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Writing the city [into the urban]

Start: May 03, 2018 05:00 PM
End: May 04, 2018 06:30 PM

Location: Institut d'études avancées de Paris, Hôtel de Lauzun, 17 quai d'Anjou, 75004 Paris

Writing the City [into the urban]

In the aftermath of the May 1968 uprising in Paris, Henri Lefebvre published in 1970 his classic treatise La Révolution Urbaine where he pointedly placed the urban in the centre of this revolution, identifying a theoretical need for the concept of the urban as a planetary possibility, one he considered more appropriate than a redundant notion of the city as a social scientific object. With its English translation in 2003 there has been a renewed interest in his hypothesis of the planetarisation of the urban, triggering a contested debate of planetary urbanisation where the continued relevance of the city has become a moot point. As the resulting city/urban dialectical tension has led to a gratuitous intellectual standoff, there is an urgent need to clear the impasse and seek more fruitful modes of engagement.

Fifty years after the backlash of ’68, this workshop is a step in that direction, aiming to establish a conversation between the city and the urban by drawing on the notion of ‘ethnographic theorisation’ where the theoretical potential of the urban can be harnessed from ethnographic insights of the city. It explores contingent ways in which the city can be written into the urban through manoeuvres that engage with the process of writing the city across disciplines from literary cultures to urban studies. The workshop is thus conceived in two parts: an evening where writers specialising in the ‘urban novel’ are in dialogue with academics to deliberate on two related writing frames of thinking the urban through the city – provincialism and cosmopolitanism, followed by a full-day workshop where academics reflect on regional city writing practices and what it means for a global urban theory building exercise.

The workshop is organised by Dr Pushpa Arabindoo, UCL Urban Laboratory Co-Director and EURIAS Fellow 2017-18 at the Paris Institute of Advanced Studies.


3 May

17:00 – 19:00   WRITERS DIALOGUE

Sarah Butler, Manchester-based writer/novelist in conversation with Nicolas Maisetti, LATTS Paris

Diran Adebayo, London-based writer/novelist in conversation

4 May


09:30 – 09:40   Introduction

09:40 – 11:00   Keynote Speech : Specificity and Planetary Urbanisation
Christian Schmid, ETH Zurich

11:20 – 13:00   EASTERN DEPARTURES

  • Engaging Bucharest. Crafting committed ethno-graphy at the urban margins
    Michele Lancione, University of Sheffield
  • Improvising Ekaterinburg: Theorising the urban from the Global East
    Martin Muller, IMÉRA

14:00 – 15:20   ASIAN ‘EXCEPTIONALISM’

  • Writing Chennai as an urban biography
    Pushpa Arabindoo, IEA de Paris / UCL Urban Laboratory
  • Writing Kolkata beyond comparison: Provincial narratives from the urban foundations of a city
    Anna Dewaele, École d'Urbanisme de Paris


  • Urban Territories of Mexico City. Ethnographic Writing and Positionality in Translation
    Monika Streule, ETH Zurich
  • Writing Mexico City from the leak site: Towards a patchwork theorisation of the urban question Alejandro De Coss Corzo, London School of Economics

Jenny Robinson, UCL Urban Laboratory


Page last modified on 15 apr 18 12:57

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