(IN)VISIBILE CITIES: SUBJECTS, GAZES. Metropoles and the point of view

deadline for submissions: 
April 5, 2018
full name / name of organization: 
de genere. Journal of Literary, Postcolonial and Gender Studies


Metropoles and the point of view


Edited by Giorgio de Marchis and Maria Paola Guarducci


‘The photograph isn’t what was photog­raphed, it’s something else. It’s about transformation’’, said the American photographer Garry Winogrand, quoted in an article about another photographer - René Burri - by Teju Cole, who adds: “The photographic image is a fiction created by a combination of lenses, cameras, film, pixels, color (or its absence), time of day, season” (Cole, 2015). Knowing that a photograph is always a mixture of readiness, chance and mystery, Teju Cole, a photographer and writer himself, wanders through the city of São Paulo, Brasil, looking for the point of view of an evocative snapshot by Burri dated 1960 and titled Men on a Rooftop, and comes to the laborious conclusion that “in discovering all that can be known about a work of art, what cannot be known is honored even more. We come right up to the edge, and can go no farther” (ib.). The point of view, the ‘angle’ of a representation, Cole seems to say once he has found the exact place from which Burri took Men on a Rooftop, is not just a matter of perspective: not even in photography, which seems to have a cleaner, and therefore a more precise, relationship with visible reality than other imitative objects, as Susan Sontag put it in her famous essay on photography (Sontag 1977).

The portrait of the city in the arts - literature as well as visual arts, music, multimedia - is therefore a fiction that acquires meaning and shape according to the point of view of its narrator. The gaze observing the city informs the special features of the portrait it presents, outlining hidden traits and spectacular aspects at the same time; private, intimate and unique marks, but also collectively relevant characteristics, which are such because they were originally thought like that, or because of the use people made of them, in time and possibly unpredictably. The city, which is born out of an act of ‘realistic’ planning is, however, also the site of utopia and dystopia, it is an open and changing place, threatening and welcoming, familiar and undecipherable. The urban space - unlike ghost cities, urban ruins from ancient times or the extreme contemporary ‘fake cities’ - is, per se, a manifold and elusive arena because it is crossed and changed by time, because it is metamorphic and irregularly fragmented with its gentrifications and abandonments, re-qualifications and new forms of neglect, homologations and intense characterizations. However, because of its many contradictions and its versatility, the city is a privileged topos in all forms of art whose meanings, we believe, are enhanced if scrutinized thought a contemporary critical lens. Furthermore, often conceived in female terms as a territory to conquer, to explore, to seize, the city is a space originally planned mostly by men, ‘naturally’, for the benefits of male subjects or, at best, for an abstract collective identity codified according to normative standards ruling out all minorities (whether numerical, cultural or political).

The aim of this issue of de genere is to put together a series of articles as heterogeneous and interdisciplinary as possible focussing on the relationship between the point of view and the city, where the relationship is determined by a mixture of one or more connotations defining the gaze such as gender, social class, economic and/or legal status, age, etc. We ask contributors to explore how the metropolis’s polysemy - in any time and place - shapes the representation of the city as a place of integration/disintegration (or both), of stable/unstable meanings (or both), as a site of power, desire, fear, discovery, affection, growth, damnation, anonymity, belonging, exclusion, success or tragedy. We invite contributors from different disciplinary fields to submit their abstracts, also in a comparative key, analysing the urban space in all its possible declinations but always considering a specific point of view, be it implicit or openly declared, and privileging the following issues (or similar ones), in literature as well as in the other arts:

- public and private spaces: subtractions, appropriations, occupations

- crossing the city

- the city’s poetics

- the city’s politics

- colonial/postcolonial/neocolonial/decolonial cities

- mobility and immobility

- cohesion and cohabitation: inclusive and ‘off limits’ urban spaces

- the city of women/ of men

- urban space’s polisemy

- urban multiculturalism and/or monoculturalism

- urban crossing overs

- rootings and uprootings

- dead cities / living cities


For submissions and queries please write to us at degenere.journal@gmail.com.

Deadline for abstract proposals (300 words and short bio): 5 April 2018.

Articles will be due on 30 June 2018.

For submission guidelines and further info please check our submissions page.



Suggested Reading List

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Augé, Marc. 2003. Le temps en ruines. Paris: Galilée.

Augé, Marc. 2013. Un ethnologue dans le métro. Paris: Pluriel.

Bauman, Zygmunt. 2003. City of fears, city of hopes. London: Goldsmith’s College.

Caldeira, Teresa. 2000. City of Walls. Crime, Segregation and Citizenship in São Paulo. Berkeley-Los Angeles-London: University of California Press.

Chambers, Iain. 1986. Popular Culture: the Metropolitan Experience. London & New York: Methuen.

Cole, Teju. 2015. Shadows in São Paulo. On Photography. In “The New York Times Magazine” (19/8). https://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/23/magazine/shadows-in-sao-paulo.html

de Certeau, Michel. 1984. The Practice of Everyday Life. Berkeley-Los Angeles-London: University of California Press.

Docucity / Documentare la città: http://www.docucity.unimi.it/

Lefebvre, Henri. 2009. Le droit à la ville. Paris: Anthropos Economica.

Miraftab, Faranak, David Wilson and Ken Salo, eds. 2015. Cities and Inequalities in a Global and Neoliberal World. New York: Routledge.

Nuttall, Sarah and Achille Mbembe, eds. 2008. Johannesburg. The Elusive Metropolis. Durham and London: Duke University Press.

Palusci, Oriana, ed. 1992. La città delle donne. Immaginario urbano e letteratura del Novecento. Torino: Tirrenia Stampatori.

Peixoto, Nelson Brissac. 2003. Paisagens urbanas. São Paulo: Editora Senac.

Sandhu, Sukhdev. 2004. London Calling. How Black and Asian Writers Imagined a City. London: Harper Perennial.

Sontag, Susan. 1977. On Photography. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.