Urban theory without an outside

Neil Brenner, Centenary Lecture Series, The Bartlett School of Planning, UCL.

Urban theory has long been premised upon the assumption that cities are distinctive, discrete and bounded types of settlement space that can be contrasted to putatively "non-urban" zones that lie outside or beyond them (suburbs, the countryside, the rural, the natural and so forth).  In this lecture, Neil Brenner calls such entrenched assumptions into question and argues for a new epistemology of urbanization in which there is no longer any "outside" to a worldwide urban fabric.  Building upon the work of theorists such as Marx, Engels and Lefebvre, he proposes several conceptual tools for investigating this variegated fabric of extended urbanization across time and space.  The implications of this framework are then illustrated with reference to an ongoing research project on the transformation of the earth's most apparently "remote" places (including the Amazon, the Arctic, the Himalayas, the Sahara, the Gobi desert steppe, the Pacific Ocean, Siberia and the atmosphere) in relation to early twenty-first century urbanization processes.