BIROn - Birkbeck Institutional Research Online

    To fill the earth: circulation and urbanization

    Adams, Ross Exo (2014) To fill the earth: circulation and urbanization. PhD thesis, Birkbeck, University of London.

    [img] PDF
    FINAL SUBMISSION_Ross Exo Adams_PhD_lr.pdf - Full Version
    Restricted to Repository staff only

    Download (10MB)


    Today, the urban as a category of space remains a vague notion–a background condition made visible empirically through its effects and treated as the outcome of a certain naturalised, transhistorical capacity of human co-habitation. As a result, despite the common fact of urbanization as a planetary phenomenon, we remain unable to qualify the urban itself as a distinct spatio-political order of the contemporary world. This thesis attempts to write a political history of the urban. It will do so by interrogating the concept of circulation, since circulation is not only central to the knowledge and practices of urbanization, but it also constitutes a certain historical nexus between political form and spatial order. The thesis can be framed by three fundamental questions: How is it that circulation became epistemologically bound up with the city? What is the relationship between circulation and urbanization? And, more broadly, what is the relationship between circulation and power? The thesis departs by taking issue with the birth of ‘urbanization’ in the nineteenth century, for it is in this period that, not only would circulation become a fundamental condition of the city, but it would do so with a distinctly political ambition—one that is curiously overlooked by our present histories of the city. I place particular emphasis on the work of Ildefonso Cerdá, the figure who authored the first explicit theory of urbanization in 1867. From here, the thesis embarks on a more historical examination of circulation, charting the ways in which, as a concept, it was made useful for giving order to the physical world, tracing its migration from a signature of divine and natural order to its emergence as a concept in the seventeenth century offering a spatial principle by which a new sphere of earthly, oeconomic and political power could emerge. It examines how circulation helped produce forms of political and spatial thought while embedding itself in the spaces of the modern European state and in the networks of colonial trade. From signature to concept, circulation by the eighteenth century became the foundation for an idealism around which a counter-state discourse could appear through the emergence of ‘society’—a subjectivity for which Cerdá’s theory of urbanization would later be established. Through this genealogy, the thesis engages the question of urbanization as a spatio-political order in its own rite. By reading this alongside various political and legal analyses, I argue that the urban, in opposition to ‘the city’, is a crucial dispositif in the construction of modern biopolitics in which the very organisation of space and its mediation of population constitutes a political form. In addition, the urban bears a rather striking epistemology which, I argue, was discovered not in the spaces and architectural forms of the city, but rather in the knowledge and practices fundamental to establishing the territory. The urban, I argue, is a hybrid spatiality—both city and territory while being neither at the same time— something in excess of both ontologies. At once biopolitical and territorial, the urban, I urge, should be seen as the process and product of a radical reorganisation of political power in space. In total, this thesis will follow the ways in which the construction of modes of circulation both gave form to preexisting political ideals and were also useful as a model for giving birth to new ones. In this way, the thesis also seeks to challenge a certain presumed linear causality between the cognitive sphere and spatiomaterial world that continues to underpin many discourses today. Thus, a subtext of the thesis may be read which claims that a dialectic relation between intellectual projection and interpretation is deeply rooted in the formation of the modern world itself.


    Item Type: Thesis
    Copyright Holders: The copyright of this thesis rests with the author, who asserts his/her right to be known as such according to the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988. No dealing with the thesis contrary to the copyright or moral rights of the author is permitted.
    Depositing User: Acquisitions And Metadata
    Date Deposited: 17 Sep 2014 13:37
    Last Modified: 13 Jun 2021 21:29


    Activity Overview
    6 month trend
    6 month trend

    Additional statistics are available via IRStats2.

    Archive Staff Only (login required)

    Edit/View Item Edit/View Item