The rhetoric of spatial reproduction: Urban rhetoric and the enjoyment of structural fantasy

Date

2023-05

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Abstract

When we often ask about an individual’s hometown, we inflate the place they grew up with something about their personality. Looking at a three-way intersection of materialist rhetoric, psychoanalytic theory, and urban planning, this thesis aims to show that the living spaces of a subject and their subjective experience are not so different after all. Rather than taking the liberal view of an atomized individual entering a new external space, this thesis adopts a more Althusserian perspective by emphasizing that the subject themselves are mutually co-produced with the space that constitutes them. Spatial rhetorics provide for a (fundamental) fantasy of the subject’s externality from constitutive space and, in return, their externality to predominant ideological determinants. As a libidinal technology for maintaining ideology, spatial rhetoric constructs structural fantasies that tether its interpellated subjects into ideology and social reproduction through the enjoyment of one’s fantasy. I show how the urban built environment constructs fantasies within rhetorical space by looking at two medium-sized cities (Madison, Wisconsin, and Lubbock, Texas). Whether fantasizing oneself as a granola cosmoliberal or a Christian cowboy, subjects interpellated into these cities are compelled by a spatial rhetoric to reproduce the social relations in neoliberal capitalism. Moreover, urban planning mechanizes the technology of rhetoric onto target populations within these cities to reproduce conditions for spatial segregation (Madison) and hyperdevelopment or uneven development (Lubbock). Concluding with further calls for research into urban rhetoric, I find how the theories developed within this thesis can assist future urban movements for social justice.

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Keywords

Urban planning, Psychoanalysis, Materialist Rhetoric, Urban Rtudies, Uneven Development, Semiotics

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