Differences in the City: Postmetropolitan Heterotopias as Liberal Utopian Dreams


Jorge León Casero and Julia Urabayen (Editors)
Universidad de Zaragoza and Universidad de Navarra, Spain

Series: Political Science and History
BISAC: PHI019000

Although it is one of the most vague and ambiguous concepts proposed by Foucault, the term “heterotopia” has been, and continues to be, one of the most widely used in technical as well as in human and social disciplines. Coinciding with the rise of postmodernism and the supposed crisis of the great unitary stories of the West, the great heterogeneity of urban and spatial phenomena and typologies referred to in the Foucauldian notion was further expanded, with the explicit intention of using it as part of the new urban ideology that neoliberal theorists of architecture and urbanism were beginning to implement under the leitmotif of the city by fragments. In this way, neoliberal urban ideology appropriated the concept of heterotopia, making it pass for libertarian and endowing it with the ability to exert political resistance to economic and urban planning by public administrations.

This is why the concept of heterotopia has been used simultaneously and repeatedly as a tool to praise the beatitudes of neoliberal urbanism as well as to defend its emancipatory character by social movements and activists In this sense, the emancipatory potential that heterotopias could have had in the disciplinary arrangement of space has ended up transforming into a magic formula with which to transform the impositions of the neoliberal (de)arrangement of the territory into a hymn to freedom of movement, to a socio-cultural diversity without class conflict.

The aim of this collective and interdisciplinary reflection is to prove that heterotopias are spaces that cannot be considered a priori as directly emancipatory but apart from an effective political project. As we live in a postmetropolitan word, we should ask: Are these post-metropolitan heterotopias capable of shaping themselves as the new nerve centers of anti-capitalist resistance or are they only capable of subverting the disciplinary power of public administrations already brought to crisis-point decades ago by neoliberal capitalism? Can they function as the spatial tools of an antagonistic politics for the common or, on the contrary, is their operation intrinsically neoliberal?

This book brings together various analyses and investigations that maintain conflicting positions on the emancipatory or ideological-alienating character of heterotopias with the dual objective of avoiding their Western-centric bias and preserving any possible trait of emancipatory potential that may be rearticulated from an epistemological diversity viewpoint. With these objectives in mind, we have organized the twenty-two articles that make up this book into five major thematic sections, coinciding with some of the main topics around which socio-spatial debates dedicated to heterotopias have taken place in the last twenty-five years: the postmetropolis, public space, the right to the city, gender relations and their symbolic condition. Although these five categories should not be understood as unrelated compartments —but quite the opposite— we have chosen to use this classification as an analytical tool to illuminate some of the focal points around which to exercise effective critique of one of the most frustratingly incomplete, inconsistent [and] incoherent concepts of socio-spatial theory.


Table of Contents

Table of Contents


Chapter 1. Heterotopia Unbound: Undisciplined Approaches to ‘Space Otherwise’
(Heidi Sohn, Faculty of Architecture, Delft University of Technology, Delft, Netherlands)

Chapter 2. Humanizig the City: The 4 C Strategy against Fragmented Cities
(Miguel A. Alonso del Val, School of Architecture, University of Navarra, Pamplona, Spain)

Chapter 3. Foucault and the Roots of the Smart City
(Joaquin Fortanet, Department of Philosophy, University of Zaragoza, Zaragoza, Spain)

Chapter 4. The Internet and the Heterotopia of the Postmetropolis
(Juan Diego Parra Valencia, Department of Arts and Humanities, Metropolitan Institute of Technology, Medellín, Colombia)

Chapter 5. Surface Heterotopias, Platform Urbanism
(Jorge León Casero and Julia Urabayen, Department of Philosophy, University of Zaragoza, Zaragoza, Spain, and Department of Philosophy, University of Navarra, Navarra, Spain)

Chapter 6. Other Spaces and Peripheral Urbanities
(Paula Cristina Pereira and Irandina Afonso, Department of Philosophy, University of Porto, Porto, Portugal)

Chapter 7. Heterotopia as a Manifest of Multiple Publics
(Meriç Demir Kahraman and Tayfun Kahraman, Independent Researcher, Istanbul, Turkey, and Department of Urban and Regional Planning, Mimar Sinan Fine Arts University, Istanbul, Turkey)

Chapter 8. Heterotopia and the Ordering of Contested Urban Public Space: A Case Study of the Sarpi Neighbourhood (Chinatown) in Milan
(Jingyi Zhu, Bartlett School of Planning, University College London, London, UK)

Chapter 9. Separation and Open Heterotopias in New York and Tokyo
(José Mª Castejón Esteban, Department of Mechanical Engineering, University of Zaragoza, Zaragoza, Spain)

Chapter 10. Delusions of Heterotopia
(Ibán Díaz-Parra, Department of Human Geography, University of Seville, Seville, Spain)

Chapter 11. Palestinian Urbanity: Utopia or Heterotopia?
(Rachel Kallus, Ronnen Ben-Arie and Haya Zaatry, Faculty of Architecture and Town Planning, Haifa, Israel)

Chapter 12. Heterotopias and the Right to the City: The Struggles for the Creation and Collective Use of the Urban Commons
(Orlando Alves dos Santos Junior, Institute of Urban and Regional Planning, Federal University, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil)

Chapter 13. The Devil’s Mansion of Surabaya: A Heterotopia
(Robbie Peters, Anthropology Department, Sydney University, Sydney, Australia)

Chapter 14. From Parisian Prostitutes to Robot Sex Workers: The Mutations of the Heterotopian Brothel
(Peter Johnson, Independent Researcher, Heterotopian Studies, Isle of Arran, Scotland)

Chapter 15. The Decline of the Emancipatory Power of Utopias and Heterotopias: An Analysis of Libertarianism and Queer Theory
(Felipe Schwember, Faculty of Government, Adolfo Ibáñez University, Chile)

Chapter 16. From the Processes of Subjectivation to the Ways of Dwelling: The Rights of a Becoming Ontotopology
(Eduardo Álvarez Pedrosian, Information and Communication Faculty, University of the Republic, Montevideo, Uruguay)

Chapter 17. The ‘Bunny’ Heterotopia. Playboy’s Transformation of Sexuality in Paul B. Preciado
(Jorge Andreu Jiménez, Department of Philosophy, University of Zaragoza, Zaragoza, Spain)

Chapter 18. Imagining, Building and Inhabiting Nature: Ishigami’s Journey to Humboldt’s Eden
(Javier Pérez-Herreras, Department of Architecture, University of Zaragoza, Zaragoza, Spain)

Chapter 19. The Strange Birds and Beasts in Oyamada Hiroko’s “The Factory” (Kōjō, 2010)
(Angela Yiu, Faculty of Liberal Arts, Sophia University, Tokyo, Japan)

Chapter 20. Dispelling the Reality with a Lot of Illusion or the Heterotopic Utopia of Living in Medellín
(Juan Esteban Posada Morales, Faculty of Human Sciences and Economics, National University of Colombia, Medellín, Colombia)

Chapter 21. Home, Soil, Homeland: A Jerusalem Story
(Livia Judith Alexander, Department of Art and Design, Montclair State University, Montclair, US)

Chapter 22. Heterotopias of Pessimism. An Approach through the Works of John Hejduk and Daniel Libeskind
(Jaime Quintana-Elena, School of Architecture, Universidad San Jorge, Zaragoza, Spain)



“An essential book in order to understand the return of a concept (“heterotopia”) that never left.” -Luis Arenas, Former President of the Academic Society of Philosophy (Sociedad Académica de Filosofía), Spain

“This indispensable book carefully assesses the emancipatory potential of the polysemic Foucaldian term of “heterotopia” when used to analyse and evaluate various geopolitical and ideological urban contexts, besides and beyond Western-centered “topoi”. Timely and deeply original, the book will prove fundamental both for architects and urban planners on one hand, and social scientists on the other hand – anyone interested in understanding metropolitan processes of social resistance and minority empowerment.” -Magali Bessone, Institute of Legal and Philosophical Sciences (Institut des Sciences Juridique et Philosophique), University of Paris 1- Panthéon-Sorbonne, France

“Aggressive, militant, controversial, incorrect… An appealing book that does not walk around the beaten tracks. An excellent collective work that wakes you up from neoliberal urban dreams.” -Ignacio Borrego, Institute of Architecture (Institut für Architektur), University of Technology, Berlin, Germany

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