Brenner & Schmid’s new article: ‘Towards a new epistemology of the urban’

Grga Basic_UTL HarvardNeil Brenner and Christian Schmid have just published ‘Towards a new epistemology of the urban’, a new contribution in their ongoing exploration of new theoretical frameworks to understand contemporary planetary urbanization. The piece adds to previous interventions by Brenner (see here and here), Brenner & Schmid (see here and here) and the wider efforts of the Urban Theory Lab and related research teams, providing a provisional summary of the group’s conceptual developments so far. The set of articles and papers above constitutes an exciting record of a collective reflection as it unfolds, with still more to come soon!

Here is the abstract of the new piece:

New forms of urbanization are unfolding around the world that challenge inherited conceptions of the urban as a fixed, bounded and universally generalizable settlement type. Meanwhile, debates on the urban question continue to proliferate and intensify within the social sciences, the planning and design disciplines, and in everyday political struggles. Against this background, this paper revisits the question of the epistemology of the urban: through what categories, methods and cartographies should urban life be understood? After surveying some of the major contemporary mainstream and critical responses to this question, we argue for a radical rethinking of inherited epistemological assumptions regarding the urban and urbanization. Building upon reflexive approaches to critical social theory and our own ongoing research on planetary urbanization, we present a new epistemology of the urban in a series of seven theses. This epistemological framework is intended to clarify the intellectual and political stakes of contemporary debates on the urban question and to offer an analytical basis for deciphering the rapidly changing geographies of urbanization and urban struggle under early 21st-century capitalism. Our arguments are intended to ignite and advance further debate on the epistemological foundations for critical urban theory and practice today.

The issue of City also includes a critique by R. Walker; the response by Brenner & Schmid is extremely useful to further clarify the main tenets of their approach.

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