Black Camera republished essay on African Cinema


The Theoretical Construction of African Cinema, Black Camera 12, no. 2, Spring 2021. 

In his investigations into the possibility of an African philosophy, V. Y. Mudimbe interrogates the various intellectual movements that have influenced the development of Africanist discourse: Negritude, Sartrean existentialism, missionary writings, ethnophilosophy, anthropological structuralism, and Fanonian neo-Marxist nationalism. A thorough study along the lines which I am proposing for the investigation of ideological currents in African cinema and criticism should, ideally, address all of these influences. For now I intend to make a few generalizations in reviewing some of the recent critical works on African cinema, the publication of which has highlighted the need for a systematic study of the theoretical foundations of the discourse on African cinema.

The contentious operative question underlying Mudimbe's work concerns how African philosophy might be positioned so as to avoid being a priori confined by the Western discourses that were initially introduced into African culture through colonialism, and which originally defined philosophy as a field of knowledge and a disciplinary practice as such. It may be useful to recall how Hegel presented the problem in relation to the African tradition in his Philosophy of History:

The peculiarly African character is difficult to comprehend, for the very reason that in reference to it, we must quite give up the principle which naturally accompanies all our ideas the category of Universality. 

On the basis of this logic, and by force of the institutions generated in its tradition, it became impossible to conceptualize such a thing as African history except as a sub-category of that of Europe; African thought, insofar as it was acknowledged at all, would necessarily be articulated in terms that extended out of the Enlightenment.

It would be hard to avoid the implication that any African discourse making philosophical claims would have to be inherently a hybrid intellectual product, its very effort to link itself to the philosophical tradition having as a precondition some reconciliation with Western culture. Thus, unsurprisingly, given the political relationship that has obtained between Africa and the West, the question of what "African philosophy" might consist of has been characterized by a struggle to distill the pure, authentic, original, traditional, or indigenous characteristics from what have generally been considered perverse external influences. Mudimbe's historicizations lead us to suspect that, articulated in this form, such an activity may not be very useful, and that the concept of authenticity may itself be implicated in formulations of intellectual originality, cultural appropriation, and mimesis that elide the very historical and cultural specificity which it is supposed to animate:

 The fact of the matter is that, up to now, Western interpreters as well as African analysts have been using categories and conceptual systems dependent on a Western epistemological order, and even in the most explicit "Afrocentric" descriptions, models of analysis, explicitly or implicitly, knowingly or unknowingly, refer to the same order. Does this mean that African Weltanschauungen and African traditional systems of thought are unthinkable and cannot be made explicit within the framework of their own rationality?

The Libertarian/ Right-Wing Attack on Professional Licensing for Landscape Architecture Magazine

Licensure on the Line: After years of political attacks, the design professions are uniting to protect against threats to professional licensure, Landscape Architecture Magazine, Sep. 2021. 

“Once we show them what we do, they usually back off,” Rob McGinnis says. “We believe that our defense of our licensure in Virginia is important not just to our licensure but to the entire licensure status of all landscape architects, because once you pull that one licensure out, it will be identified by another state—particularly nearby abutting states—as an example.”

Led by right-of-center advocacy organizations and often funded by private interests, state legislatures have increasingly been writing bills to restrict licensing requirements for professions and occupations. With legislative titles such as the “Right to Earn a Living Act” and “Consumer Choice Act,” the laws are put forward under the premise that professional licensing imposes an unfair barrier to entry into certain types of work, infringes on individual freedom, and increases the costs of services to the consumer.

Lawmakers have included landscape architecture in “right-to-work” bills reflexively, without clearly understanding the nature of the practice or its difference from other kinds of landscape work. Conservative and libertarian lobbying groups such as the Institute for Justice, the Goldwater Institute, and Americans for Prosperity—the latter funded by the libertarian Koch brothers, heirs to the commodities-production-and-trading conglomerate Koch Industries—began pushing these laws around 2016; by now, nearly every state has voted on some version of a law rolling back or limiting licensing requirements.

On Architectural Licensing for Oculus


IPAL: A More Equitable Journey to Licensing, Oculus, Summer 2021. 

“Design is great when it’s designed for you,” Pascale Sablan says. “A lot of construction, design, architecture, buildings are rarely designed for and with the local community or reflective of that local community. It becomes a signifier that longtime residents may no longer be able to afford to stay, and new neighbors who perceive cultural rituals as a nuisance, which sometimes escalate into a conflict that the police are called to mitigate.”

It’s not that young people are not exposed to architecture, according to Sablan. It’s that architecture is the problem. “Perceiving the design profession in a negative light is not a misconception but an accurate depiction of the relationship we've cultivated with our profession and those who are socio-economically disadvantaged more often communities of color.”

Exhibit Columbus for Architectural Record


Exhibit Columbus Opened This Week in Indiana, Architectural Record, Aug. 27, 2021.

As a small, ostensibly well-governed city in the middle of the United States, the project’s curators and directors argue, Columbus has a role to play to adapt to large-scale planetary crisis by initiating “small acts of future-making.” With half of the globe seemingly on fire, flooding, or experiencing famine and civil conflict due to the climate emergency, it’s crucial to mediate between the hyper-local interests of places like Columbus and the needs of all.

In small ways, through its ongoing willingness to indulge visitors in sincere, self-critical discussions about colonialism, its community of care for each other, and investment in public places, Columbus could be a model. Of course, we also want there to be well-governed national and global

World-Making in L'Architecture d'Aujourd'hui

World-Making: The reactionary, backward-looking narrowing of possibilities in America during the last four years–amplified beyond reason by the pandemic–clarified an urgency to rethink another planetary future. And it is being nourished largely by architects and designers living and working in the US who originate from everywhere else around the globe, L'Architecture d'Aujourd'hui, July 2021.

"Like the friends in Boccaccio's Decameron who go off into the countryside to imagine another life as the Black Plague ravages 14th-century Florence, a certain number of architects in the United States greeted the waning of the 2016-2020 American White Nationalist fervor and the quarantines of 2020 with renewed vigor for imagining another world. Formulated in some cases as a process of world-making and in others as speculative story-telling and the narration of science-fiction futures, this movement in its broadest incarnation seeks nothing less than the reorganization of political and economic systems at a planetary scale."

Working-Class House Conversion in Spain for Dwell

A 1960s Time Capsule in Spain Gets the Bachelor Pad Treatment
, Dwell, June 25, 2021.

In the 1960s, the city of Zaragoza nearly doubled its housing stock to accommodate an expanding industrial work force. In the La Jota neighborhood specifically, single-family homes were built cheaply and quickly. When Alonso Zgz purchased one with the intention of renovating, its only adornments were a terra-cotta roof and simple curling brackets beneath the cornice.

But its characteristic simplicity is what attracted Alonso, a bachelor working in the pharmaceutical industry. When looking for a new home, he sought privacy, and something timeworn, but also an opportunity to demonstrate modern style within the shell of an old building. "For me, buildings and cities are elements that are alive," Alonso says. "It was important that the house had that patina, those traces from the past."

Barcelona Flat Adds Geometric Color for Dwell

Inside Residence 0110, a brass-clad structural wall adds a pop of color to the open living area, which is lined on one side with black-stained oak and stainless-steel cabinets, walls, and doors. Throughout the 1,023-square-foot apartment, colorful and geometric details are echoed in accent walls and custom shelves.

A Weekend House in the French Riviera for Dwell

An Architect’s Weekend Home Along the French Riviera Borrows Stones From Ancient Ruins
, Dwell, May 11, 2021.

In spite of much of the world grinding to a halt during the pandemic, work didn’t slow down for Jeremy Biermann, founder of bear architectes. Transitioning away from his offices in the Principality of Monaco, he continued his practice out of his family’s weekend home a few miles away in La Turbie, a commune that overlooks the French Riviera. Like much of the village, the stone walls of Biermann’s home come from the ruins of a circa-6 B.C. Roman monument, the Trophy of Augustus, which was erected to commemorate the emperor’s conquest of local tribes. 

Maggie's Centre's in L'Architecture d'Aujourd'hui

Maggie's Centres in the UK since 1996, L'Architecture d'Aujourd'hui 441, February 2021. 

Metaphors of visuality and visual perception tend to dominate the language of architecture. But in Maggie’s Centres, bringing the body into contact with sense experience and orchestrating interpersonal relationships through the interplay of architecture and landscape is at the core of individual and social well-being.


Beyond a Broken System on Justice Reform in New York City

Beyond a Broken System: The closure of Rikers Island created an opportunity to rethink New York City’s prisons. But critics of the U.S. carceral system discourage architects from participating in a justice system defined by disparity, Oculus, Winter, 2021


When any administrative body opts to deprive an individual of liberty based on the belief that it serves the greater social good, an extraordinary amount of modesty and restraint are warranted. We are told that the U.S. justice system allows defendants due process, equal justice under the law, and presumption of innocence until proven guilty. In practice, we know that many people get caught in “the system” for radically arbitrary reasons, corrupted by unjust and unequal processes. The mechanistic grinding of the system subjects millions to incarceration or supervision. Deep-seated legacies of discrimination go unaddressed. Countless are sentenced for crimes they didn’t commit, or are detained for extended periods because of slow trials and lack of cash for court fees, bail, and attorneys. 


In June 2016, the city council reforms passed the Criminal Justice Reform Act, replacing criminal charges with civil penalties for many low-level, nonviolent offenses, such as open containers of alcohol, public urination, littering, and jumping subway turnstiles. Ninety percent of criminal court summons-es were eliminated in the following year. Diversion programs to assessment and community service offered alternatives to incarceration for young people and those with mental health and other issues. The city worked to clear hundreds of thou-sands of outstanding warrants for minor criminal offenses, more than 800,000 of them issued more than 10 years earlier and only 3% of them for felonies, the rest for administrative code violations, infractions, and misdemeanors. These types of judicial and procedural reforms have reduced New York City’s jail population by more than half since Mayor Bill de Blasio took office, from 10,912 in 2014 to below 4,000 as of April 2020. 


If the de Blasio Administration achieves only one significant victory during its tenure—for all its shortcomings and inattention to detail—the program to reform the justice system would be a change worthy of great acclaim. Certain members of the public worry that the jails may become too good. If jails were too comfortable, wouldn’t more people want to go there? The complaint reveals how much farther we have to go in planning the non-carceral world.