Jennifer Robinson on Comparative Urban Studies

"The very fact that cities exist in a world of other cities means that any attempt at a general or theoretical statement about cities either depends upon or invites comparative reflection. What constitutes a city, how are cities organized, what happens in them, where are they going? — in a world of cities these and many other questions invoke a comparative gesture. The budding theorist finds herself asking of the many studies she reads from different parts of the world: are these processes the same in the city I know? Are they perhaps similar but for different reasons? Or are the issues that are being considered of limited relevance to pressing issues in the contexts I am familiar with? And yet, in the generalized functioning of this comparative feature of urban studies, the "world of cities" has been analytically truncated, meaning that the experiences of many cities around the world have been ignored even as the broadest conclusions about contemporary urbanity are being drawn. I suggest that revitalizing the comparative gesture is an important requirement for an international and post-colonial approach to urban studies."

Jennifer Robinson, from "Cities in a World of Cities: The Comparative Gesture," in the International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 2011

This is part of a collection of quotes related to cities. They don't necessarily reflect our views, just topics of interest. We welcome you to add others.

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  1. This is a great quote! I think one of the biggest misconceptions of the urban age is the idea that trends of scarcity/informality/adaptability found prominently in emerging economies somehow do not apply to the global cities of high-income nations. For me this calls to mind Koolhaas' postulation in the film 'Lagos Wide & Close' that "Lagos is not catching up with us. Rather, we may be catching up with Lagos … "