In celebration of IJURR’s 40th anniversary last year, the current editorial board gathered in London with former editors and others present at the Journal’s founding to reflect on the state of urban studies and how IJURR has met the challenges it set out for itself four decades earlier. Since its founding editorial statement, in which editor Michael Harloe invited readers to provide “constructive criticism and suggestions regarding both the specific contents and the general nature of this new venture,” IJURR has been a reflexive space. Its editors – in conversation and consultation with the editorial board and wider community of readers – have periodically revisited, reassessed, and, when deemed appropriate, revised the journal’s aims and policies to respond better to changes in the world of cities and in academic perspectives on that world. But while acknowledging the need to remain dynamic and progressive, these reflective moments have tended to conclude with a commitment to the original mission of the Journal as “an active tool for achieving a wider understanding of the problems of urban and regional development and for informing social action on these issues.” Anniversaries provide valuable opportunities for this type of looking back and for critically reflecting on where we have been, where we are, and where we ought to go. This “Spotlight on” issue gathers together some of the insights presented at IJURR’s 40th anniversary celebration, which we expect will offer a useful assessment of where the field of critical urban studies stands today and where it and IJURR may go in the future.
With respect to where we have been, the pieces by Matthias Bernt, Roger Keil, and Eduardo Marques trace the topics and perspectives that have featured prominently in the journal during key historical periods. In the 1980s, Bernt points out, class structures, housing, and political theory stood centre, as did a regional focus on the classical capitalist “North” of the U.K., the U.S. and Western Europe. Keil’s review expands this geography a bit, but notes there were still “perhaps only four types of cities in that imaginary: the (Western) European city, the socialist city (mostly in the East), developing cities (mostly in the South) and the American city (mostly in America),” adding that Asian cities didn’t seem to be “much on anyone’s radar screen at the time.”
Since 2000 and especially in the 2010s, as many of the pieces point out, both the topical and geographical breadth of the journal expanded to include deeper engagements with culture, feminism, and postcolonialism, and with many more articles about and written by scholars from the “Global South.” Most of the authors celebrate this broadening scope, including what Walter Nicholls refers to as the journal’s “assertive embrace of pluralism” that he defines not as consensus, but as an “aggressive interrogation of multiple theories to explain for urban injustices.”
Others, meanwhile, do warn of fragmentation and the potential loss of shared analytic objects and theoretical frameworks. On this point Bernt muses “what urban land rent theory and ethnographic studies on urban nightlife have to do with each other and how they can be brought into conversation is an increasingly open question to me.” Alex Loftus, meanwhile suggests that the diverse approaches of the field appear have been corralled into two overarching frameworks, of “muscular Marxism” and “a purportedly more nuanced, comparative and postcolonial approach.” Loftus laments this bifurcation suggests that “urban studies is at its best when it draws from situated practices and understandings, developing a fusion of theory and practice from an attempt to find a theory adequate to those situated practices and a practice capable of overcoming theoretical dualisms.”
Several of the pieces, however, push back on the notion that these dual frameworks stand on equal footing, either in the field of urban studies or on the pages of IJURR. Ananya Roy, for example argues that “we still treat postcolonial thought and the black radical tradition as exotic outsiders.” The pieces by Rivke Jaffe and Jelke Bosma and Mustafa Dikeç note the unfortunately limited utilization with postcolonial theory to analyze social and political processes in European and North American cities. To this point, Dikeç hopes for greater attention “to the enduring legacy of colonial thinking and practices in the governance of the cities of the north as well, exposing them and bringing them out in the open for contestation.” Jaffe & Bosma, meanwhile, attribute these silences to the “institutional closeness” of the field, resulting in an urban research agenda that is “defined nationally, in accordance with dominant political and economic interests.” In order to change course, Roy calls for “a renewed commitment to the very specific project of critical theory, which as Nancy Fraser reminds us, is to reflect on our current historical moment and ask what it demands of us.” Several other authors recommend that urban justice and social action feature more prominantly at the centre of IJURRs future direction.
But reflecting the journal’s “assertive embrace of pluralism,” these ten brief essays offer distinct perspectives on where IJURR should go next. Several of the other piece, for example discuss the need for greater attention to contemporary political institutions and actors without the frameworks developed to explain old political trends. To this point, Eduardo Marques calls for a “stronger incorporation of urban political actors and of the details of the functioning of urban political institutions, bureaucracies and urban policies.” But just as Michael Harlow acknowledged that an endeavor like this “cannot afford to be limited by the inevitable boundaries to the editorial board’s own skills and interests,” we continue to invite constructive criticism and suggestions from our contributors, readers, and wider community of urban studies.
IJURR Editorial Statements
Julie-Anne Boudreau, Matthew Gandy and Maria Kaika (2015) Volume 39.1
Reflections on the Academic and Economic Environment
Julie-Anne Boudreau and Maria Kaika (2013) Volume 37.6
IJURR: An Editorial Statement
Jeremy Seekings and Roger Keil (2009) Volume 22.3
IJURR: Policy Statement
Patrick Le Galès, Susan Fainstein and Linda McDowell (1998) Volume 22.1
IJURR: looking back twenty-one years later
Michael Harloe, Enzo Mingione, Chris Pickvance and Edmond Preteceille (1998) Volume 22.1
Founding Editorial Statement
Michael Harloe (1977) Volume 1.1
© 2017 THE AUTHOR. INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF URBAN AND REGIONAL RESEARCH, PUBLISHED BY JOHN WILEY & SONS LTD UNDER LICENSE BY URBAN RESEARCH PUBLICATIONS LIMITED
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