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Writing the city [into the urban]

03 may 2018 17:00 - 04 may 2018 18:30
Institut d'études avancées de Paris
Hôtel de Lauzun
17 quai d'Anjou
75004 Paris

Workshop organized by Pushpa Arabindoo, 2017-2018 Paris IAS fellow, with the support of the UCL Urban Laboratory and the FMSH


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.

This workshop is a step in this direction where, coming 50 years after the backlash of ’68, this event aims 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.




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 with tbc


4 May


09:30 – 09:40   Introduction

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

11:00 – 11:20   Break

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

13:00 – 14:00   Lunch Break

14:00 – 15:20   ASIAN ‘EXCEPTIONALISM’

  • Writing Chennai as an Urban Biography
    Pushpa Arabindoo, Paris IAS
  • Writing Kolkata Beyond Comparison: Provincial Narratives from the Urban Foundations of a City
    Anna Dewaele, École d'Urbanisme de Paris

15:20 – 15:40   Break


  • 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, LSE Londres


  • Thinking Comparatively With, Across and Beyond African Urbanisation
    Jenny Robinson, UCL
  • Peut-on comparer sans effacer les différences ?
    Philippe Gervais-Lambony, Université Paris-Nanterre


Événement complet
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Writing the (unknown) city: Ethnographic theorisations of the urban
01 October 2017 - 31 July 2018
04 May 2018 18:30
Pushpa Arabindoo
Conferences and workshops
Contemporary period (1789-…)
Southern Asia
Architecture and spatial planning