Agglomeration and assemblage

Agglomeration and assemblage


Written by:

Kim Dovey, Fujie Rao and Elek Pafka

First Published:

19 Jul 2017, 12:00 am

Agglomeration and assemblage

Agglomeration and assemblage: Deterritorialising urban theory

A new Critical Commentary by Kim Dovey, Fujie Rao and Elek Pafka is now available online


In two recent papers Storper and Scott have sought to counter the rise of assemblage thinking in urban studies, suggesting it is indeterminate, jargon-ridden and particularist – that it lacks a critique of power. Against such approaches they propose the ‘nature of cities’ as an ‘urban land nexus’ driven by the economics of agglomeration. In this paper we respond, largely agreeing on jargon yet arguing that assemblage is a form of critical urban thinking that holds potential for a general but open theory of urbanity. We also suggest that many parts of Scott and Storper’s own work are entirely compatible with assemblage thinking, including concepts such as urban ‘bundling’ and ‘buzz’. Agglomeration theory explains why cities emerge and grow where they do but is weak on issues of scale and morphology. Assemblage thinking embodies capacities to expand urban studies through a better engagement with multi-scale relations, gearing the economics of agglomeration to the study of urban morphology; understanding cities in terms of their possible futures as well as actual conditions. We call for more open and productive interfaces between research disciplines and approaches – a deterritorialisation of urban theory. The choice is not between agglomeration and assemblage, it is between the singular and the multiple.

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