Today, more than half of the world’s population live in urban settings. By 2050, that figure is expected to rise even further, to 6.5 billion people, with the vast majority being young people. Even by 2030, an estimated 60% of urban populations will be under the age of 18. It is therefore young people who are, and will be continuing to, drive the future of our cities.
This rapid urbanisation goes hand in hand with another global trend: the fast-growing spread of data-driven, digital technologies that are being used to improve the administration and governance of cities. These digital urban infrastructures can facilitate inclusive, democratic, and participatory decision-making, but they can also have the opposite effect. They can be used to surveil, monitor, and “datafy” people in public spaces, thereby potentially endangering rights. Therefore, we need to better understand how data-driven and digital technologies can support or threaten young people’s health, wellbeing, and livelihoods.
Responding to this need, and to ensure cities ethically and equitably deploy data-driven and digital technologies to give young people a greater say, Fondation Botnar is inviting applicants to submit research proposals as part of a new interdisciplinary research program: ‘Technology and youth participation in governing intermediary cities in LMICs’ (TYPCities). The program will run for three years (2023-2026).
How do urban security assemblages evolve? Scholars inspired by Deleuze’s influential Control Thesis see profound shifts in the ways urban security operates. Different to Foucault’s disciplinary logics, they argue, urban security assemblages now rely intimately on expanding casts of policing agents, digital surveillance and statistical knowledge(s). They reach beyond enclosures and national borders, and they challenge democratic politics ever more forcefully. Whether this general trajectory of security management holds true across the global cityscape is yet far from evident. Not only do most studies of contemporary control draw conclusions from European and North American cities exclusively. Many also reproduce and project abroad distinctively Eurocentric assumptions about state-society relations, governance and insecurity. This upcoming new article in Journal of Global Security Studies first foregrounds and problematizes these penchants. It then looks at the Moroccan city of Marrakech to detail how urban security assemblages may evolve in different ways, at other speeds, and following different steering logics than what is generally set out by research on control. The article concludes with a discussion of how insights offered by places such as Marrakech contribute to more robust, analytically refined and globally inclusive research on the contemporary politics of urban security.
Hagmann, Jonas (2021). Globalizing control research: The politics of urban security in and beyond the Alaouite Kingdom of Morocco. Journal of Global Security Studies. OnlineFirst. URL
Urban design is increasingly widely used for city-oriented security production, and thus becomes included into the latter’s complex politics of in- and exclusion. This contribution showcases how urban design becomes deployed as a technology of security both internationally and in Switzerland, and how a reflexive security studies perspective on this use offers productive new research avenues. This is because the focus on urban design allows asking in new ways whether ‘more security is better’, how technological interventions are used and appropriated, and how they reconfigure democratic processes. Security research drawing on reflexive IR and security studies is well placed to this endeavour, as it proposes integrative and dialectical analyses of how built environments may be empowering/disempowering and inclusive/exclusive. The contribution sets out the specificities of this research ontology, presents urban design’s operation as technology of security politics, and illustrates said link in two mini-case studies centring in Bogotá and Zürich. In line with the special section to which it contributes, the article seeks to familiarize readers with architecture-oriented political analysis, and to draw out main lines of further investigation.
Hagmann, Jonas; Kostenwein, David (2021). Urban design as technology of (counter-) democratic security politics. Swiss Political Science Review 27(1): 193-204. PDF
My UdelaR colleague Diego Sanjurjo and I are currently in the field to trace how public authorities, citizens, private companies and civil society groups contribute to urban security politics in the Uruguayan capital of Montevideo. We also analyze how the country’s political heritage – a statist inclination and history of military dictatorship rule especially – conditions the politics of in- and exclusion in three different sub-city sites, Ciudad Vjeja, Tres Cruses Terminal, and Montevideo Shopping/World Trace Centre. First findings draw a fairly complex panorama in which new government programs for integrated citizen safety, generalized video surveillance, and significant expansions of the private security sector don’t succeed in curbing growths in crime and violence, heightened public sentiments of pervasive insecurity, and polarized political debates regarding the city’s future trajectories.
Montevideo is the third case study in the SNSF Ambizione research program “Securing the city: The global politics and practices of urban protection”. It connects and compares to political sociology work on the Swiss cities of Zürich, Basel and Bern, the Moroccan city of Marrakech, and the Nepali capital of Kathmandu.
For extended visual documentation of our Montevideo fieldwork see here.
From August – October 2018, I will be a visiting scholar at the Universidad de la Republica’s Department of Social Sciences. The research stay serves to connect to sociologists, criminologists and political scientists based at UdelaR – especially the research group of Professor Nico Trajtenberg – and to conduct field research on the reconfiguration of urban security management in the City of Montevideo.
ETH Zürich covers our ongoing Winter School on urban (in-)security in the Cape Town township of Khayelitsha in a social media news stream. Visit the ISTP homepage, facebook or twitter account for updates, reports and audio-visual material.
Khayelitsha – Harare and Monwabisi Park
Program visits – Ikhayalami/EmpowerShack and Social Justice Coalition
African Centre for Cities – 10th Anniversary Conference
There is much agreement that urban security dispositives acquired new qualities in recent years. But do the dominant diagnoses hold up to detailed empirical verification? This piece in International Political Sociology re-engages the pertinent security studies literature. In the age of globalisation and urbanisation, technological innovation and liberal policy ideals, how are urban security apparatuses reorganised, and in what relations do they stand to local societal and political orders? Describing the evolving security handling of three urban spaces – a site of mobility (HB Zürich), a public square (Bundesplatz Bern) and a place of mass commerce (St. Jakob Park Basel) –, the article makes the case for more nuanced engagements with urban security ensembles, their technological evolution, relations with democratic ideals, globalisation and de-territorialisation both in and beyond Western polities.
Securing public space in Switzerland – Bundesplatz Bern
Hagmann, Jonas (2017). Security in the society of control: The politics and practices of securing urban spaces. International Political Sociology 11(4): 418-448. PDF
Jennifer Duyne Barenstein and I are organizing an ISTP Spring School in Cape Town on urban security practices/instruments in low-income neighborhoods. The program covers two weeks, starting 29 January 2018, and is open to ETH Zürich PhD and MA students. It includes lectures on Southern Urbanism, socio-spatial exclusion and everyday security politics. It also entails participation in a UCT urban studies conference, training in fieldwork methodology and on-site research. Deadline for applications is 10 December.