Thinking cities through elsewhere: Comparative tactics for a more global urban studies

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Inspired by postcolonial critiques, urban studies today is characterized by conceptual and methodological experimentation in pursuit of a more global approach to understanding cities. The challenge is to develop methods and theoretical practices which allow conceptual innovation to emerge from any urban situation or urbanization process, sustaining wider conversations while insisting that concepts are open to revision. This maps well on to the core methodological problematic of comparison. Mindful of the strong limits to comparison presented by conventional quasi-scientific methods, this paper sets out the basis for a reformatted comparative method. A new grounding for comparison is proposed, specific to the field of the urban, and a new typology of tactics for undertaking urban comparative research is suggested.

The paper weaves together classic approaches and more recent innovations in comparison from within urban studies with a wider philosophical analysis of the issues at stake in reframing the architecture of comparison. The paper stands as an invitation to practise global urban studies differently – comparatively – but also to practise comparison differently, in a way that opens urban studies to a more global repertoire of potential insights. The paper develops this invitation and methodological quest through Marxist political-economy; through actually-existing vernacular comparative practices of urban studies; and through insights gleaned from Gilles Deleuze’s philosophical project. The last section of the paper explains how this new vocabulary of comparative method can be put to work through a review of some recent experiments in the field of global urban studies.

Source: Progress in Human Geography via Sage Journals Online (subscription required)

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Publication Type Journal Article
Publisher Progress in Human Geography (Sage Journals Online)
Year 2015
Author(s) Jennifer Robinson
Other Numbers August 21, 2015 Published online before print
DOI 10.1177/0309132515598025
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