Splanetary Urbanization


In this article I draw on ideas associated with minor theory to address the politics of knowledge that permeate the discourse and aspirations of planetary urbanization, and think through what is at stake in some of its broader claims. Existing critiques challenge the evacuation of agency, subjectivity and forms of difference in the planetary ambitions of the theory and call out its inattentiveness to lived experience. Here, I seek to further these critiques by addressing lived experience not as some ‘real’ against which all things are measured, but to find the political grounds where social actors are made and act on the shifting conditions of their lives. I excavate some of the social relations flattened or ignored in planetary urbanization’s key propositions by drawing on three texts that allow us to imagine the planetary without foreclosure: a map from Rebecca Solnit and Joshua Jelly-Schapiro’s Nonstop Metropolis; the Detroit Geographical Expedition and Institute as an almost forgotten alternative, and an example of urban research and practice that is at once intimate and global; and artist Zoe Leonard’s pieces ‘Analogue’ and ‘You See I Am Here After All’. By drawing out some connections to and among these works in time and space, I reframe the planetary with reference to countertopography to reveal and spark consciousness of the makings, undoings, contingencies and possibilities of contemporary urbanization—global and intimate, planetary but lived.