Putting urban government in its places. On actor-network theory as a framework for the study of urban governmentality
Mathias Rodatz | Goethe-Universität Frankfurt
Vortrag am 16.4.2011 im Rahmen der AAG 2011 in Seattle
Discourse analysis has become central for studying the governance of urban spaces. For approaches that operationalize Foucault’s broad sense of governing and power, it has led to the inclusion of a variety of fields, documents, artifacts and practices to be analyzed focusing power effects produced by formal or materialized political knowledge: e.g. authorizations, normalizations, subjectifications, spatializations. We will argue that for understanding these power effects, especially within the specific dynamics of urban space, another aspect of analysis should be added: the question of how exactly political knowledge is created, transported and transformed through time and space.
We propose the use of actor-network theory to describe rhizomatic networks of governance, focusing on the (material) means and costs of transportation of political knowledge. In this perspective, dynamics of urban government can be conceptionalized as attempts to stabilize networks of heterogeneous actants – human actants as well as non-human actants such as programmatic documents or other artifacts transporting programs, ideas, norms or categories (e.g. posters, cameras, street bumps, etc.). By reconstructing these actor-networks, i.e. following the transformations that are produced by the materializations in different forms, as well as the interactions of heterogeneous actants in specific spaces, it is possible to study the fine mechanics of governing in their local contexts, and to identify instances of resistance and transformation. Actor-network theory as a framework for the study of urban governmentality may thus help to prevent rash conclusions on contemporary power effects and help to better understand urban dynamics of governance.