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Inert Cities: Globalization, Mobility and Suspension in Visual Culture

Inert Cities: Globalization, Mobility and Suspension in Visual Culture
Stephanie Hemelryk Donald, Christoph Lindner

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We usually associate contemporary urban life with movement and speed. But what about those instances when the forms of mobility associated with globalized cities - the flow of capital, people, labor and information - freeze, or decelerate? How can we assess the value of interruption in a city? What does valuing stillness mean in regards to the forward march of globalization? When does inertia presage decay - and when does it promise immanence and rebirth? Bringing together original contributions by international specialists from the fields of architecture, photography, film, sociology and cultural analysis, this cutting-edge book considers the poetics and politics of inertia in cities ranging from Amsterdam, Berlin, Beirut and Paris, to Beijing, New York, Sydney and Tokyo. Chapters explore what happens when photography, film, mixed media works, architecture and design intervene in public spaces and urban communities to disrupt speed and growth, both intellectually and/or practically; and question the degree to which mobility is aspirational or imaginary, absolute or transient. Together, they encourage a re-assessment of what it means to be urban in an unevenly globalizing world, to live in cities built around mythologies of perpetual progress.

Table of Contents

Inertia, Suspension and Mobility in the Global City
Stephanie Hemelryk Donald and Christoph Lindner

Part 1 Stillness

On Hold: Urban Photography as Interruption
Shirley Jordan

At the Still Point of the Turning World: The Power of the Urban Portrait
Hugh Campbell

Parkour and the Still Image
Bill Marshall

Commuting and the Multiple Capacities of Stillness
David Bissell

Part 2 Deceleration

Decelerating Amsterdam: Visual Culture, Globalization and Creative Urbanism
Christoph Lindner and Miriam Meissner

Viennese Inertia: Cultural and Political Deceleration and Local Identity Construction
Heide Kunzelmann and Elisabeth Mayerhofer

Inertia and Ethical Urban Relations: The Living, the Dying and the Dead
Stephanie Hemelryk Donald

Part 3 Slow Motion

Urban Inertia and Dealing with the Disappeared in Postwar Beirut: A Perfect Day (2004) and Here Comes the Rain (2010)
Claire Launchbury

Reflexive Stasis, Scale Reversal and the Myth of Modern Cinema
Lucia Nagib

Slow Motion Pictures: Casting Inertia in Contemporary Berlin Film
Andrew J. Webber

Author Info

Stephanie Hemelryk Donald is Australian Research Council Future Fellow and Professor of Comparative Film and Cultural Studies at the University of New South Wales. Christoph Lindner is Professor of Media and Culture and Director of Amsterdam School for Cultural Analysis at the University of Amsterdam. He is a founding member of the Amsterdam Centre for Globalization Studies, the Netherlands.


Inert Cities reminds us of a city we know is there but is often overwhelmed by the frenzied transience of city life or left behind by the inexorable forwardness of urban visions. This is the city of the dead, the suspended, the forgotten, the interrupted, the absent, the blighted. This thoughtful and richly illustrated collection is edited by two of today’s foremost scholars of the visual culture of the city, Stephanie Hemelryk Donald and Christoph Lindner. It offers a novel re-visioning of the city which puts the city we think we know on pause. In this moment of stillness we encounter the politics and aesthetics of an arresting range of urban visual expression, the relevance of which cannot, and should not, be ignored.’
Jane M. Jacobs, Director, Division of Social Science, Yale NUS College

‘Against a modern world supposedly filled with increasing velocity, instantaneity and acceleration, Inert Cities explores the rich diversity and importance of stillness, slowness and deceleration in our urban spaces and art. Filled with unexpected events and ideas, this is a very timely and highly original publication.’
Iain Borden, Professor of Architecture and Urban Culture, Bartlett School of Architecture, University College London

Bibliographic Info

Imprint: I.B.Tauris
Publisher: I.B.Tauris & Co. Ltd.

ISBN: 9781780769738
Publication Date: 29 Aug 2014
Number of Pages: 224
Height: 234
Width: 156
Illustrations: 20 bw integrated

ISBN: 9781780769721
Publication Date: 29 Aug 2014
Number of Pages: 224
Height: 234
Width: 156
Illustrations: 20 bw integrated

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