Author: Ian M. Cook

Urban anthropologist. Budapest, Mangalore, Glossop

ResonanceCast from Allegra Lab

ResonanceCast is a new multimodal series from Allegra Lab that seeks to tease out timely shared concerns. After their articles have been published on Allegra Lab, we invite two authors to come together to discuss each other’s texts and the wider-ranging issues both speak to. Their conversation is moderated by someone from the Allegra Lab editorial collective, more often than not me!


The Multiple Displacements of Mangalore Special Economic Zone

This paper analyses three different types of displacement – social, cultural and economic – in the lives of three women and their families which have been affected by the creation of the Mangalore special economic zone. Conceptualising the displacements in rhythmic terms, it first details the subversion of progressive land reforms and the reassertion of caste-based oppression, followed by the clash between the dharma of the spirits of the land and the neo-liberal dharma of capitalistic development. Finally, it looks at life in a resettlement colony where families that have been uprooted from the agricultural production cycle are closed off from the urban life they are expected to adopt.

I wrote it together with the wonderful Vidya Dinker and Ramachandra Bhatta for Economic and Political Weekly

You can download it here: Cook et al_2013_The Multiple Displacements of Mangalore Special Economic Zone

And from here


A farmer points to his once arable land taken by a special economic zone
Street Sweeper

… And the Street Goes on

Népszínház utca is a street that begs to be the subject of study. Its name, People’s Theatre Street, produces expectations that are fully met. Its surroundings are a mix of shops, pubs, hotels, homeless shelters, churches, trams, a building site and a market; it is a heavily utilized public space with a character, color and attitude that animates the area. It cuts right through Budapest’s VIII district, Józsefváros, a part of town that is as notorious as it is diverse.

Read more of this article I wrote for dérive N° 54 (Jän – Mär / 2014)  by clicking Cook_2014_And the Street Goes On


… And the Street Goes on Cook_2014_And the Street Goes On

… And the Street Goes on Cook_2014_And the Street Goes On

… And the Street Goes on Cook_2014_And the Street Goes On

… And the Street Goes on Cook_2014_And the Street Goes On

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… And the Street Goes on Cook_2014_And the Street Goes On

… And the Street Goes on Cook_2014_And the Street Goes On

… And the Street Goes on Cook_2014_And the Street Goes On

… And the Street Goes on Cook_2014_And the Street Goes On

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… And the Street Goes on Cook_2014_And the Street Goes On


Slow. the. fuck. down.

Do you remember what an ordinary day in your life looked like last autumn? Back when Corona was just a below average beer and social distancing described what happened to your attention when an academic at a party started talking about their favourite theorist?

Depending on where you lived, it was probably relatively smooth. Of course, there were many things which probably did not work as well as you would’ve liked them to. Personally, I struggled between many uncertainties: my university leaving the country I live in, the program I direct being de facto suspended for a second time for political reasons, ongoing Brexit unknowns, and the cruel promise that Liverpool might finally win the league this year. All this in Hungary, a state in which services are crumbling and bureaucracy was invented to make people cry. And yet, certainly compared to those of you who have lived or are living through state collapse, things sort of worked.

Read more of this angry article at Allegra Lab

Red Sludge on the Blue Danube

In Almásfüzitő, a small factory settlement on the banks of the Danube, hazardous waste is being used to create a topsoil to cover solidified red sludge – residue from a long-closed alumina factory. Stored in large waste reservoirs, the largest of which is just a few hundred metres from locals’ homes, this residue from bauxite processing is separated from the Danube only by a permeable mud wall.

However, neither the state nor locals are up in arms. The company that manages the site, Tatai Environmental Protection Ltd. (TKV), has a valid permit and, for the most part, locals are annoyed at the attention the red mud reservoir attracts from environmentalists and media alike. Maybe, then, the standard way outsiders have looked at Almásfüzitő is wrong. What would it mean to see the settlement in a more positive light?

How about this?

Nestled on the banks of the Danube surrounded by lush vegetation, Almásfüzitő is home to state-of-the-art sports facilities, a kindergarten and primary school that are the envy of the region, a freshly renovated replica Roman camp, and a boat club. It has pretty much full employment, connections by road and train to nearby cities and Budapest, it boasts a well-maintained central square and now has a conscientious mayor who is developing the local infrastructure and has ambitious plans for the future.

Unlike many other post-industrial settlements that have failed to find their place in the last decades, Almásfüzitő is doing fine. Why then, should the settlement be defined by red mud and toxic waste?


To read more of this co-authored article with investigative journalist Gabi Horn, read here


How podcasting can help us rethink higher education

Podcasts can improve access to research and offer an innovative way to assess student learning, who so said I in an article  I wrote for Times Higher Education

Podcasting in academia has the potential to be radically open.

Open because it enables those unable to attend classes the chance to sample higher education remotely, because ideas explored in conversation are often expressed in more accessible language than in articles or books and because it allows students to expand their learning, giving a public voice to the type of questions that those immersed in academia might fail to ask.

And yet podcasting in academia is, for the most part, terrible…. read more here

Red Mud, a Divided Settlement and the Toxic Waste Poisoning Hungary

Environmentalists, and the EU, have long voiced concern over a toxic waste site on the banks of the Danube in northern Hungary. So why do most locals living nearby quietly tolerate it?

Together with investigative journalist Gabi Horn, I wrote an article trying to answer this question. Available here.


Urban Arena – a podcast about sustainable and just cities

Cities can play a crucial role in creating just and sustainable futures. Urban Arena is a series of critical conversations with activists, entrepreneurs, intellectuals and policy-makers in different European cities who are working, in complimentary and conflicting ways, to create cities that respond to the twin challenges of justice and sustainability. This podcast is part of three year project: UrbanA  – urban arenas for sustainable and just cities. It was made by me (Ian M. Cook) and the indefatigable Kate McGinn.

You can find the podcasts here and here and in the usual places like apple and spotify (see below).


Budapest Soundwalks

Budapest Soundwalks: field recordings and sound art from the community of the Central European University.

The featured work was produced as part of an MA course in Sound Studies, led by me (Ian M. Cook), or as part of a workshop co-taught by Lucia Udvardyova and Judit Emese Konopas. Featuring ‘Mindnyájan Hazugok Vagyunk’ by Chris Couch, ‘Bells’ by Hla Aye, the ‘Soundwalks Budapest’ concert featuring Polina Baitsym, Chris Couch, Bence Kollányi, Erika Lakatos and Anna Zilahi and ‘Difference’ by Polina Baitsym.

It was published by the unfailingly brilliant Resonance FM


The Life and Times of Red Mud Reservoir № VII

‘The Life and Times of Red Mud Reservoir № VII’ is a collaboration between an anthropologist (me, Ian M. Cook) and a graphic artist/illustrator (Gyula Németh) about a bauxite tailings storage facility in the settlement of Almásfüzitő, Hungary. The non-public figures who appear in the following pages are composite characters based on interviews in the settlement. They are not intended to represent real people. The story is narrated by the reservoir itself and covers the historical, political, theoretical, cultural and social aspects of Red Mud Reservoir № VII and those who live in its vicinity.

It was published here in English and here in Hungarian. You can get the full screen versions here  and here.