Technologies of Survivability: How the Military Scripts Urban Relations

Fadi Shayya

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis


This thesis aims at investigating how urban environments become sites of politics, conflict, and violence through technical mediation. It draws on Gilbert Simondon’s philosophy of technology and Madelaine Akrich’s sociology of innovation to explore how imaginaries of cities and the urban inform the design of mobility technologies through the concretization and scripting of technical objects. The research ventures into the world of the military to investigate how extreme human-technology relations push the cognitive, corporeal, and material performance of the environment, space, bodies, and scale. Through an STS- and ANT-inspired methodology, the study analyses and translates the content of highly technical forms of knowledge from novel sources, including utility patents and specialized military publications, to trace encounters of military mobility with the urban as a threat, fabric, infrastructure, and breakdown. The narrative embraces an architectural conception of the MRAP vehicle as a highly protected and enclosed space, an atmospheric capsule privileging the survival of specific bodies. The study concludes with three key findings: through the design and geographic displacement of technical objects, the urban environment is reduced to something to be survived; terrain becomes a proxy for the environment; and, survivability prevails as a sociotechnical arrangement – not the pain of the bodies, where technical innovation enrols humans, procedures, materials, design, testing, and simulation. The thesis makes the argument for survivability becoming a vital concept of contemporary cities and urban environments, and the urban emerging as a reassembling of survivability arrangements for moving with – not in – the environment.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
  • Yaneva, Albena, Supervisor
  • Minuchin, Leandro, Advisor
Publication statusIn preparation - 2020

Research Beacons, Institutes and Platforms

  • Manchester Urban Institute


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