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Bipolar antagonism and multipolar coexistence: framing difference and shaping fear in two Caribbean cities

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This article proposes a new approach to urban geographies of fear, focusing on the connection between fear and cultural understandings and representations of difference. Much of the existing work on the relationship between fear, urban space, and social difference tends to take social difference as more or less given. In this article, we argue that how differences (such as ethnic, political or class differences) are framed has strong implications for geographies of fear. The article suggests that dualistic and nondualistic framings of difference influence levels of fear and that this becomes visible in the use and perceptions of urban space, and in the built environment through the erection of physical barriers. These spatial factors, as they limit mobility and interaction, tend to reproduce the specific framing of difference. Two discursive modes of representing difference are discussed. The first, ‘bipolar antagonism’, is based on a dualist rhetoric of irreconcilable opposites. This is contrasted with ‘multipolar co-existence’, in which social categories are understood as multiple or hybrid, with flexible or fluid boundaries, and as not necessarily antagonistic. This argument is elaborated through a comparative analysis of social–cultural and spatial processes in two Caribbean cities: Kingston, Jamaica, and Paramaribo, Suriname.

Keywords: Caribbean; ambiente construido; built environment; diversidad; diversity; diversité; el Caribe; environnement artificiel; espace urbain; espacio urbano; exclusion sociale; exclusión social; fear; les Antilles/Caraïbes; miedo; peur; social exclusion; urban space

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Department of Geography,Planning and International Development Studies, University of Amsterdam, Nieuwe Prinsengracht 1301018 VZ,Amsterdam, The Netherlands 2: Institute of Cultural Anthropology and Development Sociology, Leiden University, PO Box 95552300 RB,Leiden, The Netherlands

Publication date: September 1, 2012

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