Urban Futures: How Security and Aspirations to Cosmopolitanism Reconfigure the City Centre

Student thesis: Phd


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 the city. The planning, management and 'making' of cities are pursued also through the mobilisation of futures. The aspirations of city makers and branders play a central role 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 the main institutional stakeholders - remains scarce.This thesis focuses on Manchester and critically investigates contested visions of securitisation and cosmopolitanism in the city centre. Building on Science and Technology 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 increasingly subsumes under its logic a wide range of practices and policy domains. Scenarios of future insecurity frequently come to justify pre-emptive interventions. Distinctions between safety and security become increasingly blurred. In the context of place competition for investment and event tourism, this thesis critically appraises how securitisation reconfigures Manchester city centre. It considers security by design and the spread of interdictory spaces. It offers a multilayered account of the interplay between the material fabric of the city and the virtual architectures of security, in the context of an increasingly 'sentient' or 'sensor' city. Combining and integrating a variety of qualitative data sources generates a thick and multifaceted description of emergent security configurations in the city centre.The theoretical framework for qualitative analysis is derived from a combination of Science 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.
Date of Award1 Aug 2015
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorAlan Warde (Supervisor) & Simon Guy (Supervisor)


  • City Centre
  • Cosmopolitanism
  • Futures
  • Multi-Stakeholder Engagement
  • Science and Technology Studies
  • Surveillance
  • Risk and Governmentality
  • Manchester
  • Security
  • Urban Governance

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