Authoritarian Urbanism

More on the invitation for post-doc fellows from the Global South for two six months fellowships, in cooperation with the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation. (Contact: Alke Jenss).

Recent electoral developments have paved the way for reactionary populism to come to power in countries as diverse as the Philippines or Brazil, seemingly capitalizing on discontent with democratic institutions and on crime-related fears. Albeit to different degrees, democratically elected officials have implemented authoritarian strategies in terms of the relationship between the state and society, for example by ruling through presidential decrees or by limiting freedom of assembly through anti-protest laws. This trend no longer seems to represent a mere failure of democratization, but rather an active process of the transformation of practices of rule.
The results of this process are starkly visible in cities. Punitive policing, coercion against protests that highlight the lack of housing or inequality in urban mobility, or the declaration of particular urban spaces as ‘dangerous’, making them subject to specific coercive strategies, are all examples of the “new authoritarianism”. While austerity policies are nothing new in the Global South, new urban austerity programmes are resulting in a new wave of “austerity urbanism”, often intertwined with coercive measures in the guise of making cities more secure.
Recognizing the mounting protest movements based in cities around the world, we encourage scholars to think about how social groups formulate their (everyday) responses to the shifting dynamics of democratic mechanisms and coercion in times of austerity. The temporary and mobile character of urban protest also has a potential to rework the city, and the scalar reach of these movements should not be underestimated.

Current discussions at the ABI revolve around topics such as:
•    urban authoritarian politics;
•    the state and dynamics of democratization and authoritarianism;
•    relations of local coercion and global flows of goods;
•    practices and processes of authoritarian capitalism; and
•    austerity urbanism in the Global South.


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