Jane Jacobs revisited

The NY Times summarizes a symposium  on Jane Jacobs, activist and writer, whose The Death and Life of Great American Cities is considered by many to be a masterpiece (sic).
Those who are not very familiar with her thought and impact might find Julia Vitullo-Martin’s characterization helpful:

In practice, she disapproved equally of self-isolating large development, like public housing for low-income people, and luxurious towers for high-income people,” she said, adding later, “She admired a certain kind of active integration, of people of different races, incomes, educational levels. She admired the presence of work in neighborhoods. She had a romantic attachment to manufacturing work and certain small enterprises — retail, commercial — on the street. She liked everything mixed up together.”

A friend of hers, Roberta Brandes Gratz, is quoted as remarking

Jane’s ideas are not frozen in time. She never expected change not to occur. The process of change – the process of change – is what concerned her most, how it was managed and how intimately involved in shaping that change were the citizens affected by that change. Furthermore her ideas were never static. She loathed ideology and bristled at any suggestion that her ideas added up to a theory.

Most people will find her legacy mixed, since her thought has been used by different sides of the political spectrum. Her convervative stance on  some public spending, of which I have just become aware, hardly sounds something I could support.  What captivated me, however, was the characterization by historian Christopher Klemek, who is curating an exhibit on her. The use of quotation marks and personal pronouns seems garbled a bit, but I’ll give it to you as it is in the Times:

Jacobs “was sort of strange looking,” having come into prominence well into her middle age. “She’s a late bloomer in some ways,” she said. “She had a very strange voice. It was almost a whiny voice.” But she was also “hard as nails,” and “willing to go head to head in the old trenches of New York City politics,” and “managed to play this tension between insider and outsider to quite powerful effect.”

The tension between insider and outsider is one many of us could also play to powerful effect.


Cara has an excellent post on Breast Cancer Awareness Month and Domestic Violence Awareness Month, both October.  Yet somehow the breasts get all the attention.  And, as Cara points out, it’s not necessarily the right kind of attention.

When was the last time you saw awareness of prostate or testicular cancer accompanied by photos of bulging pant fronts or hot guys in their underwear? Hopefully never. How screwed up are we that we will objectify women’s body parts even when those parts are harboring a grave illness?  

She also points out that black women and older women, who are most likely to die from the disease, are not much noticed in these campaigns.  

How far gone are we that we will ignore the bulk of victims — black women and women over 50 — to create a marketable story? Do we really only care about women’s health when we get to look at thin young white women while talking about it? How do “ideal” perceptions of sexiness and womanhood permeate even this?

Really useful and interesting reflections on  what is reported, which fit nicely into discussions of how knowledge is created.   

CFP: Gender, Inequality, and Social Justice

The 25th Annual International
Social Philosophy Conference
Sponsored by the
North American Society for Social Philosophy
July 17-19, 2008
at the University of Portland (Oregon)

Special attention will be devoted to the theme
Gender, Inequality, and Social Justice

but proposals in all areas of social philosophy are welcome

The Program Committee will be chaired by:
Professor Jordy Rocheleau
of Austin Peay State University and
Professor Richard Buck
of Mount Saint Mary’s University

A 300-500 word abstract should be sent to the program chairs.
Individuals who wish to be considered for the award for best graduate
student paper should submit their entire paper and abstract. Electronic
Submissions welcomed and encouraged.

Jordy Rocheleau
Department of Philosophy
Austin Peay State University
Box 4486
Clarksville, TN 37044
tel. 931-221-7925

Richard Buck
Department of Philosophy
Mount Saint Mary’s University
16300 Old Emmitsburg Rd
Emmitsburg, MD 21727
tel. 301-447-5368

The deadline for submissions is March 15, 2008
or, for those living outside the
United States and Canada, January 15, 2008