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Do Extraordinary Things Happen in Ordinary Cities?

Type: Paper
Sponsor Groups: Economic Geography Specialty Group
Organizers: John Bryson


Extraordinary things happen in ordinary towns and cities. This session brings together papers on smaller towns and cities. The focus is on the development of an alternative approach to urban theory and economic geography that foregrounds smaller towns and cities rather than much larger cities and conurbations. The argument is that urban studies has tended to focus on exploring extraordinary cities rather than ordinary cities. An ordinary city is defined as a smaller urban centre that will be connected in many complex ways to regional, national and international flows of people, goods, ideas, materials.

The focus of too much social science research has been on special, extraordinary, or global cities. We are not suggesting that researching extraordinary cities is not required, but rather that a more inclusive urban economic research agenda should emerge that acknowledges urban heterogeneity. Recently, a number of papers have argued that the emphasis placed on large cities “. . .has ensured that a large number of cities are essentially labelled as ‘lesser’ or irrelevant” (Bell and Jayne, 2009: 684). But, in many accounts these smaller cities are not considered to be irrelevant but simply ignored. The difficulty is smaller cities have local economies and processes, providing settings for urban lifestyles that may be very distinctive or different compared to those found in larger or more extraordinary cities. Moreover, the drivers of economic growth within ordinary cities are also different in myriad ways. Thus, we argue that it is timely to develop a research agenda on ordinary cities or those places in which the majority of people live, but have been largely overlooked by most urban and economic geographers.

This call for papers is intended to stimulate a debate on ordinary cities. We welcome papers that cover all dimensions of living and working in ordinary cities.


Type Details Minutes Start Time
Introduction John Bryson University of Birmingham 5 12:00 AM
Presenter John Bryson*, University of Birmingham, Cyber Security, Regional Transformation and Ordinary Places: Evolution, Path Creation and a Resource-Based View of Regional Economies 15 12:00 AM
Presenter Pascal De Decker*, KU Leuven, Socially excluded through spatial planning The case of older people in Belgium 15 12:00 AM
Discussant Murray Rice University of North Texas 10 12:00 AM

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