IT COULD HAPPEN TO YOU: Far Right Politics and The City

One Day Symposium on the Politics of Urbanisation, BK Faculty of Architecture and the Built Environment, TU Delft University of Technology.

Supported by DDfV (Delft Design for Values).

MAY 2, 2019  Faculty of Architecture and the Built Environment,BK, Juliananalaan 134, 2628BL, Delft, The Netherlands, Berlagezaal 1.

Democracy is under threat. All over the world, the politics of fear, division and discontent is pushing people to elect far-right, populist leaders who accentuate polarisation and division and undermine democratic institutions.

This has consequences for how we plan and design our cities and for citizens’ RIGHT TO THE CITY.

This event discusses what’s happening in several countries around the world and asks the questions: What are urban issues arising from the rise of the far right? What is the role of planners and designers in fostering democratic participation and citizens’ right to the city? Are participation and communicative rationality enough to ensure fair, inclusive and sustainable cities and communities?


Patricia Schor (Amsterdam University College)

Patricia Schor

Dr. PATRICIA SCHOR teaches Race, Class and Gender at Amsterdam University College. She received her PhD from Utrecht University on Portuguese postcolonialism and the representations of Africa. In 2017 she was awarded the Endowed Chair in Portuguese Studies at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. Dr. Schor published on the Portuguese and Dutch biopolitical colonial regimes, racism and colonial heritages across the Atlantic, postcolonial African literature, and gendered anti-blackness in Europe. One of her recent publications is the co-authored “White Order, Corporate Capital and Control of Mobility in the Netherlands” in the 2018 volume Smash the Pillars: Decoloniality and the Imaginary of Color in the Dutch Kingdom. She is the co-editor of the 2012 issue of the journal Portuguese Cultural Studies dedicated to “Brazilian Postcolonialities”. Dr. Schor worked previously at Oxfam Netherlands in the fields of (natural) conflict resources and political rights in Mozambique, Angola and Guinea Bissau. She was awarded her MA from the International Institute of Social Studies, Erasmus University with a dissertation on Afro-Brazilian culture and emancipation, and received her BA from the Fundação Getúlio Vargas – São Paulo.

Danniel Gobbi ( Free University of Berlin)

Danniel Gobbi

DANNIEL GOBBI is a research associate in the ERC-funded project “Protest and Order. Democratic Theory, Contentious Politics and the Changing Shape of Western Democracy” (POWDER) and a PhD Candidate at the Free University Berlin. He holds a MA degree in Political Science from the University of Brasilia and has worked in the Governmental Innovation Lab at the Brazilian National School of Public Administration. He is also part of the research group “Rethinking Relationships Between State and Civil Societies” (RESOCIE) at the University of Brasilia and has worked previously as an advisor on International Affairs for the Presidency of the Brazilian Federal Republic.

Edin Elgsaether (Netherlands Institute for Multi-Party Democracy)

Edin Elgsaether

Edin Elgsaether is a governance specialist with experience from developing, transitional and conflict affected countries. With the UN he worked on multifaceted programs in Uzbekistan, Thailand and Myanmar, related to legislative institutions, electoral bodies, local governments, civil society, human rights and conflict issues. His work has spanned from supporting local community and civil society groups in finding local driven solutions and advocating for change at the international level to supporting governments and national institutions in becoming more inclusive and participatory. His speciality is using Political Economy Analysis in testing how change can come about.

Currently Mr. Elgsaether is working for the Netherland’s Institute for Multiparty Democracy where he as an Knowledge Advisor are supporting country programmes on political dialogue and capacity building of political actors.

*Professor James Holston (UC Berkeley) won’t be present due to health issues.

Rationale of the Event

The British social scientist Doreen Massey (2011) claimed urban space as the dimension of multiplicity, and therefore the dimension of politics.

“If time is the dimension of sequence, then space is the dimension of contemporaneous existence. In that sense, it is the dimension of the social and, therefore, it is the dimension that poses the political question of how we are going to live together”.

The question of how we are going to live together in the city is more relevant than ever.

Cities are political spaces by excellence, because of the multiple and often contradictory claims on shared resources and spaces that must be negotiated, and agreed upon.

Massey calls this idea ‘radical simultaneity’, in which stories, ongoing trajectories and multiple voices happen simultaneously. Space is, therefore, composed by relations, practices and interactions imbued with power, and sometimes oppression.

This has profound implications for how we conceive the role of spatial planners and designers and the tools they use to mediate and steer competing claims over those spaces and resources. Our hypothesis is that, in order to achieve social sustainability and justice, we must achieve agreement through inclusionary, democratic communication and participation, in which public conceptions of justice, democracy and the redistribution of the benefits and burdens of urban development are discussed and decided upon democratically. All this is profoundly upset by the rise of the far-right and its ethos of falsehoods supporting spurious narratives.

The idea of communicative rationality is central to this discussion. And it is precisely communicative rationality that is put in check by the rise of far-right politics.

Patsy Healey (1996) asserts that ideas of communicative rationality focus on ways of “reconstructing the meaning of a democratic practice”, based on more inclusive practices of “inclusionary argumentation”. For Healey, this is equivalent to a form of …

“…public reasoning which accepts the contributions of all members of a political community and recognises the range of ways they have of know, valuing, and giving meaning. Inclusionary argumentation as a practice thus underpins conceptions of what is being called participatory democracy (Fischer, 1990; Held, 1987) (…).  Through such argumentation, a public realm is generated through which diverse issues and diverse ways of raising issues can be given attention. In such situations, as Habermas argues, the power of the ‘better argument’ confronts and transforms the power of the state and capital”.  (Healey, 1996, p.3) (our emphasis)

The generation (or re-generation) of a public realm through communicative rationality in planning practices speaks to the concept of PUBLICNESS, of public imagination and of collective action to face the direst challenges of our time (socio-economic inequality, exclusion, climate change, explosive urbanisation and the discredit of democracy, among others).

Without a democratic public realm, we cannot achieve social, cultural, economic, or environmental sustainability.

These ideas are, we think, crucial to the idea that the rise of far-right politics represents a rupture in how cities and communities are governed, designed, and spatially shaped, with dire consequences for issues like inequality and climate change, to mention only two urgent issues.

Planning and design have the potential to play a key role in helping reconstitute the public sphere, subverting established orders of exclusion and/or oppression and reinforcing democracy and inclusion through the exercise of the ‘Right to the City’.

This event is open and free to all, also outside of TU Delft. Please register below, so we can add you to our mailing list and adjust our catering.


Healey, P. (1996). The Communicative Turn in Planning Theory and Its Implications for Spatial Strategy Formation Environment and Planning B: Planning and Design, 23(1), 217-234. 

Massey, D. (2011). Spatial Justice: Radical Spatial Foundations. .Retrieved from