Alternative Urbanisms: Call for Papers

Do please circulate the Call for Papers below for a session at the Annual Meeting of the AAG next April, in New Orlean, on the theme of Alternative Urbanisms to anyone who might be interested:

Call for Papers

 Annual Meeting of the Association of American Geographers,

New Orleans, 10th-14th April, 2018.



Organizers: Clive Barnett and Jon Cinnamon (University of Exeter)

Cities are increasingly characterized as important sites of political, economic, cultural and environmental transformation, yet the proliferating attention to ‘the urban’ from policymakers threatens a narrowing of the boundaries of urban imaginaries around certain favored models. This session thus seeks to bring together papers that address one or more aspects of a growing contemporary concern with developing ‘alternative urbanisms’ in theory, policy and practice (e.g. Derickson 2015, Buckley and Strauss 2016, Parnell and Robinson 2012). We conceive of ‘alternative urbanisms’ along three dimensions. Firstly, alternative urbanisms might describe a focus on counter-hegemonic forms of urban living and practice that are alternative in relation to mainstream models and trends. Secondly, it can refer to a focus on how urban spaces are configured as experimental fields for the development of new practices in response to imperatives to restructure and reconfigure economic, social and technological infrastructures. Thirdly, alternative urbanisms might refer to a concern to broaden the scope of intellectual reference points through which urban practices can be conceptualised and investigated methodologically. Across these dimensions, it is agreed that more effort is needed to extend the canon of contemporary urban studies, urban and regional science, planning, and human geography to include insights from the humanities, natural sciences, or engineering, and also to draw on empirical and theoretical resources from beyond the Global North.

We welcome theoretical and empirical papers that push up against the boundaries of urban thought, policy and practice – papers that aim to critique the urban mainstream as well identify new possibilities for understanding and acting on urban challenges. The following is a sample of questions germane to this session, although we welcome papers on all topics that fit the broad scope.

  • What marginalized or emerging theoretical and methodological traditions demand the attention of urban scholars?
  • Why do ‘mainstream’ urban ideas and policies not take root in certain jurisdictions? What localisms prevent the successful uptake of mainstream, globally circulating urbanisms?
  • What epistemological or political work can alternative urbanisms do?
  • What are the temporalities and spatialities of alternative urban thought and practice, and how is this reflected in or distinct from local and global political, economic or cultural hegemonies?

Please send an abstract of no more than 250 words by 13th October to: Clive Barnett ( and Jon Cinnamon ( 


Barnett, C. and Bridge, G. (2016) The situations of urban inquiry: thinking problematically about the city. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research 40, 1186-1204.

Buckley, M. & Strauss, K. (2016) With, against and beyond Lefebvre: Planetary urbanization and epistemic plurality. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 34, 617-636.

Derickson, K. D. (2015) Urban geography I: Locating urban theory in the ‘urban age’. Progress in Human Geography, 39, 647-657.

Parnell, S. & Robinson, J. (2012) (Re)theorizing Cities from the Global South: Looking Beyond Neoliberalism. Urban Geography, 33, 593-617.


Geography and the Priority of Injustice

Geo & Injustice_REVNext week I’m attending the Annual Meeting of the Association of American Geographers, in Chicago – organising a couple of sessions on Cases, Spaces and Situations, as well as giving a paper on problematization and urban theory. I’m then going on to visit the Geography Department at the University of Kentucky, in Lexington. I’m giving a talk there on the theme of ‘the priority of injustice‘, and the relevance of recent work on this theme to how the central normative concept of radical and critical human geography is approached. This is the first time I will have talked to the central argument of my book, still in progress, and tentatively entitled Democracy and the Geographies of Justice. I’m looking forward to the challenge of having to say out loud and in public what it’s meant to be about.

Critical spatial theory: my thoughts

UntitledI was conferencing last week, at the annual meeting of the Association of American Geographers in LA. I was involved in two sessions, the first a panel discussion, organised by Scott Rodgers and Rosie Cox, on the uses of social media by academics, including reflections on how blogging, tweeting, and Facebooking can be used to carve out some new spaces of communication with academic and non-academic audiences. The second was on the theme of ‘defining the contours of a new 21st century critical urban theory’, a series of paper sessions organised by Chris Baker and Justin Beaumont. I presented a paper to the title of Where is the action? in which I tried to articulate some of the problems, as I see them, with prevalent approaches to critical urban theory, and critical spatial theory more broadly, and to say too something about some alternatives ways of proceeding. My paper was an attempt to articulate the whole arc of an argument that links, in my head at least, a series of pieces on urban theory, democracy, on ‘ethics’, on ‘class’, and other themes which I have written over the last two or three years (and have therefore already trailed on this blog), as well as some thinking done while developing an online Masters CPD course on critical spatial theory. So, the paper is rather allusive, shall we say.

Anyway, in the spirit of the first of these sessions, I thought I may as well post up the paper I presented in the second session – it will also be linked on the Things to Read page. This is the written paper which I spoke to at the conference – it has no references, although I imagine it as full of invisible hypertext links to other things I have written and to lots of things other people have written. I guess I’m thinking that since I said this all out loud at the conference, there is no good reason not to share these thoughts with the anonymous audience that may or may not be out there reading this blog – and to share it in much the same spirit as one does a ‘live’ conference performance, as a work in progress, awaiting further elaboration, and open to comments and questions….

The Cultural Logic of Late Marxism

IMG_1937I’m just making ready to fly off to the Annual Meeting of the Association of American Geographers, held this year in LA. It’s twenty years since I first attended one of these events, in Atlanta – held in the Hyatt Regency hotel, designed by John Portman, with it’s vast Alien-like Atrium. This time, it’s at the Westin Bonaventure hotel – also by Portman, and of course, made cultural-studies-famous by Fred Jameson. I have a feeling I might be the last geographer of a certain generation and theoretical inclination to not yet have visited this emblematically ‘postmodern’ site: for anyone out there who is attending and needs a refresher, here is a reminder of Jameson’s reading of the building.