CfP RGS-IBG 2023: Comparative moments in urban research: Building methodology from now and here


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Below is a call for papers for the RGS-IBG Annual Conference in London, August 29th – September 1st, 2023. We look forward to hearing from you if you’d be interested in engaging with discussions on this topic!

Comparative moments in urban research: Building methodology from now and here

Organisers: Julie Ren (University of Zurich) and Yimin Zhao (Renmin University of China / University of Zurich)

Ongoing debates on comparative urbanism have continued to grapple with the multiplicity of both experiences and conceptualisations (Robinson, 2022; Roy, 2016; cf. Rudolph and Storper, 2023). For the sake of theoretical development, there is a necessity to move beyond “case-study singularity” (Peck, 2015) or reductive exceptionalism (Ren, 2021). Recognising the individual character of the urban while also embracing a dialogical theory-culture, requires better specifying the now and here when we are engaging with the project of “thinking cities through elsewhere.” Instead of seeing our field sites as spatial containers for social research, we explore the possibility of taking these sites as “moments” that are shaped by flows, processes, things and encounters at global, local and bodily levels (Appadurai, 1988; Gupta and Ferguson, 1997; Haraway, 1991; Massey, 2005; Smith and Katz, 1993; Zhao, 2017). To what extent can such moments reshape the way scholars approach comparative urban research?

For instance, research conducted in languages different than the language of knowledge production evoke questions about the nature of flows and encounters as it pertains to translation. The stability of language connected to place offers a vantage point from which to ask whether research is translatable to each other (Apter 2013; Jazeel 2019; Zhao 2020). Whether or not this is immediately the case, is it possible to pave the way for such translations, to encourage linguistic hospitalities or to learn from translation “failures” to better frame a now and here that would be open to dialogue? Indeed, more explicitly considering the significance of positionality, partial perspectives and situated knowledges may prove indispensable for analyses of both now and here and elsewhere, at the heart of a more global urban studies.

Following Jenny Robinson’s (2022: 6) call for “building methodology from the spatiality of the urban,” we invite theoretical, methodological and empirical reflections on comparative moments in urban research. We seek papers that offer approaches researching different places, especially approaches that work with the translation of “theory built elsewhere” (Bhan, 2019: 641) and that participate in generative naming processes of “other” urban spatialities (Zhao 2020). How do researchers grapple with perennial issues of context, history and language anew? How shall we further interrogate the grounds for site selection as it pertains to both places and the revisability of concepts? How might these justifications in turn shed new light on the issue of translatability and commensurability?

If you are interested to engage with these questions, please send abstracts (max. 250 words) with name, email, affiliation by 1 March 2023 to both Julie Ren ( and Yimin Zhao (


Appadurai, A. (1988). “Introduction: Place and Voice in Anthropological Theory.” Cultural Anthropology 3(1): 16–20.

Apter, E. (2013). Against World Literature: On the Politics of Untranslatability. London and New York: Verso.

Bhan, G. (2019). Notes on a Southern urban practice. Environment and Urbanization, 31(2), 639-654.

Gupta, A., & Ferguson, J. (Eds.). (1997). Anthropological locations: Boundaries and grounds of a field science. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press.

Haraway, D. (1991). Situated Knowledges: the science question in feminism and the privilege of partial perspective. In Simians, cyborgs, and women: The reinvention of nature (pp. 183-201). New York: Routledge.

Jazeel, T. (2019). Singularity. A manifesto for incomparable geographies. Singapore Journal of Tropical Geography, 40(1), 5-21.

Massey, D. (2005). For space. London: Sage.

Peck, J. (2015). Cities beyond compare? Regional Studies, 49(1), 160-182.

Randolph, G. F., & Storper, M. (2023). Is urbanisation in the Global South fundamentally different? Comparative global urban analysis for the 21st century. Urban Studies, 60(1), 3–25.

Ren, J. (2021). Exceptionalism and theorizing spatial inequality: Segregation research on cities in China. Journal of Urban Affairs, 1-13.

Robinson, J. (2022). Comparative urbanism: Tactics for global urban studies. Oxford: Wiley.

Roy, A. (2016). Who’s afraid of postcolonial theory? International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 40(1), 200-209.

Smith, N., & Katz, C. (1993). Grounding metaphor: Towards a spatialized politics. In M. Keith & S. Pile (Eds.), Place and the politics of identity (pp. 66-81). London and New York: Routledge.

Zhao, Y. (2017). Space as method: Field sites and encounters in Beijing’s green belts. City, 21(2), 190-206.

Zhao, Y. (2020). Jiehebu or suburb? Towards a translational turn in urban studies. Cambridge Journal of Regions, Economy and Society, 13(3), 527-542.




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社会科学研究经常会把公共空间和公共领域做等价替换,以下几个词常常交替出现:比如 “public realm”、“public sphere”,以及 “public space”。阿伦特在《人的境况》里提醒道:当我们讨论广场(agora),以一种公共性的切入点去思考广场问题的时候,我们真正关切的并不是广场自身这种物质空间的表征,而是在它之上承载着的那些人类的集体行动、人与人之间的互动的过程。换句话说,让广场得以成为广场的,是寄居于其间的那种政治的呈现。所以在这个意义上去把广场的印象本身视作是公共空间,可能在逻辑上就会有一种断裂。

哈贝马斯讨论公共领域常用的是“public sphere”。他关心的重点是我们如何能够让一群持有不同意见的人,通过理性的辩论达成共识。所以在这样的公共领域的论述之中,居于中心地位的,不是某个特定的场所或者空间的物质形态,而是这个交流和达成共识的过程。居于公共领域中心性的是交流,这是他最重要的一个提醒。所以在他关于这些交流的中心性、关于理性辩论的写作里边,咖啡馆就成了一个很重要的意象,因为咖啡馆表征着的就是持有不同观点的人们,在里边闲聊的地方——这就是能够观察到理性辩论的最直观的场所。

Café in Paris. Source:

在地理学家Kurt Iveson看来,在这些常见的关于公共空间的讨论中,我们的进入路径是一种地形化的、地形学的(topographical)视角:当我们讨论到公共空间的时候,脑海中立刻冒出来的那些像街道、广场、公园这样的意象,它们像一个个静态的容器,我们通过去观察、剖析这样的容器,来考察在这个容器里面所发生的行动,以及通过这样的行动所生成、所塑造的各种行动者。


如果我们接续阿伦特的对公共领域的界定,把政治呈现视作是公共领域的公共性的本质,那我们就需要在一个过程性的分析框架里边去关注政治呈现空间的过程,关注在这样的政治呈现的过程背后,所凝结着的各种各样物质的结构,所纠缠着的各种各样的多重位置本身。比如说阿伦特自己在讨论希腊人出征海外的时候,她提了一句话叫:“Wherever you go, you will be a polis”(不管你去哪里,你们这群人就成了一个城邦)。这就是这种政治呈现的一个空间过程。他们的城邦不需要非得跟雅典的广场建立起物质、物理意义上的关系,它是一个过程性的存在。




与南希的这种对“我们”、对主体性的界定形成呼应的,是列斐伏尔对城市的界定。列斐伏尔在《城市革命》里面做了一个很著名的区分:“the city” 和 “the urban” 这两个词是不同的。“city” 是我们惯常理解的那种像空间容器一般存在的那种东西,它是有界的实体,是城市规划师、建筑师、城市设计者们每天工作的对象。但 “the urban” 不一样,它是一个不断变化着的过程。因为它的这种变动不居的特点,在列斐伏尔非常理论化和浪漫的笔触里边,他最终把城市 “the urban” 视作了一个纯的形式。

这样的纯的形式里边,并不包含任何特定的内容,但却同时包含了所有内容。因为它促成了相遇,促成了集合,促成了共时性。在这样的相遇、集合和共时性的可能性不断得到放大时,它便构成了我们所有人日常生活中的新领域的中心,所以 “the urban” 是一个抽象(abstraction),但它又是一个具体的抽象(concrete abstraction),因为它的形式具体在每一个历史的瞬间以什么样的方式展现出来,取决于在那个历史瞬间生活着的人们彼此是如何互动的。他们的行为、他们的互动,造就了每一个历史瞬间城市的外在表现。



















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这门课的名字叫 Urban governance: Global and comparative reflections. 从这个标题大概可以看出两个要点:首先,课程内容需要和城市治理问题挂钩(这一点不是我自己的决定……);其次,我想让这门讨论城市治理问题的课更多一些全球的视角、比较的方法和批判的内涵(在这一点上我大概还有一些发言权)。

遵循这两个要点,我在今年的授课中将视角转向了基础设施的政治这一问题,尝试着从这个角度出发,与有关政治物质性(political materiality)、事物的治理(the government of things)等方面的文献进行对话,并在此基础上回到城市政治讨论的终极关切——社会与空间正义问题上。


为了解决这些问题,我将本课程分为两个部分:在第一讲介绍讨论主题和分析框架之后,第 2至 4 讲着重阐述和评估“事物的治理”问题,重点关注城市基础设施、物质性的政治和城市生态的政治学等议题。在此基础上,第5至6讲将重点转移到了“(不)正义的城市化”,通过与城市权利、政治街道、“人作为基础设施”以及社区治理术等文献进行对话,将有关“事物的治理”的讨论重新放回到城市政治与正义的脉络之中。课程还包括了和期末研讨两个环节,以期促进更进一步的讨论和分享。


Lecture 1: Introduction – Dislocating urban governance

Key readings:

Lindell, I. (2008). The multiple sites of urban governance: insights from an African city. Urban Studies, 45(9), 1879-1901.

McCann, E. (2017). Governing urbanism: Urban governance studies 1.0, 2.0 and beyond. Urban Studies, 54(2), 312-326.

Wu, F., & Zhang, F. (2022). Rethinking China’s urban governance: The role of the state in neighbourhoods, cities and regions. Progress in Human Geography. DOI: 10.1177/03091325211062171.

Recommended readings:

Lake, R. W. (2017). Big Data, urban governance, and the ontological politics of hyperindividualism. Big Data & Society, 4(1), 2053951716682537.

Lemke, T. (2012). Foucault, governmentality, and critique. London & New York: Routledge.

Jessop, B. (1995). The regulation approach, governance and post-Fordism: alternative perspectives on economic and political change?. Economy and Society, 24(3), 307-333.

Robinson, J. (2016). Thinking cities through elsewhere: Comparative tactics for a more global urban studies. Progress in Human Geography, 40(1), 3-29.

Swyngedouw, E. (2005). “Governance innovation and the citizen: the Janus face of governance-beyond-the-state.” Urban Studies, 42(11), 1991-2006.

Lecture 2: The material politics of urban infrastructures

Key readings:

Larkin, B. (2013). The politics and poetics of infrastructure. Annual Review of Anthropology, 42, 327-343.

Lieto, L. (2017). How material objects become urban things?. City, 21(5), 568-579.

Recommended readings:

Anand, N., Gupta, A., & Appel, H. (Eds.). (2018). The promise of infrastructure. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. (Read the Introduction and Chapters 1, 2, 6)

Furlong, K. (2021). Geographies of infrastructure III: Infrastructure with Chinese characteristics. Progress in Human Geography. DOI: 10.1177/03091325211033652.

Lemke, T. (2021). The government of things: Foucault and the new materialisms. New York: NYU Press. (Read the Introduction)

McFarlane, C., & Rutherford, J. (2008). Political infrastructures: Governing and experiencing the fabric of the city. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 32(2), 363-374.

Silver, J. (2014). Incremental infrastructures: Material improvisation and social collaboration across post-colonial Accra. Urban Geography, 35(6), 788-804.

Star, S. L. (1999). The ethnography of infrastructure. American Behavioral Scientist, 43(3), 377-391.

Lecture 3: Political materialities – Water, electricity, road and waste

Key readings:

Anand, N. (2015). Leaky states: Water audits, ignorance, and the politics of infrastructure. Public Culture, 27(2), 305-330.

Chu, J. Y. (2014). When infrastructures attack: The workings of disrepair in China. American Ethnologist, 41(2), 351-367.

Fredericks, R. (2014). Vital infrastructures of trash in Dakar. Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East, 34(3), 532-548.

Knox, H. (2017). Affective infrastructures and the political imagination. Public Culture, 29(2), 363-384.

Pilo’, F. (2017). A socio‐technical perspective to the right to the city: Regularizing electricity access in Rio de Janeiro’s Favelas. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 41(3), 396-413.

Recommended readings:

Amin, A. (2014). Lively infrastructure. Theory, Culture & Society, 31(7-8), 137-161.

Fredericks, R. (2018). Garbarge Citizenship: Vital Infrastructures of Labor in Dakar, Senegal. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

Graham, S., & McFarlane, C. (Eds.). (2014). Infrastructural lives: Urban infrastructure in context. London & New York: Routledge. (Read the Introduction)

Gupta, A. (2015). An anthropology of electricity from the global south. Cultural Anthropology, 30(4), 555-568.

Harvey, P., & Knox, H. (2015). Roads: An anthropology of infrastructure and expertise. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.

Knowles, C. (2017). Untangling translocal urban textures of trash: plastics and plasticity in Addis Ababa. Social Anthropology, 25(3), 288-300.

McFarlane, C., Silver, J., & Truelove, Y. (2017). Cities within cities: intra-urban comparison of infrastructure in Mumbai, Delhi and Cape Town. Urban Geography, 38(9), 1393-1417.

Truelove, Y., & Ruszczyk, H. A. (2022). Bodies as urban infrastructure: Gender, intimate infrastructures and slow infrastructural violence. Political geography, 92, 102492.

Zhao, Y. (2020). Folding Beijing in Houchangcun Road, or, the topology of power density. Urban Geography, 41(10), 1247-1259.

Lecture 4: Urban Political Ecology

Key readings:

Gandy, M. (2021). Urban political ecology: A critical reconfiguration. Progress in Human Geography, DOI: 10.1177/03091325211040553.

Heynen, N., Kaika, M., & Swyngedouw, E. (Eds.). (2006). In the nature of cities: Urban political ecology and the politics of urban metabolism. London & New York: Routledge. (Read Chapters 1, 2 and 4)

Swyngedouw, E. (2006). Circulations and metabolisms: (hybrid) natures and (cyborg) cities. Science as Culture, 15(2), 105-121.

Recommended readings:

Braun, B., & Castree, N. (1998). Remaking reality: Nature at the Millenium. London & New York: Routledge. (Read Chapters 1 and 2)

Doshi, S. (2019). Greening displacements, displacing green: Environmental subjectivity, slum clearance, and the embodied political ecologies of dispossession in Mumbai. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 43(1), 112-132.

Escobar, A. (1999). After nature: Steps to an antiessentialist political ecology. Current Anthropology, 40(1), 1-30.

Gibas, P., & Boumová, I. (2020). The urbanization of nature in a (post) socialist metropolis: An urban political ecology of allotment gardening. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 44(1), 18-37.

Nelson, S. H., & Bigger, P. (2021). Infrastructural nature. Progress in Human Geography, DOI: 10.1177/0309132521993916.

Tzaninis, Y., Mandler, T., Kaika, M., & Keil, R. (2021). Moving urban political ecology beyond the ‘urbanization of nature’. Progress in Human Geography, 45(2), 229-252.

Lecture 5: Social justice and urban citizenship

Key readings:

Group 1: The right to the city

Harvey, D. (2008). The right to the city. New Left Review(53), 23-40.

Lefebvre, H. (1996). Writings on cities. Oxford: Blackwell. (Ch.14, pp.147-159)

Marcuse, P. (2009). From critical urban theory to the right to the city. City, 13(2-3), 185-197.

Group 2: The political street

Bayat, A. (2012). Politics in the city-inside-out. City & Society, 24(2), 110-128.

Holston, J. (2009). Insurgent citizenship in an era of global urban peripheries. City & Society, 21(2), 245-267.

Simone, A. (2004). People as infrastructure: Intersecting fragments in Johannesburg. Public Culture, 16(3), 407-429.

Recommended readings:

Anjaria, J. S. (2009). Guardians of the Bourgeois City: Citizenship, Public Space, and Middle–Class Activism in Mumbai. City & Community, 8(4), 391-406.

Appadurai, A., & Holston, J. (1996). Cities and citizenship. Public Culture, 8(2), 187-204.

Butcher, S. (2021). Differentiated citizenship: The everyday politics of the urban poor in Kathmandu, Nepal. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research. 45(6), 948-963

Chatterjee, P. (2004). The politics of the governed: Reflections on popular politics in most of the world. New York: Columbia University Press. (Read Chapters 2 and 3)

Fainstein, S. S. (2010). The just city. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.

Gillespie, J., & Nguyen, Q. H. (2019). Between authoritarian governance and urban citizenship: Tree-felling protests in Hanoi. Urban Studies, 56(5), 977-991.

Holston, J. (2008). Insurgent citizenship: Disjunctions of Democracy and Modernity in Brazil. Princeton, NJ: Princeton university press.

Lemanski, C. (2020). Infrastructural citizenship: The everyday citizenships of adapting and/or destroying public infrastructure in Cape Town, South Africa. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, 45(3), 589-605.

McElroy, E. (2020). Digital nomads in siliconising Cluj: Material and allegorical double dispossession. Urban Studies, 57(15), 3078-3094.

Lecture 6: Urban neighbourhoods and governmentality

Key readings:

Foucault, M. (2000). “Governmentality.” In C. Gordon (Ed.), The Essential Works of Foucault 1954-1984 Vol III: Power (pp. 201-222). London: Penguin Books.

Tomba, L. (2014). The government next door: Neighborhood Politics in Urban China. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.

Vanolo, A. (2014). Smartmentality: The smart city as disciplinary strategy. Urban Studies, 51(5), 883-898.

Recommended readings:

Evans, H. (2020). Beijing from Below: Stories of Marginal Lives in the Capital’s Center. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

Huang, G., Xue, D., & Wang, Y. (2019). Governmentality and spatial strategies: Towards formalization of street vendors in Guangzhou, China. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 43(3), 442-459.

Leszczynski, A. (2016). Speculative futures: Cities, data, and governance beyond smart urbanism. Environment and Planning A: Economy and Space, 48(9), 1691-1708.

Rose, N. (1999). Powers of freedom: Reframing political thought. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. (Read Introduction & Chapters 1 and 5).

Wan, X. (2015). Governmentalities in everyday practices: The dynamic of urban neighbourhood governance in China. Urban Studies, 53(11), 2330-2346.

Lecture 7: Field trip

Lecture 8: Concluding workshop



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Paris, 16 Jul 2018 (photo by Yimin Zhao)




在阅读了马克思的《路易波拿巴的雾月十八日》和《法兰西内战》之后,我开始关切1848年革命和1871年公社之间的巴黎。我尤其对圣心大教堂的建筑和象征意义特别着迷,并开始将其作为令人愉快的副业进行研究。因此,在我逐步推进马克思研究的同时,之前所设想的针对城市化的历史地理研究也逐渐落脚在了第二帝国时期的巴黎。最终,巴黎项目变成了一种爱的劳动 (a labour of love),当周遭一切都变得糟糕的时候,它成为了我远离世界的喘息机会。

Harvey, 2021: p.4

正是在这一探索的延伸处,哈维明确界定了他的研究兴趣的内核所在:“对1848 年至 1871 年间巴黎的城市巨变进行历史地理唯物主义视角下的探询,并由此出发重新定向和推进马克思对资本运动规律的理论探索“ (p.4)。这一关切构成了他全部学术著作的核心推动力,也成为他选择自己最重要著作的准绳——在哈维自己看来,能够代表他的研究的两部著作分别是出版于1982年的 Limits to Capital 和出版于2003年的 Paris, Capital of Modernity(初稿是1985年出版的 Consciousness and the Urban Experience)。





作为剑桥出身的地理学家,哈维成长于那时候盛行的区域-历史研究传统之中,并在1960年代随着整个学科走上了计量革命的道路。他在1969年出版了计量革命时代的一部标志性作品——《地理学中的解释》,同年从 Bristol 跳槽到了 Johns Hopkins。




在哈维到达巴尔的摩的那几年,美国地理学界的批判潮流也开始逐渐兴起,这首先体现在1960年代后期创刊的 Antipode 杂志,随后又在1971年的AAG年会上的激进地理学者论坛中得到放大。哈维置身其间,也开始从批判理论传统中寻找新的资源。当时给予了他智识启发的学者有很多,我们中国读者比较熟悉的可能有地理学家 Brian Berry, Torsten Hagerstrand, Alan Pred,规划理论家John Friedmann 和 Jane Jacobs,以及区域科学开创者Walter Isard。

那时的哈维也已经读到了列斐伏尔的两本著作:La Revolution Urbaine (1970) 和 La Pensee Marxiste et la Ville (1972),但是列氏最著名的《空间的生产》(1974)当时尚未出版,也因此并未影响哈维在1973年著作中的论述。换句话说,当哈维在这本书中强调绝对空间、相对空间和关系性空间的辩证统一时,列斐伏尔关于空间实践、空间表征和表征空间的三元论(spatial triad)观点尚未面世,这两种空间概念框架事实上是分别独立被提出来的。

哈维在最新的追忆中披露,当时促使他形成这一框架的思想资源很多来自地理学之外。这其中包括了哲学家 Ernst Cassirer, Susan Langer 和 Jean Piaget,也有不少社会和文化人类学家的身影,比如 Irving Hallowell。

在这一智识的旅程中,也许最让人吃惊的一点是哈维直到35岁才真正“遇见”马克思——开始阅读《资本论》。那是1970年,在《社会正义与城市》出版三年前。这让我想起阿尔都塞在自传《来日方长》中的一句话:“我是在1964-1965学年,就是最终产生了《阅读<资本论>》的研讨班那一年才读《资本论》的。” 两位马克思主义者与马克思的相遇似乎都不是注定的、正统的或者教条的,他们都是在探索和解答自己困惑的道路上与之不期而遇,并在不断地搏斗中加深了自己对马克思的认识,并最终加深了整个思想脉络对现实的把握力度。

在哈维看来,马克思带给他的最重要启示就是:针对城市化和不均衡地理发展的空间性的讨论,离不开对形塑了整个资本主义体系的社会、经济和政治过程的把握,空间性的变迁背后是被资本主义改写了的社会关系 (p.3)。为此我们需要进一步探究资本循环、积累与城市化和空间生产之间的关系。只是,马克思在《资本论》中对固定资本的循环问题论述并不清晰,尤其是生息资本的流动与土地市场(包括土地投机)之间的关系在理论上还没有得到清晰的说明,而这就成了哈维在 Limits to Capital (1982) 中想要解决的主要问题。


除了马克思之外,哈维也在不断扩展自己对话的对象,借助别的理论资源来夯实乃至重塑辩证法的实践路径。他接受了 Bertell Ollman 针对辩证法的关系性视角,并由此进一步扩展到了怀特海的过程哲学,甚至把 David Bohm 的量子理论和 Levins & Lewontin 的“辩证生物学”也纳入到自己的理论资源之中。伴随着视野的如此扩展,对马克思方法的把握得以从机械和教条的路径中解脱出来,哈维也逐渐实现了他的上述理论雄心:

Limits (1982) 一书超越了马克思政治经济学的标准表述,将固定资本、金融和信贷、生息资本的流通、地租和房地产市场问题与自然和空间的生产结合在了一起。 它还强调了加速周转时间和逐步“通过时间消灭空间”在资本循环和积累理论中的重要性。

Harvey, 2021: p.4

沿着这个路径接着往下走,哈维开始形成他命名为“历史地理唯物主义”的理论体系,为马克思的政治经济学添加了地理/空间的维度。这不仅包括了前述的固定资本、地租和空间生产问题的讨论,也随着环境议题的不断涌现而把自然的生产及其新陈代谢机制纳入了进来,最终在 Justice, Nature and the Geography of Difference (1996) 成为讨论的一个重要环节。


1975至1976年,哈维利用学术年假前往巴黎。他本以为在那里能够“匍匐在马克思主义思想的伟大阐释者们的脚边“ (p.3),从而更好地把握相关理论的意蕴。但是现实却狠狠教训了他。哈维发现,迎接他的是自己薄弱的法语能力、法共的教条主义(禁止党员与来自北美的学者交谈)以及高卢式的左翼傲慢的集合——这些“伟大的阐释者们”认为所有北美来的人都是政治上的无知者,他们甚至连什么是阶级都不太可能弄明白 (pp.3-4)。

其中当然有例外,比如 Manuel Castells 就热情地招待了哈维,并让他一直感念(虽然哈维不认同 Castells 后来宣称的与马克思主义理论传统的决裂)。当他在巴黎的知识圈遇冷的时候,那里的夏日阳光和美丽的图书馆接纳了他:“我喜欢在巴黎度过夏天,在巴黎市历史图书馆 (Biblioteque Historique de la Ville de Paris) 那令人惊叹的美丽环境中阅读各种记录和文件。” (p.4) 由此,哈维最终还是在巴黎抓住了开头提到的那个研究兴趣内核——让第二帝国的巴黎与马克思的理论对话,从而产生能够烛照我们当下的政治经济理论脉络。

哈维在巴黎的遭遇不是孤例,他此后在巴尔的摩和纽约也在不断遇见类似的情形。他曾于1987至1993年间被聘为牛津大学麦金德讲座教授,并于1993年结束在牛津的合同回到霍普金斯大学。那是一个非常特殊的历史时期,苏东剧变让哈维在霍普金斯的大多数同事对他的马克思研究嗤之以鼻,认为这一研究方向已经近乎一种时代错乱 (p.5)。他的《资本论》研读班门可罗雀,身体也在那一时期出现了问题,并在1996年不得不做了一次心脏搭桥手术。在政治的、智识的、职业的和身体的多重压力之下,他逼自己写出来了Justice, Nature and the Geography of Difference (1996) 这本书,这本没有(没法)结尾的书。



Harvey, 2021: p.7

2001年,哈维终于离开了工作了数十年的霍普金斯,一个变得越来越“有毒”的学术环境,跟随他之前的学生 Neil Smith 来到了纽约市立大学研究生院 (CUNY Graduate School)。有趣的是,他在这里就职于人类学系而非地理系,因为那儿的地理学家们同样也不关心或欢迎他所从事的这一类地理学——哪怕哈维那时候已经荣获了美国地理学会杰出贡献奖(1980)、英国皇家地理学会金奖(赞助人勋章)(1995)、世界地理学界最高奖 Vautrin Lud Prize(1995)等一系列荣誉,并当选为英国学术院院士(1998)。

好在,CUNY的其他同事对他的事业都很是支持。在纽约的这二十年依然是哈维的高产期——甚至可以说他变得更加高产。他在这里延续了1990年代开始启动的 “马克思项目” (the Marx Project),并同时通过通俗和学理两种方式进行分析和阐释。这其中的通俗著作以《新帝国主义》(2003) 和《新自由主义简史》(2005) 为代表,学理著作则包括 The Enigma of Capital (2010)、Seventeen Contradictions and the End of Capitalism(2014) 和最近的 Marx, Capital and the Madness of Economic Reason (2017)。他还在学生的帮助下建立了个人网站,把《资本论》研读课的视频放了上去,后来又在 Verso 出版社的邀请下把讲义集结成册出版并畅销一时。

当下这个时代肯定不是哈维心目中的黄金时代。他在最近这些年的写作中进一步坚定了自己的反资本主义 (anti-capitalist) 立场,认为这个词比起其他很多同源的词语都更好,因为它的否定性把所有在资本主义体系中受到了负面影响、被剥夺、被排斥、被异化的人群都纳入了进来,最终也许就能推动一种更加包容、反本质主义的政治项目的实现。


也许《资本论》应该倒着读,第三卷里的启发可能会比第一卷更大。也许哈维所设想的“反资本主义”几乎无法在近期变成现实,因为政治的计算和算计大概并不只是理性的抉择。也许城市变迁的过程不仅仅只有一个结构或逻辑,它所造就的诸多碎片也可能组合成为别的故事。也许当今空间和地方的形塑和再造已经出现了其他不同的轨迹,需要我们寻找新的分析工具和视角,就像当初的哈维面对马克思理论和现实的脱节时所做的那样…… 当所有这些呼喊汇聚在一起,我们依然还得从大卫·哈维出发,因为他的理论框架构成了我们的起点,不管是作为分析的基础,还是作为反思的对象。


The metropolitan scale as a political arena


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Neoliberalism has completely reshaped our cities and their governance, both in the global north and south. With upward and downward forces, we are shown a new scalar pattern where the significance of the national scale is decreased while regions at supra- and sub-national levels become more critical. In this process, cities and their governance are influenced together by global forces and increasing local/ regional autonomy. Geographically, the emergence of political and economic issues beyond the city scale/ boundary induces more attention paid to metropolitan development and governance. This is the context where this book has been focusing on and trying to further investigate with cases from eight “metropolitan” areas in both the north and the south. Instead of delving into the geographical inquiry of scale theories per se, this book shifts the focus to the policy processes that are at the core of urban politics and governance yet “require political action beyond the urban scale” (p.214). The contributors make it clear that the metropolitan region/ scale is not a consolidated policy object. Instead, it is a dynamic and ongoing arena that enables contestations and cooperation at both institutional and strategic fronts. By utilizing theoretical resources from geography and related disciplines, this book highlights the spatial dimensions and dynamics of urban policies for a more in-depth analysis of the overall policy process.

The book adopts a “problematizing” approach that does not take the metropolitan scale as an a priori political entity. It is the process through which such a scale is being constructed or contested that is worth further reflection. With this recognition, the book makes two critical contributions to our understandings of urban and metropolitan governance. First, this spatial problematizing forces us to look into what is going on empirically, instead of following “the normative assumptions of ‘public choice’ and reform-oriented ‘metropolitan consolidation’ models” (p.4). In this way, we are better equipped to examine the concrete mechanisms through which the metropolitan scale, as a policy project, is actually constitutive of the making and shaping of those policies. Second, this book also offers a set of empirically grounded reflections on the nature of the scale. In contrast to a hierarchical view that we often rely on (i.e., national-regional-urban), this book reminds us to attend more to the relational nature of scales, where economic choices and strategic concerns play crucial roles in consolidating political processes and outcomes that might induce a scale. The scale, in this sense, is better conceptualized as “the emergence and contingent stability of new spatial configurations of governance and regulation” (p.11). In other words, the metropolitan scale is in many cases being contested and not yet “material” as we would imagine. To make the empirical analyses possible, this book innovatively takes an approach of what it labels “heuristic analysis,” where the focus is being put on “the way materiality is subsumed in discursive practices” (p.15).

The eight cases are organized in an alphabetical way in the main body of the book. Together they constitute a globally comparative analysis of the construction of metropolitan scales. They all put their focus on the ways in which the metropolitan regions at issue have been rendered into policy spaces – with what institutional, organizational, or discursive actions and from/between whom. In particular, the empirical analyses are by and large developed with three keywords: the role of the state, the role of big firms, and the actually-existing rescaling dynamics. In Berlin (Chapter 2), for example, it turns out that its historical and institutional conditions prevent a territorial merger at the metropolitan scale; but at the same time, “a range of flexible and ad-hoc modes of inter-institutional cooperation” (p.52) is enabled regionally. Delhi witnesses a similar pattern where the political rescaling is absent in the process of spatial rescaling (Chapter 3). While certain policies in transportation and industrial zones do contribute to the integration of metropolitan space and economy, there is however no “parallel construction of a political entity” (p.83). This is further echoed by the experiences of New York (Chapter 5), where a historical analysis of several inter-state transportation projects (from the birth of the Port Authority of NY and NJ in the early 20th Century to its recent failure in developing the Access to the Region’s Core project, among other cases) recognizes that “regional scale governance may be happening (functionally and discursively) albeit in the absence of institutional or structural rescaling” (p.109).

While the metropolitan region is mainly discursive in New York or Delhi, it plays a more concrete role in Istanbul and Paris. In Istanbul (Chapter 4), neoliberal concerns of improving international competitiveness have been translated into local practices of New Public Management principles. In line with such principles, partnership-based developmental initiatives are consistently promoted by the metropolitan government – yet they are mostly rent-oriented. In Paris (Chapter 6), on the other hand, the metropolitan scale has long been a focal point of struggles in both national and local politics. Globalization and decentralization turn out to be two main forces that are shaping local political arenas. Together with a series of local and national elections, these forces become fundamental in driving certain players to produce diverse visions of the metropolitan scale. The consistent contestations among the central state, the regional authority, the municipality, the local authorities and business associations in turn lead to the failure in building up a territorial leadership at the metropolitan level. These two forces are also critical in producing the extended metropolis in Shenzhen (Chapter 9), where the local state (i.e., the Shenzhen Municipal Government) took advantage of the centrally orchestrated policy frameworks and formulated their own spatial policies to accommodate the growing “world factory.” The private sector, especially tech giants, also plays a significant role in stimulating this process of outward expansion. But the metropolitan scale again retreats into the discursive arena in both Rio de Janeiro (Chapter 7) and Rome (Chapter 8), though for very different reasons. Entrepreneurial governance becomes a predominant policy framework in Rio, which only strategically highlights the municipality of Rio while sidelines the metropolitan issue in the agenda of public policies (p.152). In a different vein, the local economic structure and the strong municipal power can partly explain why metropolitan rescaling is rendered impossible in/beyond Rome.

This book presents an insightful analytical framework together with a rich set of empirical case studies on metropolitan/regional scales. Moving back and forth between the local mechanisms and global forces, the book shows vividly how and how far the changing global and local political economy has been spatially manifested through new configurations of governance and regulation, where both the (central and local) state and the private sector have their own, and often contested, roles. While the re-conceptualization of scale and the collective activity of variation-findings in comparative studies are just starting, and there are still more works to be done to further develop these lines of inquiry, this book is in general a timely interrogation on the actually-existing process of producing metropolitan space/scale. It is an informative reading not just for urban geographers and planners, but also for political scientists, economists, public policy researchers, and other social scientists who are interested in the interplay between space and politics. Besides experts, this book is also suitable as reading materials for courses on urban politics, urban geography, urban planning, and urban political economy.

For citation: Yimin Zhao (2021) “Constructing metropolitan space: Actors, policies and processes of rescaling in world metropolises,” by Jill Simone Gross, Enrico Gualini, and Lin Ye (eds.), Journal of Urban Affairs, DOI: 10.1080/07352166.2020.1868918