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The New Military Urbanism

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Bryan Finoki has a good article on how cities have redesigned spaces in order to declare a low-level war on the homeless, or as Steven Graham call it, “the new military urbanism.” By erecting barriers that prevent the homeless from sleeping, the cities make themselves friendly for corporations and the image of a smooth run enterprise without the messiness that corporate leaders might not like. But this is fact a version of class warfare. Finoki:

Because of the homeless’ permanent existence in the outer public domain, they are particularly prone to architecture as something that has been designed to be specifically hostile to them, yet camouflaged into the normal fabric as permanent barriers. The post-9/11 makeover of the urban environment only served to justify the intensification of this process under a new name. For the homeless populations struggling to survive in the neoliberal city, urban design translates into an infinitely inhospitable surface; a brutal run-away edge that they can neither penetrate nor separate themselves from.

While the conditions of homelessness are the result of many complex and largely misunderstood—and misrepresented—sociocultural underpinnings, they partially thrive within the inhumane trappings of the built environment’s architectural surfaces themselves. For those who are pushed towards the outside, the city is a colossal mega-structure that sustains only their permanent exteriorization. It is a city designed to ensure the near impossibility of their inhabitation. Between the vitriol of those who wish to see the homeless simply disappear and the militancy of advocates devoted to homeless rights and resistance, the policing of homelessness pushes them ever toward the city’s edge. The homeless are essentially being made into anti-monumental ghosts—ghosts of an architectural surface that makes them disappear.

Effectively, he’s describing the city of the New Gilded Age, a space where the poor are driven away, where class is erased by eliminating those who would remind us it exists and where billionaires can be comfortable. In other words, welcome to global Bloombergville.

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