Provincializing Global Urbanism

We have entered the “urban century,” with more than 50 percent of the world’s population now living in cities. This is predicted to increase to 65 percent by 2030. Alarming to some, potentially innovative to others, this urban turn is deserving of rigorous and interdisciplinary inquiry.

This research circle draws on interdisciplinary conversations on campus; collaborations with other universities in North America, Asia, and South Africa; and the ICGC alumni network. The research field will be defined broadly by the desire to “provincialize” the scholarly field of global urbanism by studying urbanization through the global south.

This entails much more than the inclusion of empirical case studies from the global south. We envision a set of research problems that speaks to the complex material conditions of urban connectivity and global flows, that are able to transcend familiar topologies of urban research and generate new socio-spatial concepts that capture the relational dynamics of contemporary urbanism, and that are sensitive to the political and creative task of imagining alternative urban futures. This research field builds on emergent analytical frameworks and scholarly networks and collaborations that have already presented a challenge to the theories and methods of (Euro-centric) global urbanism. In its effort to provincialize global urbanism, the proposed research field is thus fundamentally concerned with practices of collaborative research—particularly with urban scholars from global south institutes—and calls for a rethinking of the tools of global ethnographic, world historical, and comparative urban research.


Urban Revolutions: Jakarta, March 16–20, 2012