© 2018

Planned Violence

Post/Colonial Urban Infrastructure, Literature and Culture

  • Elleke Boehmer
  • Dominic Davies

Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-xxii
  2. Section I

  3. Section II

  4. Section III

About this book


This book brings the insights of social geographers and cultural historians into a critical dialogue with literary narratives of urban culture and theories of literary cultural production. In so doing, it explores new ways of conceptualizing the relationship between urban planning, its often violent effects, and literature. Comparing the spatial pasts and presents of the post-imperial and post/colonial cities of London, Delhi and Johannesburg, but also including case studies of other cities, such as Chicago, Belfast, Jerusalem and Mumbai, Planned Violence investigates how that iconic site of modernity, the colonial city, was imagined by its planners — and how this urban imagination, and the cultural and social interventions that arose in response to it, made violence a part of the everyday social life of its subjects. Throughout, however, the collection also explores the extent to which literary and cultural productions might actively resist infrastructures of planned violence, and imagine alternative ways of inhabiting post/colonial city spaces.


Social Geography Cultural History Modernity Urban planning Spaitial studies

Editors and affiliations

  • Elleke Boehmer
    • 1
  • Dominic Davies
    • 2
  1. 1.English FacultyUniversity of OxfordOxfordUK
  2. 2.City, University of LondonLondonUK

About the editors

Elleke Boehmer is Professor of World Literature in English at the University of Oxford, UK. She is the author of five monographs and five novels, including, among the former, Colonial and Postcolonial Literature (1995, 2005), Nelson Mandela (2008), and Indian Arrivals 1870-1915 (2015), and, among the latter, The Shouting in the Dark (long-listed Sunday Times Barry Ronge prize), Screens against the Sky (short-listed David Hyam Prize), and Bloodlines (shortlisted SANLAM prize). She has edited and co-edited numerous books, including Robert Baden-Powell’s Scouting for Boys (2004).

Dominic Davies is Lecturer in English at City, University of London, UK. He completed his DPhil and a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellowship at the University of Oxford. During this time he was also the Network Facilitator for the Leverhulme-funded 'Planned Violence' Network and the British Council US and TORCH-funded 'Divided Cities' Network. He is the author of Imperial Infrastructure and Spatial Resistance in Colonial Literature, 1880-1930 (2017) and Urban Comics: Infrastructure and the Global City in Contemporary Graphic Narratives (forthcoming 2019).

Bibliographic information


“How can literature, art and poetry deal with the violences that are so intrinsic to urban life in postcolonial times? In this pioneering and important collection, Elleke Boehmer and Dominic Davies bring together a remarkable series of essays by leading cultural and literary thinkers​. These powerfully evoke the nature of literary and artistic imaginings of our urban age, as well as the deep logics of violence that permeate experiences of it. From Linton Kwesi Johnson's poetic stands against police violence in London​ to Arundhati Roy's searing novels on oppression in urban India, from Richard Wright’s novels on Chicago to Modikwe Dikobe’s novels on apartheid Johannesburg, and from Julie Mehretu’s paintings of revolutionary Cairo in the Arab Spring to Khaled Jarrar's paintings on infrastructural violence on the West Bank (and many more besides), this collection is a remarkable survey of how contemporary urban life and violences are imagined, lived and resisted. Indispensable.” (Stephen Graham, Professor of Cities and Society, Newcastle University, UK, and author of Cities under Siege and Vertical)

Planned Violence makes a strong and compelling claim that we should not interpret the concept of infrastructure too narrowly; but nor should we lose sight of what it suggests about the constitution of the political, the past and present of corporeal life, and the present and futures of various formations of violence in our times.” (Sarah Nuttall, Director of the Wits Institute for Social and Economic Research (WiSER), Johannesburg, South Africa)

Planned Violence invokes the tireless legacy of Fanon, reflecting on the wreckage within zoning, confinement and control, and the circumventions sustained as much by mobilisation as by making do. This stunning collection of essays is a creative and critical reference point for thinking through the instability of urban life.” (Suzanne Hall, Co-Director of the Cities Programme and Associate Professor in Sociology, London School of Economics and Political Science, UK)