Improvised LivesRhythms of Endurance in an Urban South
Improvised Lives
Rhythms of Endurance in an Urban South

The poor and working people – the majority – in cities of the South find themselves in urban spaces that are conventionally construed as places to reside, to inhabit. But what if we thought of popular districts in more expansive ways that capture what really goes on within them? In such cities, popular districts are the settings of more uncertain operations that take place under the cover of darkness, generating uncanny alliances among disparate bodies, materials and things and expanding the urban sensorium and its capacities for liveliness. They display a kind of urban infrapolitics under the shadow of the state and other vectors of power and potentiality that have yet to be properly conceptualized or harnessed by a politics of the just city.

In this important new book AbdouMaliq Simone explores the nature of these alliances through ideas of improvisation in postcolonial urbanism, Jazz, Black and Islamic studies, and subaltern literature. Drawing on material from South and Southeast Asia, he portrays urban districts as sites of enduring transformations through rhythms that mediate between the needs of residents not to draw too much attention to themselves and their aspirations to become a small niche of exception, adding something different to the fabric of mere survival. Here we discover an urban South that exists, not as a promise of justice and equality in waiting, but as dense rhythms of endurance that turn out to be vital for survival, connectivity, and becoming.

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  • November 2018 (pb)
    November 2018 (hb)
  • 156 pages
  • 138 x 216 mm / 5 x 9 in
Available Formats
  • Hardback $59.95
  • 9781509523351
  • Paperback $19.95
  • 9781509523368
  • Open eBook $19.95
  • 9781509523399
Table of Contents

Chapter I: The Uninhabitable

Chapter II: Ensemble Work

Chapter III: The Mechanics of Improvised Relations

Chapter IV: Inscribing Sociality in the Dark: The Pragmatics of a Legible Home

Chapter V: The Politics of Peripheral Care


About the Author
AbdouMaliq Simone is Professor at the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity.
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“Here, urban worlds—metal scrap, unhinged concrete, electrical waste, slowdowns and interruptions—emerge with and through secretive human connections. AbdouMaliq Simone narrates the urban as an aesthetics of promise, where the uninhabitable generates districts of improvising communities, collectively living-with, and unsettling, infrastructures of harm.”
Katherine McKittrick, Queen's University, Ontario

“A brilliant and innovative account of urban life, seen from the ground of several cities. In Simone's account, urban life as at once confined to place - places often seen as 'uninhabitable' - while at the same time enduring and generative, composed through the weaving together of different experiments, connections, gatherings and imaginaries. As ever in his work, Simone provides us with a unique perspective on the city, and a distinctive way of seeing urbanism and speculating on its social, economic and political potentials.”
Colin McFarlane, Durham University

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