Summer School in Global Studies and Critical Theory


Bologna • June 24 – July 5, 2019



If yesterday the city was recognized as a distinctive and bounded type of settlement whose qualities resided in its sounds, rhythms and textures, today what “cities” or the “urban” are can no longer be taken for granted (see Robinson,2015).

Major shifts in urban studies have emerged through a new phase of planetary urbanization. A key manifestation of this phase is the emergence in the global South of new forms of urban landscapes of which the mega-city or meta-region phenomenon is a privileged instantiation, as Ananya Roy’s work has suggested.  Typical of this phase is also the offshore city, a physical, infrastructural and spatial assemblage which operates on the basis of internal self-containment.

Elsewhere, including in the North, cities are no longer one locality, but a complex of trans-localities, an entangled junction of multiple spatialities (see McGuirk, 2015). They are increasingly understood to be structures of feeling and affect, logistical sites and circulatory systems through which forms and bodies, goods and materials are moving and life itself is lived. They are sites of experimentation with shifting forms of governance and multi-scalar networking, while the development of urban social movements continually reframes the meaning and the scope of the “right to the city.” (Henri Lefebvre, 1968)

The 2019 Summer School will revisit early twenty-first century urban landscapes in light of these shifts. Particular attention will be paid to the extent to which their production is entangled with the movements of global capital and the vagaries of the world’s financial markets, at a time of enhanced computing and technological power, rising inequalities, escalating changes of the internal dynamics of the Earth System (see Kruth, 2018) and widespread popular authoritarianism. Of crucial importance will be the analysis of neoliberal policies based on partition from the poor city, of slum infrastructures both carrying the aftermaths, very often, of colonial violence; and of cities of extraction disconnected from histories of industrialisation. These broken landscapes, distorted by crime as well as by heterogeneous forms of public and private violence, are also often places of conviviality, unpredictable encounters, solidarity and unexpected forms of urban communing (see for example de Boeck, 2017).  To state the obvious, if the ancient polis was the origin of the concept of the political, we will be asking: what ideas of the political emerge in contemporary cityscapes?

Early twenty-first century urban landscapes are shaped by biophysical and chemical processes that transport and transform materials and energy and thus provide the conditions necessary for life. They are made and remade by changes in the climate system, including oceans and seas, wind, heat, precipitations and the atmosphere (see Derickson, 2017). Cities will be apprehended as aqueous territories capable of generating and guiding design with the environment as an active participant in the process Port cities and littoral cities in particular will be read from  their ocean edge, the materialities of their sea as well as its histories of slavery and maritime imperialism.

Finally we will pay attention to early twenty-first urban landscapes as much as works of the imagination as works of material social construction. Changing our emphasis to focus on flows and movement, migration and mediation more than on structures and settlements, we will assess the extent to which urban dwellers combine the reality of motion and the desire for stability.

Up to 40 participants will be selected and required to attend all plenary lectures, the two morning courses, and at least one afternoon class per week.

The Academy and other sponsors offer several grants covering fees, accomodation and/or travel.