Mar 28, 2014
Neil Brenner, director of the Urban Theory Lab, recently reported on our current research agendas to a forum of urban journalists who met for a 2-day symposium at the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy just across town from us here in Cambridge. The event, which focused on the question of urban infrastructure, was convened by our colleagues at the Lincoln Institute in collaboration with the Harvard GSD and the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard. Special thanks go to our friend and colleague, Prof. Jerold Kayden of the Harvard GSD, for coordinating the event and offering the Urban Theory Lab an opportunity to present our work in this forum.
In his lecture, Brenner outlined the critique of city-centric urban theory that is under development within the Urban Theory Lab and its implications for how we might conceptualize the "boundaries" of urban infrastructure under historical and contemporary capitalism. Rather than understanding urban infrastructure exclusively with reference to the socio-technical equipment of cities, Brenner argued for a territorial conceptualization that includes the large-scale operational landscapes of extended urbanization which support city development and inter-urban networks. But such an approach also requires a radical reinvention of inherited notions of the hinterland, which are too often tied to the very city-centric and ahistorical assumptions that currently constrain our understanding of urbanization processes.
A lively discussion ensued in which some of the methodological, cartographic, historical and political implications of these conceptual reorientations were debated. It was wonderful to have this opportunity to dialogue with such an astute and dedicated group of urbanists about our work in progress.
Image from the European Space Agency