The Brazilian geographer, Marcelo Lopes de Souza coined the word “phobopolis” (“fobópole” in Portuguese), to discuss the idea of generalised and banalised fear as well as the militarisation of the urban question. This is in line with other works about fear, paranoia and militarised spaces such as Zygmunt Bauman’s “Liquid Fear”, Stephen Graham’s “Cities under Siege: the new military urbanism”, or Lieven De Cauter’s “The Capsular Civilization: on the city in the age of fear”, among many others. Marcelo explains:
“Phobopolis (Port. fobópole) is a new word; it means city of fear. I introduced the concept in order to emphasise the degree of intensity in terms of violence and fear prevailing in some cities today.”
The disturbing perception of fear and the atmosphere of paranoia in contemporary cities are also captured and discussed in many films and novels. Sometimes very explicitly, others as a background for different stories, these issues are the focus in the feature film Neighbouring Sounds, directed by Kleber Mendonça Filho (Brazil, 2012). I will be the curator for one of the UCL Urban Lab film sessions on March 8th, when the film will be screened and followed by discussions with the audience and special guests.
The context used by Mendonça Filho gave me the idea for today’s message to Jeremy Bentham. The winds of global capitalism and recent economic prosperity brought about some complex clashes between modernity and a colonial culture of masters and servants in countries like Brazil, Mexico, Colombia, and many other fast-growing emergent nations. Placemaking in these countries is a process marked by constant tensions in the simmering relations between the parties in an ever more complex social stratification. Upper and middle classes, working and low-income classes, dispute power and protagonism in the making of urban spaces and territories. Fear and paranoia contaminate the perception of “the others” and help defining commonalities and separations…