Age of Concrete is a history of the making of houses and homes in the subúrbios of Maputo (Lourenço Marques), Mozambique, from the late 1940s to the present. Often dismissed as undifferentiated, ahistorical “slums,” these neighborhoods are in fact an open-air archive that reveals some of people’s highest aspirations. At first people built in reeds. Then they built in wood and zinc panels. And finally, even when it was illegal, they risked building in concrete block, making permanent homes in a place where their presence was often excruciatingly precarious.
Unlike many histories of the built environment in African cities, Age of Concrete focuses on ordinary homebuilders and dwellers. David Morton thus models a different way of thinking about urban politics during the era of decolonization, when one of the central dramas was the construction of the urban stage itself. It shaped how people related not only to each other but also to the colonial state and later to the independent state as it stumbled into being.
Original, deeply researched, and beautifully composed, this book speaks in innovative ways to scholarship on urban history, colonialism and decolonization, and the postcolonial state. Replete with rare photographs and other materials from private collections, Age of Concrete establishes Morton as one of a handful of scholars breaking new ground on how we understand Africa’s cities.
From the late 1940s to the early 1960s, Puerto Rico was swept by a wave of modernization, transforming the island from a predominantly rural society to an unquestionably urban one. A curious paradox ensued, however. While the island underwent rapid urbanization, and the rhetoric of economic development reigned over official discourses, the newly installed insular government, along with some academic circles and radio and television media, constructed, promoted, and sponsored a narrative of Puerto Rican culture based on rural subjects, practices, and spaces.
By examining a wide range of cultural texts, but focusing on the film production of the Division of Community Education, the popular dance music of Cortijo y su combo, and the literary texts of Jose Luis Gonzalez and Rene Marques, Concrete and Countryside offers an in-depth analysis of how Puerto Ricans responded to this transformative period. It also shows how the arts used a battery of images of the urban and the rural to understand, negotiate, and critique the innumerable changes taking place on the island.
Concrete has been used in arches, vaults, and domes dating as far back as the Roman Empire. Today, it is everywhere—in our roads, bridges, sidewalks, walls, and architecture. For each person on the planet, nearly three tons of concrete are produced every year. Used almost universally in modern construction, concrete has become a polarizing material that provokes intense loathing in some and fervent passion in others.
Focusing on concrete’s effects on culture rather than its technical properties, Concrete and Culture examines the ways concrete has changed our understanding of nature, of time, and even of material. Adrian Forty concentrates not only on architects’ responses to concrete, but also takes into account the role concrete has played in politics, literature, cinema, labor-relations, and arguments about sustainability. Covering Europe, North and South America, and the Far East, Forty examines the degree that concrete has been responsible for modernist uniformity and the debates engendered by it. The first book to reflect on the global consequences of concrete, Concrete and Culture offers a new way to look at our environment over the past century.
An Epistemology of the Concrete brings together case studies and theoretical reflections on the history and epistemology of the life sciences by Hans-Jörg Rheinberger, one of the world’s foremost philosophers of science. In these essays, he examines the history of experiments, concepts, model organisms, instruments, and the gamut of epistemological, institutional, political, and social factors that determine the actual course of the development of knowledge. Building on ideas from his influential book Toward a History of Epistemic Things, Rheinberger first considers ways of historicizing scientific knowledge, and then explores different configurations of genetic experimentation in the first half of the twentieth century and the interaction between apparatuses, experiments, and concept formation in molecular biology in the second half of the twentieth century. He delves into fundamental epistemological issues bearing on the relationship between instruments and objects of knowledge, laboratory preparations as a special class of epistemic objects, and the note-taking and write-up techniques used in research labs. He takes up topics ranging from the French “historical epistemologists” Gaston Bachelard and Georges Canguilhem to the liquid scintillation counter, a radioactivity measuring device that became a crucial tool for molecular biology and biomedicine in the 1960s and 1970s. Throughout An Epistemology of the Concrete, Rheinberger shows how assemblages—historical conjunctures—set the conditions for the emergence of epistemic novelty, and he conveys the fascination of scientific things: those organisms, spaces, apparatuses, and techniques that are transformed by research and that transform research in turn.
For years, renowned activist and scholar Ilana Hammerman has given the world remarkable translations of Kafka. With A Small Door Set in Concrete, she turns to the actual surreal existence that is life in the West Bank after decades of occupation.
After losing her husband and her sister, Hammerman set out to travel to the end of the world. She began her trip with the hope that it would reveal the right path to take in life. But she soon realized that finding answers was less important than experiencing the freedom to move from place to place without restriction. Hammerman returned to the West Bank with a renewed joie de vivre and a resolution: she would become a regular visitor to the men, women, and children who were on the other side of the wall, unable to move or act freely. She would listen to their dreams and fight to bring some justice into their lives.
A Small Door Set in Concrete is a moving picture of lives filled with destruction and frustration but also infusions of joy. Whether joining Palestinian laborers lining up behind checkpoints hours before the crack of dawn in the hope of crossing into Israel for a day’s work, accompanying a family to military court for their loved one’s hearing, or smuggling Palestinian children across borders for a day at the beach, Hammerman fearlessly ventures into territories where few Israelis dare set foot and challenges her readers not to avert their eyes in the face of injustice.
Hammerman neither preaches nor politicks. Instead, she engages in a much more personal, everyday kind of activism. Hammerman is adept at revealing the absurdities of a land where people are stripped of their humanity. And she is equally skilled at illuminating the humanity of those caught in this political web. To those who have become simply statistics or targets to those in Israel and around the world, she gives names, faces, dreams, desires.
This is not a book that allows us to sit passively. It is a slap in the face, a necessary splash of cold water that will reawaken the humanity inside all of us.