My paper “Representing and Embodying a Peripheral City’s Place in the World” is now published in the illustrious Journal of Aesthetics and Phenomenology.
In an increasingly globalizing world, the aesthetics of Dubai have become potentially available even for impoverished, peripheral cities such as Belgrade. With the explicit rhetoric of finally achieving a “global profile” for the city, the Serbian government has hired an Emirati company to build a “world city” in a centrally located district of Belgrade. The rationale for the development is explicitly aesthetic, and the high-rises planned articulate the globally recognizable aesthetic vocabulary of superlatives and (generic) modernity. The tall buildings suggest economic growth while forming a façade against which Belgraders play the role of extras. This paper builds on Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s notion of the body schema as well as James J. Gibson’s notion of affordances and recent contributions to architectural aesthetics that grew from it, to outline an alternative, embodied ideal of urban aesthetics. The paper presupposes that the common world is to be understood as a task to be achieved. The city, understood in its material form, as urbs, as well as in terms of social relations, as civitas, is the place where the common world can potentially be tangibly experienced. Its architecture narrates, but also affords and prohibits social change, and reversely social and political relations influence the making of the material city. The paper argues that a city’s place in the world is not a matter of gaining access to a supposedly pre-existing reality by displaying the right look, but of engaging actively in the making of the common world.