Urban and Urbanization

Planetary urbanization in ruins: Provisional theory and Ireland’s crisis

Brenner and Schmid’s planetary urbanization thesis has been a tipping point in recent debates regarding the conceptual directions of urban studies. Various interventions have raised questions about whether urban theories and concepts can, and indeed whether they should, be transferrable across diverse contexts, and which processes count as constitutive rather than merely the outcome of urbanization. While planetary urbanization opens up new questions for urban theory, critics have highlighted the problematic ways in which the epistemology may close off difference. In this paper, I argue for the need to take a provisional approach to urban theory, particularly in conceptualizing post-crisis urban transformations. Firstly, I put recent theories of planetary urbanization into dialogue with what I call provisional approaches to reflect on the relationship between theory and empirical context in addressing post-crisis urbanization and urban politics. I then argue that urban ruins offer a useful lens to consider these questions because of how theories of ruination emphasize the importance of place in the production of space. The ruin, unlike other forms of abstract space, is intrinsically dependent on local social and historical context in which it was produced. Following this, I draw on an analysis and discussion of ‘ghost estates’ and contestations over the reuse of vacant spaces in the period following Ireland’s crisis to illustrate how difference is generative of post-crisis urbanization and urban politics.

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Volume 36 Issue 3

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