URBICIDE: THE KILLING OF CITIES
An international and interdisciplinary academic workshop, 24-25th November 2005
Sponsored by the Politics-State-Space research group, Department of Geography, University of Durham, U.K. and P+C: The Peace and Co
As the world has entered a decade within which the majority of the world’s population will live in urban areas, the ‘right to the city’ for the world’s 3.5 billion urbanites has never been a more contested political, social and geopolitical issue. As well as the more familiar debates about migration, multiculturalism, and inequality, the unprecedented scale of global urbanization is also directing intellectual attention in the humanities and social sciences to focus on the role of cities as dominant sites of destruction, violence, insurgency and terrorism in the contemporary world. Three converging areas of research can be identified here.
First, in both the Global North and Global South, researchers analyzing cities are starting to consider deliberate attempts at the annihilation of cities as mixed physical, social and cultural spaces. Increasing recognition is being given to the erasure of urban places, whether through massive capitalist speculation, the destructive processes of planned urban restructuring (associated particularly with the ‘megaprojects’ associated with neoliberal regimes of urban development), state-backed warfare or terrorist violence.
Second, the central symbolic role of urban sites as physical targets of terrorist, counter-terror and state terror campaigns is also gaining increasing recognition within critical international politics research. Such work is being motivated by the widespread realization that ‘asymmetric’, insurgent, and network-based political violence can not be understood through traditional nation-state based paradigms. In addition, in the post Cold War, western militaries are carefully transforming their doctrine, equipment and techno-scientific orientation so that the control and destruction of urban insurgencies in tightly built urban environments -- so called Military Operations in Urban terrain (MOUT) -- becomes their de facto function.
Finally, the emergence of cities as targets of ethno-nationalist violence (as in the 1990s Balkan Wars) or as targets of Orientalist violence (as in the case of Chechnya, Iraq and the Occupied Territories) is the subject of a growing body of work in politics, sociology, anthropology and geography.
One central concept is emerging which offers potential to tie together all three of these areas of work: ‘urbicide’ – or the deliberate attempt to deny, or kill, the city. Whilst the term is gaining widening coverage in all three of the above research strands, there has, as yet, been no attempt to organize a cross-cutting and multi-scaled workshop to bring together the diverse research communities who are becoming increasingly interested in both the political and policy violence targeting cities.
The Durham urbicide workshop will do just this. Using the interdisciplinary orientation of Durham Geography’s Politics-State-Space group, the workshop will seek to specify the potential and limits of this emerging inter-disciplinary concept, emphasizing the similar logic that operates across the scale of local, national and global. It will develop and publish a ground-breaking interdisciplinary dialogue between key researchers in geography, international politics, planning, sociology, architecture, anthropology, history, and law, who are developing research into the role of cities as sites of both planning-related and political violence. And it will attempt to develop a cutting-edge research agenda into the nature of urbicide that can be pursued further by both the cross-disciplinary and cross-national research networks that will be established at the workshop.
The organizers would be particularly interested in papers that address the following:
Neoliberal cities, urban planning, and annihilations of place
War as urbicide in the 20th century
Place annihilation and colonial power
Urbicide as war on collective and architectural memory
Popular and media cultures and representations of urban annihilation
Urbicide, terrorism and the ‘war on terror’
Military shifts towards ‘Military Operations on Urban Terrain’
Military technoscience and the city
The relations between urbicide and other forms of political violence
The reconstruction and resilience of cities
Organization of the Workshop
The emphasis of the 2-day workshop will be on encouraging inter-disciplinary interaction. To keep the event to a small size, all the 25-30 or so participants will be required to make abstract and paper submissions. Speakers will have 15 minutes to present their central ideas; papers will be submitted in advance of the event and will be posted on a web site for participants to read before the event.
Practical details regarding the venue, programme, costings, timetable, accommodation and transport will be sent to everyone who has a paper accepted to the event. The charge for the event will be nominal. Because the budget for the event is very limited, participants will be expected to make their own transport and accommodation arrangements using full information provided by the organizers.
Submission of Abstracts
Please email abstracts of 200 words to all three of the 3 organizers by 30 APRIL 2005 (e-mail addresses provided below).
The best papers from the event will be published in a major edited book and, possibly, a journal special issue
David Campbell (Department of Geography, University of Durham) David.Campbell@durham.ac.uk
Stephen Graham (Department of Geography, University of Durham) firstname.lastname@example.org
Daniel B. Monk (Peace and Conflict Studies, Colgate University)
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