Design library: Culture and the city

Doggerel is always on the lookout for good books. This installment of Design Library features selections that explore the role of art and culture in cities around the world.


From Gavin Steingo, an assistant professor of music at Princeton and author of 2016’s Kwaito’s Promise: Music and the Aesthetics of Freedom in South Africa:

Signal and Noise: Media, Infrastructure, and Urban Culture in Nigeria
By Brian Larkin

In this book, Larkin discusses media technologies and infrastructure in urban Nigeria from the colonial period through to independence and neoliberalism. He shows that many taken-for-granted ideas about media and the built environment simply don’t work when one begins from an outlook outside Euro-America. Signal and Noise presents a lucid perspective on a fundamentally different organization of urban life.

Fado Resounding: Affective Politics and Urban Life
By Lila Ellen Gray

A beautifully written book about how the city of Lisbon is imaged, felt, sounded, and longed for. Structured around the genre fado, the book focuses on how amateur musicians reflect upon, mediate, and help constitute the “soul” of Lisbon.

Johannesburg: The Elusive Metropolis
By Sarah Nuttall and Achille Mbembe (editors)

This book develops a way of thinking about African cities — and Johannesburg in particular — outside of reductive binaries like efficient/failed, official/corrupt, formal/informal. Several excellent contributions on literature, architecture, and art follow a sophisticated and tremendously helpful introduction by the editors.


From Doggerel editor Sarah Wesseler:

What We Made: Conversations on Art and Social Cooperation
By Tom Finkelpearl

Written by New York City’s current Commissioner of Cultural Affairs, What We Made explores what the jacket describes as “the activist, participatory, coauthored aesthetic experiences being created in contemporary art.” The book discusses a number of projects grounded in particular neighborhoods or cities, with Rick Lowe’s Houston Project Row Houses and Teddy Cruz’s studies of US–Mexico border communities being perhaps the most famous examples.

The Beat and the Buzz: Inside the L.A. Art World
By Richard Hertz

Hertz’s gossipy interviews with visual artists, collectors, curators, and gallerists coalesce into an entertaining history of LA’s contemporary art scene.

Intonations: A Social History of Music and Nation in Luanda, Angola, from 1945 to Recent Times
By Marissa J. Moorman

A fascinating account of the role of urban popular music in Angola’s fight to end colonial rule. (Also, the music itself is great).

The way between Belgrade and Prishtina has 28000 un-proper build objects. So, never it will be an autobahn!
By Albert Heta and Vala Osmani (editors)

Consisting primarily of chatty transcriptions of a 2006 conference held in Pristina, Kosovo, this book offers a relatively accessible dive into important debates about the relationship between art, culture, and politics.


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