Towards a new epistemology of the urban?
Neil Brenner and Christian Schmid, “Towards a new epistemology of the urban?” CITY, 19, 2-3, 2015, 151-182.
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.