This article revisits the canon that imagines urban public space as a site of civic and political formation, based on active subjects. In contrast, the article explores the implications of thinking the urban landscape as sentient in its own right, as a hum of interacting humans and nonhumans that exceeds and performs its occupants. Citing hybrid performances—software in the “smart city,” witchcraft in the streets of Kinshasa, the sermon-filled outdoors in Cairo, and the sensoria of Canton’s opium-trading quarters in the nineteenth century—the article argues that such is the eventfulness of urban public space that the politics of place are always fleeting, hidden, and never reducible to human sociality alone.
Ash Amin is professor of geography at Cambridge University. His latest books include Land of Strangers (2012), and, with Nigel Thrift, Arts of the Political (2013). He is currently working on a book with Nigel Thrift on the future as urban.
Ash Amin; Animated Space. Public Culture 1 May 2015; 27 (2 (76)): 239–258. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/08992363-2841844
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