Dispatches from Dystopia: Histories of Places Not Yet


Dispatches from Dystopia: Histories of Places Not Yet Forgotten Why are Kazakhstan and Montana the same place asks one chapter of Kate Brown s surprising and unusual journey into the histories of places on the margins, overlooked or erased It turns out that a ruined mining town in Kazakhstan and Butte, Montana America s largest environmental Superfund site have much in common than one would think thanks to similarities in climate, hucksterism, and the perseverance of their few hardy inhabitants Taking readers to these and other unlikely locales, Dispatches from Dystopia delves into the very human and sometimes very fraught ways we come to understand a particular place, its people, and its history In Dispatches from Dystopia, Brown wanders the Chernobyl Zone of Alienation, first on the Internet and then in person, to figure out which version the real or the virtual is the actual forgery She also takes us to the basement of a hotel in Seattle to examine the personal possessions left in storage by Japanese Americans on their way to internment camps inIn Uman, Ukraine, we hide with Brown in a tree in order to witness the annual male only Rosh Hashanah celebration of Hasidic Jews In the Russian southern Urals, she speaks with the citizens of the small city of Kyshtym, where invisible radioactive pollutants have mysteriously blighted lives Finally, Brown returns home to Elgin, Illinois, in the midwestern industrial rust belt to investigate the rise of rustalgia and the ways her formative experiences have inspired her obsession with modernist wastelands Dispatches from Dystopia powerfully and movingly narrates the histories of locales that have been silenced, broken, or contaminated In telling these previously unknown stories, Brown examines the making and unmaking of place, and the lives of the people who remain in the fragile landscapes that are left behind This was a muchinteresting concept than it was a final product I really enjoyed the journey Brown took us on and her prose was generally really lovely and interesting But I would have liked to see I don t knowI just felt such an amazing concept fell a little flat Perhaps, though, this was a result of me hyping myself up too much for it I do think this was a good book, and I would happily recommend it to anyone interested in history or urban development I just wish I could This was a muchinteresting concept than it was a final product I really enjoyed the journey Brown took us on and her prose was generally really lovely and interesting But I would have liked to see I don t knowI just felt such an amazing concept fell a little flat Perhaps, though, this was a result of me hyping myself up too much for it I do think this was a good book, and I would happily recommend it to anyone interested in history or urban development I just wish I could have seen a little Places that haveof a past than a future deserve compassionate, sensitive biographers In Kate Brown a few of these places have found a midwife who seeks to spark a project of rebirth for them She pokes around in their ashes, looking for the fragments that, when reassembled, could help them to find their meaning again The charming, unsophisticated cover art belies the darkness and emptiness of the damaged districts it depicts Brown takes us to the Chernobyl Zone, to the environs of Rus Places that haveof a past than a future deserve compassionate, sensitive biographers In Kate Brown a few of these places have found a midwife who seeks to spark a project of rebirth for them She pokes around in their ashes, looking for the fragments that, when reassembled, could help them to find their meaning again The charming, unsophisticated cover art belies the darkness and emptiness of the damaged districts it depicts Brown takes us to the Chernobyl Zone, to the environs of Russia s first plutonium plant and to an old in central Ukraine, pondering the ethics of privacy invasion and disaster tourism along the way Some places are uncomfortably close to home One, I m astonished to find, is in my very backyard, a place I must have passed hundreds of times without noticing It s the Panama Hotel, on South Main Street near 6th Avenue South in Seattle, whose basement has the plaintive luggage of some of the almost 13,000 Washington residents of Japanese ancestry who were removed from the area and interned at Minidoka, near Hunt, Idaho Brown is an unabashedly personal historian She downplays the goal of objectivity and acknowledges that she brings individual experience to her observations This influences what she notices, what she sees past, through or around, and how she interprets what she focusses on As a dweller in the 21st century see how I confuse time with place , it is inevitable that I would float on the tide of this postmodern challenge of historiography It s an enriching experience I like the approach to telling history here, but the book itself feels somewhat disjointed, not quite all tied together, and at times rambling despite being so short I did like it but just wish I liked it. I enjoyed the history, the historical method, and Brown s insights into places that are in the process of being left behind seeing the detritus people, places, things is perhaps the single most useful perspective to understand contemporary times Places offer up only remnants, tattered, muddy, sunken, rusted, and despoiled Once I am in place, things are out of place, disorganized and chaotic, Visibility, Bruno Latour writes, is the consequence of lots of opaque and invisible work I enjoyed the history, the historical method, and Brown s insights into places that are in the process of being left behind seeing the detritus people, places, things is perhaps the single most useful perspective to understand contemporary times Places offer up only remnants, tattered, muddy, sunken, rusted, and despoiled Once I am in place, things are out of place, disorganized and chaotic, Visibility, Bruno Latour writes, is the consequence of lots of opaque and invisible work p.5.This book as encouraged me to re read E.H Carr s What is History

  • Hardcover
  • 216 pages
  • Dispatches from Dystopia: Histories of Places Not Yet Forgotten
  • Kate Brown
  • 19 July 2019
  • 022624279X

About the Author: Kate Brown

Kate Brown is a Professor of History at University of Maryland, Balti County UMBC , and a 2009 Guggenheim Fellow She is the author of A Biography of No Place, which won the American Historical Association s International European History Prize for Best Book Brown received her B.A from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and her Ph.D from the University of Washington, Seattle.


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