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The Urban Sensorium: Space, Ideology and the Aestheticization of Politics

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This essay outlines a theoretical framework for investigating the links between the production of urban space (Lefebvre) and the production of ideology (Althusser) and hegemony (Gramsci) by proposing the concept of “the urban sensorium”. With a view to the aesthetics of urban experience and everyday life, this concept aligns Fredric Jameson's “postmodern” adaptation of city planner Kevin Lynch's research on “cognitive mapping” with Walter Benjamin's insights on “aestheticizing politics” in order to ask: how does urban space mediate ideology and produce hegemony while aestheticizing politics? In so doing, the spotlight falls on a conceptual constellation including four key theoretical terms: “ideology”, “aesthetics”, “mediation” and “totality”. While working through them, the essay argues that Jameson's outstanding contribution to a spatialized understanding of “postmodernism” lies above all in his Marxist (Luk√°csian, Althusserian and Sartrean) theorization of mediation and totality; whereas radical students of the city can find the richest dialectical elaboration of these two concepts with special attention to space and urbanism in the oeuvre of Henri Lefebvre, especially in the recently translated The Urban Revolution.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Program in Planning, Department of Geography, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada;, Email:

Publication date: January 1, 2005

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