Slouching Towards Dystopia in Lagos and Detroit: Narratives of Apocalypse and Making the New Urban Periphery
Posted: 19 Apr 2013
Date Written: April 19, 2013
In a 2002 Public Culture essay Charles Taylor argued for the need to critique dominant “social imaginaries” according to the power or institutional structures they enforce, legitimate, or make possible. In the proposed paper I advance Taylor’s claim in order to assess the extent to which dystopic narratives told about urban spaces influence policy or political outcomes in the locations they describe.
Given the fact that recent literature on urbanization in the global North and South tends to emphasizes images of anxious urbanities, malevolent infrastructures, and shifting understandings of urban autochthony, evaluating the tangible effects of such narratives is especially urgent. Detroit and Lagos occupy prominent positions in the development of these urban mythologies. The paper synthesizes theoretical and historical imaginaries of urban dystopia with the cases of Detroit and Lagos in order to understand the ways in which these representations underpin urban inequality within and between cities. The essay therefore engages the following questions: how are Detroit and Lagos constructed in popular culture? Why these descriptions? How do these narratives legitimate the marginalization of these cities from the prevailing circuitry of global capitalism? To interrogate these questions I employ literature from political economy, comparative urban theory and cultural studies.
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