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Thinking global urbanism beyond North and South

Authors: Martin Muller*, University of Lausanne
Topics: Urban Geography, Eurasia
Keywords: global urbanism, urban theory, Global South, Global East
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

This contribution interrogates the dualism of North and South, which has marked much recent theorizing in global urbanism, and urban studies at large, for its silences. It argues that current global urban theory produces an erasure of a swathe of cities from its purview. Those cities – from Berlin to Beijing and from Teheran to Tokyo – sit uneasily between the hemispheric divide of North and South in what could be called the global Easts: the in-between spaces of global urbanism.

The contribution first shows how in Northern scholarship, focusing on the rich and powerful cities of the capitalist world economy, cities of the global Easts have become nothing more but epigones involved in a catch-up race of modernisation. But, second, the cities of the global Easts are also rendered largely invisible in the geographical imagination of theorizing cities from the South, revolving around urban spaces formerly under the rule or influence of European colonial powers. This geographical imagination frays, however, in the convoluted urbanscapes of the global Easts, often situated beyond the influence of European colonial powers, where countries have been colonisers and colonies (and cities have been colonial centres and peripheries), sometimes both. Often these are also cities that are neither particularly poor nor particularly rich. The contribution concludes that for global urbanism to become truly global, it needs to move beyond terms such as North, South and, for that matter, East, but also diversify its theoretical repertoire beyond the twin fixed stars of urban neoliberalism and postcolonialism.

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