Volume 46  Issue 1  January 2022

In This Issue...

At the start of 2022, the newest peaks of COVID cases associated with the Omicron variant remind us that the pandemic is far from over and the challenges we face remain significant. From climate disasters and the imperatives of rapid decarbonization, to ethno-racial marginalization and the displacement of the world’s most vulnerable populations, the complex challenges facing humanity and the planet require political will, radical imagination, and institutions capable of enacting systemic change. But in many parts of the world, right-wing parties and populist leaders have seized on collective anxieties to promote regressive programs of exclusion, retrenchment, and repression. At a moment when the problems are most acute, the willingness and capacity of many governments to address them have been diminished by emergent politics and entrenched structures of exclusion.

This issue’s five timely articles and four insightful Interventions pieces, focused broadly on ‘Populism and Right-Wing Imaginaries’, and drawn primarily from cases in Europe and Latin America, take this predicament head on to consider the ideologies and polices underlying the responses of right-wing populist governments to the challenges of COVID, large-scale migration, and climate disasters. The first two articles reflect on the twin ideologies at the heart of right-wing populism: ethnonationalism and free-market orthodoxy. Christian Lamour’s article, based on analyses of discourses from Hungary’s radical-right Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, reveals that nativist territorialism not only locates at the scale of the nation-state, but is manifesting as cross-border regionalism in Central and Eastern Europe. In a case study of the Visegrád regional partnership-which includes Hungary, Poland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic, countries all of whose public spheres have been marked by strong right-wing populism-Lamour argues that this form of cross-national regionalism is rooted in asymmetrical ‘power geometries’ and the production of antagonisms between Central European polities and non-European migrants. In the second article, Nina Ebner and Jamie Peck examine the neoliberal and neocolonial imaginaries that underpin Paul Romer’s charter city model. Tracing the model from its origins in a mythologized, colonial Hong Kong through a protracted project to enact it in Honduras, Ebner and Peck examine the long-haul efforts to realize Romer’s vision of ‘startup urbanism’ and its accordant imaginaries.

The next two articles detail how efforts to accommodate refugees and asylum seekers in the cities of Gothenburg and London have been undermined by exclusionary politics and neoliberal retrenchments. In a case study of an ambitious but ultimately failed project to house 1,000 refugees in Gothenburg, Sweden, Kristina Grange details the loss of political consensus for the project. She traces the political machination through which the consensus came to be replaced by spatial and temporal logics in which migrants were imagined as strangers and expulsion occurred at the scale of the self, the community, and the nation. Documenting a similar process of expulsion, Burcu Toğral Koca attributes the exclusion of asylum seekers and refugees in London less to political imaginaries and more to the diminished capacity of civil society institutions. Toğral Koca demonstrates that ongoing neoliberalization and entrenched politics resulted in the privatization and devolution of refugee services to civil society actors incapable of contesting the inclusion/exclusion enacted through bordering regimes.  In the final article, Remus Creţan, Petr Kupka, Ryan Powell and Václav Walach reveal the personal costs of such expulsions, exploring the intimate responses and coping mechanisms of Roma in Romania and Czechia. Moving beyond a focus on racializing frameworks from above, the authors shed important light on the micro-sociological aspects of Roma stigmatization to reveal the fragmented habitus that arises from the Roma’s racialized urban position.

The Interventions pieces extend the issue’s themes to speculate more broadly on the implications and potential responses to the corrosive effects of right-wing populism. Reflecting on a range of local and national contexts, including Brazil, Italy and the US, Juan J. Rivero, Luisa Sotomayor, Juliana M. Zanotto and Andrew Zitcer diagnose the so-called ‘populist fracture’ and consider the role the city may play in its healing. On an optimistic note, they conclude by highlighting the potential role of urban planners, policymakers, advocates and organizers, and posit the city as a site of encounter and experimentation that can produce new solidarities and imaginaries. Abigail Friendly’s piece, meanwhile, documents these possibilities through a model of insurgent planning in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro. Reflecting on the response of Brazil’s federal right-wing populist government to the COVID pandemic, Friendly explains that when the government failed to attend to the needs of favela residents, mobilizations and insurgent planning practices ensued. Friendly’s analysis reveals that insurgent citizenship remains possible even under the extreme duress of the pandemic, but that such practices are transformed by the context.

The remaining two Interventions pieces consider the intersection of climate politics and right-wing political imaginaries. Danielle Rivera’s piece on “disaster colonialism” considers the histories and contemporary realities of colonialism and coloniality in Puerto Rico through its experiences of repeated disasters. Rivera’s analysis reveals that procedural vulnerability in Puerto Rico is deepened through disasters and continually leveraged to entrench the island’s coloniality. Rivera demonstrates that disaster colonialism foregrounds the historical and contemporary systems of racial violence and dispossession that lie at the heart of disaster preplanning, recovery, and reconstruction. Ander Audikana’s and Vincent Kaufmann’s piece on ‘green populism’, meanwhile, reflects on the right-wing populist identitarian politics that have adopted environmental narratives in Switzerland. Their analysis reveals that Switzerland’s ongoing metropolization generates a fertile breeding ground for a brand of right-wing populism intertwined with concerns about urban development, housing scarcity, traffic, infrastructure development, energy consumption, pollution and transformation of the landscape. Documenting the phenomenon of green populism in Switzerland, Audikana and Kaufmann reflect on the conditions that may lead to its emergence in other contexts.

While the nine pieces in the January 2022 issue each offer valuable insights on the local causes and political manifestations of right-wing populism in Latin America, Europe, and other parts of the world, when read as a collection, they help reveal the possibilities of a different kind of politics. As the world continues to grapple with increasingly complex and potentially intractable crises, the political imaginaries that shape the institutional responses will have ever more significance and must continue to be understood in their local and regional contexts.

— Liza Weinstein, January 2022 Editorial


Chris Pickvance (1944-2021)


A Radical-Right Populist Definition of Cross-National Regionalism in Europe: Shaping Power Geometries at the Regional Scale Beyond State Borders

Fantasy Island: Paul Romer and the Multiplication of Hong Kong

Imaginaries and Expulsion: How 1,000 Temporary Accommodation Units For Refugees In The City Of Gothenburg Became 57

Bordering, Differential Inclusion/Exclusion and Civil Society in the UK

Everyday Roma Stigmatization: Racialized Urban Encounters, Collective Histories and Fragmented Habitus


Democratic Public or Populist Rabble: Repositioning the City amidst Social Fracture

Insurgent Planning in Pandemic Times: The Case of Rio de Janeiro

Disaster Colonialism: A Commentary on Disasters beyond Singular Events to Structural Violence

Towards Green Populism? Right-wing Populism and Metropolization in Switzerland