Go to the U of M home page


Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Coffee Hour with Nathan Clough

The Department of Geography, Environment and Society is holding a Coffee Hour on Friday, September 27th at 3:30pm in 445 Blegen Hall. Nathan Clough, Assistant Professor in the Department of Geography at the University of Minnesota, Duluth, will give a talk titled "Con-fusing the concept of a crisis: public space and constituent power."

For at least the past twenty years, critical scholars of cities have analyzed and agitated against the declining publicity of urban space. In their accounts public space is a site of special importance for democratic politics because it is where "the public" may be addressed through accessing the public sphere. A decline in the publicity of public space is thought to indicate a decline in the possibility of broad democratic participation in society. Critical scholars have therefore spent considerable effort documenting how social movements and radical struggles have militated against the diminution of public space, asserting their rights to the city and thereby preserving the democratic function of urban space in the face of neoliberal and neoconservative onslaught.
I argue that these analyses are, to a significant extent, misleading. The assumption that the public creates and defends public space is based on an ontological con-fusion of the public with the multitude, an error that forecloses consideration of how public space is itself an apparatus of capture for the constituent power of the multitude. In other words, most critical accounts of public space are seemingly blind to the ways that public space itself creates and delimits the formation of the public as a legitimating foundation of liberal sovereignty. I draw on Ranciere and Negri to parse constituent power from the public, and to think the materialities and ideologies of spatial practices that are both internal to and external of the police order instantiated in public space. This ontological shift allows serious consideration of the extent to which radical direct action protest is sometimes targeted toward the destruction of the public-making function of space, while state action is often directed toward the creation and preservation of public space.
Please click here for the event flyer.