The Smart City, Heterotopic Spaces and the Politics of Urban Informality

Authors: Harris Breslow*, American University of Sharjah, Byron Miller, University of Calgary
Topics: Cultural and Political Ecology, Social Theory, Urban Geography
Keywords: smart city, heteronormativity, heterotopic spaces, urban informality, ambient sensing, society of control
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/5/2019
Start / End Time: 1:10 PM / 2:50 PM
Room: Washington 2, Marriott, Exhibition Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


This paper examines the relationship between heterotopic spaces, urban informality, heteronormative and patriarchal, space and the politics that surround the deployment of smart city technologies. In so doing this paper examines the deployment of what is known as Smart Dubai and makes the following arguments:

Urban space has and continues to function as a social technology that reproduces heteronormative and patriarchal norms. As a result, sexual and gendered differences have long sought out, flourished in and created what Foucault first referred to as heterotopias—sites where resistance to normativity and the proliferation of difference exist.

Heterotopic spaces may thus be understood or in terms of urban informality. Debates surrounding urban informality have often been typologized into two main groups, legalists and structuralists, both of which can be understood as political economic descriptions of informality. More recently, however, this concept has been redeployed to address what de Certeau referred to as the dialectical tension between the planned and the migrational city, between place and space. It is in light of this work that we argue that heterotopias exist as informal spaces.

Authoritarian governments can reinforce heteronormative and patriarchal cultures by making use of the political economy of the smart city to eliminate informal spaces, existing and potential heterotopias and thus the proliferation of sexual and gender differences.

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