Against the City? Digital Heartlands, Suburban Authoritarians

Authors: Jason Luger*, Northumbria University
Topics: Cultural Geography, Political Geography, Urban Geography
Keywords: urban geography, cultural geography, digital geography, political geography, masculinity, urban planning
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


The proliferation of the new authoritarianism, giving rise to leaders from Jair Bolsonaro to Donald Trump, is significantly anchored in, and emanating from, outer-urban (or anti-urban) geographies. Digital encounters are crucial in reinforcing authoritarian identity: Trump and other leaders have gained large ‘viral’ followings via social media and particular types of social media spaces like Twitter and Instagram. Men are often driving these (and other) right-wing movements, symbolized through groups like the ‘Proud Boys’ (in the USA). Though significant research has been undertaken since 2016’s election on authoritarian, right-wing, masculine digital spaces (Graff et al., 2019; Dignam and Rohlinger, 2019), the digital geographies of the masculine right wing have not been theoretically or empirically anchored to place. This paper thereby follows Banks (2019) in looking specifically at the outer urban / anti-urban, and the way it forms, and is formed by, digital authoritarian encounters and networks. Through a spatial geographic lens, the anti-urban-digital-authoritarian-male is explored as a global emergent phenomenon.

Thus, this paper seeks to bridge urban, cultural, digital and political geographies with questions of gender, masculinities, and urban planning, by probing the links between the built environment, masculine crises and digital identity. Is there something about the suburban shopping center, the wide highway, the low-density neighborhood, that drives men toward authoritarianism? Research involves social media ethnography and discourse analysis combined with socio-demographic and spatial explorations of specific geographies in the USA and UK conducted since the 2016 Brexit and Trump elections.

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