Spatial Genres of Revitalization: Desiring-machines and the Production of Public Subjects

Larry Morgan, University of Texas at El Paso


This project, Spatial Genres of Revitalization: Desiring-Machines and the Production of Public Subjects, is guided by the need to understand how the recent changes in El Paso’s gentrifying downtown are impacting the development of public subjectivities. This thesis is concerned with how the formation of public subjectivities is occasioned by changes in a city undergoing “revitalization” in terms of how people move through urban space. At the same time it is also concerned with how the people moving these spaces imagine and configure it to different ends which surpass the intention and violence of gentrification. To this end, Spatial Genres of Revitalization, grounds itself in Dylan Dryer’s work on genres as enacting “Geographies of the Possible” works in the consideration of spatial genres like parks, plazas, and streets. It then borrows from Deborah Brandt and Katie Clinton’s work on “literacy-in-action” to articulate revitalization as an historically rooted literacy with agential status in its own right. In addition to this, it adds Jenny Edbauer’s work on “rhetorical ecologies” to show how meanings of space and genres are unsettled and shifting in a wider network of encounters. The aim here is to understand how subjectivities, collective and individual, are produced at the point of movement as we weave through space. Drawing from the work of Deleuze and Guattari and scholars like Arun Saldanha, this thesis draws out an ontology which explains how space is constituted through movement and how that movement creates horizons of possibility and identity based in the movements of desire and assemblage. In order to arrive at how that is working for individual people, it articulates a methodology combining arts based research, walking interviews, and situational analysis which show how each participant is being positioned by, and positioning themselves in, the flux of movement. Finally, this thesis argues that the changes wrought in El Paso’s recent revitalization are enjoining a “molecular public,” a kind of public subjectivity based in the atomized and individualized act of consumption. The desired public is one which can only find a sense of collective belonging through distributed acts of private consumption in gentrified space. At the same time, this thesis argues that the dictums of gentrification are constantly unsettled and rendered contingent as the peoples who move through its spaces graft in their own rhetorical ecologies and bring along new possibilities for collective becomings.

Subject Area


Recommended Citation

Morgan, Larry, "Spatial Genres of Revitalization: Desiring-machines and the Production of Public Subjects" (2018). ETD Collection for University of Texas, El Paso. AAI10931902.