no. 58, March 2021

Aflame. Cities on Fire

Edited by Alberto Brodesco & Andrea Mubi Brighenti


Fire means passion, but also destruction – and sometimes, even, passion for destruction. Canetti once suggested that fire is a powerful crowd symbol, so that the crowd is inevitably attracted towards it: the crowd surrounds itself with fire, in the first place not to destroy, but to grow. However, as the history of urban unrest over the last century attests, cities are set on fire whenever social tensions explode. A little spark suffices, to begin with.

How to explain the paradox of rioters burning down their own neighbourhood? How to account for the dangerous attractiveness of fire? What is it precisely that is carried along by the immemorial fascination for fire? Can fire ever be an unconscious phármakon for urban evils? For their part, political protesters brandish fire to convey their own craving for justice: the fire element here becomes a more hopeful token of the possibility to reunite, warm up, and mobilise against the arrogance of power, which is everywhere the same. Fire can also function as a rally call.

Cities burn to the extent that they are built with suitable, versus unsuitable, materials – where suitable means flammable. The history of urban fires mirrors the history of the urban fabric itself. If fire management has represented a key modern development in urban governance, fire-fighter brigades today are called to face a new source of danger, namely human-induced climate change. With cities becoming hotter and hotter, fires become likelier and likelier. Once we look at this elemental history of cities, their fragility and resilience suddenly come to the foreground in a novel key: cities share the same fragility of the world’s atmosphere.

In this issue, we welcome contributions tacking the manifold, intertwined histories of cities and flames – stories of rage and desolation, of hope and ardour.


| Deadline | 15 December 2020

| Articles’ length | 2,000 words


| Information about the Journal |

| Information about the Editorial Process + Author’s Submission Checklist |