Authoritarian Urbanism: Contemporary Manifestations, Global Entanglements and Contestation

Annual Conference of the Institute for European Urban Studies 2023

Keynote Speakers:
Virág Molnár (The New School for Social Research, New York)
Michał Murawski (University College London)

09-11 November 2023

Cities are generally understood as ‘cradles of democracy’, as central sites for political action, pro-democracy and emancipatory movements, and as battlefields where authoritarian and illiberal tendencies are resisted and contested. Accordingly, research has produced ample knowledge on the interplay of cities and democracy. The complex relationship between cities and authoritarianism, in turn, has received far less attention. Yet, cities are focal points for authoritarian interventions, they are breeding grounds for authoritarian movements, and they play a crucial role in maintaining and stabilizing authoritarian regimes.

The recent surge of authoritarian tendencies around the globe has led to a renewed interest in these processes. In the last couple of years studies have documented contemporary manifestations of authoritarian urbanism and highlighted the role of urbanism in authoritarian state-building; research on post-politics and post-democracy has illuminated how the current neoliberal order undermines democratic practices in and through urban development; and works have shed light on the interplay of authoritarianism, illiberalism and right-wing populism and their socio-spatial dynamics in cities.

This conference sets out to further this debate. It brings together scholars from different disciplinary background within the field of urban studies to shed light on contemporary forms, mechanisms and dynamics of authoritarian urbanism in a global perspective. In particular it aims to advance our understanding of how urbanism is linked to, and instrumental for rising processes of authoritarianism. Gaining a better understanding of this complex interrelationship is crucial for countering authoritarian tendencies and for devising strategies to reverse them.