Urban futures: How security and aspirations to cosmopolitanism reconfigure the city centre

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis


The futures of cities occupy a central role in policy-making today. Many of the challenges to social organisation and their solutions are framed at the scale of thecity. The planning, management and ‘making’ of cities are pursued also through themobilisation of futures. The aspirations of city makers and branders play a centralrole in shaping how cities evolve in certain directions rather than others. Yet theoretical and empirical work looking at how imagined futures are mobilised - and,more importantly, exploring whether they are shared by various actors beyond themain institutional stakeholders - remains scarce.This thesis focuses on Manchester and critically investigates contested visions ofsecuritisation and cosmopolitanism in the city centre. Building on Science andTechnology Studies’ theories of public engagement, multi-stakeholder mapping,uncertainty and contested knowledge, this research looks at processes of ‘futuring’, eliciting and contrasting the views, experiences and priorities of a variety of stakeholders. The thesis uncovers the values embedded in institutionally endorsed current visions, and points to the trade-offs they engender.Securitisation in the West in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attack increasinglysubsumes under its logic a wide range of practices and policy domains. Scenarios of future insecurity frequently come to justify pre-emptive interventions. Distinctionsbetween safety and security become increasingly blurred. In the context of placecompetition for investment and event tourism, this thesis critically appraises howsecuritisation reconfigures Manchester city centre. It considers security by designand the spread of interdictory spaces. It offers a multilayered account of theinterplay between the material fabric of the city and the virtual architectures ofsecurity, in the context of an increasingly ‘sentient’ or ‘sensor’ city. Combining andintegrating a variety of qualitative data sources generates a thick and multifaceteddescription of emergent security configurations in the city centre.The theoretical framework for qualitative analysis is derived from a combination ofScience and Technology Studies, Governmentality and Surveillance Studies, Critical Discourse Analysis and Frame Analysis. The thesis examines the discourses of risk, their applications to the urban, and their biopolitical effects. It tracks the revival of cosmopolitan debates and the mobilisation of discourses of cosmopolitanism in policy, media and promotional materials. The thesis questions the relationship between security and cosmopolitanism, and their role in place making and city branding.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Manchester
Publication statusPublished - 2014


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