Video abstract for Dennis Rodgers’s article, ‘Critique of Urban Violence: Bismarckian Transformations in Managua, Nicaragua‘, Theory, Culture & Society, April 11, 2016
Urban contexts are widely conceived as inherently violent due to their putatively disorderly nature. Such a conception of violence effectively conceives it as singular and fundamentally destructive, neither of which necessarily hold universally true. Drawing on Benjamin’s ‘Critique of Violence’ and the life history of Bismarck, a former gang member turned drug dealer turned property entrepreneur living in a poor neighbourhood in Managua, Nicaragua, this article highlights how different forms of urban violence interrelate with each other over time, and how they shape an individual’s urban experience and environment. In doing so, it underscores how urban violence is not a singular phenomenon, how it intertwines with a range of urban social processes, and how it is often socially constitutive rather than destructive. Seen from this perspective, the key question to ask is less to what extent violence is a hallmark of urban contexts but rather how different articulations of violence emerge in cities, and why it is that they can play such contrasting roles in the constitution of urban life.