Double Polarization – Neo-Nationalism and the Urban Political Geography

Authors: Oren Yiftachel*, Ben-Gurion University
Topics: Political Geography, Urban Geography, Ethnicity and Race
Keywords: Neo-Nationalism, polarisation, coloniality, apartheid, metropollian, migration
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/9/2021
Start / End Time: 3:05 PM / 4:20 PM
Room: Virtual 33
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Geographers have recently renewed conversation on (neo)nationalism and expanding populism. These works, however, are yet to address an important political-geographic dimension: the growing schism between metropolitan and nationalist politics, which I conceptualize here as double polarization.
The contours of a new urban political geography are shaped around two interrelated axes of polarization: First, a 'horizontal' axis -- engaging mainly cosmopolitan metropolitan vs nationalist non-metropolitan forces; and second, a 'vertical' axis-- comprising stratified ethno- and racial classes within the capitalist metropolis. The two polarizations feed on one another to create new urban borderings and colonialities, shaped by pervasive 'gray spacing' which is spreading from the global southeast to the northwest.
In this dynamic -- metropolitan liberal cosmopolitanism has become a call-to-arms for anti-liberal neonationalist movements. Yet, at the same time, metropolitan elites have failed to stop neonationalist policies from polarizing ethnic and class disparities and deepening colonialities. These are premised on the globalizing economic and migration policies that these elites have promoted for decades.
The lecture will elaborate on these dynamics which herald a new state of instability and a process of 'creeping urban apartheid', exposed starkly during the Covid crisis. The shocks to the system are threatening the relatively stable post-war world order. These polarizing dynamics fuel mobilizations and conflicts, as evident from recent tensions in Barcelona, Los Angeles, Paris, Warsaw, Budapest, Cairo, Athens, Nairobi, Istanbul, Hong Kong, Jerusalem, Beirut, New Delhi, Caracas, Sao Paolo, and Santiago, as notable examples for this widening phenomenon.

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