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City Talks: Timothy Mitchell on the Materialities of Political Economy and Colonial History

[City Talks provides a platform for conversations around the social, political, economic, cultural, and environmental transformations that define the historical and contemporary geographies of the Middle East and beyond. Bringing together voices from critical scholars, activists, and artists, it seeks to explore the ways racialized, gendered, and class-based social orders come into being, materialize, and are resisted through the fabric of bodies, space, and time.] 

In this first installment of City Talks, Omar Jabary Salamanca and Nasser Abourahme discuss with Timothy Mitchell his latest work and his ongoing thinking around questions of urban political economy and political theory. More specifically, we learn about his use of the term "capitalization" and what it might mean for thinking about the built environment. Mitchell also reflects on the role of public space during the Arab uprisings, issues of urban and rural informality, as well as the ways the "material turn" and close attention to the technical help us see colonialism in different ways. 

Timothy Mitchell is a political theorist and historian. His areas of research include the place of colonialism in the making of modernity, the material and technical politics of the Middle East, and the role of economics and other forms of expert knowledge in the government of collective life. Much of his current work is concerned with ways of thinking about politics that allow material and technical things more weight than they are given in conventional political theory.  Educated at Queens' College, Cambridge, where he received a first-class honors degree in history, Mitchell completed his PhD in politics and Near Eastern studies at Princeton University in 1984. He joined Columbia University in 2008 after teaching for twenty-five years at New York University, where he served as director of the Center for Near Eastern Studies. At Columbia, he teaches courses on the history and politics of the Middle East, colonialism, and the politics of technical things. 

City Talks: Timothy Mitchell on the Materialities of Political Economy and Colonial History

Theme and Time Markers: 

00:00:07 | Representation, colonialism, and the city 
00:01:54 | Political economy, capitalization, and the city 
00:14:35 | Capitalization versus rentierism or rent economies
00:21:14 | Provincializing materiality
00:26:09 | The “material turn” and colonialism
00:32:47 | Methodological encounters with the archive 
00:39:43 | Reading the archive in non-representational ways 
00:43:15 | Arab uprisings and public space
00:50:26 | Urban (and rural) informality






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