The 'Urban Age' in Question: Towards a New Epistemology of the Urban

Neil Brenner, Dean's Lecture Series 2015, Melbourne School of Design.

In what sense is the 21st century world urban? In this lecture, Neil Brenner critiques contemporary ideologies of the “urban age,” which confront this question with reference to the purported fact that more than 50% of the world’s population resides within cities. Against such demographic, city-centric understandings, Brenner excavates Henri Lefebvre’s (1970) notion of generalized urbanization for conceptual and methodological insights into the 21st century planetary urban condition. He argues that the geographies of urbanization can no longer be conceptualized with reference to cities, metropolitan regions or even megalopolises, but today encompass diverse patterns and pathways across the planetary sociospatial landscape, from Manhattan to the Matterhorn, from the Pearl River Delta to Mount Everest, from the Nile River valley to the Pacific Ocean. This variegated urban fabric must become the focal point for new approaches to urban theory, strategies of collective intervention and imaginaries of built environments. The lecture concludes by briefly introducing the Urban Theory Lab's exhibition, "Operational Landscapes: Towards an Alternative Cartography of World Urbanization."

03/17/2015