The street is a state of mind: urban politics, literature and subjectivity

Conference paper

Nigianni, Betty 2005. The street is a state of mind: urban politics, literature and subjectivity.
AuthorsNigianni, Betty
TypeConference paper

Starting with a play on R. E. Park’s claim “The city is a state of mind”i, this paper will
discuss the street as subjective experience, which can bear political significance. For that
purpose, I will discuss flânerie as a transgressive activity, which, through the reappropriation
of the street by the means of subjectivity, restores the street as a political
space; and further inspires and constitutes a radical urban politicsii.
My discussion will be based on representations of flânerie through the centre of
contemporary Athens, as they are described in a selection of short stories and a novel by
Greek author Vaggelis Raptopoulosiii. In these literary works, the protagonists undertake
walking journeys in the city, during which familiar streetscapes are transformed into
uncanny ‘environments’ that host moments of disruption of the everyday; usually leading
to extreme situations that include violence, or deathiv. Most importantly, these journeys
‘remap’ urban space by creating alternative routes of subjectivity through the planned
fabric of the city. In the case of Athens, the planned city is a result of an imposed 19th
century Western European utopianismv. I will argue that by representing the city as a
labyrinthine, dream-like environment, which constantly irrupts through its ‘other’, the
planned ‘city-symbol’, Raptopoulos reveals urban space as a terrain of subjectivity that
defies the instrumentalism of the planned city. He further proposes an active, curious and
critical urban existence, by reminding us of Heraclitus’ suggestion: “Let us also remember
the one who forgets where the road leads to”.

Keywordsurban studies; streetscapes; walking journeys; collective narrative; planned city; town planning; subjective discourse
Publication dates
PrintMar 2005
Publication process dates
Deposited08 Apr 2011
Web address (URL)
Additional information

Nigianni, B. (2005) ‘The street is a state of mind: urban politics, literature and subjectivity' Globalisation and Representation. 3rd International Conference on Globalisation and Resistance. University of Brighton, UK, 12th-13th March, Brighton: University of Brighton..

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