A Tale of Two Undergrounds

02UNDERGROUND1-articleLarge Krystal D'Costa over at her Scientific American blog, Anthropology in Practice:

Ever since reading Jennifer Toth’s The Mole People​ as a teen, I’ve been intrigued by the metropolitan underground. Cities teem with life, and change happens at a dizzying pace. But what lurks beneath the streets remains a mystery to many—it almost remains a realm lost to time. Yet, to think of this space as stagnant would be foolish: from Paris to New York City, the subterranean has a life and character all of its own. And if you look closely, you’ll find traces of the urban centers on the surface—almost as though these spaces contain seeds of the personalities that thrive above ground.

National Geographic’s Neil Shea did a sweeping tour of the Parisian underground, covering everything from the catacombs to the old quarries to the hand carved party rooms inhabited by cataphiles—”people who love the Paris underground.” There are all sorts of spaces to be found beneath Paris—canals and reservoirs, crypts, bank vaults, wine cellars, quarries—and cataphiles claim them to party, perform, create artwork, do drugs and more. They explore, hook up, educate, and claim these forgotten places. They map them and create records though it seems that these spaces exist on the periphery of the surface world, which seems odd when you consider how much of the metropolis is drawn from the underground.