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Cities in Dispute: Modern Cultures and the Urban Margins

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Organizer: Luigi Patruno

Co-Organizer: Maxwell Samuel Woods

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Spurred on by the labor market and government actions and born out of rapid city expansion, settler colonialism, and human impact on the environment, marginalized experiences of dwelling pose a permanent challenge to the idea of modernity. They illuminate the tension resulting from processes of social inclusion and exclusion in metropolitan areas and inter-urban systems, and thereby demand reflection on widespread poverty. In fact, since the end of the nineteenth century, the consolidation of marginal forms of land occupancy and unequal processes of urban growth have been central to city discourses and, additionally, the object of social mobilizations, public policies, and cultural representations. From practices aimed at stigmatizing urban destitution and eradicating informal settlements to assertive stances that celebrate the populist vanguardism of alternative forms of housing, this seminar seeks to address political and aesthetic questions about how self-construction, autonomous urban community building, and “peripheric” strategies of inhabiting the city have shaped, and continue to shape, the urban imaginary.


We invite contributions on a variety of literary and visual practices, including but not limited to popular culture, architecture, photography, and film. We also encourage comparative approaches to the analysis of informal dwellings and urban poverty from diverse historical perspectives and transdisciplinary methodologies. Drawing from debates in urban cultural history, popular literature, and visual studies, papers might address a number of topics and themes such as: modern urban planning and state-built housing; urban mythologies, subaltern movements, and the decolonization of public space; cityscapes of the global south; migration, (im)mobility, and border ecologies; climate change, infrastructures, and environmental racism.

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