Materialities and urban politics

Date and time
15 January 2013
6-8 pm (GMT)

UCL Geography Exhibition Room, Pearson Building, Gower Street, WC1E 6BT (

Materialities and urban politics

Ignacio Farías (Social Science Research Center Berlin)

Michael Guggenheim (Sociology, Goldsmith’s)


Ignacio Farías: “Cosmograms for city reconstruction: Master plans and the composition of a common world”. 

Abstract: In the aftermath of the Chilean 2010 earthquake/tsunami, most destroyed cities engaged in the elaboration of Master Plans for Urban Reconstruction. In this article, I propose studying these plans as cosmograms, this is, as diagrams of the entities and the relationships among entities articulating a common urban cosmos. By following the work of experts involved in their elaboration, I describe and discuss the establishment of “common boundaries” regarding the territories and entities representing common matters of concern, and the transformation of urban projects into “common things”, ie. projects that give form to this world by means of a surplus of connections to other entities. I also look in detail at how master plans are aimed to act upon the world. Thus, by taking their existence as PowerPoints seriously, I show how master plans operate as resources for action in the present rather than for the structuration of the future.


Michael Guggenheim: Sacralizing and De-Sacralizing Buildings. Noteson the Theory of Technology

Abstract: What does a church do? What do mosques do? Constructivist sociology has usually argued that buildings don’t do anything, but are enacted by users. Conversely, actor-network theory has interpreted buildings as actants that are stabilised by architect-controlled networks. In this article, I attempt a theory, which uses these opposing ideas about the agency of buildings in an ethnographic way, by observing how buildings do different theories in different situations. I use two different kinds of change of use to show that buildings do different things. First, I show that in the case of churches that are changed to other uses, the church attempts to associate the buildings to religion primarily with discursive means.  Second, I show that in the case of factories that are turned into mosques, very small material interventions with furniture I close with some observations of the relationship of buildings and power.