Oral Presentation Session
Reviewed by: Society for Urban, National and Transnational/Global Anthropology
Of interest to: Practicing and Applied Anthropologists, Students
Primary Theme: Cities
Secondary Theme: Materiality
This panel will explore how notions of urban success and failure are imagined and materialised in relation to the architecture of high-rise buildings.
In the wake of the Grenfell Tower disaster in London and recent devastating apartment block collapses in cities such as Nairobi, Mumbai, and Rio de Janeiro, failed buildings have exposed the injustices of austerity politics, the volatility of construction materials, and disregard for regulations and planning. These catastrophic failures have also reanimated debates about 'proper' forms of urban living, the political economy of the city and the widening inequalities and insecurities that seem to characterise contemporary urban life.
Yet, high-rises have also been symbols of modernity, status and aspiration. From UK post-war promises of an inclusive future in the 'cities in the sky' to the edifice complex of skyscraper cities such as New York and Hong Kong, the tower block has been a place of dreams as well as nightmares. Even when they fail, high-rise buildings continue to shape the sociality, politics and materiality of our cities in important ways, influencing the design of future communities, economies of investment and development, and forms of political activism.
Whether as contested symbol, site of collapse or shattered home, high-rise failure exposes the precarity of urban life whilst also acting as a catalyst for its transformation. We invite papers that ethnographically explore this shifting terrain. What would a high-rise anthropology look like? How might it illuminate the sociality, matter and imagination of the city at large?