It’s Just the City after All!


Long a site for incessant worry, revision or redemption, it is unclear what the ‘city’ is today. Yet, in face of the near-apocalyptic readjustments potentiated by human-engineered global warming, there is an exigency about getting cities to function right. It is no wonder, then, that contemporary theories of cities and urbanization attempt to restore some common sense, to get to the heart of critical matters in a world where urbanization disrupts once-normative assumptions about the nature of territory, scale and politics. But what is the nature of that ‘common sense’? How does one engage the very concrete efforts that constructed the city, with all the layers of physical and cultural memory that new regimes usually attempt to cover up, and all that the city does not show, either because its inhabitants are prohibited from paying attention or because whatever is considered normative or spectacular in city life has to get rid of the messy labor and politics that brought it about? Invoking blackness as an analytical method, these questions are addressed through thinking about how long histories of urban practices deployed by black residents of cities across the world might challenge and reinvent the sense of an urban commons.