Stephen Graham: Countergeographies

In his book “Cities Under Siege”, Stephen Graham, claims the emergence of “military urbanism”, defined by him as a telescopic relationship between domestic dominant metropolis and a far located colonial spaces. According to him, the colonialist process involves the transportation of exploitation practices, rules, and technology from the domestic metropolis to the far located colonies. This process, however, is two sided, as the same rules, technology and practices of the colonial power will be reverted against the colonialist “like a boomerang”.

The military urbanism involves a complex agglomeration of anti-urban imaginaries, technologies, right wind think thanks, and lobbyists organized against the open and cosmopolitan life of major cities in the world. The city, then, is pushed by the military urbanists behind national imaginaries, undermining the revolutionary ideas that urban spaces host. Therefore many of the recent developments in military technology are used to watch, control and identify potential treads hidden in urban spaces. Using remotely controlled drones and recognition software, large amounts of data are processed to identify whatever that is outside the established “norm”.

However, the use of digital media and open interfaces can be used to challenge and undermine the military urbanism. Social movements, artist, and all sort of activist groups have taken the initiative to counteract collectively the control exercised by the military technologies. Through case studies, Stephen Graham shows how some projects expose, juxtapose and challenge the relationships of domination. One of such projects explores and exposes the harsh conditions  at the border between Mexico the U.S.A.; other exposes the “rendition system” which is the vigilance of international abnormal passengers made by the C.I.A.;  other project maps the surveillance and security system deployed in Manhattan after 9/11.

Thanks to Media-Lab Prado.