Wednesday, February 21, 2007

HENRY LEFEBVRE – EVERYDAY LIFE, RYTHMS AND THE CITY

In my free hours, if any at all, I’m reading Andy Merrifield’s (AM) introduction to Henri Lefebvre (publ. by Routledge in 2006). Although it is an introduction written by an author who did a great deal of work to put L.’s life, the times, philosophical and political contributions together, it is not an easy book to read, neither is it easy to write about for ME. There are two main reasons why I’m reading this book. 1st I need some introduction to Henri Lefebvre, a French philosopher, sociologist and urban theorist. I am slowly getting into his work and carefully trying to use some of his concepts of rhythm analysis in my research (i.e. mentioned in my earlier post, here in this blog). 2nd, if I by any chance get really deep into rhythm analysis, I can’t pass by Lefebvre’s masterpiece “THE PRODUCTION OF SPACE (POS)” carefully introduced in AM’s book. Half way through Merrifield’s book, it seems to make sense reading and learning about the “possible whole” Lefebvrian universe and especially concentrate on somebody’s analysis of POS. AM, whom I just discovered, is fantastic in both describing and explaining across different decades of scientific knowledge, and bridging these with current world views and opposite tendencies.

For the time being, I would like to highlight only one aspect of AM’s book, namely the case of rhythm analysis in the chapter on Lefebvre and “URBANITY.” AM explains;” the idea of rhythm was deliberately provocative, an assault on those who reify the city as a thing, who document only what they see rather than what they feel or hear (Merrifield 2006:75).” I especially became aware of the last part of sentence. You CAN feel and hear the city. This, I guess isn’t news for many, but for me it is rather interesting learning about a great thinker taking this into consideration at all. In praxis, it makes sense to me. In my case, I listen to and hear the city of Sisimiut, during summer and winter. There are differences and I record the sound of the summer Arctic city, filled with traffic and howling of dogs, as if only exaggerated by the “howling” of skidoos in the winter. The greatest variation of sound experienced so far is at the lake NALUNNGUARFIK. During the summer, not much was happening hear apart from children playing around and feeding birds. During winter time, this place is filled with action, pumping hearts of sledge dogs and screaming “pimp’ed-up” skidoos and motocross machines. And then again, filled with calm voices of people who enjoy the weekend, or on the way to school, only in winter crossing the frozen lake making a whole different sound and signs. And again, the place gets somehow filled discontinuously from the side by the activities of the little hill, where youth and adults practice their skills, show off and play.

From what I understand, rhythms were Lefebvre’s essentiality of everyday life, something syncopating the urban living, as AM puts it in his text. When reading AM’s book, it appears to me how rhythms can help to flesh out the complexities of everyday life, although it is the last which is the most important reservoir (at least by Lefebvre) of

being. Being also a part of a society, as being a citizen. Everyday life, explicitly manifested by e.g. festivals, tightens social links and gives rein to all desires pent up by collective discipline and necessities of everyday work (AM pp. 13-14). “For Lefebvre, the contradictions of everyday life inevitably find their solutions in everyday life (ibid.:13).”

At the moment, I’m not capable of explaining why and how I see this whole mixture of thoughts in my overall understanding of youth and the city. For the time being, it is nothing less, nothing more then my way of cutting myself loose from the diversity of life which I try to explain and learn from.


2 comments:

Anonymous said...

hello,
i enjoyed reading your entry about Lefebvre, especially city rhythms. I'm currently doing a project on the subject, and have not found many academic articles on the material. Apart from Merrifield's book you mentioned, could you recommend useful books etc. to check out?

Jakub Christensen M, PhD said...

hello,
thanks 4 your comment.
1)I would recommend contacting Dr. Jo Vergunst, formerly Jo Lee (2006). How straight is Union Street?: Liner and rhythms of walking in the city.
http://www.abdn.ac.uk/anthropology/walking.php

2)Borden, Iain (2001). Skateboarding, space and the city. Architecture and the Body. Berg.

- chapter 7:Urban Compositions. Zero degree Architecture and Urban Rhythm.

- rhytm & rhytmanalysis: pp.11,35,54,103,109, 111-113, 135, 190, 192-204, 211, 227-8, 236-7, 241, 244, 247-8,262,266, 7.8
It's on Google Books ... worth buying!

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...."Rhythms differ from one another in their amplitude, in the energies they ferry and deploy, and in their frequency. Such differences, conveyed and reproduced by the rhythms which embody them, translate into intensity or strenght of anticipation, tension and action. All these factors interact with one another within the body, which is traversed by rhythms rather as the 'ether' is traversed by waves" (Lefebvre 1991:206).
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