APPEL: Figures et personnages de l’urbain / CALL: Urban figures and characters


 Urban figures and characters: How to repopulate urban aesthetics

Urban space (Lussault, 2003) is composed by a rich number of, more or less metaphorical, characters and figures. Authors and researchers have written about the blasé attitude and the stranger in the city (Simmel, 1989), about the cyborg (Haraway, 2006; Hoquet, 2011), the hobo (Anderson, 2011), for instance Diogenes (Goulet-Cazé, 1986) or even Baudelaire (Benjamin, 1982; Merrifield, 2000). The city is also described through the uses of the agora, of the rhizome (Deleuze & Guattari, 1980), the polis, the archipelago, the network, a large range of characters and figures informs and transforms the perceptions of urban spaces. Figures and characters are ways of dreaming, describing and giving meaning to urban spaces. Hailing from different research currents, they live their own lives. They are born; they are stabilized; they age. Use after use, the effect of their intensity and their perturbation on our perception is lowered. Yet, by circulating, characters and figures can renew meanings assigned to both the city and perceptions.

Figures and characters bring the disciplines of the social sciences closer to other disciplines. Our intention is not to promote science fiction, but fictions used for scientific aims, because scientific fictions help to produce images and stories, and have heuristic properties (Aït-Touati, 2011, p. 77). The figure, as said by Jean-François Lyotard, does not signify, and is to be distinguished from the symbol. The figure disturbs every discourse and signification. The figure is irreducible to language and is fully sensitive (2002: 13). Conceptual characters, have similar functions. The character enables the mobility of thought, and constitutes powerful vehicles of affects and perceptions (Deleuze & Guattari, 1991: 65-sq.). Figures and characters give a transversal view of urban environments, because they transform them, while being transformed by them. Hence, it is important to reanimate the esthetic and semiotic repertoire of the urban space, in order to create new characters, new figures, and new images of thought. It is also necessary and complementary to render explicit the history of neglected images. New images can engender new perceptions of urban spaces, help to imagine and build new collectives, and inaugurate new research perspectives.

This Contour issue will gather work of researchers from all the fields, inside or at the borders of urban studies. Through the questioning of figures and characters, public space and shared spaces in general can be re-thought. Different experiences of public spaces can be revealed by pertinent figures and characters. Is not the supposed neutrality of public space the mask of all the different, nourishing and conflictual experiences of urban spaces? What is “civil inattention” (Goffman, 1984) when examined through the urban experience of a black person, a jihadist, a tourist, or even an animal?

This issue on “Urban figures and characters, how to repopulate urban aesthetics” aims to recall classical urban images, and to create or introduce into urban studies. Why not dare to propose neologisms, archaisms, characters, figures, reviving images, movements, in order to relaunch the exploration of the urban space? Starting from there, a new perception of the urban experience, and consequently a new definition of urbanity could be proposed, both more pragmatic and poetic.


The text proposals, between 500 and 1000 words, will develop an unpublished approach of an urban figure and/or of a character. The proposal will sketch the figure and/or the character, the pertinent bibliographical elements and the estimated length of the text. The proposal is to be sent before July 03th 2017 to Authors will be notified of the status of their submission by August 3rd. The final papers are due no later than November 3rd 2017.


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Anderson, N. (2011). Le hobo, sociologie du sans abri. Paris: Armand Colin.
Benjamin W. (1982) Charles baudelaire: Un poète lyrique à l’apogée du capitalisme. paris: Payot
Deleuze G. (2002) Francis Bacon: Logique de la sensation, Paris: Editions du Seuil.
Deleuze G., Guattari F. (1980) Mille Plateaux. Capitalisme et schizophrénie 2. Paris: Editions de Minuit.
Deleuze G., Guattari F. (1991). Qu’est-ce que la philosophie? Paris: Les Editions de Minuit.
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