space and bilingualism in The House on Mango Street – Kuribayashi

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Tomoko Kuribayashi made some really interesting comments on the use of space and language in Cisneros’ The House on Mango Street – they are really in line with some of the things that interested me about this text. Kuribayashi wrote:

“Cisneros’ narrative illuminates the linguistic, spatial and sexual oppression that racist society imposes on minority – more specifically Chicana – women, but also offers a somewhat hopeful perspective on future possibilities. Architecture is a central means by which society as well as Cisneros express and experience oppression as well as hope for change. In the beginning of Cisneros’ novel, Esperanza yearns for acquisition of cultural ideals of the white society, most specifically the white, middle-class house widely displayed in the mass media.” (p.166)

“Cisneros’ narrator, Esperanza, also wants a house just like the ones she sees on television and all her family members share her dream… Young Esperanza is keenly aware of how houses define and represent the resident’s social status; so simply having a roof over one’s head is not enough.” (p.166) However, as Kuribayashi notes “later her vision changes and she contemplates the possibility of housing the poor in her future house” (p.167)

“Owning and controlling her own space is to own her self. One cannot become oneself without having one’s own place. As Cherríe Moraga asserts, the “anti-materialist approach [that some white, middle-class feminists take] makes little sense in the lives of poor and Third World women”, when material conditions are so much a part of their oppression that coming into possession of material necessities is a must for becoming one’s own person.” (p.167)

“In The House on Mango Street, as sociocultural oppressions and future hopes are architecturally expressed, so are the female characters’ experiences of social and sexual violence inseparably linked to their spatial experiences.” (p.168) Kuribayashi’s discussion of the different ways space is inhabited, or prohibited to, the women of this text is a great read. I think the connection between space and body, as well as the point that Esperanza finally occupies another space entirely through her writing are fitting criticism of the text;

“Esperanza […] also has another vision of space outside, that is, a space that her imagination and her writing – and bilingual ability – will create for her outside and beyond the limits of her Mexican-American community and of the dominant white culture of America.” (p.169)

“Cisneros’ narrative highlights how language – and taking control of it – is a determining factor for Esperanza’s future. Taking control of language means taking control of one’s spatial experiences. The narrative of The House on Mango Street is a linguistic manifestation and product of the process in which Esperanza creates a new self and a new world. The text also testifies how she can do this through giving herself a new name and discovering a new language, without disowning the cultural background from which she comes.” (pp.169-170)

“Through the very text of The House on Mango Street the narrator moves back to her native community. The narrative is a textual documentation of the homeward movement of her body as well as of her spiritual homecoming.
The narrator’s leaving home is necessary, though, for her to find her self. Anzaldúa  says of herself, “I had to leave home so I could find myself, find my own intrinsic nature buried under the personality that had been imposed on me”. Esperanza is taking tremendous risks, and she is fortunate to be able to choose to do so, since so few of her group of people can afford it. As Anzaldúa says, “As a working class people our chief activity is to put food in our mouths, a roof over our heads and clothes on our backs”. While most women of her ethnicity have had to choose between “three directions… to the Church as a nun, to the streets as a prostitute, or to the home as a mother,” Esperanza is making the newly and sparingly available fourth choice, “entering the world by way of education and career and becoming self-autonomous persons,” or claiming a public identity.” (p.174)

Ref: (emphases in blue bold mine) Tomoko Kuribayashi “The Chicana girl writes her way in and out: space and bilingualism in Sandra Cisneros’ The House on Mango Street” pp.165-177 Eds. Tomoko Kuribayashi and Julie Ann Tharp Creating Safe Space: Violence and Women’s Writing. Albany, State University of New York Press, c1998

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the feminist kitchen

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Ksenija Bilbija sums up much of the interest in the kitchen as site of story in Laura Esquivel’s Como agua para chocolate when she wrote:

“For feminists, the kitchen has come to symbolize the world that traditionally marginalized and limited a woman. It represents a space associated with repetitive work, lacking any “real” creativity, and having no possibility for the fulfillment of women’s existential needs, individualization or self-expression.” (p.147)

[As an aside, I also found her discussion of the kitchen and the alchemist’s laboratory, especially as the two spaces might be read in Cien años de soledad, p.149-, interesting)

Ref: Ksenija Bilbija ‘Spanish American Women Writers: simmering identity over a low fire’ STCL 20(1) Winter, 1996; pp.147-165

The Screaming Staircase – Jonathan Stroud

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A few things that interest me about Jonathan Stroud’s The Screaming Staircase:

Home

The Screaming Staircase 2Describing the first haunted house we encounter, the narrator writes: “Papered walls, closed doors, dead silence. A piece of embroidery in a heavy frame: faded colours, childish letters, Home Sweet Home. Done years ago, when homes were sweet and safe, and no one hung iron charms above their children’s beds. Before the Problem came.” (p.24)

What I liked about this is that it sets us up to consider what we expect from our homes (in terms of safety and how that is manifested in belongings/art, etc.). This is a book in which we are not safe in our homes… kind of a familiar prospect in terms of urban narrative. Interesting.

the social meaning of ghosts

The Screaming StaircaseAt the beginning of part II (‘Before’), the narrator begins: “Some people claim the Problem has always been with us. Ghosts are nothing new, they say, and have always behaved the same. There’s a story the Roman writer Pliny told, for instance, almost two thousand years ago. It’s about a scholar who bought a house in Athens. The house was suspiciously cheap, and he soon discovered it was haunted. On the very first night he was visited by the Spectre of a gaunt old man in chains. The Visitor beckoned to him; instead of fleeing, he followed the ghost out to the yard, where he saw it vanish into the earth. The next day the scholar had his servants dig at that spot. Sure enough, they soon uncovered a manacled skeleton. The bones were properly buried, and the haunting ceased. End of story. A classic Type Two ghost, the experts [-p.66] say, with a classic, simple purpose – the desire to right a hidden wrong. Just the same as you get today. So nothing’s really changed.
Sorry, but I don’t buy it. OK, it’s a decent example of a hidden Source – we’ve all known plenty of similar examples. But notice two things. First: the scholar in the story doesn’t seem at all concerned that he might be ghost-touched, and so swell up, turn blue and die a painful death. Maybe he was just stupid (not to mention lucky). Or maybe Visitors back in ancient times weren’t quite as dangerous as they are now.
And they certainly weren’t as common either. That’s the second thing. The haunted house in Pliny’s story? It was probably the only one in Athens, which is why it was so cheap. Here in modern London there are dozens of them, with more springing up all the time, no matter what the agencies do. In those days, ghosts were fairly rare. Now we’ve got an epidemic. So it seems pretty obvious to me that the Problem’s different to what went before. Something strange and new did start happening around fifty or sixty years ago, and no one’s got a damn clue why.” (pp.65-66)

What caught my eye about this explanatory section is:
– the haunting of homes/houses is a significant aspect of the story
– the telling of stories is part of the history of haunting in this story world
– ‘agencies’ are engaged in trying to solve/monitor/fix the problem that’s rife among peoples homes – a kind of bureaucratisation of hauntings
– the newness and the perpetuity of ghosts and hauntings is significant

the will to exist

“We stood facing the shape in silence. Never attack first. Always wait, draw out its intentions. Watch what it does, where it goes; learn its patterns of behaviour. It was so close now that I could make out the texture of the long fair hairs sweeping down around the neck; see individual moles and blemishes on the skin. It always surprised me that the visual echo could be this strong. George called it ‘the will to exist’, the refusal to lose what once had been. Of course, not all of them appear this way. It’s all down to their personality in life, and what precisely happened when that life came to an end.” (p.36)

This section connected (for me) with the paragraph below (under childhood agency) in which the narrator fights the ghost with her own will to live.

the power of emotions

Lockwood tells the narrator “you need to calm down, Lucy. She’ll feed off your anger super-fast, and grow strong.” (p.38) Lucy continues: “‘Yeah, I know’ I didn’t say it gradefully. I closed my eyes, took a deep breath, and then another, concentrating on doing what the Manual recommends: mastering myself, loosening the hold of my emotions. After a few moments I regained control. I withdrew from my anger, and let it drop to the floor like a discarded skin.” (p.38)

Interesting to me how emotions are conceived of here:
– ‘things’; objects which can be dropped or discarded;
– as being ‘animated’, in that they can grasp on to the person experiencing them;
– and, also, a potential source of energy for ghosts.

“Frailty was what Visitors fed on; frailty and loose emotions. Good agents needed the opposite: firm control and strength of nerve.” (p.111)

Also interesting is how thoughts and feelings are conceived – metaphorically as objects that can be set aside: “I …tried to rid my mind of thoughts as best I could. I set aside all the rushing, garbled feelings of the day-to-day.” (p.191)

emotions and place

“Ever since Marissa Fittes and Tom Rotwell conducted their celebrated investigations, way back in the first years of the Problem, finding the Source of a haunting has been central to every agent’s job. Yes, we do other stuff as well: we help create defences for worried households and we advise individuals on their personal protection. We can rig up salt traps in gardens, lay iron strips on thresholds, hang wards above cradles, and stock you with any number of lavender sticks, ghost-lights and other day-to-day items of security. But the essence of our role, the reason for our being, is always the same: to locate the specific place or object connected to a particular member of the restless dead.
No one really knows how these ‘Sources’ function. Some [-p.46] claim the Visitors are actually contained within them, others that they mark points where the boundary between worlds has been worn thin by violence or extreme emotion. Agents don’t have time to speculate either way. We’re too busy trying to avoid being ghost-touched to worry about philosophy.
As Lockwood said, a Source might be many things. The exact location of a crime, perhaps, or an object intimately connected to a sudden death, or maybe a prized possession of the Visitor when alive. Most often, though (73 per cent, according to research conducted by the Rotwell Institute), it’s associated with what the Fittes Manual calls ‘personal organic remains’. You can guess what that means. The point is, you never know until you look.” (pp.45-46)

childhood agency

“An ordinary person might have stood there, helpless, and let the Visitor work its will upon them. But I’m an agent. I’d dealt with this before. So I wrested savage, painful breaths from the frigid air, shook the mist clear of my brain. I forced myself to live. And my hands moved slowly towards the weapons at my belt.” (p.32)

This comes some pages after the woman employing them for the haunting this book opens on worries that they are too young for the job (pp.6-7). I like the agentic self-worth of the narrator; she is obviously young, but considers herself powerful. I like this and I find it interesting, too…

food and childhood

I couldn’t help noticing that these ‘agentic’ youths who are looking after themselves, self-employed and having to protect themselves from the adults of the world… also have a penchant for unhealthy snacks. Do children left to their own devices really always go for doughnuts and biscuits? Food as signifier of childishness… or something… not sure. Some examples of what I’m thinking include:

“Lockwood squeezed my arm. ‘Come on,’ he said. ‘Don’t worry about tomorrow. Something will turn up. Let’s get home. I fancy a peanut-butter sandwich.’
I nodded. ‘Cocoa and crisps for me.'” (p.234)

When the VIP John William Fairfax visits… “I ducked back inside, where Lockwood was frantically plumping cushions, and George brushed cake crumbs beneath the sofa. ‘He’s here,’ I hissed.” (p.253)

“A week after our return to London, when we’d slept long and fully recovered from our ordeal, a party was held at 35 Portland Row. It wasn’t a very big party – just the three of us, in fact – but that didn’t stop lockwood & Co. from properly going to town. George ordered in a vast variety of doughnuts from the corner store. I bought some paper streamers, and hung them up around the kitchen. Lockwood returned from a trip to Knightsbridge with two giant wicker hampers, filled with sausage rolls and jellies, pies and cakes, bottles of Coke and ginger ale, and luxuries of all kinds. Once this lot was [-p.431] unloaded, our kitchen virtually disappeared. We sat amid a wonderland of edible delights.” (p.430) [Is the ginger ale a piss-take?!]

adulthood and the captains of industry

The relationship between adults and children in this novel is not a positive one. The narrator’s father died an alcoholic – and their only concern at his death was whether or not he’d return as a ghost (p.68). Her mother was too busy to give a damn. Her first supervisor kills five of her child friends through his neglect and fear – and nearly her, too. He is protected from taking responsibility for his actions by legal mumbo jumbo (pp.80-81). Then once she gets to London, she can’t cut through the red tape (created by that supervisor’s neglect) to get another job. Finally, the main sequence of events described in this novel revolve around adult misbehaviour and adult disregard of children. Inspector Barnes from DEPRAC comes across as stupid and unkind (p.157) and causes half their troubles.

Youth, on the one hand, must live as adults – working the night shifts, going through job interviews, struggling to find work (chapter 6), and struggling to keep it etc.. The experience of one’s first job is unquestionably part of childhood in this world, but Lucy still describes Lockwood’s house as ‘puzzling’ – “a large house, filled with expensive, grown-up things, and yet there were no adults present anywhere.” (p.104)

Adults are entirely dismissive of the young, though – in spite of their need of them in this ghostly climate. After they set fire to a house they were supposed to be clearing of ghosts, a very negative piece is run in The Times on them, much of the criticism focusing on their youth (in spite of the youthfulness of this industry): “In the Problem Pages where prominent hauntings were covered daily, an article entitled INDEPENDENT AGENCIES: MORE CONTROL NEEDED? described how an investigation carried out by Lockwood & Co. (‘an independent outfit run by juveniles’) had resulted in a dangerous, destructive blaze.It was clearly implied that Lockwood had lost control. At the end of the piece a spokeswoman for the giant Fittes Agency was quoted. She recommended ‘adult supervision’ for nearly all psychical investigations.” (p184)

There is also some connection, in my mind, behind the failings of bureacracy, industrialisation and centralised government (in caring for the community) and the failings of adults in caring for children. Passages that caught my eye:

“It was generally accepted that the Problem afflicting the British Isles was a bad thing for the economy. The dead returning to haunt the living, apparitions after dark – these things had consequences. Morale and productivity were low. No one wanted late shifts. In winter, businesses closed mid-afternoon. But some companies did flourish, because they fulfilled a vital need. One of these was Fairfax Iron.
Already a leading manufacturer of iron products when the crisis began, Fairfax Iron had immediately set about supplying seals, filings and chains to the Fittes and Rotwell agencies. As the Problem worsened, and the government began to mass-produce ghost-lamps, it was Fairfax Iron that provided the vast quantities of metal required. This alone secured the [-p.253] company’s fortune. But of course there was more. Those ugly iron gnomes that people dotted around their gardens? Those naff ProtectoTM necklaces? Those little plastic bracelets with the smiley iron faces they put on babies’ wrists before they left the hospital? Fairfax products, every one.
The company’s owner, John William Fairfax, was in consequence one of the richest men in the country, up there with the silver barons, with the heirs of Marissa Fittes and Tom Rotwell, and with that bloke who owns the great lavender farms on the Linconshire Wolds. He lived somewhere in London, and when he snapped his fingers, the ministers of whichever government was currently in office scampered hot-foot to his house.” (p.252)

This theme of power, prestige, and the tanglings of bureacracy and central government are familiar from the Bartimaeus books, but here they connect with the failings of adulthood in some way. Interesting (interesting also SPOILER that Fairfax turns out to be one of the adult villains who threaten the survival of our young heroes.)

It’s a theme tangled with ‘the Problem’ itself; explaining the origins of the Problem, our narrator states: “In those days, ghosts were fairly rare. Now we’ve got an epidemic. So it seems pretty obvious to me that the Problem’s different to what went before. Something strange and new did start happening around fifty or sixty years ago and no one’s got a damn clue why.
If you look in old newspapers, like George does all the time, you can find mention of scattered ghostly sightings cropping up in Kent and Sussex around the middle of the last century. But it was a decade or so later that a bloody series of cases, such as the Highgate Terror and the Mud Lane Phantom, attracted serious attention. In each instance, a [-p.67] sudden outbreak of supernatural phenomena was followed by a number of gruesome deaths. Conventional investigations came to nothing, and one or two policemen also died. At last two young researchers, Tom Rotwell and Marissa Fittes, managed to trace each haunting to its respective Source (in the case of the Terror, a bricked-up skull; in that of the Phantom, a highwayman’s body staked out at a crossroads). Their success drew great acclaim, and for the first time the existence of Visitors was firmly imprinted on the public mind.
In the years that followed, many other hauntings started to come to light, first in London and the south, then slowly spreading across the country. An atmosphere of widespread panic developed. There were riots and demonstrations; churches and mosques did excellent business as people sought to save their souls. Soon both Fittes and Rotwell launched psychical agencies to cope with the demand, leading the way for a host of lesser rivals. Finally the government itself took action, issuing curfews at nightfall, and rolling out production of ghost-lamps in major cities.
None of this actually solved the Problem, of course. The best that could be said was that, as time passed, the country got used to living with the new reality. Adult citizens kept their heads down, made sure their houses were well stocked with iron, and left it to the agencies to contain the supernatural threat. The agencies, in turn, sought the best operatives. And because extreme psychic sensitivity is almost [-p.68] exclusively found in the very young, this meant that whole generations of children like me found themselves becoming part of the front line.” (pp.66-68)

“He tossed the magazine across. It consisted of endless photographs of smartly dressed men and women preening in crowded rooms. ‘You’d think the Problem would make people consider their immortal souls,’ Lockwood said. ‘But for the rich, it’s had the opposite effect. They go out, dress up, spend all night dancing in a sealed hotel somewhere, thrilling with horror at the thought of Visitors lurking outside… That party there was thrown last week by DEPRAC, the Department of Psychical Research and Control. The heads of all the most important agencies were there.'” (p.128) [NB this is when we get our first impression of DEPRAC, and the negative image is later accentuated by the difficulties caused for our heroes by DEPRAC Inspector Barnes.]

“We ducked out across the road, stepping over the open drain, or ‘runnel’, of running water that separated the pavement from the tarmac. The wandering dead were known to dislike moving water; consequently narrow runnels crisscrossed many of the great shopping streets in the West End, allowing people to walk in safety well into the evening. Earlier governments had hoped to extend this system across the city, but it had proved prohibitively expensive. Aside from ghost-lamps, the suburbs fended for themselves.” (p.198)

Examining old editions of the Richmond Examiner, the narrator comments: “I soon found it contained more local fetes, lost cats and best-kept allotment competitions than I could have believed existed in the universe. There was quite a bit about the Problem too, the nature of which was beginning to be discussed. I found early calls for ghost-lamps to be erected (they eventually were) and for graveyards to be bulldozed and salt-sown (they weren’t: it was far too expensive and controversial; instead they were simply ringed with iron).” (p.202)

The adult supervisors are clearly of little to no use in this book. In fact, the narrator’s first supervisor gets five of her friends killed. She refers to another supervisor later in the following terms: “He had four or five [-p.204] medals pinned to the breast of his jacket, and in the pommel of his rapier was a glittering green stone. Not that he could use the sword much these days. I guessed he was about twenty, so his days of active service were behind him. His Talent had mostly shrivelled up and gone. Like my old leader, Jacobs, and all the other useless supervisors choking the industry, all he could do now was boss the kids around.” (pp.203-24)

[On the subject of useless supervisors, NB also p.423]

In their final moments with Fairfax, she shows him as a captain of industry who was murderous behind doors: “I was watching the old man’s face as I spoke; I saw how his eyes drew tight in pleasure, how his mouth curled sensuously into a secretive half-smile. And something about the expression, fleeting as it was, opened a cracked and dirty window for me onto his truest, deepest nature. It was something he generally kept hidden beneath the bluff, bombastic veneer of the captain of industry; it even underlay the dry regret of his long confession.” (p.414)

In the end, however, Fairfax is not exposed to be a murderer and the government agency do a coverup to avoid scandal: “‘I’m just sorry,’ I said after a while, ‘that Barnes made you lie about Fairfax. He should have been publicly revealed for what he was.’
‘I couldn’t agree more,’ Lockwood said, ‘but we’re talking about a very powerful family here, and one of the most important companies in England. If their top man were exposed as a murderer and scoundrel, there’d have been [-p.432] terrible repercussions. And with the Problem worsening daily, that’s not something DEPRAC was prepared to consider.” (pp.431-432) This does all cause Lucy, the narrator to “wonder what else DEPRAC’s concealing” (p.432) – something that may be teased out in a second book?….

Stories and research

There is also another, more minor, theme that interests me – the use of stories and the importance of research in the outcome of events in this world. NB, research: pp. 140-147; 204; 211; 390
stories, eg.: 189, the many newspaper articles, etc.

Ref: (italics in original) Jonathan Stroud (2013) The Screaming Staircase. Doubleday: London

Measuring human space

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Suggested titles from Claude-Henri Rocquet

“…given the task of making budding architects understand that human space cannot be truly measured unless it is oriented in accordance with the cardinal points of the human heart, I had no better allies than Bachelard of La Poétique de l’espace and the Eliade of The Sacred and the Profane.” (p.vii)

Ref:  Mircea Eliade and Claude-Henri Rocquet (c1982) Mircea Eliade Ordeal by Labyrinth: Conversations with Claude-Henri Rocquet. translated by Derek Coltman. The University of Chicago Press: Chicago, London.

how everyday emotions are being transformed by post 9/11 measures and terror talk

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According to Setha M. Low (writing from the USA 5 years ago): “We are enmeshed in a historical period when fear and anxiety are being manipulated to produce unhealthy political ends. The consequences of this social atmosphere are not just political, but produce increasing fears in children and an obsession with safety and security that is claiming ground and appropriating feelings even within the ultimate retreat – home.” (p.62)

Since September 11, 2001, the Bush administration has mobilized a discourse of insecurity to create a psychological environment that allows the constriction of liberty in the USA, while continuing an unpopular war in Iraq.” (p.47)

She goes on to say that “political manipulation of terrorism and threat from outside is inscribing a new structure of feeling based on fear, and re-inscribing the paranoia of the Cold War period to further militaristic and imperialist aims. / This fear and insecurity discourse is becoming equally salient in Western Europe, in the form of a war against terrorism and discrimination against Muslim immigrant populations. These repressive actions have been justified by the well-publicized terrorist attacks in London and Madrid, while France has experienced widespread riots in the immigrant suburbs of Paris, based on anti-Muslim sentiment.” (p.47)

“One [-p.48] response to this production of insecurity,” Low writes, “has been increased surveillance and policing, as well as residential fortification, including the building of gated communities. Even though gating predates this period of homeland security and terrorist threat, it symbolically and materially accommodates these fears and provides a superficial sense of protection.
Catherine Lutz and Geoffrey White argue that the months of terror post-9/11 generated a tremendous overload of emotion and that this emotion has been ‘‘learned, half-learned, resisted, reformulated or ignored’’ by intense cultural tutoring that shapes how we make sense of what we feel (Lutz & White 2002:6). They conceptualize the emotions and the practices they represent as ‘‘emotive institutions’’, illustrating how media discursive practices evoke and reform emotions through television war news.
These emotive institutions are one component of the production of a new structure of feeling expressed in a variety of material and discursive forms including architecture and urban planning. Neoliberal practices of the shrinking state and the re-inscription of responsibility on individuals and communities are the second component in this process. Individuals and communities in cities are encouraged to protect themselves from perceived threats, thus contributing to the emergence of a new pattern of civic militancy even at home.” (pp.47-48)

“In this article,” Low explains, “I outline my concerns [about how everyday emotions are being transformed by post-9/11 measures and terror talk and how they are infiltrating the most private of spatial domains, that of home] and provide ethnographic illustrations from gated communities on how new emotive institutions are emerging and transforming the domestic emotional climate.” (p.48)

Low presents a very interesting discussion of how our concept of (and relationship with) the ‘home’ has developed in recent centuries (pp.48-50). She also presents a history of gated communities in the USA along with an ethnographic study of gated communities in New York and Texas (pp.50-61).

According to Low: “The gated community is a response to transformations in the political economy of late-20th century urban America. The increasing mobility of capital, marginalization of the labour force, and dismantling of the welfare state began with the change in labour practices and deindustrialization of the 1970s, and accelerated with the ‘‘Reaganomics’’ of the 1980s.” (p.51)

Walls can provide a refuge from people who are deviant or unusual, but this necessitates patrolling the border to make sure no-one gets in. The resulting vigilance necessary to maintain these ‘‘purified communities’’ actually heightens residents’ anxiety and sense of isolation, rather than making them feel safer (Flusty 1997). In some cases, the micro-politics of exclusion is about distinguishing oneself from the family who used to live next door. Status anxiety about downward mobility due to declining male wages and family incomes, shrinking job markets, and periodic economic recessions has increased concern that children will not be able to sustain a middle-class lifestyle. Middle-class status anxiety also takes the form of symbolic separation from other families who have fallen on hard times, families who share many of the same values and aspirations, but who for some reason ‘‘did not make it’’. The ‘‘exclusivity’’ and ‘‘status’’ advertised by new gated communities is being marketed to an already anxious audience created by the economic turbulence of the 1980s. Assurances that walls and gates maintain home values and provide some kind of ‘‘class’’ or ‘‘distinction’’ is heard by prospective buyers as a partial solution to upholding their middle- or upper middle-class position. / Crime and the fear of crime also have been connected to the design of the built environment.” (p.53)

Most gated community residents say that they are moving because of their fear of crime, but what residents are expressing is a pervading sense of insecurity with life in the USA. Policing, video surveillance, gating, walls and guards do not work because they do not address the basis of what is an emotional reaction. An ever-growing proportion of people fear that they will be victimized. Not surprisingly, then, fear of crime has increased since the mid-1960s, even though there has been a decline in all violent crime since 1990 (Brennan & Zelinka 1997, Flusty 1997, Stone 1996). It is not an entirely new sense of insecurity, but comes from increasing globalization, declining economic conditions and economic restructuring, the retreat of the state from social reproduction and the overall insecurity of capitalism. 9/11 and Homeland Security combined with neoliberal practices that have shifted the responsibility for security to individuals and communities have exacerbated it.” (p.56)

“Compared with most large cities, suburbs do not have many public places were strangers intermingle, and the relative isolation and homogeneity of the suburbs discourages interaction with people who are identified as the ‘‘other’’.” (p.56)

“Barry Glassner (1999) argues that news reporting capitalizes on our greatest fears proposing that it is easier to worry about ‘‘Mexicans’’ or ‘‘workers’’ – focusing on symbolic substitutes – rather than face our moral insecurities and more systematic social problems. The bombing of the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001 has [-p.60] added to this discursive repertoire of fear and insecurity for New York residents.” (pp.59-60)

West and Orr (2005) [found] ‘‘The more people talked about 9/11, the more worried they became about becoming a victim’’ (West & Orr 2005:99). Defensive behaviour of not going downtown and staying home, encouraging increased home surveillance (Low 2003), and hiring professional security guards (West & Orr 2005) as well as building home based safe rooms and keeping two weeks of supplies on hand in a safe place, have emerged as common home behaviours with negative– fearful and anxious–emotional reactions. 9/11 has had an impact on people not only in New York City but also along the entire Northeast corridor, and in other large cities like Los Angeles.
Whether it is black salesmen, errant workers or fear of a terrorist attack, the message is the same: residents are using walls, gates and guards to keep perceived dangers outside of their homes and neighbourhoods. Contact with others and symbolic substitutes or explanations for their sense of insecurity incites palpable fear and real concern, and in response they are moving to secured residential developments where they can keep other people out. The perceived threats of crime, other people, a porous neighbourhood that is easily entered, and terrorist attacks engender a defensive emotional climate within which residents attempt to create safe and comfortable homes. But the reactive emotions of home – fear, insecurity, worry, paranoia and anxiety – dominate their conversations.” (p.61)

“…fear of others and an emotional shift in the local environment play significant roles in the transformation of how residents feel about their home places.” (p.61) “These reactive emotions, however, are not independent of the historical moment in which they occur and are sustained by a social and political context of fear and distrust.” (p.62)

“A new structure of feeling promoted by the Bush administration is creating a citizenry more concerned with protecting their homes than with protecting social and political freedom.” (p.62)

Ref: (emphases in blue bold, mine) Setha M. Low (2008): Fortification of Residential Neighbourhoods and the New Emotions of Home, Housing, Theory and Society, 25:1, 47-65

ABSTRACT Research on the fortification of residential environments and the spatial production of ‘‘security’’ within gated communities has lead to a broader understanding of how everyday emotions are being transformed by post 9/11 measures and terror talk. A new structure of feeling is infiltrating the most private of spatial domains, that of home, and further rationalizes and legitimates the practices of social exclusion, fortification, and racialization of space that mark current sociospatial politics. This article presents ethnographic illustrations from gated communities in New York and San Antonio, Texas, of how new emotive institutions are emerging and transforming the domestic emotional climate.

Reference is to: Lutz, C. & White, G. (2002) Emotions, war and cable News, Anthropology News, February, pp. 6–7.

The homelike-ness of schools in pop-Gothic texts (and canny vs. uncanny) – Jackson

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In her study of The Time of the Ghost (Diana Wynne Jones, 1981), Charlotte Sometimes (Penelope Farmer, 1967) and The Haunting (Margaret Mahy, 1982), Anna Jackson addresses the question of heimlich vs. unheimlich and canny vs. uncanny (drawing on these differences for her theoretical premise). She begins:

“The first harry Potter film ends, as a proper school story should, with everyone on the platform, bags packed, saying their farewells, ready to go home; except that, as Harry says, “I’m not going home. Not really.” For Harry, the boarding school of Hogwarts, despite being haunted not only by the mostly benign school ghosts but also by Voldemort, the embodiment of evil, is home in a way that suburban life for him can never be home. / For most of the last century, the uncanny has been understood in terms of Freud’s definition of unheimlich as not quite the opposite of heimlich, and so perhaps it might not seem surprising that the Harry Potter books, the twentieth century’s most successful Gothic publishing phenomenon, should be set in a school, that home-away-from-home. Nor perhaps is it surprising that Buffy should slay her vampires on the grounds, or just a little out of bounds, of Sunnydale High. Much has been made not only of the homelike qualities of the fictional schools of pop-Gothic texts like these, but of the familiarity, the homelike-ness, of the school genre itself.” (p.157)

In this essay, Jackson “discuss[es] three children’s novels that are all about hauntings, that all draw on Gothic conventions to evoke a real sense of the uncanny.” (p.157) Having alluded briefly to the interplay between heimlich and unheimlich in The Haunting, Jackson explains:

“However, the school setting can also be understood in relation to the English word “uncanny.” Just as the German word unheimlich seemed to have little to do with the word heimlich until Freud teased out the significance of the etymological link, “uncanny” doesn’t usually operate as the opposite of the word “canny.” Like the German unheimlich, the English uncanny means both unusual and unnatural – spooky, eerie, unsettling. Canny as a recently republished children’s book Cannily Cannily (French 1981) helpfully informs the reader on its back cover, means “knowing, sagacious, shrewd, astute; skilled or expert, frugal or thrifty.” The words are not quite opposites, since the quality of uncanniness seems to belong to a situation or event, as an effect the situation or event produces, whereas canniness is a quality that properly belongs to a person. It might make sense, however, to understand the uncanny as that which cannot be understood cannily; as those events, situations or phenomena that do not allow for a knowing, sagacious, shrewd, and astute reading of them.” (p.158)

Ref: (italics in original, emphases in blue bold, mine) Anna Jackson (c2008) Uncanny Hauntings, Canny Children pp.157-176 in Eds. Anna Jackson, Karen Coats, and Roderick McGillis The Gothic in Children’s Literature: Haunting the Borders. Routledge: New York and London