Building the Body Politic: Power and Urban Space in Washington, D.C.

Building the Body Politic demonstrates how the language of urban planning shapes political imagination, and limits the possibilities for change available to cities and citizens. The book represents three key moments in Washington, D.C., planning history that offer rich insight into changing ideas about cities, citizens, and politics: alley and tenement reform and the Senate Park Commission Plan for re-shaping the Washington Mall (1900); urban renewal and the District of Columbia Redevelopment Act (1950-60); and the implementation of a citywide surveillance system and the Monuments and Memorials Master Plan (2001). Margaret Farrar expertly draws from political theory, cultural geography, and urban studies in her examination of the relationships among spaces, citizens, and power in the context of planning Washington.


In addition to the realities of Washington’s built environment, Farrar describes the role of a capital city in a democracy. More than any other place, a principle function of the architecture and design of a capital city is to create citizens. In doing so, some groups and interests are legitimized, while others are rendered irrational, illegitimate, or often quite literally out of place. In carefully tracing shifting urban planning vocabularies over the course of the twentieth century, Farrar offers valuable insight into how power is conveyed, deployed, consolidated, and negotiated through language.

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By kacie (Hilo, HI) · ★★★★★ · June 13, 2009
She uses Foucault well! ...more