Session 38

I1 Decoding the City: Entanglements of the Material and Affective

The city, in contemporary times, has emerged as an eclectic space where neoliberalism, biopolitics, and subaltern countercultures have seamlessly woven into each other. A key concern among urban studies scholars from diverse disciplines (especially anthropology/ sociology, geography, architecture, political science, and the planning sciences) has been to examine how non-hegemonic spaces have shaped urban subjectivities. As opposed to spectacular scales of urbanisation being driven by the big players such as the state, real estate agents or the judiciary, much of the city also reproduces itself through ordinary and everyday practices of placemaking. Recent works on city infrastructures have not only investigated the socio-political implications of urban materialities (Anand 2017) but have also highlighted the role played by digital re-imaginations like Smart cities (Kitchin 2023), in shaping strategic-relational approaches (Smigiel 2018) that explore the topological spatiality of urban assemblages (McFarlane 2011). These practices often blur the lines between subversion and compliance, wherein ‘popular economies’ have appropriated and relaunched the mercantilist calculus of neoliberal reason (Gago 2018). Further, although these practices are mostly performed by citizens caught up in conditions of precarity (Vij 2019), they have emerged as ‘rhythms of endurance’ (Simone 2019) that eventually ‘auto-construct’ (Calderia 2017) complex state-resident relations and facilitate networked ties between disconnected immigrants (Aschauer 2021) through transversal logics of claim-making (Mohanty 2019). These works therefore, compel us to decode the city and see through its polyvalent sociologies which entangle, materialities, agencies and emotions. This fluidity challenges simple, spatio-temporal conceptualizations of the city and thereby signals the multiplicity of the urban imagination. In fact, following calls for the ‘more-than-human’ turn in disciplines like geography (Thrift 2008) and sociology (Franklin 2017), we argue that there is an increasing need to understand the city as an assemblage co-emerging between people, things, and infrastructure. At an academic level, it therefore requires a more open, interdisciplinary approach whereby only a ‘methodological pluralism’ (quantitative/ qualitative/ mixed methods) can overcome reductionist readings of the city. Neither should the city be merely read as a text for archival explorations nor be seen as a tapestry of power representations that can be dissected only through ethnographic nuancing, geo-spatial mapping, or regression analysis. Through a range of different relational frameworks, drawing on a diversity of theorists ranging from Bourdieu to Latour to Deleuze and Guattari to Wacquant, we expect papers to provide an empirical nudge, to what Million et al (2021) term as ‘kaleidoscopic perspectives on the refiguration of space’. This session aims to bring together academics with diverse methodological persuasions, who irrespective of the empirical groundings of their work in cities of the Global North or South, are vigilant about the interplay between affects, materiality, and the politics of the built environment. We invite papers that explicitly decode the material and affective side of the city from, say for instance, a planetary or postcolonial urban studies perspective or even focus on specific themes (housing, infrastructures, politics). In other words, suggestively, papers (both conceptual and empirical) should engage with one or more of the following four key themes: (i.) How does the city transform and create new assemblages? (ii.) How does the city co-generate affects and politics beyond architectural designs? (iii.) How does the city work through the unequal spaces of infrastructure? (iv.) How does the city through social movements and participatory governance models redefine territorial scalars like ward/ municipality/provincial/federal level(s) of governance?