Dean’s Lecture Series 2015
Professor Neil Brenner
Professor of Urban Theory / Director, Urban Theory Lab / Graduate School of Design / Harvard University
The urban age in question: towards a new epistemology of the urban
17 March 2015
Melbourne School of Design
The University of Melbourne
In what sense is the 21st century world urban? In this lecture, Neil Brenner critiques contemporary ideologies of the “urban age,” which confront this question with reference to the purported fact that more than 50% of the world’s population resides within cities. Against such demographic, city-centric understandings, Brenner excavates Henri Lefebvre’s (1970) notion of generalized urbanization for conceptual and methodological insights into the 21st century planetary urban condition. He argues that the geographies of urbanization can no longer be conceptualized exclusively with reference to cities, metropolitan regions or even megalopolises, but today encompass diverse patterns and pathways across the planetary sociospatial landscape, from Manhattan to the Matterhorn, from the Pearl River Delta to Mount Everest, from the Nile River valley to the Pacific Ocean. This variegated urban fabric must become the focal point for new approaches to urban theory, strategies of collective intervention and imaginaries of built environments. Building on his ongoing research with Christian Schmid of the ETH Zurich, Brenner proposes a series of methodological strategies through which to analyze emergent landscapes of planetary urbanization.
Neil Brenner is Professor of Urban Theory and Director of the Urban Theory Lab at the Harvard Graduate School of Design (GSD). He previously served as Professor of Sociology and Metropolitan Studies, and as an affiliated faculty member of the American Studies Program, at New York University. He holds a Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of Chicago (1999); an MA in Geography from UCLA (1996); and a BA in Philosophy, Summa Cum Laude, from Yale College (1991). Brenner’s writing and teaching focus on the theoretical, conceptual and methodological dimensions of urban questions. His work builds upon, and seeks to extend, the fields of critical urban and regional studies, comparative geopolitical economy and radical sociospatial theory. Major research foci include processes of urban and regional restructuring and uneven spatial development; the generalization of capitalist urbanization; and processes of state spatial restructuring, with particular reference to the remaking of urban, metropolitan and regional governance configurations under contemporary neoliberalizing capitalism. Brenner is the author of New State Spaces: Urban Governance and the Rescaling of Statehood (Oxford University Press, 2004). Other book-length publications include Cities for People, not for Profits: Critical Urban Theory and the Right to the City (co-edited with Peter Marcuse and Margit Mayer; Routledge 2011); Henri Lefebvre, State, Space, World (co-edited with Stuart Elden, co-translated with Gerald Moore and Stuart Elden, University of Minnesota Press, 2009); The Global Cities Reader (co-edited with Roger Keil; Routledge, 2006); Spaces of Neoliberalism: Urban Restructuring in North America and Western Europe (co-edited with Nik Theodore; Blackwell, 2003); and State/Space: A Reader (co-edited with Bob Jessop, Martin Jones and Gordon MacLeod; Blackwell, 2002). Several scholarly articles and essays have been translated into other languages, including Chinese, Croatian, Finnish, German, Hungarian, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese, Spanish and Turkish.