Cities, Spaces and Politics



Matilde Córdoba Azcárate, Communication,

Faculty Members:

Elana Zilberg, Department of Communication

Keith Pezzoli, Department of Communication & Urban Planning

Gary Fields, Department of Communication

David Serlin, Department of Communication

Nancy Postero, Department of Anthropology

Pamela Radcliff, Department of History

Nancy Kwak, Department of History

Todd A. Henry, Department of History

Mathew Vitz, Department of History

Sharon Rose, Department of Linguistics

Isaac Martin, Department of Sociology

Wayne Yang, Ethnic Studies

Ameeth Vijay, Department of Literature


Graduate Students

Noni Brynjolson, PhD Candidate in Art History, Theory and Criticism

Paloma Checa-Gismero, PhD Candidate in Art History, Theory, and Criticism

Kevan K. Malone, PhD Candidate History

Belinda Ramirez, PhD Student, Sociocultural Anthropology

Erika Ramirez Mayoral, PhD Candidate Communications

Andy Sturm, PhD Student, Visual Arts

This faculty seminar group is organized around the theme Cities, Space and Politics. It is part of larger collective, interdisciplinary and interdepartmental research effort on the study of cities, and it builds on the research proposal “Claiming the City: Urban citizenship, Hybrid Cultures, & Governance in the Modern Era” recently submitted to the Sawyer Seminar Program of the Andrew Mellon Foundation (2016).

The group brings attention to the political and spatial components of the study of cities. It builds on the idea that the organization of urban space reflects, influences, and has the power to re-imagine contemporary uneven socio-cultural relations fostered by capitalism across the world. In the face of planetary urbanization and in the midst of socio-environmental crisis, cities are key sites of political organization and mobilization. They are places where emergent communities are formed, where old hierarchies are contested, and where other forms of governance are materialized and imagined. Cities cannot be understood without attention to their geopolitical position in the international arena, but they are also sites where geopolitics can be played otherwise; sites that while evincing the largely uneven geographical logics of neoliberal politics can also host and craft spaces of difference.

We work along three main interrelated thematic clusters: urban space, urban governance and urban political ecology. In the upcoming year, we will host three workshops to begin our exploration of these topics. A brief description of each thematic cluster is provided below.

  • Urban space and informality: the formal/informal dichotomy that inundates discourses and policies on cities, particularly from the so-called Global South; the heterogeneous ways in which informality is understood, practiced and/or appropriated by city dwellers, governments, urban planners and transnational institutions in order to make urban space and place.
  • Urban governance and claims to the city: the notion of urban citizenship as a socio-cultural and political process; specific forms of claiming political and economic rights in the urban space and inquire into both the potential and the limits of cities’ claims to assert. 
  • Urban political ecology, the built environment and infrastructure: the relationships between nature and the city through their expressions in the built environment; the embodied expressions of the power dynamics between city infrastructures (material, aqueous, electric, digital) and moments of socio-environmental crisis or disruption.

Conceived together, these thematic clusters allow us to transversally explore the role of spatial planning, landscape formation and organization in processes of citizenship formation; the active role that the material infrastructures of city life, and their disruption, pose in the way urban governance is exercised; as well as to pay attention to the different ways in which urban spaces are experienced and used to live with or contest established forms of power.


The calendar of activities will be soon online!

Faculty Groups