LSE Cities seminar series: The Emotional Life of the City

11 October 2018

This is a seminar series hosted by LSE Cities.

Research students and academic staff at and beyond the LSE are all welcome.

LSE Cities is pleased to announce a new seminar series for 2018-2019: The Emotional Life of the City. This series has been organised by Dr Ed Charlton, British Academy Postdoctoral Research Fellow, who is working on a project entitled Metropolitan Melancholia at LSE Cities.

Talk of extreme cities abound. Extremes of sprawl and scale, density, toxicity, and poverty—to name but a few. But what of their extremities of emotion?

This seminar series thinks in critical as much as creative terms about the place of extreme emotional life in the city. Gesturing toward a tradition of urban observation that extends back to the likes of Flora Tristan and Walter Benjamin and reaches forward to writers such as Rebecca Solnit and Teju Cole, seminars will provide lively, incisive commentary willing to experiment, formally as well as methodologically.

There will be five seminars spanning across the 2018-19 academic year, all of which will be held in the LSE Cities seminar room from 12.00pm – 1.30pm.

If you would like to attend any of the seminars please RSVP to as spaces are limited.

The speakers and dates for the series have all been confirmed:

October 25 2018, 12.00pm – 1.30pm

Dr Angharad Closs Stephens (Swansea University)


November 29 2018, 12.00pm – 1.30pm

Laura Grace Ford (Royal College of Art)


January 17 2019, 12.00pm – 1.30pm

Dr Ruth Raynor (Newcastle University)


February 21, 12.00pm – 1.30pm

Dr Lauren Elkin (Liverpool University)


March 21, 12.00pm – 1.30pm

Dr Thomas Jellis (Oxford University)


Details of the first seminar of the series are listed below:

Affective Solidarities in the Aftermath of Urban Terror: Reading Teju Cole’s Open City and Hanif Kureishi’s The Black Album

Speaker: Dr Angharad Closs Stephens (Department of Geography, Swansea University)

Date: Thursday 25 October 2018, 12.00pm – 1.30pm

Location: 8.01H, Tower 2, St Clement’s Inn, London WC2A 2AZ

This seminar addresses the emotional life of the city by examining ‘digital structures of feeling’ (Kuntsman, 2012), as witnessed in the aftermath of terrorist attacks in European cities. These include people changing their Facebook profile pictures, and sharing memes and hashtags to demonstrate how they care for others in distant places. Dr Angharad Closs Stephens is interested in these examples for how they address questions about how we mourn some deaths more than others (Cole, 2016: Butler, 2016), as well as for how ideas about ‘the other at risk’ can morph into claims about ‘risky others’ (Amoore and De Goede, 2011). However her main interest here is in contesting the images of place and subjectivity at work in them: where place and subjectivity appear as separate and distinct, and sympathy as something to be extended across distance (Casey, 2013). Given the way in which the urban presents a very different way of understanding our being in the world (Blom-Hansen and Verkaaik, 2009; Shapiro, 2010; Frisby, 2001), Dr Closs Stephens turns to two novels that engage ‘urban atmospheres’ in the aftermath of different histories of ‘terrorism’ to uncover resources for critically addressing contemporary responses to urban violence. In this, she follows the point that literature forms a way of intervening in ‘the way in which the world is visible for us, and in which what is visible can be put into words, and the capacities and incapacities that reveal themselves accordingly’ (Rancière, 2011: 7). Through a discussion of Teju Cole’s Open City (2011), set in New York following 9/11, and Hanif Kureishi’s The Black Album (1995), set in London in 1989, following the fatwa on Salman Rushdie, Dr Closs Stephens will draw out materials that help to critically engage questions of affective solidarity and what it means to care for others both here and elsewhere.


For more information please contact