How do political powers mobilize aesthetic means to simultaneously produce a sense of security and a sense of community? Drawing on research in Kingston, Jamaica, this paper by Rivke Jaffe connects philosophical work on the politics of aesthetics to considerations of spatiality and materiality, in order to develop a political geography of sensation.
Safety is something that is felt in a corporeal way as people move through urban space: security and insecurity are bodily sensations that are produced in response to a range of aesthetic forms, from architectural and design elements, to gang graffiti and armed response signs. Certain markers on the urban landscape work, intentionally or unintentionally, to generate feelings of comfort and a sense of belonging, while others elicit fear and sensations of being out-of-place. These affective responses to security aesthetics are embodied and emplaced, and as such these sensations are not distributed uniformly across urban population. Specific security signs, buildings and technologies interpellate people in different ways, delineating new forms of political community or reinforcing existing forms of differentiated citizenship. Understanding the connection between urban security aesthetics and processes of subject formation requires an attentiveness to the built environment of cities, and the entanglement of aesthetic forms with their material surroundings.