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TRANSGRESSING URBAN UTOPANISM: AUTONOMY AND ACTIVE DESIRE

By Rhiannon Firth

Abstract

It has been extensively argued by theorists of liberal globalization as well as by radical theorists such as situationists and anarchists, that as the site of the concentration of capital, the city is the primary site for the formation of new subjectivities, new rights-claiming practices and the intensification of resistance as the starting point for an alternative, inclusionary urban citizenship. This article contends that by dismissing or separating rural and agricultural practices, such theories express a contradiction that can best be understood not as a struggle between rural and urban utopias, but between two different approaches to utopianism – hegemonic, associated with statist practices; and critical, associated with autonomous practices. The article considers emergent free spaces within UK, including intentional communities, autonomous social centres, radical housing co-operatives and eco-villages, both in urban and rural areas, as specific instances of materialized utopias that are becoming-autonomous, allowing us to think beyond dominant spatial formations by offering alternative futures whilst simultaneously engaging in resistant practices in the present. Voices of interviewed practitioners and observations of practices in these spaces are brought into dialogue with theory, highlighting gaps and weaknesses and opening space for further theorizing and new imaginings. This offers possibilities for a critical-autonomous conception of utopianism that does not take existing spatial formations for granted

Publisher: Wiley for Swedish Society for Anthropology and Geography
Year: 2012
OAI identifier: oai:roar.uel.ac.uk:1795

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