Editorial: Writing and Righting the City

Two grand narratives, somewhat haltingly, seek to ride, right and write the world. Each seeks to represent itself and its rival in similar ways. Neoliberalism likes to present itself, as it ‘recovers’, as rising from what it sees as a momentary lapse, as compelling, with an assured though austere (for some) immediate future. It presents its rival(s), forms of what are perhaps most accurately referred to as communalism, as either naive, well-meaning schemers whose best features can anyhow be incorporated in a slightly wiser capitalism or as threatening, past-encrusted, grandiloquent spectres that have to be kettled, disabled or eliminated. The communalist alternatives present themselves as a rising, not tainted, compelling movement with a future in which austerity will be moderated or abolished. They increasingly distrust the blandishments of capitalist incorporation, and seek transformation, sometimes an apocalyptic variety.

Both narratives present ways of writing and supposedly righting a now universal accumulation of interlinked problems. How beyond the labels, neoliberalism, capitalism, communalism, apocalypse, is our situation to be written, characterised, and righted, improved or superseded?

In this issue Caroline Knowles offers a characterisation of a somewhat indistinct form of global capitalism drawing on research among migrants on Beijing’s periphery. Michele Lancione, reacting against grand narratives of capitalist oppression in common with many assemblagist respondents on other occasions, considers the homeless in Turin, a social situation which he chooses not to characterise as other than unsatisfactory. Andrew Wallace examines the riots of 2011 in England, as a situation of imposed and mystifying ‘alchemical austerity’.

Moving on to attempts at improvement or supersession, Lancione seeks better intentioned and better designed assemblages of care. Marie Huchzermeyer, referring particularly to South Africa, and Peter Marcuse, on the other hand, engage with the assertion of rights, picking up on the Lefebvrian notion of the Right to the City as applied and misapplied in current confusions, debates, and struggles. But is this all there is to writing and righting the city? And is it enough? Welcoming ‘the multiplicity of readings’ that Jim Pine’s The Art of Making Do in Naples lends itself to, reviewer Pascal Menoret nevertheless observes of Naples and beyond:

‘The city is under deconstruction, torn by free-market policies, deindustrialization, European symbolic and economic violence, and the growth of informal strategies of making do. But make no mistake: this is not a peculiar southern European story … ’

But clearly adding in ‘a multiplicity of readings’ will not be enough. Is there, rather, an alternative way, a new paradigm? Adding in previous and subsequent material from CITY and elsewhere(1) we address these questions in our next issue.

by Bob Catterall, Chief Editor of CITY
Editorial to CITY, Vol. 18 Issue 1; see contents list below.

Contents list for Issue 18.1


Editorial: Writing and Righting the City, Bob Catterall, Pages 1-3


Reading the Right to the City, Peter Marcuse, Pages 4-9

The English riots of 2011: Summoning community, depoliticising the city, Andrew Wallace, Pages 10-24

Assemblages of care and the analysis of public policies on homelessness in Turin, Italy, Michele Lancione, Pages 25-40


Invoking Lefebvre’s ‘right to the city’ in South Africa today: A response to Walsh, Marie Huchzermeyer, Pages 41-49

Scenes and Sounds

Introduction: Navigating urban fabrication, Anna Richter, Pages 50-51

Dancing with bulldozers: Migrant life on Beijing’s periphery, Caroline Knowles, Pages 52-68


Treading on Naples’ contact zone: anthropological encounters with the Camorra, Pascal Menoret, Pages 69-72

Finding meaning in alternative spaces, Stephen Przybylinski, Pages 73-77

Squatting in Europe, Amy Starecheski, Pages 78-81


Abourahme, N. 2013. “‘The Street’ and ‘The Slum’: Political Form and Urban Life in Egypt’s Revolt.” City 17 (6) : 716– 728.

Atkinson, A. 2013. “Readjusting to Reality 2: Transition?” City 17 (5) : 580–605.

Brenner, N., ed. 2014. Implosions/Explosions: Towards a Study of Planetary Urbanization, Berlin: Jovis.

Brenner, N. and C. Schmid. 2011. “Planetary Urbanisation.” in Urban Constellations , edited by Matthew Gandy. Berlin: Jovis.

Catterall, B. 2013a. “Towards the Great Transformation: (9) Where is the Planet in ‘Planetary Urbanization’?” City 17 (5) : 703–710.

Catterall, B. 2013b. “Towards the Great Transformation (10) Earthing ‘Planetary urbanization”, City 17 (6) : 835–844.

Catterall, B. 2014, forthcoming. “Towards the Great Transformation (11): Where/what is Culture in ‘Planetary Urbanisation’?” Link >>

Merrifield, A. 2013. The Politics of the Encounter: Urban Theory and Protest Under Planetary Urbanisation . Athens, Georgia: University of Georgia Press


1 Particularly by Abourahme, Atkinson, Brenner and Schmid, Catterall, and Merrifield.

  1. Note 1 Particularly by Abourahme, Atkinson, Brenner and Schmid, Catterall, and Merrifield.

Comments are closed.