urban planning (1)

Locating Fear At The Center

 Dr. Simone Tulumello, a Portuguese geographer and urban planning/theorist, has since 2009 especially, been devoting much (but not all) of his research attention on the nature and role of fear (especially, "urban fear") in urban planning and life quality in cities. He is not the only one to turn attention on fear in this field, as one can find all sorts of terms like "architecture of fear," "landscapes of fear" and "geographies of fear" (to name a few) that have taken up locations in scholarly discourses over the last 40 years, and especially the last five years of which Tulumello (and some others before him) have suggested that we even adopt the term "fearscapes" to give due justice to the ever-increasing and complex nature of fear and its impacts.

So, he has suggested landscapes are becoming more and more better understood, at least in the modern and postmodern cities as fearscapes, because fear has taken on such a central role. Tulumello in his latest book [1], not unlike some of the fearism literature of late [2], has been sliding notions of "multiplexing fear" [3] along with other spheres of life for critical analysis of various phenomena--in Tulumello's case, spatiality, cultural politics of cities and generally urban planning and policy. I find Tulumello's work unique amongst other scholars in geography, architecture and urban planning and theorizing in that he has (paradigmatically?) shifted emphasis on the common study of spatialization of fear (i.e., fear and spaces = spaces of fear discourses) to come to see that such a discursive formation and linguistics is not adequate, if not it is distortive, of a more nuanced phenomena of fearscape(s). 

The simple definition of fearscape refers to the embedded fear (explicit and implicit) in landscapes/spaces/places, and is often used equivalent with "landscapes of fear" (which is Tulumello's strategy as well, p. 1). In a more complicated argument than I will explain here, I like how Tulumello shifts back and forth but in fact seems to prefer fearscape [4]. I heartily agree, as would the philosophy of fearism, that putting "fear" central (or, in this case, linguistically as the prefix on any term or phenomena) marks the new term (e.g., fearscape) in a new way that expands the imaginary and analytic probe into an investigation of just how much fear is involved in the phenomena--which, hypothetically is "central" as Tulumello (2016) says in the following quote from his new book: 

[My operating] "hypothesis... [is] that some of the sociopolitical processes and spatial practices characterizing the last few decades, in the Western world and beyond, have been, and are, using fear and urban fear, instrumentally for agendas that are placing the civic and public gist of urban spaces worldwide into a state of crisis. As a result, fear, togther with the geopolitics of security stemming from it, has been producing exclusion, affecting especially marginalised groups.... If this is the case, putting fear at the centre of planners' agenda is nowadays inescapable." (p. 3)

I have often dipped my toes into architecture, urban planning/theorizing, and attempted to bring my own ideas and a philosophy of fearlessness (or of late, philosophy of fearism) to the table of analysis and perspective. Perhaps, Tulumello and many of us on this trajectory can have dialogues in the future. It is fascinating to me (and Subba) that Tulumello has adopted this "linguistic trick" he calls it in his naming of fearscape (Tulumello, 2015, p. 268).

Of course, the interrelationship of fear and fearlessness (a dialectic) is something that Tulumello seems not to enter into in what I have read of his work so far. In order to keep this short, I note that Tulumello's strategy for working with fear (of which he did not know our work) is quite similar (in part) to my own and to Subba's [5] and that is to keep the imaginary of fear (or fear imaginary) open-ended for the most part--and, I so appreciate his project is "... to build a comprehensive and critical theory [of fear]" (p. 108) and he also wants such an inquiry to be "exploratory" and thus avoiding reductionism around the conceptualization of fear, our ways of knowing fear, defining it and making meaning of it and ourselves. He notes that such an open-ended approach fits well for the very phenomena of "urban fear" today and it is preferable "rather than outline a clear definition... of fear or the way fear shapes planning" (p. 108), thus, Tulumello continues in the vein of study of fear much like a philosophy of fearism would-- "multiplexing fear" ongoing. I often talk about building a critical integral (holistic) theory of fear, and indeed, it is always exploratory, and for much of the same reasons that Tulmello gives in his recent works. Fear is complex, to say the least--it is perplexing as well, and contradictions and paradoxes linked with fear are seemingly inevitable the more one studies it in depth. 

I appreciate this insight of Tulumello to approach fear this way, which in no way prevents Tulumello from being pragmatic at times, and it in no way blinds him to seeing "we must be aware that fear is capable of throwing urban planning policy into crisis" (p. 107)--and he warns us all against overly technical-functionalist discourses on fear as inadquate--and, he warns that they typically don't engage fear enough as it deserves (p. 107). He concludes: "... there seems to be no simple/technical solutions for urban fear" and thus the project is preliminary and ongoing, and the actual benefits from such a methodological openness re: fear and the various applications of theory to practice in urban planning are yet to be shown fully--especially, as to whether they "work"... more so, we are in the beginning stages, as is philosophy of fearism, when it comes to "tested" applications and creating real improvements in the "urban fear" and/or just the "excessive fear" that is everywhere it seems. 

There is lots to read, understand, and critique in this work by Tulumello, and I trust as he reads my work (at least) he'll have critiques to offer as well. 



1. Tulumello, S. (2016). Fear, space and urban planning: A critical perspective from S. Europe. Springer. 

2. Example, Fisher, R. M., Subba, D., and Kumar, B. M. (2018). Fear, law and criminology: Critical issues in applying the philosophy of fearism. Australia: Xlibris. 

3. Tulumello (2016), p. 106. This is a great term (complexifying approach), one that I and Subba have taken in our study of fear(ism) for several decades. 

4. I recommend: Tulumello, S. (2015). From "spaces of fear" to "fearscapes": Mapping for reframing theories about the spatialization of fear in urban space. Space and Culture, 18(3), 257-72.

5. Example, see Fisher, R. M., and Subba, D. (2016). Philosophy of fearism: A first East-West dialogue. Australia: Xlibris.





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