Essay Archive

Our Own Universals: Notes from a Reading Group in the Postcolony

We run this reading group in the hope that together we can reach different answers to the question “who are we?” We proceed with the assumption that nothing is our own, and therefore, with the possibility that we may embrace everything.


Manhar Bansal, Atreyee Majumder

Planning for Humane Urbanism Through Solidarity and Radical Care

Miraftab invites planning scholars to rethink the field’s futures, rejecting the currently dominant bully urbanism centered on profit, for a humane urbanism centered on life.


Faranak Miraftab

Unsettling ‘The Settler’

Who is ‘the Settler’? What does this category animate and what does it bely? Despite the vast scholarship on histories of settler colonisation, the complex figure of the settler remains largely taken for granted. This lends itself to a banal decolonial politics that urgently requires critique.


Noam Leshem, Jen Bagelman

Starting with Sarinah: Chasing Modernity through Indonesia’s Iconic Shopping Mall

Starting with Sarinah, Indonesia's first and most iconic mall, this essay analyzes the rise and development of shopping malls from being a symbol of national modernity to becoming an emblem of spatial exclusion.


Dewi Tan

Lebanese Yawmiyat (diaries): Archiving unfinished stories of spatial violence

The essay captures some aspects of urban violence in Lebanon and constructs their spatialities. Stories of struggle and creative coping strategies amidst the multiple crises in Lebanon constitute ‘living archives’. They expand the meaning and imaginaries of everyday life, link between a shared past and present reality, and transform the urban space.


Hanadi Samhan, Dina Mneimneh, Hoda Mekkaoui and Camillo Boano

Towards a Theory of Red Natural History

As a perspective and a praxis, Red Natural History urges those of us who take the side of the common to see ourselves as part of the storm that arrives from the past, not to produce chaos, but to rupture the status quo, draw capitalism’s structural violence and injustices into the open, and orient our struggles for a livable and egalitarian future for all. 


Steve Lyons and Jason Jones for Not An Alternative

Coming Out the Other Side: Notes on an Eight-Year Expedition into Natural History

NAA is working with Indigenous and non-Indigenous theorists, historians, ethnobotanists, geographers, landscape architects, artists, and activists to define and organize around a counter-tradition of natural history, a Red Natural History, which sees the world not as a wealth of natural resources available for possession or profit, but as a world in common that cannot be enclosed. This first text situates this inquiry within NAA’s history of practice, telling the story of how we came to believe it is necessary to name and organize around an alternate tradition of natural history. The second delves into the question at hand, sketching out our collective’s provisional definition of Red Natural History.


Steve Lyons and Jason Jones for Not An Alternative

Uneven and Combined: Some Reflections on the “Racial Capitalism” Debate

In the context of intense debate regarding the relationship between race and capitalism – and the usefulness of formulations like “racial capitalism” – William Conroy suggests a way forward through the lexicon of uneven and combined development.


William Conroy

On the Viral Politics of Wastewater Epidemiology

The matter, politics, spatial and labor dynamics of global waste plays a crucial, albeit frequently erased, role in our pandemic now. The understories of pandemic waste impacts are vast, and often framed in terms of loss: from grappling with food system and supply chain losses, to techniques for avoiding spoilage; from popular narratives of lock-down effects on single-use plastics, to PPE and hospital refuse management. Wastewater tracing, however, has gained particular interest and praise as a tactic of revaluing waste amidst outbreak. I examine the viral politics of sewer-shed epidemiological tracing trends as a complex tool for SARS-CoV-2 public health management and increased surveillance.


Rachel Vaughn

Copulating giants or concrete cathedrals? A short history of the Four-level Stack

A short visual history of the Four-level Stack interchange, considering its early presentation as an engineering marvel, its symbolic role in film and TV, how it has come to signify urban complexity and machine intelligence as well as being a contested site of exclusion.


Peter Merrington, Ilana Mitchell