2014 OPEN CALL > 2014 FESTIVAL THEMATICS AND QUESTIONS > White Supremacy / White Privilege / Columbusing


Keys to the City, TINAG Research, 2008 

White Supremacy and White Privilege are two fundamental facts that have been voluntarily ignored in almost all areas of globalised life but very particularly so in The Urban Industry. In 2007 we published ‘Keys to the City’ (London, UK) (http://thisisnotagateway.squarespace.com/keys-to-the-city/ ) to highlight the stark race and class divisions that are created and maintained in cities, inherent in general discussions about ‘cities’ and in one’s ability to influence policy formation.

White privilege and white supremacy have been crucial factors in the formation of cities since 1500s.  The expansion and enrichment of cities like London, Paris and New York were financed by land theft and the slave labour used in European colonies. Ancient cities such as Babylon were looted and then destroyed by the American military; a number of ancient African cities are even claimed as European. Ancient cities of the Indus, for example, are not discussed in any urban studies courses and instead, academic courses reference the same 7-10 white theorists.

Today we live on just 2-3% of the lands surface and 1 in 2 of us live in cities. 7% of all people now live in a handful of the largest mega cities. It is urgent we recognise the construction and legacy of white supremacy in shaping cities around the world today. Seeking projects that:


  • Examine 'gentrification' as a process of whitification or 'Columbusing'. What is the relationship of the global financialisation of homes with the whitification of neighbourhoods?
  • Examine the invention of the white race and how this recent construct has been used to justify European colonialism. What does this mean for current and future cities?
  • The Tragedy of Progress. Examine how Western ideologies such as Darwinism, Capitalism and Marxism have been used to legitimise ideas of 'civilised and uncivilised', and concepts such as 'progress'. What does the attempted erasure of communities, cultures, and peoples mean  -particularly for indigenous peoples?
  • Why does multi-continental European colonisation need to be understood as different to 'other empires' and what does this mean for understanding 'global cities'?
  •  Cities of Empire. Which cities developed as sites of colonial accumulation? Which cities were destroyed in the process of colonisation?  Which European colonial cities were built upon other cities?
  • Why is there a resurgence of books and television shows on the 'benefits' of empire? Why do places like the V&A hold exhibitions such as 'Empire Builders 1750-1950' and how can the shadow education secretary publish books 'Ten Cities that made an Empire'?
  • Who continues to benefit from colonisation and how? How do people of European descent dominate academia, governments, think tanks, NGO's and conferences? How does white privilege work within institutions?
  • What are the ideas for repatriations, justice and post -European colonialism? How could cities be reconsidered?
  •  How is white supremacy latent in globalised models of cities? Is this evident is projects such as the Economist Intelligence Unit's 'most liveable cities rankings' or Monocle Magazine's Most Liveable Cities Index.
  • White supremacy and its impact on citizens around the world. Examine incarceration, life expectancy and employment rates of black men and women, for example. How does white privilege work in institutional contexts such as courts of law or urban housing?
  • White supremacy and its internal psychosocial violence in everyday life of cities. How do white people benefit from this violence? How does the pathology of entitlement in white supremacy impact on the daily lives of the global majority? How has white supremacy created divisions, fractures and hierarchies within non-white peoples?
  • How white privilege works in structural contexts such as urban festivals, university reading lists, the staffing of government departments, conferences, parliaments etc?
  •  Do people of European descent understand their privilege is a result of a globalised world and therefore either turn a blind eye to the processes or actively take participate with the urban industry?
  •  Why is there a denial of White Privilege and White Supremacy in these issues? How does the belief we exist in a 'post-racial world' and ideas of 'one love' impact on the conceptualisation of cities and policy development?
  •  How is white supremacy embedded and communicated through the architectures of cities? How are globalising firms like AECOM forcing models onto non-European nations such as Iraq? Why are these models seemingly attractive? How can it be possible for such different cultures to exist in homogenized ideas and design of cities?
  • Snowcapped NGO's. Why are so many NGO's 'white at the top', particularly when concerned with 'third world development'? What is the impact of this on cities and peoples?‚Äč

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Last updated on August 15, 2014 by This Is Not A Gateway