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cr/theory, culture, discourse, essay, history, ideology, urban, utopia

Making the Second Nature: Towards a Critique of Cultural Politics in Urban Perception — The US Context, 1850-1940s


As manifested in the original Marxian tradition, environmental transformation is a complex process that necessitates a symbiotic metamorphosis of nature and society. It is therefore a social process; and the agencies’ interaction with nature, their mental conceptions and such perceptive experiences are shadowed under politics. Politics is the most assertive realm of change, being thoroughly instrumental in nature’s formations, deformations and its spatial and cognitive displacements. It can be said that politics, as a meta-narrative and ideology and the legitimizing apparatus of such narrations, not only transforms nature, but also fabricates the cultural sphere within which such transformations become publicly possible, making the whole processes either significantly legal and recognized, or illegitimate and discrete. The mode of urbanism of the early 1900s in North America in this context deserves special attention, as the state’s desire for modernization presents a similar cultural sphere by which urban programs and their spatiality reflect an environment of revolution in relation to the nation’s ideological choices. The idyllic constructions, the emerging industrial capitalism and the related urban utopias demystify how the state, as well as the national bourgeoisie, drew out their ideological mappings and conceived nature in their imagined inventions.

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