Planetary Ruralization

Research project
2017–2020

Kenny Cupers

This research project aims to offer a new perspective of our global urban condition by tracing the historical imbrications of territory, geopolitics, and architecture. Conventional wisdom has it that in the last two centuries the rural world has been eaten up by the urban, a process that has turned the world into one great interior. This view, so the book contends, obscures the underlying transformations of territory that define the geopolitics of urbanization. Urban growth is not only an economic and social process, but also an epistemological and political project, in which the countryside is of fundamental importance. Reinvented in nineteenth-century aesthetic discourse, the trope of the rural was instrumental to a new form of state power focused on mastering the interior. From sub-saharan Africa and South America to the heartlands of imperial Europe, this project entailed not only the rationalization of agriculture, but also the managing of migration, techniques of colonization and social engineering, and the aesthetics of nation-building. The process of planetary transformation that scholars routinely identify as one of agglomeration—the emergence of large-scale metropolitan regions and networks of cities—is in fact a highly uneven process of both urbanization and ruralization, in which large swaths of land were turned into the hinterlands of a consolidating state-capitalist system. These global hinterlands are more than ideological projections of a long-gone pre-industrial past; they are integral to our contemporary territorial condition.

Blumenau, Brazil, late 19th C
© Blumenau archive