'Integrated' inner-city shopping centers and calculative legibilities of urban space - A governmentality approach

Authors: Denis Guth*, Goethe University Frankfurt
Topics: Urban Geography
Keywords: shopping center, urban development, discourse, governmentality, calculative practices
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/4/2019
Start / End Time: 5:00 PM / 6:40 PM
Room: 8217, Park Tower Suites, Marriott, Lobby Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


The presentation summarizes major findings from a current case study in the German city of Mainz analyzing public and professional discourse concerning the ‘integration’ of planned inner-city shopping centers and their impacts on urban spaces and economies. Drawing on poststructuralist concepts of discourse and governmentality, I illustrate how this discursive field establishes a legibility of urban space that is structured by calculative practices related to retail market data. Furthermore, I argue that these apparently neutral and objective calculations are closely related to the discursive framing of urban spaces as competitive agencies subjected to external forces and universal spatio-economic laws of causality. The presentation then demonstrates how a specific rationality of urban government directed at the optimization of abstract spatio-economic variables emerges from this discursive field, thereby transforming matters of political conflict into domains of scientific accuracy and objectivity. At the same time, this calculative regime is destabilized by competing approaches linking the ‘integration’ of inner-city shopping centers to the preservation of urban built environment and questions of local identity. Empirically, the presentation is based on qualitative data, comprising i.a. expert advice, records of negotiations and civic participation, policy documents and reports, as wells as semi-structured expert interviews.

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