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Towards Day 8 (Th, 9/24): Playing in industrial ruins

Anne Dalke's picture

I. coursekeeping

* meeting outside--> Grace's name game
* slowing down the conversation so everyone can understand!
* handing out copies of Wild (to begin writing about/discussing NEXT weekend)
reporting on conversation with Sharon Ullman (History Dept Chair,
fac'y supervisor for "Black @ Bryn Mawr" research):
-origins of project with Emma Kioko's going to the Greenfield Center,
proposing this research in reaction to the Confederate flag incident
[reflections on racial identity; also shyness in presenting]
-little info available re: maids and porters; need to research census data,
do more interviews, but limited time frame
-Sharon described it as a tour about absences, and "geographies of the periphery"
[cf. the tour that could be given @ Oberlin, beginning with the Underground Railroad]
Jody, Amaka and I have scheduled a meeting with
Grace and Monica in two weeks to give them our feedback
--see also:

* questions re: Friday's paper? fourth 3-pp. "web event," using concepts
drawn from the essays theorizing play (by Henig, Brown, Edensor et. al)
to re-read a posting by one of your classmates on their childhood  experience of play.

* By 5 p.m. Mon, 9/28: fifth short posting reflecting on a way in which play might be problematic.

* by classtime Tuesday, read another essay on this topic:
Deborah Bird Rose, Stuart Cooke and Thom Van Dooren. "Ravens at Play." Cultural Studies Review 17, 2 (September 2011), 326-43.

II. Thinking about the relation between play and risk,
with the help of Edensor et. al, "Playing in Industrial Ruins:
Interrogating Teleological Understandings of Play in
Spaces of Material Alterity and Low Surveillance"

Shall we start with the title?
teleological? alterity? surveillance?
what do these words mean?

What does the introduction promise?
What's surprising, non-obvious about this game plan?
(Something to think about for your own papers:
sticking your neck out, trying out a new idea....)

The next section reviews the key attributes of ruins; what are they?

Then the authors identify an "array of playful activities."
What are the 4 types of play?
1) destructive, 2) hedonistic, 3) artistic, 4) adventurous/expressive--
From each group: let's hear the key point
(= definition of this type), and one example illustrating it.

All this is warm-up; only now do the authors "theorize play."
Let's work through the remainder of the essay:
What do they say play is?
And then: what do they say are the dangers of play,
as they have conceptualized it?
What are their conclusions...?

Step by step, we've walked our way through how the argument is constructed
(which will help you think about organizing your own papers...!).

III. Writing groups:

Count off into groups of 3/4; share the post by one of your classmates that
you'll re-read using concepts drawn from the essays theorizing play;
discuss which articles/concepts might be helpful in re-reading this post...

Reading Notes
Edensor, et al: about ruins as exemplary realms for a critical perspective
highlighting both the limitations and potentialities for play in urban spaces
key attributes of ruins:
1) lack of overt regulation—a space outside the strictures of ‘health and safety,’ systematic surveillance and material maintenance; missing the ordinary control of human/non-human; instant alterity—blurs distinctions between wild and tame, urban and rural, allowing wide scope of activities/actors prohibited/frowned upon elsewhere
2) material affordance within unfamiliar, unkempt env’ts that foster a multitude of opportunities for playful interaction with space and matter, confounding familiar forms of comfort and mundane sensual experience; usual conventions of property, commodity, value don’t pertain [if not valued, can be played with!]
types of play:
1) “destructive” (joyriding, burning, smashing): challenges notions of  what’s “acceptable”--transgressive delight in contravening restrictions, letting go of conventions, blurring distinction between productive/improving and destructive, willful, undisciplined, mindless
2) hedonistic (drinking, drug-taking, partying and sex):blurs line between pleasure and necessity—provides safe space for forbidden practices
3) artistic (graffiti and other interventions)
4) adventurous and expressive (action sports, urban exploration)
theorizing play in ruins:
dominant notions of play foreground its relationship with childhood, relying on its temporal/spatial separation from work, adulthood, production, ‘real life’;
such notions rooted in neo-liberal ideals about productive responsible citizenship
defining play as 'other' to work becomes problematic
ruins similarly defined as marginal, purposeless, wasteful, but are well-used sites of pleasure, leisure, spaces for productive/generative practices
ruins are entangled in a paradoxical geography of play space as both risky and ideally-suited to children’s play;
associations between childhood playfulness/innocence and vulnerability produce contradictory understandings of playing in wild spaces;
denial of access to wildscapes has a detrimental impact on children’s long-term development
but danger of romanticizing ruins, neglecting issues of danger, power (not accessible to differently abled bodies;
others w/ no where else to go); playing can reinforce existing spatio-temporal relations and sediment existing power relations
over-emphasizing playful virtues of industrial ruins sets up dualism with smooth, regulated urban spaces
Conclusion: thinking about industrial ruins in relation to play challenges the dominant distinctions that
position play as other to work, adulthood, smooth urban space, power and regulation
proliferation of playful activities in industrial ruins can divert us to recognize potential wildness, playfulness within managed spaces
play can make smooth spaces wild, disorder the street
relative freedom from direct retribution ess’l to playfulness in ruins:
foregrounds affective, embodied, sensual qualities of play--
always potentially transformative/subversive of power/
‘ready to be sprung as revolutionary consciousness,’ ‘becoming other,’ with potential to shift actuality of moment
thinking non-teleologically about play....