Two articles read today:

Leslie Kern on the gentrification of an area of Toronto known as ‘The Junction‘:

“While some bodies become the carriers of health and environmental cleanliness, other bodies and embodied practices become conflated with pollution and toxicity through a slippage among environmental, social, and moral conceptions of pollution.”

“In this narrative, sex workers, drug dealers, and pornographers take over from deindustrialization as the cause of the neighbourhood’s ‘withering’ and wholesome consumption practices become its saviour. Gentrification is cast not as a turf war between working-class residents and middle-class newcomers, but as a war between sex workers and vegan restaurants.”

“People like to wax nostalgic about the “crack-whores” that once provided local colour and grit, but sex workers have been largely driven to more marginal locations. In this case, the Junction’s dirty past – industrial and sexual – is displaced onto and contained within bodies that have been driven off the streets by raw food and gluten-free treats.”

“At the same time as the neighbourhood is awash in wholesome organic food, the women here subsist on nutritionally deficient processed items. Their unmet basic needs speak to the incomplete, uneven, and unequal health makeover of the Junction. Through the paradoxical interplay of hypervisibility and invisibility, the bodies of the women who reside in the shelter are highlighted in ways that position them as ready ‘others.’”

“Even though the Junction’s eco-friendly transformation has clearly been market-based, it is important to note that non-capitalist spaces and different kinds of embodied social and consumption practices can be promoted under the eco-friendly rubric. For example, gifting, trading and bartering are popular forms of exchange; people are growing their own foods and transforming the socio-natural ecology of the neighbourhood; and practices such as yoga – despite all of its rampant commercialization – offer new ways of thinking about and materializing the relationship between the body, the city, nature and other human and non-human beings. Thus, as David Harvey asserts, the body may very well serve as a site for capital accumulation strategies, but it is also a powerful locale to look to for resistance.”

And what did David Harvey assert, exactly? The article referenced above is:

The body as an accumulation strategy

“As a ‘desiring machine’ capable of creating order not only within itself but also in its environs, the human body is active and transformative in relation to the processes that produce, sustain, and dissolve it.”

“The gap between what the laborer as person might desire and what is demanded of the commodity labor power extracted from his or her body is the nexus of alienation.”

“Capital continuously strives to shape bodies to its own requirements, while at the same time internalizing within its modus operandi effects of shifting and endlessly open bodily desires, wants, needs, and social relations (sometimes overtly expressed as collective class, community, or identity-based struggles) on the part of the laborer. This process frames many facets of social life, such as ‘choices’ about sexuality and biological reproduction or of culture and ways of life even as those ‘choices’ (if such they really are) get more generally framed by the social order and its predominant legal, social, and political codes, and disciplinary practices.”

Quoting Lowe, Harvey continues:

“Lifestyle is the social relations of consumption in late capitalism, as distinct from class as the social relations of production. The visual construction and presentation of self in terms of consumption relations has by now over-shadowed the class relations of production in the workplace… [Consumption] is itself dynamically developed by the design and product of changing product characteristics, the juxtaposition of image and sign in lifestyle and format, and the segmentation of consumer markets.”

And so, human bodies are seen as an “internal relation of the historically and geographically achieved processes of capital circulation”, where workers are encouraged to submit to the market in order to achieve a wider range of choices (by accumulating capital for themselves) which are reflected in bodily practices, whilst at the same time being encouraged into certain conceptions of lifestyle, consumer habits and desires, which ultimately makes compliance to the system more easy to achieve. A double bind.


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