Colonial Remnants of the Urban Present

Yale School of Architecture
Annual Myriam Bellazoug Lecture
April 13 2023

In this talk, I argue that what is at stake in contemporary urbanism, urban design, landscape architecture and planning is not the protection of any one neighborhood, community or city from the violence of climate change, but the preservation of the urban itself—a system of systems, a space-process that exceeds any singular city and that forms the spatial substrate of our present capitalist world. This talk situates these claims by dwelling on a largely unacknowledged inheritance of certain colonial logics that operate across space, class, race, gender, and the environment; logics that have, together, produced a very specific kind of space new to the world in the 17th century. The urban, I argue, is a normalization and generalization of settler colonial production of space—what I call a ‘social technology.’ The making of the urban, therefore, cannot be prized from the making and managing of settler colonial spaces. Nor can it be understood as distinct from the creation of modern subjectivity and its racialized, gendered hierarchies as well as its mechanistic understanding of nature as something that needs to be constantly enclosed, controlled, improved, exhausted.