Title: Conversation 3: Uncanny Cities. Why Embody Cities?
Authors: De Boeck, Filip
Pile, Steve
Latham, Alan
Rendell, Jane
Issue Date: 17-Feb-2015
Conference: Power and Space in the City edition:3 location:University College London date:17 February 2015
Abstract: Cities are of course concrete and real and, yet, at the same time they are intangible: they are places of inspiration and myth. For instance, while the city is felt as an embodied experience – we feel its heat, its noise, the resistance of its tarmac - our experience of it is also informed by imaginary elements, by the indefinable and uncanny. This session aims to examine how both embodied experiences and the intangible elements of fantasy, myth, emotion etc. together construct the lived experience of the city dweller and the urban explorer.
Description: Conversations on Power and Space in the City is a series of workshops designed to challenge current academic debates and influence thinking and policy on cities in this period of rapid urban change and unrest. The series of five workshops runs from November 2014 to May 2015 bringing together internationally renowned researchers, architects and activists working on and in urban space. Our aim is to foster interdisciplinary conversations on how city spaces - imaginary, relational, material - not only influence the ways in which power is exercised, but also how power is fundamental to the production of cities. The question driving this workshop series asks how can we best understand and articulate the power relations producing cities today and what forms of urban politics are most likely to lead to progressive or transformative change?

There is a growing realisation that cities are not simply a backdrop for politics: hegemonic actors can, for example, determine future urban visions, inhibiting alternatives, or they might redefine territories by redrawing borders or altering the aesthetic character of a place. Urban publics may, in turn, resist such power by assembling in the city square to demand a greater say. Despite the diversity of such practices, relationships between space and power are most frequently understood as ‘Euclidean’ where cities are perceived as power containers or the surfaces upon which it acts.

Today, new vocabularies from diverse fields are being crafted to try to undo these simplistic imaginaries, citing ‘power geometries’, ‘topologies’ or ‘mediated associations’ as superior idioms to conceive the urban power-space nexus. These vocabularies have taken us far, but our central premise is that it’s only when exploring power-space in situ, in cities, through interdisciplinary perspectives, that we can fully appreciate the reach and impact of urban spatial politics.
Publication status: published
KU Leuven publication type: IMa
Appears in Collections:Institute for Anthropological Research in Africa

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