What Is ‘Urban Violence’? Steps Toward a Theory Beyond ‘Violence in the City’

Wednesday, 18 July 2018: 11:00
Oral Presentation
Andrea PAVONI, ICSTE, Portugal
Simone TULUMELLO, Instituto de Ciências Sociais, Universidade de Lisboa, Portugal
Urban violence is omnipresent in political, media and public discourse; and it has been a topic for academic discussion for decades now. However, the nexus between ‘violence’ and the ‘urban’ remains under-theorised: possibly because violence itself is under-theorised (Kilby, 2013) and consensus lacks on what violence even means (Springer, Le Billon, 2016); possibly because the ‘urban’ is a field of much theoretical oscillation and contestation (e.g. Brenner and Schmid, 2014). This paper will start from the acknowledgement that not only is ‘urban violence’ under-theorised; but that it lacks a precise and unanimous definition – as we shall show by mixing qualitative literature review and scientometric analysis over academic production about urban violence. Then, we shall take some steps toward a definition and theorisation of urban violence in a process able to constitute a theoretical and strategic advance with respect to its common, simplistic understanding as ‘violence in the city’. On the one hand we deal with the phenomenological aspect of violence, making explicit how the apparently self-evident experience of violence is far from being so, and rather dependent on a series of socio-cultural-historical factors shaping the regime of visibility within which violence is perceived as such. On the other hand, we argue for the need to take into account the ontological aspect, how urban violence is tied to that peculiar formation which is the city and that peculiar process which is urbanisation.

Brenner, N. & Schmid, C. (2014). The ‘urban age’ in question. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research 38(3): 731-755.

Kilby, J. (2013) Introducing the special issue: Theorizing Violence. European Journal of Social Theory 16(3): 261-272.

Springer, S., Le Billon, Philippe (2016) Violence and Space. An Introduction to the Geographies of Violence. Political Geography 52: 1-3.