Author: Ian M. Cook

Urban anthropologist. Budapest, Mangalore, Glossop

Environmental Injustices in Central and Eastern Europe

Covering complex topics such as environmental injustice calls for novel reporting approaches. If a topic needs the skills of social scientists, environmental experts and investigative journalists, why not gather those skills in a team? The results might transgress the boundaries of traditional journalism or academia, but they do justice to issues that are otherwise inadequately covered.

With this in mind, working together with Dumitrita Holdis, I c0-organised the ‘Black Waters’ project that brought together two teams of social scientists, journalists, and environmental experts from the Center for Media Data and Society at the Central European University, Balkan Insight and Átlátszó. This transnational, multidisciplinary collaborative project sought to experiment in developing new reporting methodologies while investigating two cases of environmental injustice: sturgeon poaching in the Romanian Danube Delta and toxic waste mismanagement in Almásfüzitő, Hungary.

The results of which are collected here and here and here (and below).

They include:

New Books in South Asian Studies

Between 2014 and 2018 I was one of the hosts of New Books in South Asian Studies. I interviewed 48 (forty-eight!) scholars about their new books. It was brilliant, and I only started doing it for the free books.

You can listen to all the interviews I made here but you should also check out the New Books Network, because it’s a wonderful thing in the world.


Online Gods: A Podcast about Digital Media in India and Beyond

Between August 2017 and June 2019 I co-hosted Online Gods: A Podcast about Digital Media in India and Beyond together with Sahana Udupa.

You can also listen on the project website , subscribe by RSS

…or via Apple Podcasts

… or Spotify

The episodes were republished by EPW, with earlier ones published by HAU (!) and most were done as an official podcaster collaborator of the AAA.

I wrote about my experience of making the podcast in the article Critique of podcasting as an anthropological method and together with Sahana in the article  Talking Media with ‘Online Gods’.

Mud Marine: The Rise and Fall of Mangalore Tiles

I was really happy to contribute a photo essay called Mud Marine: The Rise and Fall of Mangalore Tiles to Sharpening the Haze: Visual Essays on Imperial History and Memory edited by Giulia Carabelli, Miloš Jovanović, Annika Kirbis, Jeremy F. Walton.


In it, through the photo essay, I argue that:

A visual analysis of colonial and post-colonial buildings reveals how the lines that serve as real barriers of exclusion intersect with the in-between material and representational structures of the built form; how cultural and spatial histories can be traced through buildings as they reference both global urban forms and local urbanisms; and, more specifically, how layers of overlapping, crumbling, moss-ridden tiles speak to the overlapping, crumbling and nature-reclaiming temporal and spatial frameworks of coloniality, global capitalism, post-coloniality and indigeneity. This photo essay explores a style of roofing tile associated with a smaller city in coastal southwest India: Mangalore Tiles. Though roof tiles were produced for centuries utilising the clay found on the banks of the rivers than conjoin at the city, Mangalore Tiles rose to prominence after the production process was industrialised by the Basel Evangelical Missionary Society from 1865 onwards. Once tiles of international renown, the production process has slowed to a trickle in recent decades. Using both archival and my own photographs all taken from within a few hundred square metres around the original tile factory, I argue it is possible to see the straight lines of a ‘civilising’ empire; neoliberalism’s desire to produce global representations of sameness; land’s material, economic and poetic instability; ghostly hauntings from the past and future; insecure masculine militaristic language; and the scattered remains left by the transmogrifications of empires.


You can download the photo essay here and here: Cook_2020_Mud Marine.

The rest of the open access book is brilliant, and you can read all the chapters here: Sharpening the Haze: Visual Essays on Imperial History and Memory.



Small Cities in India

What makes a small city small? What about a small city in the global South? Why is urban studies obsessed with big cities in the global North for its theorising? What can we learn from looking at a small city in India?

In the article Sizing the city: Lack, intimacy and niche positioning in Mangaluru, India published by City: Analysis of Urban Change, Theory, Action in Volume 22, 2018 – Issue 5-6 I argue the following:

We need to retheorise urbanism from the perspective of smaller, post-colonial cities in the global South to account for both relational size on a global scale and localised city-specific contexts. Cities like Mangaluru, in south India, cannot be solely understood as mere variations within universal processes, especially when these processes are theorised through big cities in the global North. They must also be explored through detailed analyses that, whilst attuned to global processes, recognise historical and contextual particularities as key for understanding city-specific urbanisms. However, because inhabitants and state officials often frame smaller cities as mere variations—and often as inferior variations—of large ‘Western’ cities, we must interrogate how such universal, global North centred thinking informs the urbanism of such places. Taking a relational and relative understanding of smallness, the article conceptualises Mangaluru as a ‘smaller’ as opposed to just a ‘small’ city. Building on this, it is argued that smaller post-colonial cities in the global South are characterised by 1) niche positioning; 2) a feeling of relative lack; and 3) the dense intimacy of relationships. Furthermore, through an analysis of Mangaluru’s most common framings—as a port, as an education hub, and as a city of vigilante attacks—it shows how these dominant characterisations are exceeded and reworked amidst the unpredictability and flux of urban change.

Read the open access article here:

The Corona Diaries

In 2020 I was thrilled to be part of the multi-modal anthropology experiment The Corona Diaries, published by Allegra as part of the Corona thematic thread.

The diaries, published once a day, spoke to many of the same themes and topics that those writing for Allegra at the time were also concerned with. These included the pandemic-induced changing relationship to the city and its public spaces (Stallone 2020), overwork and under-appreciated invisible labour (Cook 2020), middle-class privilege during confinement (Blanco Esmoris 2020), the need to think about public good, social justice and solidarity in political terms (Billaud 2020) and how anthropologists and social scientists more generally can reimagine our research (Kiderlin, Hjalmarson, and Ruud 2020) and prudently assert our importance in public debate (Beyer 2020).

The diaries were reimagined at the end of the year in a new format, which you can experience here:

Critique of podcasting as an anthropological method

You: Can podcasts be used as a method in anthropology?

Me: Yes!

You: How? Why? To what ends? But what about (INSERT CONCERN HERE)? Oh, wow it might be able to (INSERT IDEA HERE)? Yay!

Me: Read this article for a thorough self-reflexive critique of an experiment I did as part of the For Digital Dignity project podcast Online Gods.

Also available here: Cook – 2020 – Critique of podcasting as an anthropological method

Immoral Times: Vigilantism in a South Indian City

As I write, the Indian state appears to be flexing its majoritarian muscles through the joint implementation of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the National Register of Citizens (NRC). There is an excellent and balanced summary by Aruna Natarajan on the conjunction between the two processes, and why many people are opposing them published by Citizen Matters.

For many, the anti-Muslim exclusionary tendencies found within joint process of the CAA and NRC are the latest manifestation of a longer process aimed at creating a majoritarian state – an India for Hindus first of all.

My own modest contribution to understanding this process is a chapter (pdf) in the book ‘Majoritarian State: How Hindu Nationalism is Changing India’ edited by Angana P. Chatterji, Thomas Blom Hansen and Christophe Jaffrelot (Hurst, 2019). The book

“…traces the ascendance of Hindu nationalism in contemporary India. Led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the BJP administration has established an ethno-religious and populist style of rule since 2014. Its agenda is also pursued beyond the formal branches of government, as the new dispensation portrays conventional social hierarchies as intrinsic to Indian culture while condoning communal and caste- and gender-based violence.

The contributors explore how Hindutva ideology has permeated the state apparatus and formal institutions, and how Hindutva activists exert control over civil society via vigilante groups, cultural policing and violence. Groups and regions portrayed as ‘enemies’ of the Indian state are the losers in a new order promoting the interests of the urban middle class and business elites. As this majoritarian ideology pervades the media and public discourse, it also affects the judiciary, universities and cultural institutions, increasingly captured by Hindu nationalists. Dissent and difference silenced and debate increasingly sidelined as the press is muzzled or intimidated in the courts. Internationally, the BJP government has emphasised hard power and a fast- expanding security state.”

It’s possible to read an excerpt from Thomas Blom Hansen’s wonderful essay here and an excerpt from the introduction here. You can read my favourite review in The Hindustan Times, further reviews in Frontline & Asian Affairs (paywall) and a very critical one-eyed review in the Financial Express.

In my essay – Immoral Times: Vigilantism in a South Indian City – I explore moral policing in Mangalore (Mangaluru). Drawing on material gathered during 20 months of ethnographic fieldwork undertaken between 2011-2016 I argue that:

Neoliberalism and right-wing Hindu nationalism… complement one another as they both see divisions within society as unnecessary, if not pathological, and create bounded internal and external realms (e.g. the Muslim other, or the welfare agency) in their rhetoric of ongoing revolutionary transformation. However, and here we turn towards the source of trouble on Mangaluru’s streets, whereas the individualism celebrated by economic liberalism offers ‘freedom’ (whilst holding the market supreme and punishing those who disrupt it), the individual within a majoritarian vision is always subordinated to the good of the Hindu community. This entwines with a perceived loss of national sovereignty with the deepening penetration of global capital, leading to attempts at controlling ‘national culture’, more often than not in ways that uphold rigid conceptions of gender and sexual identities.

As such, and as I will detail below, there is an ethical tension at the heart of this Hindu majoritarian and market-led development project: the continuing ‘opening-up’ of the Indian economy has also opened-up ethical questions. The same groups who celebrate ‘India’s moment’ after centuries of national impediment due to Muslim, colonial and then ‘socialist’ rule are also often those who are deeply troubled by the effects of these changes in terms of cultural purity, gender norms, and youthful experimentation. Moral policing, I argue, is one of the ways in which this ethical tension reveals itself.

You can find versions of the chapter here as a pdf, on and on research gate. I strongly recommend you ask your library to order the whole book, or buy a copy if you can afford to do so.

Finally, after reading my chapter (if you so wish), you might also want to read a review of the book published on the  Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) website by Kavita Krishnan. She writes in relation to my essay,

He suggests that the “joint rise of Hindu nationalism and pro-market/anti-state policies in India” since 1991 is both complementary and contradictory. Hindu nationalism, offering an order against the perceived disorder of a state captured by subaltern elements, flourished with the support of middle classes for “CEO-type governance”. Cook suggests that moral policing – instances of violence by Hindu majoritarian groups against young men and women partying together or against displays of inter-faith or inter-caste love – is symptomatic of an “ethical tension” between the majoritarian Hindu state project and the neoliberal development model (which, he assumes, is accompanied by liberalism in “morals”). But is neoliberalism really invested in a relaxing of patriarchal moral codes, and in contradiction to tightening patriarchal restraints and moral policing, as Cook suggests? I had suggested, in an essay ‘Gendered Discipline In Globalising India’ (Feminist Review, July 2018, Volume 119, Issue 1, pp 72–88) that there is a false binary between neoliberal globalisation and the increased attacks on women’s autonomy, both patronised by a Hindu majoritarian government. I had suggested that the organised attacks on women’s autonomy (coded as ‘protecting women’ from the risks entailed by autonomy) is not at odds with corporate-led neoliberal ‘development’. My essay had demonstrated how global and Indian corporations too are hostile to women’s autonomy and are invested in suppressing such autonomy to create a docile labour force – and this is where their interests and those of Hindu majoritarian groups coalesce. Women’s vulnerability in their personal and social lives contributes to their precariousness and exploitability at work. Women’s assertions of autonomy will not remain hermetically sealed in personal spaces of family, household, caste and community: they tend to to leak into workspaces, spurring unionisation and collective social and political action. The ideological and physical attacks on women’s autonomy by “moral policing” squads play to the anxieties of patriarchal social forces concerned with women’s growing visibility and assertion, as well as the anxieties of the political-economy of globalised neoliberal “development” that requires docility.

I think that Kavita misreads or over simplifies my point. I certainly do not assume neoliberalism is accompanied by a liberalism in morals. Rather I suggest that because in contemporary urban India there is no one coherent and dominating value system, for some young middle-class students there is a feeling of ethical ‘freedom’. Freedom here is understood as the freedom to ethically cultivate oneself through various techniques drawn from a diverse range of moral exemplars. This also produces a feeling of helplessness for many.  Here is where the link between the neoliberal state and the appeal of authoritarian movements makes itself apparent: the type of moral ordering offered by vigilante groups is accepted and quietly supported by many in Mangaluru because, at a time when cultural change has led to the opening-up of new possibilities for ethical self-cultivation, the actions of vigilante groups offer a sense of control for many who feel helpless to stop changes they dislike.

In any case, I thank her for the close reading of the chapter and look forward to reading her article in Feminist Review (which sadly, I did not know about when writing the essay).

Protest & Politics: Sounds from Budapest and Beyond

Do you remember your last protest? I do, because I spent the protest alone with my headphones on clutching a sound recorder. I was trying to avoid both the wind and the eyes of my friends, hoping they wouldn’t come over and say hello. I didn’t do this (only) because I’m anti-social, but also because I didn’t want to spoil the field recording I was making for a recently launched global sound map of protests.

I was hiding between bushes

The amazing project ‘Protest and Politics‘ is ‘the world’s first global mapping of the sounds of protest and demonstration’. The brainchild of Stuart Fowkes, a UK-based artist, it is part of his larger Cities and Memory website in which field recordings are collected and then remixed, providing both the original capture and a creative imagined alternative.

For the protest sound map he collected nearly 200 sounds, submitted by more than 100 contributors.

One of them, me, was at the ‘Nem adjuk a jövőnk, itt maradunk!’ (We won’t give up our future, we’re staying here!) protest organised by Nem maradunk csendben (We won’t stay silent) and Oktatási Szabadságot (Freedom for Education).

This was a protest at the end of a spring of protests organised in Hungary. The two catalysts were the attack against the Central European University (an independent university that the government introduced a law to try to shut down) and a law that sought to restrict the freedom of civil society. But the roots are much deeper, and include issues such as the squeezing of the free media, widespread corruption, gerrymandering and so on.

The protest itself was interesting sonically as the organisers decided to have a sound system at the front of the demo, with DJs playing. The group ‘Nem maradunk csendben (We won’t stay silent)’ had organised a big successful protest party a few weeks before where they alternated between music and speeches. I feel that Hungarian protests are – when compared with other countries – quite quiet. The sound system made it even quieter however, as people didn’t chant or sing much at all, even during the gaps.

Here’s my recording:

It was remixed by Stuart who wrote of his work,

I was fascinated by the idea that for whatever reason, protests in Hungary are quieter affairs than in most other places in the world (especially when you consider Hungary’s leadership gives its people plenty to complain about!). As such, I wanted to reflect this in the piece by creating a piece of ambient, almost relaxing electronica from the field recording (along the lines of Wolfgang Voight’s marvellous GAS project). Everything you hear here is from the field recording with no additional sounds. The melodies are sections of recording fed through vocoders and other effects, while the beats are from the protest’s sound system, hidden under a fog of filters to give them that dubby, ‘lost’ feel

You can hear that here:

I’m not sure I agree with Stuart when he says that, “if there’s one sound that defines the last few years and the age that we’re living in, it’s the sound of protest,” as he told WIRED, but it’s a good line for promoting the project and Protest & Politics has been featured in loads of places – you can hear him on the BBC World Service or read a write-up over at Mashable.

I think he was onto something  however when he told CityLab that, “sound can bring you back to a place or time in an instant in a way that probably only smell can rival.” Listening back to the recordings I made many months ago gave me a memory of an emotion that I didn’t even know I had.

Listening to all the different sounds also highlighted the amount of repetition – not only within one protest, but across them, something touched on in an interview for Cracked Magazine. I think part of it is that we’re connected to a global network of protesters and riff off each other, but also part of it relates to what’s engendered by the rhythmic patterns of walking (and, of course, what sounds good as a chant!). Of course there’s as many differences as there are similarities between the pieces and some of the variations between the different recordings – including the quietness of Budapest vs the loudness of the “casserole” protest in Canada – are commented upon in a piece on Atlas Obsucra.

You can (and should) listen to all the recordings here!

Street Sweeper

are you ready to move?

“In order to grasp and analyse rhythms, it is necessary to get outside them, but not completely… A certain exteriority enables the analytic intellect to function… In order to grasp this fleeting object, which is not exactly an object, it is therefore necessary to situate oneself simultaneously inside and outside. A balcony does the job admirably.”
Lefebvre, Rhythmanalysis

[Video and text originally published as part of an online exhibition on worldwide gentrification by Left hand Rotation back in 2008 – see here]

In the absence of a balcony, I attempted to grasp the rhythms of Népszínház utca from the window of my flat. The notorious street – literally translated as People’s Theatre Street – cuts through the middle of Józsefváros, a district of Budapest with a notorious reputation amongst those who live outside it; a notorious street in a notorious district. As A., a young woman from Buda puts it “when I see the sign ‘Népszínház’ at the end of the street I get a tight feeling inside like something bad will happen.” Of course, she admits, nothing ever has. But the feeling persists amongst many that the district has a problem that needs to be remedied. The remedy comes in the shape of gentrification, a process mediated by the state at various scales.

A short walk through the district will allow a better understanding of why the district has a bad reputation and also outline some of the most important processes currently underway in Józsefváros. After providing this brief contextual background to the film, I will explain very briefly my understanding of gentrification and how the state is involved in the process as well as why the analysis of rhythms is useful in gaining an insight into it. Finally, I will provide some notes on what anthropological knowledge I attempted to produce in making Are You Ready to Move?
Leaving the flat and walking though the bustling Népszinház utca, with its cast of drunken men and array of mobile phone shops staffed almost exclusively with migrants from the Middle East, you start to understand why the district has a shifty reputation amongst those who live outside it. Moving down and through the street, the Magdolna Quarter creates an even starker picture, labelled a “ghetto” by the local government it boasts ‘notorious’ squares where, depending upon with whom you talk, you will be told that this where a) terrible crimes happen or b) where all the best Roma musicians learnt how to play. As with all reputations you cannot expect too much to be true and should not be upset if you leave without being mugged or hearing gypsy music, although you might meet a social worker from Rev8, the government owned company responsible for the regeneration of the quarter, as they goes about their task of social urban regeneration.

The great cranes from the nearby building site nearby can be seen from here too, swinging above the district in time to a different beat, crisscrossing each other in the sky. They loom above one future of the district, the Corvin Promenade Project, involving renovation, demolition and the rebuilding of 22 hectares of land for multipurpose use including living, working, shopping. But before visiting what will become the ‘new downtown’ you could witness the old, walking briskly in the direction of the Danube, crossing the Big Ring Road and into the inner part of the district, where renovation has long been on the cards. Here you can observe beautiful Eclectic-Secessionist buildings from the nineteenth century periodically greeting you before you arrive at the National Museum and the edge of the VIII. Walking past drunks, through ghettos and building sites is, of course, not everyone’s cup of tea so, if you can wait until 2011/12/13 (deepening upon how optimistic the forecaster is) you can ride the brand new Metro 4 line which not only saves the time and effort of walking but also gives “the internal part of Józsefváros… an unprecedented chance of integration” ( These different and concerted attempts at remoulding the district constitute part of the ongoing gentrification of Józsefváros.


What gentrification is and is not, is a complex debate so I will start from the position that gentrification is the class-based colonisation of a poorer neighbourhood and reinvestment in (including demolition and complete rebuilding of) housing stock. Gentrification is driven by the movement of capital into areas that were previously sites of disinvestment, with gentrification most likely to happen in areas where there is the biggest difference between current ground rent and potential future ground rent (Smith 1979, 1996). Historically, in western Europe and America the reinvestment has been concentrated in the old downtown areas. In Hungary the process followed strikingly similar patterns, though for very different reasons with the initial lull in residential construction in the ‘Stalinist’ period from 1948 to the early sixties, being followed by a boom in suburban construction in the 60’s and 70’s and a renewed interest in the downtown from the 1980’s onwards, which even resulted in some cases of ‘socialist gentrification’ (Bodnar, 2001).
The process is mediated and given its particularities by different actors including the middle classes, real estate developers and officials at different levels of the state. Deindustrialisation has led to demographic shifts including an increased middle class, providing a pool of potential gentrifiers (Ley 1986, 1996) as their consumption preferences help shape the peculiarities of the reinvestment in housing stock. The state meanwhile explicitly helps the gentrification process, as it develops urban rejuvenation projects and policies from ‘social mixing’ to the large-scale demolition and rebuilding of areas and in doing so has in many cases become the ‘consummate agent of the market’ (Smith, 2003).

Though large development projects administered by real estate developers and lubricated by state intervention are obvious examples of the state’s role in mediating urban change, there are also more low key and insidious acts that help to cleanse space; to displace unwanted elements. Under neoliberalism, space is mobilised to best facilitate economic growth and the consumption patterns of the elite (Brenner and Theodore, 2002). The state’s role in this process the continual re-regulation of the everyday (Keil, 2002). This includes diverse social-spatial cleansing practices (MacLeod, 2002) including the setting up CCTV systems that define the normal and abnormal (Coleman and Sim, 2000) and criminalize poverty (Coleman, 2004). It is the two different sides of the state – massive demolition and rebuilding and the ‘small scale’ regulation of the everyday – that I attempted to show in the film through the analysis of rhythms.

Lefebvre’s unfinished rhythmanalysis project (2004) is an interesting analytical tool for exploring the changing use of public space over time. Rhythms are produced when space is joined with time and driven by energy. Rhythms can be dived into two broad types: the mechanical and the organic – or the linear and the cyclical – or the quantitative and the qualitative. Through the clashes between the linear rhythms of capital accumulation in the built environment (including the increased speed and efficiency within which newcomers utilise space) and the cyclical rhythms of everyday life, we are given a window into how the body functions in space and time (Lefebvre, 2004). With the film I attempted to show how the meeting of different urban rhythms in Józsefváros.

Broadly agreeing with the argument that visual anthropology can give an expression or comment that goes beyond a particular representation of something (Edwards , 1997) and that certain processes such as like time and duration, uses of space and posture and gesture are best suited to filmic anthropology (MacDougal, 1998) I attempted to capture a certain element of the gentrification process: the effect on the everyday life of those displaced. It is worth reiterating the two sides of the state-mediated displacement focuses on in the film – the continual cleansing of public space along urban neoliberal conceptions of order and the large-scale demolition of working class housing to make way for new developments.

Why I Did What
To realise this purpose I split the film into three parts. The first and longest part is a series of shots from the window of my flat. All of the shots were taken in the morning of one spring day (from between 6 and 10 a.m.). Here I wanted to show the different rhythms of the characters on the street and their individual rhythms in contrast/harmony with the rhythms of other people, along with the rhythms of tram schedules, traffic etc. The shots here are slow and long. The second part of the film is all filmed from a moving tram travelling up and down the street. Life moves more quickly in this part of the film, but I also wanted to create the impression that the rhythms of the people on the street are different from the rhythm of the trams, yet at the same time partly defined by (and of course also defining) them. The final part of the film is shot mostly away from Népszínház utca and around the new Corvin Promenade development. Here I show the rhythms of the cranes building the “New Downtown of Europe”. The shots here are short and move between work on the buildings, graffiti scrawled onto the side of the different building sites’ hoardings and the CCTV cameras.

It was important to bring in video cameras at the end for a number of reasons. Firstly, I wanted to make the link clearer between the types of shots at the beginning of the film – the long voyeuristic shots from the window – with the number of CCTV cameras in the district (supposedly 96). I wanted to create the impression that people are being watched. Of course these are not the actual CCTV images, but rather I am attempting to ‘transcend the alleged limits of representation’ (Crawford, 1992); to attempt to represent how it might feel to be watched without knowing one is being watched. They are also part of the ‘ordering’ process discussed above.
I struggled for a while over the ethical dilemma of whether or not it was appropriate to film people without their prior consent in this manner. It is, of course, probably not ethical. I attempted to speak with one of the film’s main characters on a number of occasions but he was not very responsive. The main argument in my defence is that anthropology is much more reflexive, open and accountable that Budapest’s police force and it is they who are gathering film on the district’s residents on a daily basis. Although of course I could be told that stopping crime (even though I would question whether or not CCTV does stop crime) is more important than producing anthropological knowledge.

More to the point, did I even manage to create anthropological knowledge at all? I think I managed to show the meeting of the different rhythms in the district. The daily, organic rhythms of individuals were juxtaposed with the rhythms of investment and disinvestment of capital in the built environment that resulted in the Corvin Promenade. And the different daily rhythms of individuals were juxtaposed with one another and the public transport schedules, sometimes they appeared eurhythmic at others less so. Throughout I attempted to show how the different rhythms clash and one might result in the end of another. I struggled here with the issue of subtlety; how subtle could I be? I decided to be less subtle than I would in writing, as films are usually watched in a continuous manner – you cannot turn back a page in the book to check the details. Thus I left in the ‘ne’ at the end of the film, despite a feeling it was a bit over the top (the graffiti really does exist in the district after all).

Context is of course important in the creation of anthropological knowledge and with this in mind I attempted to show as many Hungarian flags as possible (I filmed soon after a national holiday) although I did feel tempted here to insert extra contextual information – to tell the audience that it was the shops belonging to migrants that made the effort to put out the Hungarian flag on this day. However, I decided that inserted contextual information puts up a barrier between the viewer and the images (MacDougal, 1998) and bearing in mind that I was attempting (some sort of) expressive mode of film making, I wanted to keep the viewer as immersed in the images as possible. This paper provides additional contextual information, but I believe the film can also exist independently of it; it is clearly about urban change in Hungary. Of course the level of prior knowledge amongst the audience is an important factor here.

The music was composed in collaboration with a local electronic composer and DJ Marton Kasynik. Some of the original sounds remain, but for the most part the music was completely new so as to create a certain atmosphere, with a focus on the different intensity of rhythms. The music in the third part of the film is taken directly from a promotional video for the Corvin Promenade. Marton struggled to make something as horrible and cheesy, but despite trawling through hours of ‘corporate music’ and attempting a ‘mash up’, nothing was as bad as the original.

I believe that any further comments on why I chose to show certain things in certain ways and in a certain order, would undermine the choice to make a film and not write a paper. This filmic ethnography hopefully shows the urban rhythms of Népszínház utca in a way that a text could not; I am attempting to show what can best be shown through the medium. Levels of understanding and the process of ‘reading’ the film are always contingent on the author, so I will explain no further and rather let the film speak for itself.

Bodnar J., 2001, Fin de Millenaire Budapest: Metamorphoses of Urban Life, University of Minnesota Press: Minneapolis.
Brenner N. and Theodore N. (2002) Cities and the Geographies of “Actually Existing Neoliberalism” in Spaces of Neoliberalism: Urban Restructuring in North America and Western Europe edited by N. Brenner & N. Theodore. Blackwell
Crawford, 1992, Film as Discourse: The Invention of Anthropological Realities. In Crawford and Trton (eds) Film as Ethnography, Manchester University Press: Manchester
Coleman, R. (2004) Reclaiming the Streets: Closed Circuit Television, Neoliberalism and the Mystification of Social Divisions in Liverpool, UK. In Surveillance & Society CCTV Special, 2(2/3): 110-135. Retrieved May 22, 2009:
Coleman, R. and Sim, J. (2000) ‘“You’ll never walk alone”: CCTV surveillance, order and neo-liberal rule in Liverpool city centre, in British Journal of Sociology, 51(4): 623-639
Edwards, 1997, Beyond the Boundary: A consideration of the expressive in photography and anthropology. In Banks M. and Morphy. Eds.
Lefebvre, 2004 [1992], Rhythmanalysis: Space, Time and Everyday Life. Continuum: London
Ley, D., (1986) Alternative Explanations for Inner City Gentrification: A Canadian Assessment. Annals of the Association of American Geographers, Vol. 76, No. 4 pp.521-535
Ley D., (1996), The New Middle Class and the Remaking of Central City, Oxford University Press: Oxford
MacDougal, 1998, Visual Anthropology and Ways of Knowing. In MacDougal, Transcultural Cinema, Princeton University Press: Princeton
MacLeod, G., (2002) From Urban Entrepreneurialism to a “Revnachist City”? On Spatial Injustices of Glasgow’s Renaissance in Spaces of Neoliberalism: Urban Restructuring in North America and Western Europe edited by N. Brenner & N. Theodore. Blackwell
Smith, N., (1979) Toward a Theory of Gentrification: a back to the city movement of capital, not people. Journal of the American Planning Association, 45(4): 583-48.
Smith, N., (1996) The New Urban Frontier: Gentrification and the Revanchist City, Routledge: London and New York

Smith, N., (2002) New Globalism, New Urbanism: Gentrification as Global Urban Strategy. Pp. 80-103 in Neil Brenner & Nik Theodore (eds.) Spaces of Neoliberalism: Urban Restructuring in North America and Western Europe. Blackwell