Aberystwyth Transitions Reading Group Blog

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‘Whither Urban Studies?’ video from University of Manchester

A video of the talk I mentioned in a recent post has been posted online, and is included along with another talk, Neil Brenner on urban studies on the following blog: ‘Whither Urban Studies?’ video from University of Manchester. It’s all very interesting but I can’t help but think the terminology of ‘urban studies’ and the discipline that surrounds it is somehow holding people back. The project seems to be to try and get things to fit into the discipline rather than to explore the wider scale transformations themselves. In fact the continued focus and ‘fetishisation’ of the urban seems itself to be part of the problem. As academics and policy-makers focus their attentions on how to capture everything under the umbrella of urban terminology, regardless of the variety of terms that come about that try to spread the focus out from ‘the city’, it seems ‘rural’ and all things that could be associated with that are left behind, perpetuating the problem of the urban. I’m not saying we should focus more attention on the rural either, just that I think we could do with moving on from this terminology all together in order to make research more holistic and conscientious of the important connections between spaces and people that are perhaps not best captured by a binary of urban-rural. And while the urban studies people seem to be arguing that everything is now urban, this too doesn’t seem particularly helpful in practical terms, since the language still implies that there might be something non-rural, just that there isn’t. Except that in policy terms there still is, and in people’s popular imaginations there still is. I don’t see how it’s possible to get rid of the myth of urban vs. rural while still keeping the term ‘urban’. If the discipline is to continue, I think it needs renaming. This may seem a trivial point, but I think that academia is responsible for at least in part perpetuating a problem, which is the inability to think of things as connected part of which comes about because we insist on dividing urban and rural.