The recent work of Robert Beauregard, Laura Lieto and colleagues is at the forefront of attempts at reformulating planning theory around assemblage thinking and the new materialist, post-structuralist and post-humanist thrust it comes with.
In August 2016, behind the Maritime Museum in North Jakarta’s kota tua (old town), we walked into the neighborhood of Kampung Akuarium, or rather its ruins. The kampung – a term meaning village that is used in the urban context to describe self-built, semi-formal neighborhoods – and its 500 some residents had been forcibly evicted by the city government four months prior.
This text begins from a central question: what is a critical spatial practice in a contemporary moment marked by planetary breakdown, by the increasingly visible presence of climate change across a number of different scales, by the sense of a future and present gone violently awry?
Climate change is reshaping our planet: the spaces we live are becoming hotter, dryer, wetter, stormier than they have ever been before. As atmospheric carbon dioxide saturation exceeds 415 parts per million, the places we live, from rural farmland to coastal villages to sprawling metropolises, are faced with shifts in weather and climate that our built world can no longer accommodate.
As other contributors in this thematic issue discuss, the notion of critical spatial practice springs from Michael de Certeau’s distinction between tactics and strategy. This is often interpreted as implying two scales of action, typically understood as oppositional. For Jane Rendell, credited with coining the academic term “critical spatial practice,” de Certeau’s tactics are closely associated with Henri Lefebvre’s emphasis on the “right to the city,” which frames urban space in general and public space in particular as a terrain of political conflict (Rendell 2008).
AbdouMaliq Simone is an urbanist whose work explores the spatial and social compositions of urban regions, the production of everyday life for urban majorities, and the lives of Muslim working-class residents.
Asher Ghertner continues his work as a creative and profound scholar with his first monograph, Rule by Aesthetics: World-Class City Making in Delhi. This book is a great read yet also manages to be impressively detailed in its data and textured in its ethnographic feel. Ghertner proves particularly agile in his movement among sites in Delhi as well as among concepts and modes of academic engagement, shifting from exposition and explication to conceptual development and back again.
Published fifteen years after Cities: Reimagining the Urban, Seeing Like a City, is a testament to the evolution of Ash Amin and Nigel Thrift’s urban thinking. The two books are, in a sense, part of the same intellectual project: one that aims for a wholesale reconsideration of how urban scholars of various disciplinary backgrounds approach the city.
The Jersey Barrier is a squat cast concrete traffic control device, among the most commonly used in an evolutionary chain of concrete dividers. The barrier was developed for the New Jersey State Highway Department in the 1950s and bears its name though it is officially known as a Type C barrier in Canada.
As I was preparing myself to write this book review, a new report was published, stating that the Jerusalem Municipality deposited for public review a special plan for the confiscation of land in the Jewish cemetery in the Mount of Olives, attached to the Ras El-Amud mosque. The plan’s main objective is to allow land confiscation, in order to erect a visitors’ center which will be directed by a right-wing Jewish-Settler organization.
What would a Central Park designed by proletarians look like? How would such a subaltern landscape differ from the creatures of nineteenth-century bourgeois pastoral taste that we have come to identify with urban nature? Would Manhattan’s structure and social space have been radically changed by such a historical detour?
Rethinking Life at the Margin:The Assemblage of Contexts, Subjects and Politics argues that “assemblage thinking” is not only useful for studying processes of marginalization but also a profoundly political exercise. The editor, Michele Lancione, states how the minor politics at stake in the books’ contributions are “characterized by [their] capacity to become, to articulate difference, and to be open to new articulations” (11).
It is a strange coincidence that the artist Kenneth Goldsmith should have written his homage to Walter Benjamin, New York: Capital of the 20th Century, at almost exactly the same time as Walter Benjamin’s own manuscripts for The Manhattan Project or New York, Capital of the 20th Century were found in New York’s public library.
When I set out to write my article, "Indignation and Inclusion: Activism, difference, and emergent urban politics in postcrash Madrid," Ahora Madrid was in its infancy. I was fairly skeptical about its chances of actually winning. I was clearly, however, proven incorrect—Manuela Carmena is now the mayor of Madrid.
Originally developed in relation to the work of artists and architects (Rendell 2006, 2011, 2012; see also Liggett and Perry, 1995), critical spatial practice has since expanded to include discourse among designers, geographers, planners, landscape architects, activists, and philosophers.
In this well-written and accessible book, Sam Stein explains the role of the state in creating gentrification. In popular discourse, gentrification has often been seen as a “private” phenomena.
This book forum grew out of an “author meets critics” session at the April 2018 meeting of the American Association of Geographers. Lisa Bates, Nate Gabriel, Stephen Healy, and Heather McLean all responded to the book there, raising important questions about feminist theory, black feminist theory, theorizing capitalism, and the utility of the idea of the commons.
This review forum stems from an author-meets-critics session on Austin Zeiderman’s Endangered City: The Politics of Security and Risk in Bogotá and Nikhil Anand’s Hydraulic City: Water and the Infrastructures of Citizenship in Mumbai. The session was organized by Asher Ghertner and held at the 2017 Annual Meeting of the American Association of Geographers in Boston, MA. The forum includes reviews by Malini Ranganathan, Diane Davis, and AbdouMaliq Simone, with an introduction by Asher Ghertner and responses from the authors.
Building upon notions of extended urbanization, the essay reflects on the sensory implications of what it means when urbanization becomes extensive, i.e. when decision-making is subject to a multiplicity of forces that make coherent narratives about what is taking place problematic, while “extending” an enlarged field of opportunities as well as constraints for individual livelihoods.
This paper follows an example of security bollarding in response to car attacks, now widely offered as a solution to the ‘new normal’ use of motor vehicles as weapons for terrorist attacks in crowded urban places. We examine the relations between the specificities of an attack in Melbourne in 2017, where bollards were presented as regrettable but necessary.
In this paper, I examine where violence appears and how it is made sense of in Istanbul’s everyday settings of construction and renewal. I develop a visual methodology and utilise ordinary violences as a framework to map fear and memories as extended human material.
The ‘peace-walls’ of Belfast represent a widely acknowledged architectural legacy of the Troubles, the period between 1969 and 1994 when sectarian conflict in Northern Ireland was most extreme. This paper reveals a further crucial but unacknowledged architectural legacy.
The papers, in this special issue, represent a range of entry points for examining the dynamics of power in the operationalisation of the smart city concept in different contexts. The intention is to examine how smart cities produce and engage power, as a way of normalising the structural and social violence inherent in urban transformations across the world.
The city as sanctuary is an ancient concept. As a modern practice in North America and Europe, it has entailed refuge for subjects rendered illegal and placeless by the state, be it asylum-seekers or undocumented immigrants.
Writings that critically engage the ongoing conditions of coloniality and its effects. Entries in this section may also speculate on intellectual, political and organizational tactics that work to resist coloniality, colonization and colonialism’s effects in the present.
Examines the evolving social, ecological, cultural and geopolitical impacts of energy systems and resource extraction, with particular emphasis on the spatial relationships that structure the extraction, production, distribution and consumption of energy and other natural resources and raw materials
Chronicles past, present, and potential impacts of technoscientific development on the production of space. Provides critical looks into how scientific disciplines and industries influence how we analyze, categorize, experience, interpret, navigate, and represent that which we call space.
Investigates the spatial implications of the mass production, consumption, and disposal of digital media. Core areas of study include the environmental impacts, industrial landscapes, infrastructures, political transformations, social activities, and subjectivities particular to the digital age.
Charts the role that maps and various other forms of geo-visualisation play in the production of space. Offers a critical forum for investigating older modes of cartographic representation as well as newer approaches to big data and the politics of algorithmic and other data-driven processes.
Investigates relations between policing (narrowly and broadly understood), incarceration, and the production of space and spatial knowledge. Borders, criminalized neighborhoods, detention centers, heavily securitized areas, internment camps, jails, prisons, rendition sites, and the spatial relations that they rely on and produce are explored as sites of power and subversion.