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Summer Reading 2018

The Editorial Board is now on summer break, and will be posting new articles again starting on Tuesday, September 11. To tide you over, we are featuring a selection of papers published over the course of the 2017/2018 academic year.

These articles range widely in focus, from the politics of work in New York City parks to the politics of water in informal settlements outside of Mexico City; from the bonds between football coaches and public high-school students in Chicago to the bonds forged by refugees working as volunteers in Switzerland’s social-services sector. What they share in common, like all that Metropolitics publishes, is authors’ commitment to making original scholarly research on cities and urban politics accessible to a broad readership in a short-form, open-access format.

If you are a researcher who is spending the summer in writing mode, we encourage you to submit an article. A short-form piece in Metropolitics can help you to develop an embryonic idea or draw attention to a book or longer academic article that you have already published. In particular, we direct you to this call for papers for a special series on progressive mayors and urban social movements. The deadline for submissions to this special series has been extended to August 30, 2018. Submissions for the special series may be directed to editorial board member James DeFilippis at jdefilip [at] rutgers [dot] edu. General submissions may be directed here.

Finally, starting in September, board member Hilary Botein will be taking over from me as the journal’s editorial director. I look forward to many more years of partnership with Métropolitiques and to the continued publication of excellent original scholarship.

Have a wonderful summer!

Laura Wolf-Powers (Hunter College, City University of New York)
Editorial Director, academic years 2016/2017 and 2017/2018

- Miscounting Americans Correctly: Post-Truth as a Guide to Race and the US Census
Greg Smithsimon

Paul Schor’s book Counting Americans demonstrates that, in the hands of the US Census Bureau, the concept of race has consistently been both tenacious and malleable. In this review, Greg Smithsimon explores the census as the “hidden abattoir” of a deeply racialized American society, a renderer of categories that, while seeming clear and self-evident in daylight, are the contingent product of brutality.

- Where Does Public Land Come From? Municipalization and Privatization Debates
Oksana Mironova and Samuel Stein

This article illuminates contemporary land-use and disposition struggles in New York City by tracing the history of land’s passage between the private and public realms. The authors contend that government and community-controlled nonprofit organizations should govern the disposition of the city’s remaining public land supply, deliberately deploying this scarce resource to promote the well-being of the people and neighborhoods most at risk in a speculation-fueled real-estate environment.

- Land Insecurity in Khartoum: When Land Titles Fail to Protect Against Public Predation
Alice Franck

The unstable economic and political context in Sudan has encouraged people to invest massively in land in urban areas. In Khartoum, the land rush concerns everyone, from the elite to the working classes – and, above all, the authorities, who maintain a stranglehold over these precious assets. Title deeds are regularly disputed, suggesting that land insecurity is on the increase.

- Immigrant Men and Voluntary Work in a Swiss City
Agnès Aubry

Across Europe, refugees and immigrants find themselves in uncertain civil and legal territory; precariousness infuses every aspect of their daily existence. In this paper, Agnes Aubry elucidates the multiple meanings of immigrants’ voluntary work in a soup kitchen, demonstrating the legal, moral, and sociological connections between labor and citizenship.

- The Everyday Activism of Chicago’s Public High-School Football Coaches
Lawrence Johnson

For several generations, high-school football programs have been an important part of the social fabric in economically challenged Chicago neighborhoods. Sociologist Lawrence Johnson, himself a former player in the Chicago Public League, draws on in-depth interviews with coaches and players to conclude that policies being pursued by city officials in the name of educational choice and reform are ripping this fabric apart.

- Repositioning the state’s role through water politics in Mexico City’s informal settlements
Guillem Ramírez Chico

Throughout the Mexico City metropolitan area, the struggle for water access often defines the relationship (or lack thereof) between municipal governments and residents. Guillem Ramirez Chico delineates the distinctive local politics of water provision in three of the area’s informal settlements, asserting that poor households are frequently left vulnerable in the name of environmental conservation.

- “People of Color Are Not Props”: Black Branding and Community Resistance in Gentrifying Brooklyn
Maura McGee

When a new white-owned upscale bar-restaurant in the gentrifying Brooklyn neighborhood of Crown Heights advertised rosé wine served in 40-ounce bottles and a purported “bullet-hole-ridden” wall, the neighborhood erupted with protest. In her analysis of the “bullet-hole bar” controversy, Maura McGee probes the intersection of race, gentrification, and community in a changing commercial landscape.

- Snowbirds’ Gift Economy in the Arizona Desert
David Frati

Each year, 200,000 retired people spend the winter in and around the small town of Quartzsite, Arizona, in the Sonoran desert. Some 50,000 of them live in informal housing: campers, tents, cars and trucks, and self-constructed cabins. In the field with the most economically marginal of these “desert snowbirds,” David Frati observes the complex gift economy that structures their social lives.

- Swept Away: Public Work and the Politics of Employment in New York City’s Parks
John Krinsky and Maud Simonet

Upwards of 4,000 unionized civil-service workers once cleaned and maintained New York City’s parks. Today about 1,800 such workers share this task with volunteers, employees of nonprofit organizations on contract with the city, community-service sentencees, and former welfare recipients doing temporary parks work in hopes of obtaining permanent positions. John Krinsky and Maud Simonet trace the evolving political economy of parks work in New York, demonstrating its impact on workers. They also highlight the power of rhetoric to shape opinion leaders’ and voters’ perceptions of how city administrators should organize public work and govern public assets.

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The Editorial Board, “Summer Reading 2018”, Metropolitics, 31 July 2018. URL :

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Centre national de recherche scientifique
Journal supported by the Institut des Sciences Humaines et Sociales (Institute of Human and Social Sciences) of the French National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS)