Ray Smith “Positions of Dissent” Lecture on Voluntary Primitivism by Felicity Scott

Positions of DissentFelicity D. Scott, Associate Professor of Architecture at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture, Preservation and Planning will present a lecture entitled Voluntary Primitivism on October 11 at 6:00 p.m. in the Peter Graham Scholarly Commons on the first floor of Bird Library. Her talk is the second in this year’s Ray Smith Symposium, Positions of Dissent, organized by the Special Collections Research Center (SCRC) of Syracuse University Library. She will be introduced by Jonathan Massey, Associate Professor in the SU School of Architecture.

Felicity Scott’s talk will address Open Land communes in Northern California during the late 1960s, focusing on the escalating “code wars” that their attempts to abandon private property rights, normative forms of life, and other trappings of modernity and capitalism elicited from the State. What, Scott asks, might have motivated this portion of the American back-to-the-land movement to open their land to anyone who wished to settle? Why did they adopt practices of “voluntary primitivism” in the name of an ethics of care, both of the self and of the earth? And why did the State react so violently against them?

Felicity Scott is Associate Professor of Architecture and Director of the program in Critical, Curatorial, and Conceptual Practices in Architecture (CCCP) at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture, Preservation, and Planning and the author of Architecture or Techno-Utopia: Politics After Modernism (Cambridge, MA:  MIT Press, 2007).

Scott’s research focuses on articulating genealogies of political and theoretical engagement with questions of technological transformation within modern and contemporary architecture, as well as within the discourses and institutions that have shaped and defined the discipline.

In addition to publishing numerous articles in journals, magazines, and edited anthologies, her book, Architecture or Techno-Utopia: Politics After Modernism, was published by MIT Press in 2007, and Living Archive 7: Ant Farm, appeared on ACTAR Editorial in May 2008. Scott recently completed the manuscript for a book entitled on the Austrian émigré architect Bernard Rudofsky, entitled “Cartographies of Drift: Bernard Rudofsky’s Encounters with Modernity,” and is currently working on a book project entitled “Outlaw Territories: Environments of Insecurity/Architectures of Counter-Insurgency, 1966-1979” to be published by Zone Books. Felicity is also a founding co-editor of Grey Room, a quarterly journal of architecture, art, media, and politics published quarterly by MIT Press since fall 2000.


The Ray Smith Symposium Series was established in 1989 as the result of a bequest from the estate of SU alumnus Ray W. Smith ’21 to support symposia on topics in the humanities in SU’s College of Arts and Sciences. The symposium is named for the Auburn, N.Y. native who, after graduating from SU in 1921, was a highly respected teacher and administrator.





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