fit into today's "terrorism" bit.
>
> Question then is whether  these current situations are anomalous  
> (which i think is the easiest way out of a problematic, and I resist  
> going that way), or become heuristic (in the sense of producing  
> knowledge about  the terms themselves: war and city.

Ah. If there aren't yet third, fourth, fifth etc ways to think about this 
than the dichotomy between anomalous and heuristic, there will be -- once 
we build up enough experience, which we surely (and unfortunately) will.

The US context is notable in this regard, because the history of terror
in this country is longer and more complex than is widely acknowledged.

Prior to the spectacular Oklahoma City bombing in '95, rightist attacks
were attributed to "extremists" rather than terrorists: Posse Comitatus, 
the Order, Walter Leroy Moody Jr, and a long list of violence aimed at
women's health practitioners. The racist beliefs of many of these groups
makes it hard to completely avoid drawing connections between them and 
the terrible history of terror aimed at 'minorities,' but even so it's
(Continue reading)

Prem Chandavarkar | 7 Dec 16:51 2008
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Re: Saskia Sassen: Cities and new wars: after Mumbai


2008/12/4 Saskia Sassen <sjs2@...>

> i agree--my starting point, when i try to open a field is: what are we
> trying to name when we use the term: globlaization, citizenship, the
> nationale, etc.
> The project i am developing now asks this about terms like "war" and
> "city."
>

Should one be looking at terms like 'war' and 'city'?  Or would it be more
productive to start with 'violence' and 'city'?  Particularly looking at
current trends in the imagination of the city, and whether the direction is
conducive to the suppression of violence.  I have been thinking about this
question in the context of asymmetries related to urban land in the Indian
city, particularly how they are created by disciplinary structures – such as
the way the profession of urban planning constructs the city.

Given that in a democratic state, it is necessary to validate systems of
governance by a claim to the 'consent of the governed'; governance has
usually based itself on some form of social contract theory.  That is to say
individuals willingly sacrifice a certain level of liberty in order to
benefit from the order of a rule of law.  Urban planning is also premised on
the idea of a social contract: we give up our absolute freedom over the use
of space, and submit to a system of zoning controls and building codes, in
order to benefit from the potential offered by an ordered city.

There have been several critiques of the idea of a social contract.  Is it a
violation of contract law, given that a basic principle is that a contract
is valid only when both parties enter into it willingly and knowingly,
(Continue reading)

Saskia Sassen | 7 Dec 16:57 2008

Re: Saskia Sassen: Cities and new wars: after Mumbai


good point (should we use violence instead of war)
here is my reasons for chosing wars, strictly speaking: "new wars".
There is a huge literature on violence and cities. and it gets caught  
up at one end with policiy issues, vnadalism etc. and at the other  
extreme with interpersonal, spycholgical etc. violence.

I am trying to carve out a space that is neithr of these, and to  
detect if there is a systemic undercurrent that needs to be caputred  
and to do so we cannot use such a broad term as violence.

so yes, what i am after is much rarer probably than  violence in  
general in cities.

really enjoying reading all the posts on nettime that came my way on  
this subject. if i do not always repsond it is becasue im running to a  
class (yeah, or to a plane..;)

my experienc eof em is that if i do not answer promptly, i do not get  
to answer it. it is a bit the character of the medium.

Saskia Sassen
Robert S.Lynd Professor of Sociology
Department of Sociology
and
Committee on Global Thought
Columbia University
422 Fayerweather Hall
1180 Amsterdam Avenue
New York, NY  10027
(Continue reading)


Gmane