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Zabbaleen Community, Monqattam Village, Cairo, Egypt. text-Image essay: Society of the And
Umeå University, Faculty of Science and Technology, Umeå School of Architecture. (Architecture in Effect)
Umeå University, Faculty of Science and Technology, Umeå School of Architecture. (Architecture in Effect)
2012 (English)Other (Other (popular science, discussion, etc.)) [Artistic work]Mixed material
Abstract [en]

The Arabic Multitude

A spectre is roaming the Middle East:

the spectre of the multitude.

The beauty of the historical moment - th epeople in Egypt and elsewhere revolutionzing against the status quo - is that it has no leadership. It might also prove its fatal weakness, but that does not contradict its beauty and importance. It was the people rising up against the tyranny and the authoritarian governments. Of course youngsters and schooled people – doctors, engineers, etc. took the lead, but from the beginning in Tunisia it was the multitude at work. It is a revolution that stands for a series of social demands about work and life, not only to end dependency and poverty but to give power and autonomy to an intelligent, highly capable population, and not religion; as neo-conservatism want us to believe.

In this phase of late-capitalism the whole metropolis becomes the arena of production and resistance. It is a system that is bio-political, with the whole of life as politics. New practices have to be developed in this bio-political context of what I call the Society of the And.

Our task is to investigate the organizational framework of antagonistic subjectivities that arise from below, based on the indignation expressed by subjects in the face of unfreedoms, exploitation and expropriation. And there exists a communality of work characterized by the immateriality, cognitive contents, networking and communication implicit in all areas of work under capitalism. This requires a radical shift in how we conceive the organization of social change (as already indicated in the opening quotes above). It is – as already stated - a horizontal network that has no single leader. The multitude is able to organize itself without a centre.

The swarm intelligence, of this Arabic Revolution consists of at least two interrelated logics of the informal: one being the virtual reality our global media allows to occur through Twitter, Facebook, Skype, YouTube and other digital media. Another logic of the informal is at stake too, namely the real spatial one of the informal city: the routes, places and street where they collectively demonstrate through temporal actions and constructions, and the network of informal (and hidden of view) places where they work and live (including their global connections). These two interrelated networks of the virtual and the real make up for this new collective arising at the horizon through what we call the multitude.

In the workshop and fieldresearch done in Zabbaleen we are not going to map how the multitude – through its virtual reality (both being virtual and real) of oppression and resistance – generated the Arabic revolution. That would have been a very intriguing studio, but time did not permit us to do so, but we didn't leave the multitude behind. We documented how the multitude - as rhizome, self-routing and auto-developing system operates and works on an everyday bases (every moment of the day, at home, at work, in the city, in the teahouse, the street, at its darkest -, and even at its beautiful moments, in and through its different spatial formation of domesticity, work and infrastructure. In short the question has been: What kind of human and spatial logic of the multitude makes this world of the Zabaleen society a success? What can we learn from them, and how can we help to improve their situation by creating and mobilizing new public infrastructures (parks, schools, social and spatial networks, etc.) through the studio with the students?

We did not primarily document its failure. What did interest us (at most) is how the multitude at Zabaleen – through its hybrid logic of contradictions, gaps, holes, voids, limits, shadows, dirt, garbage, margins, openings, routes full of movement and interstitial spaces (including the interaction between digital (virtual) and real life) could give the architect a beginning to generate (parasitical) emancipatory interventions within the self-organizing rhizomatic fabric of Zabaleen society itself.

The above mentioned fieldwork of text-images in Egypt (the city of "garbage", Zabbaleen, Cairo), photographing the current conditions of globalization, is undertaking parallel to an introductionary article on The Society of the And, funded by the Swedish Research Council Formas, Architecture in Effect.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
to be decided , 2012. , 10 p.
Keyword [en]
egypt, zabbaleen, garbage city, Society of the and, city, architecture
National Category
Research subject
Aesthetics; design; Sociology
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-108562OAI: diva2:853593
Architecture in Effect
Available from: 2015-09-14 Created: 2015-09-14 Last updated: 2015-09-14

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