Events in the affective city: Affect, attention and alignment in two ordinary urban events

Ernwein, Marion and Matthey, Laurent (2019). Events in the affective city: Affect, attention and alignment in two ordinary urban events. Environment and Planning A: Economy and Space, 51(2) pp. 283–301.



In a representational regime, planned urban events are used by urban planners to render urban projects visible and acceptable. As a corollary of the focus of urban studies on their representational dimension and in spite of a burgeoning literature on the notion of affective urbanism, the experiential character of events remains surprisingly unexplored. This paper argues that an ordinary regime of events is mobilised by city-makers to act on the embodied, affective experience of the city and on the ways urban dwellers know and act upon the city. By analysing planned urban events in their embodied, experiential dimension, we focus on the ways in which, through the design of ephemeral material dispositives, urbanists attempt to encourage citizens to incorporate ways of knowing and acting on space and on the modalities of knowing and acting that are at play. We stage an encounter between critical event studies and Ingoldian approaches to affect and attention, examining two urban events in a Swiss canton. We show how intense encounters with urban matter are staged in an attempt to modulate affects, guide attention, and produce alignment with a specific political project, asking urban dwellers either to embody a project still in the making or to cultivate expectations regarding an already-written future.

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