Towards Post-Human Urbanism

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“Post-human” is, of course, a provocative concept in the context of architecture and urbanism, which have essentially based their ethos on designing and planning a “human-centred” environment. However, the concept is actually not as radical as it might seem: although it does question some of the taken-for-granted assumption of classical humanism, particularly the universality and a-historicity of human nature and the legitimacy of needs justified by this universalism, it is not a doctrine against human beings. Against the ideology of “cities for people” (Gehl 2010), post-human critique highlights the fluidity, the diversity and the contested nature of human identities. What makes this theoretical perspective relevant in today’s urbanism is the fact that the universalist human being is rapidly dissolving. The growth of multiculturalism is an unavoidable phenomenon in European cities as the result of immigration and increasing mobility of work. However, its perception in urban planning is by no means self-evident. Contemporary planning discourse is rather characterized by an almost systematic avoidance in this respect. It is this silence that will be studied in this paper, by using the method of archaeology of knowledge introduced by Foucault in his books Words and Things and Archaeology of Knowledge. An attempt is made to explain this observation with reference to the strong functionalistic tradition in the Nordic planning agenda and the tacitly adopted biopolitical definition of legitimate needs of the urban citizens. The Utopian ideology of a class-less planning for the ‘human being’, with its biopolitical undertones of biologically determined features of the population, will necessarily clash with new demands for culturally oriented, specialized services and spatial practices that multiculturalism necessarily entails. This is confronted with the seemingly ‘transparent’ and generalizable planning ethos that has remained unquestioned, hidden by the emphasis of physical planning along with social and cultural ‘soft’ policies. This study is part of a multidisciplinary project BEMINE: Beyond MALPE Coordination, Integrative Envisioning, carried out at the Department of Architecture, Aalto University School of Arts, Design and Architecture.
multiculturalism, Finland