For the 40th anniversary virtual issue we invited all of the previous editors to choose a small number of papers that they felt were of particular significance during their time of working with the journal. The number of selections varies a little based on their length of involvement with the journal—our founding editor Michael Harloe, for example, served as sole editor for the first twenty years and had the difficult task of making his selection from some 400 papers published between 1977 and 1997. How we might measure the significance of a particular paper is of course very tricky to evaluate and might include factors such as citation indices (as a crude measure of influence), the importance of particular papers in shaping debates within the journal, the relevance of papers to the core mission of IJURR as a focal point for critical urban studies, or of course the subjective judgment of individual editors (or even simply the quirks of personal interest). Furthermore, as Michael Harloe pointed out to me during this curatorial exercise, papers that may have seemed of great significance in one era can turn out be of far less long-term significance for the field. The history of a journal, like any academic domain, is marked by a variety of false starts and wrong turns as well as recognized advances. Nevertheless, if we look over the entire output of IJURR we can detect certain trends, undoubtedly reflecting a mix of editorial judgment, changing patterns of submissions, and of course wider changes across the various fields of urban scholarship and debate.

The first phase of the journal, at least until the early 1990s, was marked by a greater emphasis on the political economy of urban space. The influence of scholars such as David Harvey and Manuel Castells is prominent in the pages of the journal. A related and ongoing focus has been the range of structural developments that have shaped recent transformations in the cities and regions of the global North. The nascent debate over global cities and various types of networked spaces also begins to emerge at this time. We find, for example, an emphasis on the relationship between economic restructuring—most notably the putative Fordist to post-Fordist transition—and emerging patterns of urban change within an increasingly globalized capitalist economy.

From the late 1990s onwards there is growing emphasis on specific processes of transition such as ‘gentrification’, local manifestations of neoliberalism, and smaller-scale phenomena of neighbourhood change. We also encounter a growing eclecticism in terms of conceptual and methodological approaches marked by the use of ethnographies, the greater deployment of visual sources, and the articulation of different theoretical approaches. Although neo-Marxian debates remain of crucial significance for the journal, marked notably by an upsurge of interest in Henri Lefebvre, we now encounter a wider range of influences including Gilles Deleuze, Michel Foucault, and Donna Haraway. Additionally, there is a steady increase in papers devoted to developments in the global South, and especially from Sub-Saharan Africa, along with greater emphasis on urbanization in East Asia, Indonesia, Turkey, and elsewhere. In essence, the ‘international’ scope of IJURR has become more apparent in empirical terms even if the Anglo-American dominance of scholarly debates has become more accentuated (marked symbolically perhaps by the journal quietly dropping the publication of abstracts in French). This paradoxical situation is of course not restricted to IJURR but reflects wider trends in academic publishing, the internationalization of the academy, and the ‘path dependencies’ that permeate specific debates (and their associated citation patterns).

From the early 2000s onwards other themes begin to acquire greater prominence in IJURR including ethnic difference, urban infrastructure, and urban political ecology. Questions concerning gender and sexuality have also become more frequent, connecting with new insights from queer theory and feminist scholarship. Over the last few years IJURR has also begun to widen its disciplinary scope to include a better engagement with fields such as cultural anthropology (including ethnographic methodologies), architectural theory, and the burgeoning realm of science and technology studies.

Each of the former editors who participated in the compilation of this 40th anniversary virtual issue has provided a brief commentary next to their selections (indicated by their initials listed below). In one case the same paper was chosen and I have included both endorsements for comparison. I hope this curatorial experiment will be of interest! 

MH Michael Harloe, 1977–97
PLG Patrick LeGalès, 1998–2004
AH Alan Harding, 2005–07
JS Jeremy Seekings, 2005–11
RK Roger Keil, 2005–11
JB Julie-Anne Boudreau, 2010–15

MK Maria Kaïka, 2011–16
MG Matthew Gandy, 2013–
AR Ananya Roy, 2016–
FW Fulong Wu, 2016–
MD Mustafa Dikeç, 2017–

Matthew Gandy
IJURR Editor
March 2017


Collage compiled from images in the public realm. We thank the Riley Foundation for permission to reproduce Michael Harloe – Vice Chancellor, Salford by Harold F. Riley, 2009, Oil on Canvas (© The Riley Archive, WB261. All Rights Reserved)

The Urban Process under Capitalism: A Framework for Analysis
David Harvey (1978)

This paper begins with a bold intent ‘my objective is to understand the urban process under capitalism’. It is an ambition which Harvey has continued to pursue to this day. In this paper he first set out his distinctive account of the role of the built environment in capitalist accumulation. Based on a close reading of Marx’s Capital, Harvey sketched out his distinctive account of the secondary circuit of capital and the built environment, the significance of ‘switching crises’, long waves of investment in the built environment and the role of class struggle. This account was developed and elaborated in The Limits to Capital (1982) and The Urbanisation of Capital (1985). Describing the latter volume of essays (and a companion one) as markings down the path to his ambition, it is significant that the first chapter consists of a reprint of the IJURR paper. MH

World City Formation: An Agenda for Research and Action
John Friedmann and Goetz Wolff (1982)

This pioneering paper, one of the most highly cited in the history of IJURR, was the precursor, as its authors explicitly intended, to the burgeoning literature on ‘world cities’ over the following two decades and more. The term world city was first coined by Patrick Geddes in the early 20th century and adopted by Peter Hall in the mid-sixties. But this paper made a link between contemporary developments in globalizing capitalism and the emergence of dominant urban centres, thus transcending merely descriptive accounts of urban hierarchies. In exploring the various dimensions and modalities of world city formation it set out a fertile agenda for further work, notably of course via Sassen’s The Global City (1991) on New York, London and Tokyo and more generally on the role of cities in an emergent international economy, driven (at least significantly) by the growth of financial and advanced business services. MH

Postfordism in Question
Andrew Sayer (1989)

An important feature of IJURR is papers which focus on reviewing and critiquing emergent ‘conventional wisdoms’. This paper made an important contribution in this vein. Sayer’s target was the adoption of ‘simple polemical contrasts’ often in the form of ‘binary histories’ (e.g. ‘fordism’ versus ‘postfordism’) to conceptualize the contemporary major changes in economies and societies. In a memorable phrase, he wrote ‘the trouble with concepts like Fordism, postfordism and flexible specialization is that they are overly flexible and insufficiently specialised’. A detailed discussion of Japanese economic success, built on ‘flexible rigidities’ led Sayer to highlight the importance of differing social and cultural characteristics in the formation of distinctive kinds of industrialization and ‘national innovation systems’. Like Amin and Thrift’s paper below, Sayer pointed to the need to transcend ‘binary histories’ which misleadingly abstract from the variety of forms of capitalist urbanization. MH

Neo‐Marshallian Nodes in Global Networks
Ash Amin and Nigel Thrift (1992)

The starting point for this paper was the debate between proponents of ‘flexible specialization, postfordism and the salience of new ‘localised industrial complexes’ in advanced capitalism and the critics of this supposed ‘return to place’. Amin and Thrift argued that a rethought and retheorized concept of ‘centers’ was compatible and indeed integral to the increasingly globalized organization of advanced capital. Their argument was illustrated with an analysis of two very different ‘industrial districts’, a small centre for leather production in Tuscany and the City of London and its financial services. The growth of such centres was, they showed, dependent on factors such as know-how, skills and finance, a socio-cultural milieu and entrepreneurial conditions. Unlike many academic papers this one, together with work in the same vein, had a perceptible impact in the following decades on urban policies and the promotion of specific cities and city-regions as centres of innovation and economic growth. MH

The Cultural Economy of Cities
A.J Scott (1997)

In 1988 Allen Scott contributed a seminal and much cited paper on the growth of flexible production systems to the creation of new industrial spaces but this later paper had an equally wide impact and helped to open a new research agenda. Scott’s concern was to analyse the emerging significance of forms of cultural production for economic development and profit making and to argue for the ‘reassertion of place as a privileged location for culture’ and of key cities with strong competitive advantages. The paper also started to unpack the meaning and variants of the cultural economy, contrasting Los Angeles and Paris. His conclusion that ‘in contemporary capitalism, the culture-generating capabilities of cities are being harnessed for productive purposes, creating new kinds of localized competitive advantages with major employment and income-enhancing effects’ neatly described the lure of cultural investment to city leaderships in the past two decades. Both bitter experience and subsequent research have explored the scope and limits of this emergent cultural economy. MH

Symbolic Use of Globalization in Urban Politics in Tokyo
Takashi Machimura (1998)

This paper is an essential contribution to the debate dealing with globalization and cities. In this sophisticated essay Machimura takes a side step from the political economy of globalization to emphasise the ‘reluctant’ transformation of an ‘uninternational city’, i.e. Tokyo. It is one of the first papers in IJURR to combine political economy, cultural studies and politics. This influential paper is among the first to identify the constant tension between resistance to globalization and the instrumentalization of globalization. This conflict becomes central and transforms power relations in Tokyo. In terms of method, the paper articulates the tension between Tokyo as an economically global city as shown by Saskia Sassen, and the strengthening of symbolic local culture. He provides one of the first and important non-Western analyses of globalization processes, emphasizing the specificity of Tokyo alongside comparative elements. IJURR is integrating aspects of the cultural turn, systematically looking for non-Western research, and Machimura’s contribution announces the coming of age of ‘comparative urbanism’. PLG

Democratization and Politics in South African Townships
Janet Cherry, Kris Jones and Jeremy Seekings (2000)

This paper deals with social movements and political mobilization at the local level in South Africa, and remains instructive at a time when the literature on social movements is obsessed with neoliberalism and globalization, and negative views of the state. The paper relies upon extensive empirical work to critically think about processes of mobilization and demobilization. At a crucial time for South Africa it points towards the discrepancies between the still very legitimate ANC, civic organizations and local mobilizations. A key finding is that South African township residents see political society relatively positively and are mobilized for urban political change through local committees and organizations putting pressure on and negotiating with urban governments. It is an empirically grounded sophisticated analysis of the relations between state, social movements, and local mobilizations; and dissent against urban elites. It is an important contribution to the analysis of urban politics from the South at a time of South Africa’s difficult democratization processes. PLG

Place in Product
Harvey Molotch (2002)

This is a remarkable theoretical paper by US sociologist Harvey Molotch. The debate on urban and local economic development had considerably moved forward thanks to economic geographers Allen Scott, Michael Storper, Anna Lee Saxenian, Meric Gertler, Ash Amin and others on the one hand, but also because of the influence of Italian territorial political economy (Bagnasco, Trigilia) and Sabel and Piore on the embeddeness of local economies (drawing on Weber, Polanyi). In this paper Molotch builds upon these two traditions and includes ideas coming from design and cultural studies. He develops subtle and powerful arguments to identify the differences place makes in the design and production of goods and how this is disseminated. He makes a powerful case about the importance of the local in terms of face-to-face interaction and in situ cultural absorption. PLG

The Transnational Capitalist Class and Contemporary Architecture in Globalizing Cities
Leslie Sklair (2005)

This analysis contributes to debates on the transnational capitalist class that goes hand in hand with the globalization and financiarization of capitalism. Sklair forges a link with the development of what he calls ‘iconic’ architecture, i.e. buildings which are ‘(1) famous for professional architects and/or the public at large and (2) have special symbolic/aesthetic significance attached to them’. As usual Sklair provides a very clear analytical framework and a wealth of precise data (top architectural firms, prize winners). He brings agency to processes of globalization and stresses the importance of ‘iconic’ architecture as a major strategy of urban intervention. The trend has only been on the increase ever since. PLG

Struggling with the Creative Class
Jamie Peck (2005)

Jamie Peck’s ‘Struggling with the Creative Class’ was the standout piece published by the journal during my time as co-editor (2005-2007). In it, Jamie exposed the limitations of the claims made by Richard Florida, notably in The Rise of the Creative Class (2002), that the future path of urban development would be dominated by jobs following people rather than people following jobs. More importantly, he nailed the myths promulgated by the then-burgeoning ‘creative class industry’, that the best route to achieving sustainable, inclusive urban change now lay in providing the consumption environments that would prove most attractive to a small band of mobile, high income ‘creatives’. And more than that, he achieved it in a hugely entertaining and compellingly readable way. The mother of all hatchet jobs, delivered with style, panache and—glory be—a few laugh-out-loud moments. IJURR at its very best. AH

If IJURR were a commercial enterprise, and if I had been an editor who would have needed to solicit popularity through mass distribution, this immensely successful article by Jamie Peck would be a model from which to select a winner. Its intellectual boldness, political risk taking, and marvellous style were unrivalled during my time as co-editor of IJURR. Of course, IJURR (and its editors) don’t think in terms of commercial success but it was wonderful to see, especially this early in my tenure at the helm of the journal that one trenchant statement such as Peck’s was able to lift an entire project. The article set a critical tone at a time when there was much fawning about the creative class and city although not a single scholarly study had been able to demonstrate the veracity of the claims put forward by their proponents. Peck saw through all that and gave junior scholars, readers of IJURR an example of courageous scholarship and outspoken authorship at a time when the creative bandwagon rolled into our cities. RK

The Market as the New Emperor
Anne Haila (2007)

One of the challenges that faced IJURR in the 2000s was how to engage with the growing literature on urban China and, more precisely, how to promote a comparative understanding of urban China that drew on and in turn informed our understanding of urban processes elsewhere. IJURR was fortunate to be able to publish a series of excellent papers and essays, in part through the assistance of Wing-Shing Tang and Fulong Wu. John Friedmann published thought-provoking essays in 2006 and 2007. In 2009, Fulong Wu edited a symposium on ‘land development, inequality and urban villages in China’ comprising four papers and a brief introduction. In a particularly outstanding paper in the symposium, John Logan, Yiping Fang and Zhanxin Zhang analysed quantitative data to show how the state continued to shape ‘who’ got ‘what’ in the distinctively Chinese housing ‘market’. Perhaps the most challenging of all, however, was Anne Haila’s article ‘The Market as the New Emperor’, published in 2007. Haila interrogated forcefully and incisively the ways in which scholars of urban China have understood the market and property rights, and the policy proposals that have often flowed from those particular understandings. Two years later, in June 2009, IJURR published a set of four short commentaries on Haila’s paper, by Jieming Zhu, Clara Irazábal, Nicholas Bromley and Janet Sturgeon, and Scott Lash, together with a response from Haila herself. The debate revealed a rich diversity of analyses, but collectively it underscored the value of studying urban dynamics in places like China not only to understand urban China but also to ‘provincialize Europe’ through probing the specificities of the (north-west) European experience. JS

Municipal Neoliberalism and Municipal Socialism: Urban Political Economy in Latin America
Benjamin Goldfrank and Andrew Schrank (2009)

From the start IJURR was deeply committed to the analysis of innovative forms of participatory and deliberative democracy in urban areas. The rise of left municipal governments and ‘participatory budgeting’ in Latin America became a major concern in the 2000s. Marcus Melo played a particularly important role in developing IJURR’s work on this, including through a symposium that he co-edited with Gianpaolo Baiocchi in September 2006. Benjamin Goldfrank has been one of the most perceptive analysts of democratic innovation in Latin American cities. In this 2009 article, he joined with Andrew Schrank, whose work has focused more on industrial policy and labour regulation, to write a path-breaking paper that examined ‘municipal neoliberalism’ (mostly in central America) as well as the better known cases of ‘municipal socialism’ (mostly in Brazil). Goldfrank and Schrank examined what led cities to each of these very different forms of municipal governance, and what are the consequences. IJURR has of course also published many critiques of neoliberal policy in cities across the world, but it has been rare that the empirical study of cases of neoliberal governance has been combined with the empirical study of cases of municipal socialism. This paper provided a comparative method that might usefully be replicated in studies of variation in urban governance elsewhere in the world. JS

Slumdog Cities: Rethinking Subaltern Urbanism
Ananya Roy (2011)

This article which was published towards the end of my time as editor marked two significant developments that were noticeable in the first decade of the new century: First, IJURR (re)gained its status as a journal of public debate, one might even say: performance and perhaps spectacle. This occurred largely through the increased sponsoring of keynotes at major international conferences. Gone were the days of the serious, bookish tradition of mid-century scholarship and activism from which it stemmed (and that is not a criticism). A new aesthetic of scholarly politics was born. Ananya Roy took the stage at the Las Vegas AAG meeting in March 2009 and dazzled a full ballroom of listeners and watchers with her trademark rehearsed and refined speech in front of a visual barrage of images on a giant screen. The article, of course, is devoid of the performance part but carries its spirit over nicely. Second, substantively, this article with its keen embrace of new epistemologies and methodologies of urban theory stood symbolically for a huge turn in the journal’s orientation from an international to a truly global outlet of research from around the urban planet. RK

Lagos, Koolhaas and Partisan Politics in Nigeria
Laurent Fourchard (2011)

With a careful empirical engagement with Lagos’s political history, Laurent Fourchard provides here one of the most vivid and convincing responses to Koolhaas’s celebration of urban chaos. Grounded in decades of research in Lagos, Fourchard deconstructs the architect’s aesthetic sensibilities against everyday desires and struggles in the city, themselves shaped by a long history of public policies. This paper represents at its best IJURR’s interdisciplinary urban debates. JB

Gentrifying the State, Gentrifying Participation: Elite Governance Programs in Delhi
D. Asher Ghertner  (2011)

In this landmark paper, Gertner provides the seeds for a renewal of state theory. He argues that the power of the rising urban middle-class in the early 2000s in Delhi was produced by changes in the local state. Changes in access to the local state based on property ownership have reduced the electoral weight of the urban poor. Applying the concept of gentrification not to a specific urban space but to the political machine itself, Gertner vividly illustrate how clientelistic systems can be ‘formalized’ through gentrification. JB

Technifying Public Space and Publicizing Infrastructures: Exploring New Urban Political Ecologies through the Square of General Vara del Rey
Fernando DomÍnguez Rubio and Uriel Fogué (2013)

Presenting the results of a long-term collaboration project between practicing architect Uriel Fogué and cultural sociologist Fernando Domínguez Rubio this paper is an excellent (and rare) write-up of how urban scholarship can inspire and inform urban practice and vice versa. The design of General Vara del Rey, becomes the quilting point for exploring new urban political ecologies that question dominant definitions of public spaces but also of the blurring of the boundaries between natures, infrastructures, human and more than human actors. MK

How did Finance Capital Infiltrate the World of the Urban Poor? Homeownership and Social Fragmentation in a Spanish Neighborhood
Jaime Palomera (2014)

Drawing upon compelling and rich in-depth ethnography of a peripheral neighborhood in Barcelona, Palomera’s work undercut contemporary debates on the role of class and ethnicity in (re)producing social fragmentation. It did so by re-igniting a debate which continues to flourish in IJURR in the context of Ankara (Erman, 2016), Rio de Janeiro (Richmond and Garmany, 2016), Shanghai (Zhang, 2017) and Kuwait (Al Ragam, 2017) among other cities (see also Lanz and Oosterbann et al., 2017): the role of the state in the production of housing and the reproduction of social inequality. MK

Absolute Traffic: Infrastructural Aptitude in Urban Indonesia
Doreen Lee (2015)

Based on more than a decade of ethnographic engagement with Jakarta, Doreen Lee couldn’t avoid writing a piece on traffic. This is no transport expert paper. Instead, Lee provides a highly original look at a hard fact of urban life in Jakarta: being stuck in traffic. She analyses the playfulness, negotiation and disruption of people stuck in traffic as ‘public display of infrastructural aptitude’. Traffic shapes urban rhythms and governs what people experience, desire, and struggle against in urban life. A textured, creative, and inspirational take on urban infrastructure. JB

Reconstituting the Possible: Lefebvre, Utopia and the Urban Question
David Pinder (2015)

This well written article challenges common understandings of utopia and investigates its potential uses for critical urban studies today.  But it also makes explicit a dialogue that has always been there (albeit implicitly) in IJURR’s pages: namely, the evolution of the role of Utopian thinking in urban theory and praxis. MK

‘Eco’ For Whom? Envisioning Eco-urbanism in the Sino-Singapore Tianjin Eco-city, China
Federico Caprotti, Cecilia Springer, and Nichola Harmer (2015)

Examining a case of the Sino-Singapore Tianjin Eco-city (SSTEC), Federico Caprotti, Cecilia Springer and Nichola Harmer provide important insights on the extent to which environmental sustainability and social stability are mutually reinforcing, as hoped by the policy of building a ‘harmonious society’ underpinning Chinese eco-urbanism. They ask an important question concerning whom ‘eco’ is for. Their study reveals a salient dimension of Chinese eco-cities: aiming to turn underdeveloped land into an ecologically advanced enclave for their residents. While an existent literature tends to understand eco-cities as an environmental innovation through economic and technological progress, this paper focuses on the social features of eco-cities. The authors show how these eco-cities are constructed and marketed as high-end urban developments. A key pathway towards creating this high-end environment is through ‘imagineering’ and eco-design, which involves professional elites drawn from the fields of architecture and planning. Recently, there has been an emerging literature on Chinese eco-cities. This paper adds to this body of literature and contributes to our understanding of the phenomenon of emergent Chinese eco-cities and the social constructions of eco-urbanism. FW

Assembling and Spilling-Over: Towards an ‘Ethnography of Cement’ in a Palestinian Refugee Camp
Nasser Abourahme (2015)

This article illustrates well shifts in both urban research and in the journal towards more interdisciplinary approaches, while also confirming IJURR’s commitment to publish articles that combine original empirical research with theoretical exploration. It brings political theory into dialogue with urban studies. It is innovative both conceptually and methodologically, and it offers a variety of material, ranging from archival resources to visuals, in an engaging prose. MD

Rethinking Urban Epidemiology: Natures, Networks and Materialities
Meike Wolf (2016)

Urban epidemiology is one of the most complex and intractable dimensions to the corporeal and material dimensions to urban space. In the contemporary city we encounter not only the return of old diseases such as drug-resistant strains of tuberculosis, but also the rise of new threats such as zoonoses or hitherto overlooked pathogens such as the Zika virus. The anthropologist Meike Wolf’s paper takes the journal in a new direction through an engagement with the material ‘unboundedness’ of cities, connecting with fields such as multi-species ethnographies and emerging bio-security discourses. The paper outlines a critical research agenda that is likely to be of increasing significance for urban studies as the twenty-first century unfolds. MG

Reappearance of the Public: Placemaking, Minoritization and Resistance in Detroit
Alesia Montgomery (2016)

When this paper was submitted I was immediately struck by its elegant and incisive mode of exposition. The argument provides a powerful counterpoint to bland conceptions of ‘placemaking’ that ignore the hidden histories and contradictory impulses behind architecture, planning, and urban design. Alesia Montgomery’s research draws on a highly nuanced historiography of race and racism in American society that lends extra weight to the analysis of contemporary developments. The city of Detroit serves as a vibrant focal point for a particular history of socio-economic exclusion that also provides an entry point into a series of broader questions. MG

Toward the Networked City? Translating Technological ideals and Planning Models in Water and Sanitation Systems in Dar es Salaam
Jochen Monstadt and Sophie Schramm (2017)

An emerging focus in the pages of IJURR since at least the late 1990s has been the theme of urban infrastructure. This interest in infrastructure mirrors a wider interest in the material complexities of urban space. In this path-breaking article Jochen Monstadt and Sophie Schramm explore the wider applicability of models of modernity derived from the global North in the context of the highly fragmentary infrastructure systems that have developed in the African city of Dar es Salaam. They combine a nuanced conceptual perspective with extensive fieldwork to produce one of the strongest papers that I have seen on the question of water, urbanization, and infrastructure systems in the global South. As editors we often exhort authors to better integrate the theoretical and empirical dimensions to their work: here is an excellent illustration of how to do it. MG

Informal Housing in the United States
Noah J. Durst and Jake Wegmann (2017)

In urban studies, there have been numerous calls to ‘think from the South’. While this endeavor has sometimes been misunderstood as the task of locating research and theorization in the global South, for many of us at IJURR, this has meant the interesting, albeit complicated, work of paying attention to the conceptual frameworks and methodological imperatives generated by traditions of scholarship rooted in the histories and institutions of the global South. It has also meant ‘provincializing’ Western urbanism by demonstrating how concepts generated ‘elsewhere’ can provide new understandings of seemingly familiar processes and forms. Such is the case with this paper and its expansion of the concept of informality. The authors extend the already rich debates about informality by pinpointing the institutional infrastructures through which informal housing is produced and governed in the United States. In doing so, they give us an interesting line of sight that cuts across global North and global South. AR