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Durham University

Research & business

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Publication details for Dr Gordon MacLeod

MacLeod, D.G. (2014). Walling the City. In Cities and Social Change: Encounters with Contemporary Urbanism. McCann, E. & Paddison, R. London, UK: Sage. 130-147.

Author(s) from Durham


This chapter explores the diverse ways in which contemporary cities in various parts of the world are being subjected to ‘walling’, particularly via processes of intensified physical and institutional segregation. It begins by revealing the notable history that walls and forts have played through the ages in protecting and enclosing ancient and medieval cities, and how, with the onset of capitalist modernity and the rise of the nation-state, the modes of walling and enclosure began to assume new trajectories and geographies. In a crucial sense, in the ‘modern’ era, walls and enclosures became less about defending the city’s periphery or boundary and more about devising sophisticated designs and technologies to help instil an ordered metropolitan landscape and governable urban and suburban populations. As more and more urban landscapes appear to be the sites for diverse projects of neoliberal growth and market discipline vis-à-vis rampant privatization and accumulation-by-dispossession, and the prioritizing of urban space and indeed urban life as a commodity, so the early twenty-first century is witnessing a whole series of walls, fences, enclosures leading to a ‘splintering urbanism’. The chapter examines shopping malls and gated communities as particularly potent expressions of contemporary walling, the reasons for their prevalence, and how they are reshaping the social and political ecology of cities across the world.