I’ve got two more events coming up in London, both on Wednesday, November 26. I’ll post more info about the first event in a bit. The second one, in the evening, has been organized by the Complex Terrain Laboratory, and it will take place in the J.Z. Young Lecture Theatre at UCL, inside the Anatomy Building on Gower Street. Here is a map.
I’ll be teaming up with Antoine Bousquet, Lecturer in International Relations at Birkbeck College, and author of the forthcoming book The Scientific Way of Warfare: Order and Chaos on the Battlefields of Modernity to discuss our work in relation to space, war, and the city.
A description of the event itself:
Contemporary political discourse on armed violence and insecurity has been largely shaped by references to spatial knowledge, simulation, and control: “human terrain,” “urban clutter,” “terrorist sanctuaries,” “failed states,” “core-periphery.” The historical counterpoint to this is to be found in the key role the successive technologies of clock, engine, computer, and network have all played in spatializing the practice of warfare. In this context, what implications do “feral” Third World cities, “rogue” cities organized along non-Western ideas of urban space and infrastructure, and “wild” cities reclaimed by nature, have for the battlespaces of today and tomorrow?
Antoine and I will both be giving short talks, followed by a general Q&A. The event is wide-open to the public, so please feel free to stop by. At the very least, you’ll get an early preview of Antoine’s forthcoming book – in which he introduces the term chaoplexic warfare in a survey of everything from ant “swarms” and the use of 18th-century battlefield metaphors to the distributed geographies of the Russian mafia, the Medellín drug cartel, and Al-Qaeda – and that’s already quite a lot right there.
For my own part, I’ll be discussing a pretty broad swath of ideas about “feral cities” – what I like to call cities gone wild – ranging from Richard J. Norton’s seminal paper on the topic to Mike Davis’s research on “the Pentagon as global slumlord,” via reference to J.G. Ballard, Eyal Weizman, Stefano Boeri, Reza Negarestani, and many others.
I’ll also briefly mention the radical ecology of a biologically wild city, or the city regressed (perhaps advanced?) into an extraordinary state of nature after abandonment and war.
Some of the basic themes we should be approaching: If a growing majority of the human population has now been urbanized, moving into what are often incorrectly described as “cities,” what will warfare mean – and how will it be practiced – in these increasingly complex spatial environments? If urban insurgency is, indeed, the future of the global battlefield, as many theorists have proposed, how does the changing nature of urbanism itself help to redefine war? Conversely, how does insurrection work to redefine the space of the modern city?
Finally, if the future of war can be seen as Military Operation on Urban Terrain – or MOUT – what mutations will we see when that one key variable, the urban, is redefined?
So I’m really looking forward to this. I’ve got loads and loads of notes and references to bring with me, and it’ll be good to meet Antoine, whose book I’ve been reading this month.
So if you’re in London that night, stop by! It’s free and open to the public. Wild cities, rogue cities, feral cities, future cities.
(Note: This event is sponsored by the excellent Symbio Design, who also produced our web banners, ads, and flyer).