RGS-IBG Annual International Conference 2015

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42 The field formerly known as Urban Studies? (2) Rethinking the urban through its new manifestations
Affiliation Urban Geography Research Group
Convenor(s) Lauren Rickards (RMIT University, Australia)
Mark Boyle (National University of Ireland, Maynooth, Ireland)
Cian O’Callaghan (National University of Ireland, Maynooth, Ireland)
Brendan Gleeson (Melbourne University, Australia)
Chair(s) Lauren Rickards (RMIT University, Australia)
Timetable Wednesday 02 September 2015, Session 2 (11:10 - 12:50)
Room Newman Building - Lecture Theatre C&D
Session abstract The purpose of this session will be to generate some discussion around ongoing attempts to rethink the ‘urban’ as a concept capable of bequeathing a coherent body of scholarship. In recent years urban studies has been challenged from two contrasting vectors. On the one hand, it is now widely proclaimed that we have entered an ‘urban age’, with over half of the worlds' population now living in cities. More importantly perhaps, following Lefebvre’s prophetic pronouncement over forty years ago, all of society “has been completely urbanized” – at least in the sense that urbanization is deeply entangled in key processes shaping territories hitherto thought of as both ‘urban’ and ‘non-urban’. In the context of these debates, we are interested in exploring Brenner and Schmid’s concept of “planetary urbanization” as a basis for a new direction for Urban Studies. On the other hand, and partly as a consequence of this, ‘the urban’ as a distinct category of spatial and theoretical analysis has lost its coherence. A diverse set of interventions – for example, urban political ecology approaches that dismantle the separation between nature and society or post-colonial perspectives that disrupt the primacy of urban theory derived from particular (Western) contexts – have challenged how we think about the urban. It is clear that we are living in a world of cities – but in this world ‘the city’ itself may have disappeared. Contributors will be asked to reflect critically upon the status, nature and implication of the claim that we need to think again about what to do with the ‘field formerly known as Urban Studies’. Theoretical and theoretically informed empirical papers will be presented
Linked Sessions The field formerly known as Urban Studies? (1) "Planetary urbanisation" under scrutiny
Contact the conference organisers to request a change to session or paper details: AC2015@rgs.org
The global startup city and the renaissance of the urban
Ugo Rossi (Università di Torino, Italy)
Arturo Di Bella (University did Catania, Italy)
While we are supposed to have entered post-recession times, contemporary cities across the world are witnessing the rise of the so-called start-up phenomenon: a contagious spiral of high-tech entrepreneurial vibrancy particularly rooted in the urban environments of central cities. This phenomenon is boosted by an increasingly hegemonic discourse over the rise of the so-called ‘start-up city’, pushed by North American think thanks and foundations, as well as by urban gurus such as Richard Florida. Established global cities such as New York City and London but also key metropolitan areas in the emerging economic superpowers such as Shanghai, Rio de Janeiro, have launched start-up city initiatives. Cities in the global South are also engaging in similar initiatives. The paper argues that this phenomenon sheds light on the way in which the resilience and even the renaissance of the urban are intimately linked to the reinvention of capitalism and its modes and discursive forms of accumulation and representation.
Without the City? Suburbia’s central place in rethinking the urban
David Gilbert (Royal Holloway, University of London, UK)
The very word ‘suburban’ expresses its secondary place in thinking about the geographies of place. The derivation of the term was associated with the cities of ancient and medieval Europe, referring to places without and below the city walls, and in some senses suburbs have almost always been defined in terms of what they are without and below. If, as Raymond Williams famously suggested, the city of the nineteenth century was defined and imagined as a space of modernity against a traditional rural other, in the twentieth century the city was increasingly understood against suburbia. For Lewis Mumford, the mass suburbs of twentieth century USA were a denial and even betrayal of urban civilization: ‘a low-grade uniform environment from which escape is impossible’. Modernist urban theory set up a series of binary characterizations that defined the nature of urbanism implicitly or explicitly in contrast to that suburban other: drama-dullness; creativity-passivity; danger-safety; possibility-containment; hybridist-assimilation; production-consumption; progressive-conservative. The late-twentieth century saw the emergence of what can be characterized as ‘new suburban studies’: a loose body of work that converged on the notion of ‘suburban modernity’, arguing in broad terms that many of the supposedly distinctively urban characteristics of modernity were also integral parts of the suburban experience. The 1990s and 2000s also saw the rise of a series of neologisms – exurbia, edge cities, enthoburbs, Zwischenstadts – that in their very different and partial ways pointed towards a different conceptual geometries that break with a long tradition of what might be characterized as ‘central place thinking’, dominant not just in urban studies, but much more widely in the social sciences and humanities. This paper reflects on this intellectual history, but more particularly thinks about the importance of serious ‘suburban thinking’ for the way we might approach the ‘field formerly known as Urban Studies’.
Shaping urban citizenship and the role of (e) valuation in regeneration
Luna Glucksberg (Goldsmiths, University of London, UK)
Rob Imrie (Goldsmiths, University of London, UK)
From the gentrification of working class neighbourhoods to the siting of toxic waste in
areas where poor people live, urbanisation is characterised by (re) distributive processes that involve the ascription of value and worth. This is particularly so in
relation to urban regeneration projects that are shaped, we argue, by a politics of (e) valuation that are implicated in defining what is valuable or not for inclusion in place
making. In the paper, we draw on a relatively new field of study, the sociology of valuation and evaluation (SVE), to open up a conceptual lens on urban regeneration
that simultaneously provides potential for (re) shaping urban studies around concepts of value, valuation, and evaluation. The paper begins by outlining the conceptual
claims of SVE, and their relevance for developing insight into processes of urban
change. Then, referring to a case example of urban regeneration in suburban London, we discuss the significance of (e) valuation discourses in permeating practice and outcomes, focusing on (i) (de) valuation practices, or giving worth and value, and (ii) evaluative practices, or assessing how an entity attains a certain type of worth. The
data suggest that (e) valuation discourse, its methods, institutional frames, and cultural forms, is a powerful basis for the deepening and widening of social opportunities and inequalities in contemporary urban regeneration, and pivotal in shaping citizenship in cities.
Planetary urbanisation, migrants and emerging geographies of care and responsibility
Mark Boyle (National University of Ireland, Maynooth, Ireland)
The purpose of this paper will be to place under scrutiny the intersections which exist between what has been termed planetary urbanization, international migration corridors, and the transnational practices of international migrants. Attention will be given to the ways in which international migration is giving birth to emerging geographies of care and responsibility between urban agglomerations in host countries and urban agglomerations and areas of hinterland and rurality in migrant sending states. Literature on geographies of responsibility has called attention to the obligations to ‘care from a distance’ which arise from the power geometries of relational space. But recently, a number of postcolonial scholars have questioned the capacity of postcolonial and (neo)colonial metropoles located in the Global North to act responsibly and to care from afar in ways which are intelligible to and commensurate with the moral registers which prevail in countries located in the Global South. This paper places under postcolonial scrutiny the supports which urban managers are currently providing immigrant communities in support of the ‘diaspora centred development’ of homelands and questions whether these supports amount to governing, caring, or abrogating responsibility from afar.