Cities Under Siege: The New Military Urbanism

A powerful exposé of how political violence operates through the spaces of urban life.
Cities are the new battleground of our increasingly urban world. From the slums of the global South to the wealthy financial centers of the West, Cities Under Siege traces the spread of political violence through the sites, spaces, infrastructure and symbols of the world’s rapidly expanding metropolitan areas.

Drawing on a wealth of original research, Stephen Graham shows how Western militaries and security forces now perceive all urban terrain as a conflict zone inhabited by lurking shadow enemies. Urban inhabitants have become targets that need to be continually tracked, scanned and controlled. Graham examines the transformation of Western armies into high-tech urban counter-insurgency forces. He looks at the militarization and surveillance of international borders, the use of ‘security’ concerns to suppress democratic dissent, and the enacting of legislation to suspend civilian law. In doing so, he reveals how the New Military Urbanism permeates the entire fabric of urban life, from subway and transport networks hardwired with high-tech ‘command and control’ systems to the insidious militarization of a popular culture corrupted by the all-pervasive discourse of ‘terrorism.’


  • Cities Under Siege is a detailed and intense forensics of new urban frontiers, laboratories of the extreme where experiments with new urban conditions are currently being undertaken. In this fascinating new work Steven Graham has created a novel concept of the city, looking at war as the limit condition of urbanity and calling for an alternative urban life yet to come.”
  • “Roll over Jane Jacobs: here’s urban geography as it looks like through the eye of a Predator at 25,000 feet. A fundamental and very scary report from the global red zone.”
  • “A brilliant critique of the deadly embrace of military violence and contemporary urbanism. Steve Graham writes with immense power and lucidity, layering detail over detail and image over image to expose the shadows that are falling across cities around the world. This is not a dystopian future but the present, and Graham compels us to open our eyes to the dangers military urbanism poses to contemporary democracy.”
  • “Sharp, lucid and elegant prose ...Graham is consistently insightful and compelling. Cities Under Siege is an indispensable analysis of the dark fantasies that the military imagination is seeking to realise in the coming century.”
  • “A rigorously researched, pioneering book packed with disturbing and at times astonishing information.”


  • A Reading List for the Olympics: Part One

    Barbaric Sport: A Global Plague Marc Perelman

    Perelman’s book takes a subversive look at sport and global sporting events such as the Olympics to reveal their darker side. He argues that sport has become an instrument of political control and a vehicle for capitalist monoculture.  This timely polemic offers refreshing reading to those looking for an antidote to this summer’s Olympian frenzy. 

    Cities Under Siege: The New Military UrbanismStephen Graham

    This authoritative study examines the rapid and dangerous spread and normalization of surveillance and state policing in western cities and warzones alike under the guise of national security.  As such it provides an unsettling and provocative insight into the global backdrop of the rising costs and militarization of London’s Olympic Games security operation. 

    A New Kind of Bleak: Journeys through Urban BritainOwen Hatherley

    Hatherley’s critical tour of Britain’s urban centres incorporates the latest and most high profile attempt at regeneration offering a carefully considered indictment of the architectural and social failures of Stratford’s Olympic sites.

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  • The new urban militarism of law enforcement: interview with Stephen Graham

    Last week, Stephen Graham sat down with WBEZ 91.5 in Chicago to talk about the new and increasingly militarized forms of law enforcement that are fast becoming the norm throughout the West. Drawing from his new book on the topic, Cities Under Siege: The New Military Urbanism, he addresses this rapid transformation and critically examines both the subtler and more familiarly overt modes of social control and surveillance that are being put to use in troubling ways. In the interview, Graham touches on these new modes of enforcement and considers how they are used to subdue dissent and criminalize behaviour, among other things. With new technologies and invocations of "security concerns," these are now becoming a part of our urban landscape and are being used in everything from the increased policing of borders and crowds to the surveillance of public space and police crackdowns. As Graham suggests, it is part of larger, discomforting trends that are changing the way people live and move within cities. 

    Please visit WBEZ to listen to the interview in full.

  • 'Society on steroids' —Stephen Graham on Olympic security

    More troops - 13,500 - will be deployed to cover the London Olympics than are currently stationed in Afghanistan. This frightening statistic opens Stephen Graham's powerful and harrowing piece on Olympic 2012 security for the Guardian. Arguing that the London Games will see the largest mobilisation of military and security forces since the second world war, Graham, author of Cities Under Siege, warns that the effects "will linger long after the athletes and VIPs have left."

    As estimates of the Games' immediate security costs double (from £282m to £553m) Graham highlights the hypocrisy of spending on this scale,

    All this in a city convulsed by massive welfare, housing benefit and legal aid cuts, spiralling unemployment and rising social protests. It is darkly ironic, indeed, that large swaths of London and the UK are being thrown into ever deeper insecurity while being asked to pay for a massive security operation, of unprecedented scale, largely to protect wealthy and powerful people and corporations.

    Graham points out that the total security force could number anything between 24,00o and 49,00o. He writes in disturbing detail of the intricate security arrangements underway,

    During the Games an aircraft carrier will dock on the Thames. Surface-to-air missile systems will scan the skies. Unmanned drones, thankfully without lethal missiles, will loiter above the gleaming stadiums and opening and closing ceremonies. RAF Typhoon Eurofighters will fly from RAF Northolt. A thousand armed US diplomatic and FBI agents and 55 dog teams will patrol an Olympic zone partitioned off from the wider city by an 11-mile, £80m, 5,000-volt electric fence.

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Other books by Stephen Graham