Rebranding Precarity

Pop-up Culture as the Seductive New Normal

Ella Harris


Explores how ‘pop-up culture’ has entrenched precarity in London by normalizing and glamorizing crisis conditions in the aftermath of the 2008 crash.

'Pop-up' is a fully-fledged, new urbanism. Celebrated as a flexible and exciting new form of place making, pop-up culture includes temporary or nomadic sites such as cinemas, container malls, supper clubs, even pop-up housing and is now ubiquitous in cities across the world. But what are the stakes of the ‘pop-up’ city?

Traversing a wealth of fascinating case studies, Rebranding Precarity shows how pop-up works to rebrand insecurity and encourages us to embrace precarity as the new normal. Revealing how urban crisis has particular temporal and spatial characteristics, defined by uncertainty, instability, fractures and gaps, it illuminates how those markers of crisis have been optimistically reimagined over the last few years, through an examination of seven logics that rebrand insecurity including within housing, labour economies and gentrifying areas. In doing so, it paints a frightening picture of how crisis conditions have become not just accepted, but are in fact desired, in today’s metropolis.



Author Bio

Ella Harris is currently a Leverhulme Fellow in the Geography department at Birkbeck, University of London. She has academic expertise in urban cultures of the recession/austerity era, as well as in interactive documentary as a research method. She has published widely on pop-up culture, housing precarity, interactive documentary and compensatory cultures. 

Table of Contents

  • Introduction: The Pop-up City
  • 1. Immersion
  • 2. Flexibility
  • 3. Interstitiality
  • 4. Secrecy
  • 5. Surprise
  • 6. The Micro
  • 7. The Meantime
  • Pop-up Logics, Precarious Futures: Conclusions


‘An important contribution to the discussion on how precarity is shifting from exception to norm, and how cities are transforming in a period after the financial crisis.’
Ben Anderson, Durham University

'This is an important book offering a much needed critical engagement with the deployment of pop-up and other temporary strategies as a glamourous mask distracting us from the realities of the new normal of precarious lives and communities.'

Susan Luckman, University of South Australia


Publication Date: 29 October 2020
240 pages

Product ISBNs: Paperback: 9781786999825
Hardback: 9781786999818
eBook ePub: 9781786999832
eBook Kindle: 9781786999849

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