Urban chiaroscuro

par AbdouMaliq Simone

      Morten Nielsen

In this article, we examine those facets of the urban that cannot be captured by conventional scalings of the city. Based on ethnographic reflections from Jakarta, Indonesia, and Maputo, Mozambique, we suggest that the notion urban chiaroscuro may offer a productive analytical heuristic for urban theorization of those manifestations of urban life whose nature is never fully captured in any given specification or determination of its conditions. As a massive over-production of stuff is relaxing and unfolding the composition of both existing and emerging socio-material infrastructures, modular elements intended for the making and remaking of the city are being produced, but without a clear sense of proportion. The paradox is that without the coordinates by which to orient oneself in terms of the ongoing reconfigurations of clarity and obscurity, it is not clear what the city is, let alone what it can and should become.

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