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Every Revolution Has Its Square

Every Revolution Has Its Square

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Published by petersigrist
Also available on cities@Manchester: http://citiesmcr.wordpress.com/2011/03/18/every-revolution-has-its-square
Also available on cities@Manchester: http://citiesmcr.wordpress.com/2011/03/18/every-revolution-has-its-square

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Published by: petersigrist on Jun 02, 2011
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 “Every revolution has its square” 
http://citiesmcr.wordpress.com/2011/03/18/every-revolution-has-its-square Tiananmen square, Place de la Bastille, Red Square, Alexanderplatz, Tahrir square, Assaha-al-Khadra, Syntagma Square, Green Square, Wenceslas square: these are just a few of the public spaces that have become engrained in our symbolic universe as emblematic sites of revolutionary geographies. Their names stand as
 points de capiton
that quilt a chain of meaning through signifiers like democracy, revolution, freedom, being-in-common,solidarity, emancipation. The emergence of political space, these examples suggest, unfoldsthrough a political act that stages collectively the presumption of equality and affirms theability of ‘the people’ to self-manage and organize its affairs. It is an active process of intervention through which (public) space is reconfigured and through which – if successful – a new socio-spatial order is inaugurated. The taking of urban public spaces has indeed always been, from the Athenian
demanding to be part of the polis to the heroic struggle of theTunisian people, the hallmark of emancipatory geo-political trajectories.There is an uncanny choreographic affinity between recent urban revolts in the MiddleEast and eruptions of discontent and urban protest in Athens, Madrid, Lyon, Lisbon, Rome,London, Berlin, or Paris, among many other cities. However, although the Middle Easternuprisings are celebrated by Western media pundits and politicians, their Europeancounterparts are often disavowed as illegitimate outbursts of irrational anger and anarchicviolence. Consider, for example, how a few hundred thousand people acting in common onTahrir square are staged as the stand-in for 
The People
, for the totality of 81.3 millionEgyptians, while the participants in urban insurgencies in the global North are customarily
labeled as protesters, rebels, anarchists and, occasionally, as ‘scum’. Particularly when thingsturn nasty, every effort is made to assure that the ‘rioters’ are not identified with
The People
.Despite their highly variegated political-economic and socio-cultural embedding, the eventsin Europe and the Middle East share that they are considered illegitimate, often repressed,and invariably disavowed by the ‘local’ elites. Their participants are not considered to be proper political interlocutors. Sarkozy called the 2005 rioters ‘racaille’,Gaddafi repeatedsomething similar six years later in his repudiation of rebelling Libyans. Yet, these eventsalso share an indisputably ‘political’ character.The contemporary urban condition is marked by a post-political police order of managing the spatial distribution and circulation of things and people within a consensuallyagreed neo-liberal arrangement. Rancière associates this condition with the notion of ‘ThePolice’, conceived as a heterogeneous set of technologies and strategies for ordering,distributing, and allocating people, things, and functions to designated places. Thesemanagerial practices and procedures colonize and evacuate the proper spaces of the political;the Police are about hierarchy, ordering, and distribution. Spatialized policies (planning,architecture, urban policies, etc...) are one of the core
of the Police.Politics inaugurate the re-partitioning of the Police logic, the re-ordering of what isvisible and audible, registering as voice what was only registered as noise, and re-framingwhat is regarded as political. It occurs in places not allocated to the exercise of power or theinstituted negotiation of recognized differences and interests. As Badiou insists, politicsemerge as an event: the singular act of choreographing egalitarian appearance of being-in-common at a distance from the State. Whereas any logic of the Police is a logic of hierarchy,of inequality, politics is marked by the presumption of equality within an aristocratic order that invariable ‘wronged’ this presumption.
It is within this aporia between
la politique
(the Police) and
le politique
(the political)that urban insurrections can be framed. While much of the State’s attempts to re-order theurban through mobilizing discursively a set of signifiers of inclusiveness (social cohesion,inclusion, emancipation, self-reliance), while reproducing in practice well-worn clichés of urban doom (exclusion, danger, crisis, fear). Attempts to produce ‘cohesive’ cities revolvearound choreographing distribution and circulation of activities, things and people such thatthe police order remains intact. While the state’s statements frame particular trajectories of ‘inclusion’, they shy away from acknowledging division, polemic, dissensus and, above all,from endorsing the assumption of equality on which the democratic political rests. Justice,equality and communality are censored from the script of urban policy prescriptions.It is precisely this suturing process that suspends political litigation, voicing or stagingdissent or asserting polemical equality. These cut through the police order and tentativelyopen up the spaces of the political again. The urban insurgents have no demands; they do notexpect anything from the Police. They have no program, no pronunciations; neither leader nor party. Perhaps they are part of something that is called into being through resonance, viralinfection and affiliation, not through hierarchy and structure. They do not demand equality,they stage it and, in doing so, produce,
Balibar, equa-libertarian spaces. This staging of equality and freedom, the interruption of the normalized geographical order of the sensible,exposes the aristocratic configuration and in-egalitarian ‘wrongs’ of the given, and invariablyencounters the Police’s wrath. Such exposition of equa-liberty cannot remain unnoticed: iteither succeeds or meets with violence, the terror of the State that – in its violent acting –  precisely affirms that some people are not part of The People, that the police order is indeedin-egalitarian.This constitutive gap between Police and Politics needs to be affirmed. Politics cannot be reduced to managing and ordering space, to consensual pluralist and institutionalized

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