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All that is solid? Movement, repurposed lives and a cardboard citizenry

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This article situates cardboard as a material lens through which to trace, and make visible, the flows of capital within a Trans-Pacific circuitry of trade, and to point to the political potentials enabled by the reuse and re-imagining of cardboard by groups of people who have been made invisible within the prevailing regime of labour. I argue that tracing the circulation of cardboard through the Bay Area – with a stop in Hong Kong – can become a laboratory for thinking through how the re-visibilization of capital and material flows can change the way that we think about the political and how the political is constructed or remade. To take this argument further, I posit that we may use this knowledge and project it into the production of a new symbolic and political space, in which cardboard acts as a potentially unifying material of protest for a new global corpus – a cardboard citizenry. Can a ‘cardboard citizenry’ act as a stateless, dynamic body of protest that oozes out from the circuitry of Trans-Pacific trade to create a new global citizenry, one that is able to make any space inhabitable and subsequently privileges creativity over market efficiency, the informal over the formal, the ephemeral over the permanent?
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Keywords: Hong Kong; San Francisco Bay Area; cardboard; creative reuse; flexible citizenship; new materialism; public space

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of California, Berkeley

Publication date: September 1, 2018

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  • Cities have been increasingly at the forefront of debate in both humanities and social-science disciplines, but there has been relatively little dialogue across these disciplinary boundaries. Journals in social-science fields that use urban-studies methods to look at life in cities rarely explore the cultural aspects of urban life in any depth or delve into close readings of the representation of cities in individual cultural products. As a platform for interdisciplinary scholarship from any and all linguistic, cultural and geographical traditions, the Journal of Urban Cultural Studies prioritizes the urban phenomenon in order to better understand the culture(s) of cities.
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