How did an urban apparatus put in the service of authoritarian power became the place of its undoing: the roundabout revolutions, from South Korea to recent Arab Spring.
One common feature of the wave of recent revolutions and revolts around the world is not political but rather architectural: many erupted on inner-city roundabouts. In thinking about the relation between protest and urban form, Eyal Weizman starts with the May 1980 uprising in Gwangju, South Korea, the first of the “roundabout revolutions,” and traces its lineage to the Arab Spring and its hellish aftermath. Rereading the history of the roundabout through the vortices of history that traverse it, the book follows the development of the roundabout in Europe and North America in the early Twentieth century, to its subsequent export to the colonial world in the context of attempts to discipline and police the "chaotic" non-Western city. Today, as the tide of revolt that characterized the Arab Spring seems to ebb, when nations and societies disintegrate by brutal civil wars and military oppression, the series of revolutions might seem like Dante's circles of hell. To counter this counter-revolution, Weizman proposes that the immanent power of the people at the roundabouts will need to find its corollary in sustained work at round tables—the ongoing formation of political movements able to enact political change.
Featuring photography by Kyungsub Shin.
Published following Eyal Weizman's contribution to the Gwangju Folly II in 2013.
Eyal Weizman (born 1970 in Haifa) is an Israeli intellectual and architect. He is Professor of Spatial and Visual Cultures at Goldsmiths, University of London and Director of the Centre for Research Architecture—a “laboratory for critical spatial practices”—which he created, within the Department of Visual Cultures, in 2005. He is the founding director of Forensic Architecture.