Enclosed Bodies: Locating Cerdá’s Urbanización within Federici’s History of Capitalism

Part of the project ‘On Collaborations: Feminist Histories of Migration’, edited by Anooradah Iyer Siddiqi and Rachel Lee and published on Aggregate.

Using Silvia Federici’s work as a guide to navigate the mobilities in Ildefonso Cerdá’s concept of urbanización this essay offers a rereading of a trusted nineteenth-century concept underpinning architectures of accumulation, exposing the relation between sex and immobilization and the long history of the violent gendering of the human body.

If the body became the site over which a new struggle had emerged at the dawn of capitalism in the sixteenth century, by the nineteenth, its gendered disposition had been all but naturalized, and the governments that rose to power built their techniques around this imagined body whose biological and physiological distinctions provided the features that could in turn naturalize its new roles under capitalism. It was Cerdá’s “genius” to build a spatial theory that not only reflected but reproduced this emergent form of liberal governance, offering a far finer and more multilayered articulation of power that could obtain in the relations between bodies and space.