Cities As Representations and As Manifestations of Power

Saturday, 21 July 2018: 12:45
Oral Presentation
Göran THERBORN, University of Cambridge, United Kingdom
City centres are representations as well as manifestations of power. Representations are visualizations of power. Representations – of the might, wealth, glory, and directive intentions of power - are expressed in the spatial layout, in the topology clustering and architectural form of representative buildings, the pattern of monumentality, and the toponymy of streets, places, and buildings. These representations often have to be understood in their layered temporality, their selective expression of past relations of power.

Manifestations of power refer to the actual functioning of the cityscape in terms of power, which includes also manifestations of fear, of powerlessness or neglect, and of counter-power. Manifestations of power further include processes of invisibilization, of hiding phenomena amenable to questioning / critique, and methods of surveillance.The main powers which set their mark on contemporary cities are, the political rulers – national and local -, and private capital, national and foreign. Counter-power comes bottom-up, from popular classes, grassroots movements, and popular urban reform coalitions, asserting themselves in squatting and spatial enclaves, in some vhange of urban development or policy, or in a transformative popular city government.

The proposed paper involves presenting a systematic analytical framework for studying cities as sites of power, and a small worldwide set, north, south, east and west, of illustrative cases, drawing upon the global empirical research for my recent book Cities of Power.