The City and Community, Durham University 18th November 2009

In mid-November I will be giving a paper at The City and Community workshop at Durham University. This workshop will focus on the twin questions of the nature of urban community and the role of the city as distinctive site of politics.

Further details including a program for the workshop can be found here. Speakers will include Michael J Shapiro, Ash Amin, Joe Painter, Angharad Closs Stephens, Martin Coward, Steve Graham, Vicki Squire, Jennifer Bagelman and Delacey Tedesco.

The event is being jointly organised the Politics-Space-State research cluster, Durham University & the BISA Poststructural Politics Working Group. Angharad Closs Stephens is the main organiser, with additional assistance from myself, Louise Amoore, Michele Lancione and Eduardo Neve-Jimenez.

Places at the workshop are free but limited. Please contact Angharad Closs Stephens if you would like to know more and/or are interested in attending.

My paper will be entitled ‘Agonism, community, urbanity’. It will comprise comments designed to draw together the themes of agonism and community as they have been developed to date in my work. Briefly, it will examine the inter-related concepts of agonism and community in order to outline an understanding of the city as an ontological terrain characterised by provocation and difference. I have argued elsewhere that agonism is a fundamental characteristic of the built environment and, hence, of the city. This point is important because it questions the benign notions of plurality that often characterise urban theorising. Instead it conceives of the city as a continual experience of confrontation and friction which, while not necessarily always violent, poses a deep ontological challenge to individual subjects on a daily basis. This conception of the agonistic nature or city life poses, however, the question of community or being-together (as we must be-together in order to be in provocative relation). Community might seem to be the antithesis of agonism: a haven from the buffeting gale of provocation. However, I will turn to Jean-Luc Nancy to understand how we might reconceptualise community as being-with in order to think through the problem of the relation between agonism and community. I will suggest that a conception of community emerges that helps us to understand how we might respond to urban violence in a manner that shows a certain care for difference rather than a nostalgia for homogeneity.

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