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Sunderland Repository records the research produced by the University of Sunderland including practice-based research and theses.

The geography of ambiguity: a reflection on agency and morality in urban negotiation

Durey, Matthew, J. (2023) The geography of ambiguity: a reflection on agency and morality in urban negotiation. In: Royal Geographical Society (with Institute of British Geographers) Annual Conference 2023, 29 Aug - 01 Sep 2023, Royal Geographical Society, London. (Unpublished)

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)


Geography, as a perspective, draws great strength from its ability to understand the multifaceted nature of people’s relationship to place. This is especially significant in the understanding of cities. Since urbanization was recognized as a key feature of modern industrial society, urban landscapes have been understood as fields quite unique in terms of their diversity, intensity, and potential for encounter. Concomitant with this potential, however, is a rather deep ambivalence – a degree of variability that makes urban landscapes in a sense unknowable, or unpredictable, and therefore as something never ‘settled’ but always requiring everyday negotiation. In this paper, I reflect on the everyday ambivalence of urban landscapes and suggest that while we often view this ambivalence in terms of constraint upon agency – what Simmel understood as the retreat of personality – it can be read as part of a broader issue concerning the importance of value in everyday life, and of the capacity, indeed, perhaps the necessity, of agency, and of everyday decision-making, in understanding urban landscapes. In particular, I suggest that this adds a moral dimension to everyday negotiations and, by extension, to the way in which urban landscapes themselves should be viewed. Drawing on de Beauvoir’s (2018) arguments about the moral responsibilities inherent in the notion of ‘freedom’, this paper suggests that the ambivalence and moral ambiguity of urban encounter and everyday negotiation can be seen to reinforce the necessity of choice and of morality in understanding urban landscapes. It consequently also has a bearing on how we view cities as sites of difference, and for urban community.

PDF (Conference paper delivered at 'urban encounters' session at RGS (with IBG) Annual Conference 2023)
Durey - The geography of ambiguity (RGS Paper).pdf - Presentation
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Uncontrolled Keywords: Ambiguity, encounter, urban negotiation, morality, agency
Depositing User: Matthew Durey


Item ID: 16535
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ORCID for Matthew, J. Durey: ORCID iD

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Date Deposited: 06 Sep 2023 09:36
Last Modified: 22 Apr 2024 11:39