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Friday, January 21, 2011

Blog Assignment #2, 2011

Please post a paragraph-long question in response to the reading for Wednesday's (Belonging Through Land/Scape by Rich Schein) class by noon on Wednesday.

9 comments:

  1. To be perfectly honest, it took a lot of time for me to really understand what was being said in Stein's article. Finally, however, with the help of the Isaac Murphy Memorial Art Garden example (as well as the information about Thoroughbred Park), I was able to get a grasp on Stein's arguments. Although it was hard for me to get into the reading, I definitely found it informative and beneficial. Especially considering that it focused on a city that I call home, I was able to gain a concrete understanding of the possibilities of landscape as a form of belonging. The example I found most poignant was the gate that has been welded shut at the end of Hampton Court. I've walked past that gate many, many times - but never have I really stopped to think about why it would be closed. Knowing this, I really begin to wonder about how other areas in Lexington may serve to discriminate against and decrease the sense of belonging of certain people. I know that I've seen plenty of examples myself. And I suppose that my major question is how might these issues be addressed? How might one go about approaching residents of Hampton Court, for example, and work towards alternative solutions to the us-versus-them attitude that has caused the gate to be welded shut in the first place?

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  2. On page 822 of the article it is stated, "the request for community design input was superficial." In response to this, NELI gave opportunity to children to help design the new park. I definitely agree to letting the neighborhood help design what the landscape looks like. The people who live and walk through the neighborhood everyday should have something that is useful to them, not something that is structured by the amount of money available for the project. My question is, how do we get the people of the neighborhood to open up their ideas to create a landscape that is inviting for new communities to enjoy as well? The landscape should share the stories of those who live there but also represent a bright future in which others can join. The landscape should be open and not secluding others. It should erase the line of separation.

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  3. Heh, this article really got me thinking about my own hometown. No matter how much I might deny it in the future, Menifee County is my home (and in extension Daniel Boone National Forest). Sadly, I've seen many of the landmarks in my home become dilapidated, forgotten waste holes. I'm, in a sense, foreign to Lexington; it's Kentucky, and I love Kentucky, but I don't know Lexington. I'd like to ask a question for the class (specifically those who live in Lexington now or have before). We've talked about the successes of saving landmarks and efforts for saving landmarks...but what about those pieces of history that are now gone? Do you miss them? Was it destroyed in a time of prosperity or poverty? I'm just curious and no answers are needed.

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  4. With statements like "realizing that the stories told are as much about the future as they are about the past," this article suggests that stories of a person's past within any given place are a way to insure future belonging. This idea, juxtaposed with other concepts in the article creates two different questions for me:

    1. Though there have been a few interesting artworks made to address the issue of terra nullius as it relates to the small parcels of land that remain unclaimed BETWEEN properties, these parcels are ridiculously small and relatively useless. What about the portions of our landscape that are not 'claimed' by anyone through stories? Though this does not address the issue of a white structure of ownership, I wonder about the possibilities for first finding and then claiming ownership of a space by creating experiences (that will be remembered as stories) within the space. Though I realize there is a much longer history in the same space, I wonder if this idea of creating experiences to create stories is a part of what was happening during the Christmas tree lighting ceremony at IMMAG this year?

    2. Regarding the young men on the other side of the Hampton Court gate: Though memories may not remain in the form of personal stories, they know the stories from their past that take place on the inside of that Hampton Court gate are stories of slavery. For this reason they may wish not to belong, a form of boycott. Can a community collectively demonize those on the inside of such a welded gate and 'force' them to re-open it? What are the precedents for social justice in this type of situation?

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  5. As he nears the final sections of his essay, Schein suggests that "the active intervention in local politics of public space and the representation of cultural landscape through the Isaac Murphy Memorial Art Garden on the part of Northeast Lexington Initiative recognizes this place of landscape as central to belonging, as crucial to creating a (next) generation of (often) previously marginalized Lexingtonians who realize that, in fact, 'they' have been as much part of the city as anyone else" (823). Both this observation and the discussion of IMMAG itself are fitting conclusions for an argument about the role of belonging through landscape as a form of social justice.
    My question has to do with the feasibility of IMMAG as a space that can begin or at the very least participate in this processes of inclusion through belonging. In his first question (above) Kurt asks if something like the Christmas tree lighting ceremony at IMMAG can be a way of claiming ownership of a space by creating meaningful experiences within it. In my own experience of the Christmas tree ceremony, it seemed like an event staged by government officials, poorly attended both by Lexingtonians at large and by neighborhood residents, an event with an air of desperation to it. At the time I wondered if there are ways to get a community to claim, and thus belong through, a space that it doesn't already consider its own. Now I wonder if a community will inevitably be suspicious of projects (like IMMAG) initiated by boards that are funded by the city government or by grants. I have to ask ,then, what are alternative ways to start processes of reclaiming space/citizenship/belonging. Do we have examples of them in Lexington?

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  6. "The stories... suggest that land and landscapes matter; that they work to mediate and constitute belonging..." I see the point, and understand the purpose of what has been said in the particle that leads to this conclusion, however as was stated about the mural during our tour, it seems important to emphasize a blending of both of the major available cultures in Lexington; rather than to valorize just one, even if the intentions are an attempt to make up for a long and storied history of complete unfairness. A few landscape projects, or even changes to the landscape that focus solely on black history will never be enough to make up for past injustices, and as I was reading this article I couldn't help but think that it would be much more effective, and respectful to the stories to the past, to acknowledge that they are bigger than can be dealt with in this way (Or, perhaps any way) and that the focus of new projects can and should be a fusion of the cultures which must continue to live together in the space.

    Not to sound idealistic, I know there are always problems with ideas of mixing what is celebrated by a project in a place that continues to be as racialized as many parts, if not all of, Lexington are. However to talk about land and landscape issues only in terms of blacks and whites, when there are other racial issues even if they are not as historically present, and to decide that a project and and/or should celebrate one or the other is just as idealistic, in its own right.

    That said, the idea of landscape shaping the people who live in it is a well-documented phenomenon in areas of study like Cultural Psychology, and the impact that can be had on people within a setting based entirely on simple changes in the space in which they live seems like an interesting applied use for things that are usually taught simply as facts of life cultural discoveries which cannot be used or acted upon in the real world.

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  7. Stein asserted early on in his piece (pg. 812) that "They would not exist as places were it not for the stories told about and through them." Then, when thinking about property, historic preservation, government regulation, etc, what is more important in the decision-making process at any one time: the story behind the land that makes it a place, or the opinion (some may say rights) of the current property owner of the area of land?

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  8. Written in 2008, a little over two years have passed wherein the IMMAG could have been more full developed. As is, the park has undergone very little shaping (that I can tell of) in that time. Not to wholly discount the progress being made, but when will come a time that the garden may boast a more substantial and lasting shaping? Will it ever reach it? Is that even the goal? My questions come from the idea that the park is meant to act as an alternative entrance to Thoroughbred park: how is that ever supposed to happen when the IMMAG is compared to the financial grandeur evoked by Thoroughbred? Or is that contrast directly the point: rejecting traditional white senses of grand public space in favor of active communal shaping?

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  9. I really hate to be so negative, especially when I know the author is going to be in class later this evening. But this article was perhaps the most inaccessible essay I've ever read. Which is really a shame as the information in the article is quite fascinating and could be useful for people within the community, on planning committees, or otherwise looking to learn more about the social geography of Lexington. Unfortunately, the article is so dense it seems only relevant to other social geographers. Is there a way to take this information and make it easier to understand? I wonder if the density of this essay is done purposefully to prevent others from being able to really discuss the content of the material.

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