Space, Affect, Security: Reflections on ‘Outcharming’ Crime in the City

Programme Type: Projects Programme:

In my reflections on space, affect and security I seek to capture the aesthetic and affective dimensions of everyday city-making in a South African metropolis. Through my work on security governance in Durban I discovered that making places safe is no longer just about putting up fences, surveillance cameras or alarm systems. Instead, city managers and planners, bar owners and park designers create what one might call spatialized “lovemarks” (Saatchi and Saatchi 2005) in which ambiance, music, colors, streetscapes can “communicate directly with people’s hearts”, as a bar owners enthuses. In these new “regimes of feeling” (Thrift 2004) communication is outsourced to and inscribed into urban space. Dominant concepts in urban sociology and geography revolving around fragmentation and architectures of fear can not entirely capture such subtle forms of spatial and social ordering in the city. Inspired by various beautification and ambiance projects in the inner city of Durban I have developed the notion of “handsome space”. Handsome space ‘outcharms’ negative or restrictive forms of spatial ordering, with softer, more affective and productive means of shaping people’s habits and opportunities in the city. For the book project I am particularly interested in the question of communication as imagined in these various attempts to shape space, using its sensual potential, in order to make it safer.