Unlearning the colonial roots of planning

Collins Street, Melbourne, 1839: los aborígenas observan desplegarse la ciudad colonial de la cual son segregados

We have been long aware that urban planning, in itself, has something to do with colonialism. From the “limpieza étnica de los señoritos” of Manuel Vázquez Montalbán, to Michael Herzfeld’s “spatial cleansing” (that is, ethnic cleansing but through space), and Neil Smith’s “new urban frontier“, we have always referred to metaphors like Marco Ferreri’s Touché pas a la femme blanche (where the evicted of Les Halles are indians, and the cowboys are thugs of the landlords), or to approaches like Stephen Graham’s “military urbanism” or Eyal Weizman “arquitecture of occupation“. But we hadn’t still found a perspective so complete as the one developed by the australian urbanist Libby PORTER, studying the use of urban planning as an instrument for spatial exclusion of the aboriginal population in favour of the “anglo”: urbanism as a complement and continuation of colonization.

  • Libby PORTER (2007) Unlearning the Colonial Roots of Planning is the book [available in PDF] in which this thesis is developed; we link also a review in italian [en DOC] made by the italian urbanist Giovanni Attili from the University of Rome.
  • Urbanist Oren Yiftachel, from the Israeli Ben-Gurion University, developed a parallel approach, starting from his struggle with the Negev beduins to build an alternative planning of the lands around Bercheeba. Watch the video Israel’s Mabo, broadcasted by the australian CNE [video in youtube] (Eddie Mabo is the most important aborigenal activist defending the rights to the land)