Paris and the Parasite
Noise, Health, and Politics in the Media City
296 pp., 6 x 9 in, 37 b&w photos
- Published: June 8, 2021
- Published: June 8, 2021
The social consequences of anti-parasitic urbanism, as efforts to expunge noise and biological parasites penalize those viewed as social parasites.
According to French philosopher Michel Serres, ordered systems are founded on the pathologization of parasites, which can never be fully expelled. In Paris and the Parasite, Macs Smith extends Serres's approach to Paris as a mediatic city, asking what organisms, people, and forms of interference constitute its parasites. Drawing on French poststructuralist theory and philosophy, media theory, the philosophy of science, and an array of literary and cultural sources, he examines Paris and its parasites from the early nineteenth century to today, focusing on the contemporary city. In so doing, he reveals the social consequences of anti-parasitic urbanism.
Smith examines how media shape the design and experience of urban space, as well as how the city passes through layers of mediation. He asks what constitutes noise within a media city. Paris's municipal government views acoustic noise as a public health threat and calls for its elimination. But the government's proposals focus on reducing automobile traffic, making it harder for marginalized people to access the city. Thus, a push to eliminate a supposedly biological parasite banishes the so-called social parasites. Questioning the informatic ideologies undergirding modern urbanism, Smith shows both how this anti-parasitic urbanism works and how the banished outsiders noisily intervene, despite their exclusion from the centers of power. The expulsion of social, biological, and mediatic parasites is a governing theme of modern Paris, yet its parasites continually resurge. What is ultimately at stake is how we understand collective life.
“Ranging expertly from literature to street art, film to parkour, Smith brilliantly draws together architecture, urbanism, philosophy, biology, and social history to reveal the stakes of living together in the modern city. A compelling achievement.”
Martin Crowley, Anthony L. Lyster Fellow and Director of Studies in Modern and Medieval Languages, Queens' College, Cambridge
“From the transformation of architecture to contemporary urban practices such as parkour, graffiti, and mapping, Smith explores the complex logic of parasitism as an analytic capable of deciphering one of modernity's iconic cities—Paris.”
Scott McQuire, Professor of Media and Communication at the University of Melbourne