When Life Itself is War: On the Urbanization of Military and Security Doctrine


It is now well established that both the ‘war on terror’ and its offshoots have been conspicuously marked by overwhelmingly urban discourses, materialities and practices. Deliberately transdisciplinary, synthetical and polemical in scope, this article seeks to demonstrate that new ideologies of permanent and boundless war are radically intensifying the militarization of urban life in the contemporary period. The article delineates the ways in which contemporary processes of militarization — which surround what I label the ‘new military urbanism’— raise fundamental questions for critical urban scholarship because of the ways in which they work to normalize the permanent targeting of everyday urban sites, circulations and populations. Focusing primarily on US security and military doctrine, culture and technology, this article explores the new military urbanism’s five interrelated foundations in detail, namely: the urbanization of military and security doctrine; the links between militarized control technologies and digitized urban life; the cultural performances of militarized media consumption; the emerging urban political economies of the ‘security’ industries; and the new state spaces of violence. Following the elaboration of each of these themes, the article concludes by identifying ways forward for critical urban research in exposing and confronting the normalization of the new military urbanism.