Charlotte Fagin & Dan Trudeau, Empowerment by Design? Women’s Use of New Urbanist Neighborhoods in Suburbia

A feminist critique of New Urbanism. 

This paper investigates the potential of new urbanism (NU) to serve as a new neighborhood strategy for women. Survey and interview research examines the ways women in suburban NU neighborhoods of Minneapolis–St. Paul interact with the built environment to effect divisions of household labor and social isolation. The analysis shows that women use pedestrian-accessible mixed-use centers and neo-traditional design features (e.g., porches) to lessen the burden of domestic labor and foster social interaction. Despite these affordances, the paper argues that NU neighborhoods do not ultimately serve as resources in breaking patterns of social segregation or women’s isolation in suburbia.


"What does a city for women look like?"

"If the city, as urban sociologist Robert Park suggests, is ‘man’s most consistent and the whole, his most successful attempt to remake the world he lives in more after his heart’s desire,’ it therefore an fair argument to say that cities are not made for women. If anything, the city, from its many rebirths and reinventions, is an expression of power and domination that is familiarly masculine in its quotidian manifestation."


CFP: The (Digital) Lives of Cities

CFP: The (Digital) Lives of Cities

Midwest Modern Language Association 2014: The Lives of Cities
November 13-16, 2014 | Detroit, MI

In Programmed Visions, Wendy Chun suggests that “the call to map may be the most obscuring of all: by constantly drawing connections between data points, we sometimes forget that the map should be the beginning, rather than the end, of the analysis” (177). With this year’s MMLA conference theme of “The Lives of Cities,” the second annual permanent section of digital humanities will explore criticisms of, experiments with, and provocations on mapping, geographic visualization, or other conceptions of urban space that work with or against the digital. Possible topics/projects include:

  • historical approaches to mapping and visualization

  • absence, silence, and (in)visibility in maps

  • mapping difference—class, race, gender, and accessibility

  • critical visual literacies

  • remediations and reconceptualizations of space

  • mobile technologies and city life (e.g. augmented reality, geotagging, location-based social media platforms)

  • political and disciplinary dimensions of mapping technologies

  • pedagogical purposes of community/city mapping projects

  • endangered and indigenous languages

Please send 250-word abstracts by May 31st to both Josh Honn (joshhonn at gmail) and Rachael Sullivan (sullivanrachael at gmail).

Co-chairs: Josh Honn (Northwestern University) and Rachael Sullivan (University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee)

"the mass practice of violence against women as a form of control of their work"

"The violence exercised against women outside the home, on the street, in public places, in all those places that could represent for them a social life, is also directly functional to controlling the rhythms of housework and to the space within which women are constrained to their workday.  Because it contributes towards keeping them confined to the workplace and to maintaining their expanded work hours in such a way that these continue through the day, including the evening and night, violence keeps them far away from every form of social life ….

For a woman to need to remain at home because the city is dangerous, off limits, is directly work because the home is precisely her workplace.  The time she spends at home is not, as it is for the man, “free time,” but rather entirely work time.  Even to be in front of the television for a woman is not like being at the movies, since if the doorbell rings she must answer it, if the children are sick she’s the one who keeps an eye on the TV and another on how the sick child is doing.  And this is fundamentally because it is she, and her physical presence in the home, that contributes towards emotionally and psychologically reproducing the other components of the family.  Her own presence is work. “

— Giovanna Franca Dalla Costa, from “The State and Male Physical Violence Against Women,” The Work of Love, 1979



"In the 19th century, feminists made plans for kitchenless houses.  This was so women would not have to work for free. By ripping the kitchen out of the home these feminists made, through blue prints, a dream of an oikos with a hole in it.  It was a dream of a reproductive labor strike built into the dream of a home. Consider these contemporary equivalents to the kitchenless house: What is the architecture for “sex strike”? What cities could be built in such a manner that we will never be told to “smile” again?  If there is now this global mega-oikos, what would be the equivalent of the mega-oikos with the kitchen ripped out? As Eric Hobsbawm wrote, “Suppose, then, we construct the ideal city for riot and insurrection…” I wonder “Suppose, then, we construct the ideal oikos for the same.”

If we might imagine a household built for riot, we could, like those 19th century feminists, construct this ideal household through the stubborn ripping out of the heart of the mega-oikos. Like a city with a sinkhole in it, we could make this insurrectionary oikos. Here the household would be looted of what we need (care, love, sustenance) and what is not needed (sexual and familial violence, enslavement, racialized and gendered divisions of labor) is left for the flames. An oikos-built-for-riot and the riot-of-the-oikos in any shape would force what appears to be the polis—the often violently enforced boundary of the oikos—into a significantly different shape, too.  The polis itself, so transformed by the transformation of the oikos, would take on its own unique shape: perhaps half daycare center, half insurrectionary terrain.” — the full response 


Anne Boyer: “God made of women an indoor body, Ischomachus tells his wife, and made of men an outdoor one.  And this scheme—what becomes, in future iterations, public and private, of production and reproduction, of waged work and unpaid servitude—is the order agreed upon in this dialogue to attend to the risk posed by those who make the oikos.  Like the queen-bee, Ischomachus tells his wife, she too, will have to stay inside.” 

about architecture against women, contracts, care as paracontractual infrastructure, the foundational work of economics as a lecture on lecturing to women, and more at the CUNY digital labor working group discussion of Angela Mitropoulos’ Contract & Contagion