Uncertain Landings and Slippery Cities

Thursday, July 17, 2014: 3:45 PM
Room: 311+312
Oral Presentation
Caroline KNOWLES , Goldsmiths, University of London, London, United Kingdom
This paper probes the connective tissue of globalisation through the lens of a simple object, in a pair of plastic sandals. As we follow the flip-flop trail from the oil wells in Kuwait from which plastics originate, to the garbage dumps on the edge of cities like Addis Ababa (a big emerging market for Chinese plastics) to which they are finally consigned, through the larger resonance of a small object it will become clear that globalisation is not what we understand it to be. And neither are the cities it presumes to connect.  The cities on the trail – cross cut by multiple intersecting trails of people and objects - were both omnipresent and slippery. While it looked from a distance as if the trail passed through particular cities, closer examination often proved otherwise, as the trail strayed into particular neighbourhoods, urban zones, exurbs, suburbs, and borders between nation-states as zones of unregulated activity. In providing a trail through a city, flip-flops reveal it from an unusual angle: from the little considered vantage points of feet, streams of commerce passing through markets and garbage. It concludes that in the light of this kind of mobile, trans-local, object-led research we need to rethink cities in ways that admit both this slipperiness and streams of everyday life, as well as rethinking globalisation so as to acknowledge its ad hoc, shifting and unstable character.