17 - 18 May

Revisiting the Concepts of Critical Urban Studies

  • Zoom

Date: 17-18 May 2021

In the last decade, scholars have questioned whether there is and should be a “cohesive concept of the city” (Scott and Storper 2015) that transcends contextual difference. Scholars such as Thomas Maloutas (2018), Matthias Bernt (2016) and Ananya Roy (2009) have put under scrutiny some of the most widely used concepts in the field (e.g. gentrification, financialisation, neoliberal urbanism). This includes a major critique expressing that urban studies scholarship has been saturated by empirical studies reusing already-existing concepts, while ignoring the dialectical relationship between concrete and abstract theorisations. Recently, there is a surge of explicit and implicit discussions around ‘variegated capitalism’ and ‘variegated’ forms of commonly-used-notions, such as financialisation of housing and neoliberal urban governance (Peck and Theodore 2007; Aalbers 2017). While the so-called ‘variegated’ literature provides significant insight to different case studies, it carries the risk of avoiding a thorough engagement with middle-range concepts as well as grand theory. What seems to go amiss in this literature is a consideration of the theoretical basis formed through a broader abstract discussion. This problematique prompts us to propose the last workshop of this series on revisiting the concepts that are widely used in this manner. We are specifically interested in rethinking and adding to some of the most widely used middle-range concepts in urban studies, including but not limited to gentrification, segregation, financialisation, social sustainability, smart cities/digitalisation, right to the city, public space/urban commons, and informality. In particular we would like to tackle the following issues:

  • In what ways is it possible to call back dialectics to revisit existing concepts in urban studies?
  • How can we rework popular concepts, while keeping the wider theoretical web in which they are embedded, in sight?
  • How can we go beyond using mainstream concepts as a part of ‘variegated forms’ in different geographies?
  • How can we conceptualize differences not only horizontally, across borders, regions and/or levels of integration into the global economy, but also vertically within regions, nations and cities?

This workshop is part of the series Dislocating Urban Studies: Rethinking Theory, Shifting Practice.