A Critique of Assemblage Urbanism Focusing on Conceptual Constellations and Research Practice

Thursday, 19 July 2018
Distributed Paper
Adile AVAR, Izmir Institute of Technology, Turkey
This paper is composed of two parts. The first part elaborates on the relations between scientific concepts and practice by drawing on the Works of Georges Canguilhem, the founder (together with Gaston Bachelard) of the epistemological history of sciences. The second part offers a critique of “assemblage urbanism.” The latter is backgrounded by De Landa’s “assemblage theory of society,” having used the Deleuze- Guattarian conceptual apparatus. However, assemblage urbanism relegates the very critical impulse of the Deleuze- Guattarian concept of “assemblage [l’agencement].”

Ian Hacking puts forward that Canguilhem’s method of epistemological history can be used for making the history of other disciplines, as he used it in the history of statistics. Nikolas Rose, on the other hand, argues that Canguilhem’s way of working the concepts and their relations can also be applied on the current state of scientific disciplines. For Canguilhem’s works offer us methodological and heuristical tools to inquiry into how, and at which levels, social, ideological, political and technical concerns are articulated to a particular scientific discipline. As Canguilhem shows in the history of life sciences, concepts precede the formation of theories. Especially in the exploratory field they are formed and used without rigorously established theories. Furthermore, concepts regulate the relationships between the field of theory and the empirical research.

Then, the second part of the paper develops a critique of assemblage urbanism by focusing on how its founding concepts, its problems, its methodology and actual empirical researches are connected to each other. The critique is structured around the question how its overemphasis on the empirical materialities of urban phenomena relegates the problematique (founding) concepts, exploratory tools of critical urban theory like ‘capital’, ‘state’ ‘accumulation’, ‘dispossession’, ‘deprivation’, ‘inequality’, ‘uneven spatial development’, ‘territorialities’, different structural contexts.