Beyond city limits: A conceptual and political defense of ‘the city’ as an anchoring concept for critical urban theory
With the publication of their piece ‘Towards a New Epistemology of the Urban?’ in City 19 (2–3), Neil Brenner and Christian Schmid hoped to ignite a debate about the adequacy of existing epistemologies for understanding urban life today. Brenner and Schmid's desire to set urban research on a new course is premised on a wide-ranging critique of ‘city-centrism’ that they believe is holding back both mainstream and critical urban research. In this paper, we challenge Brenner and Schmid's call for urban theory to shift from a concern with cities as ‘things’ to a concern with processes of concentrated, extended and differentiated urbanization. In their justified desire to critique ‘urban age’ ideologies that treat ‘the city’ as a fixed, bounded and replicable spatial unit, Brenner and Schmid risk robbing critical urban theory of a concept and an orientation that is crucial to both its conceptual clarity and its political efficacy. We offer in its place a conceptual and political defense of ‘the city’ as an anchor for a critical urban studies that can contribute to emancipatory politics. This is absolutely not a call for a return of bounded, universal concepts of ‘the city’ that have rightly been the target of critique. Rather, it is a call for an epistemology of the urban that is founded on an engagement with the political practices of subordinated peoples across a diverse range of cities. For many millions of people across the planet, the particularities of city life continue to be the context from which urbanization processes are experienced, understood, and potentially transformed.
Davidson, Mark and Iveson, Kurt, "Beyond city limits: A conceptual and political defense of ‘the city’ as an anchoring concept for critical urban theory" (2015). Geography. 105.