Virtual Special issues

Urban Studies Virtual Collections

Urban Studies is pleased to announce that the Virtual Special Issue entitled Latin American Cities edited by Catalina Ortiz is now available online.  

Scholarship on urban Latin America is prolific and multifaceted. The region not only is the most urbanised in the world but also the most unequal. This distinctive feature makes it rich and relevant for urban theory-making. This essay introduces a Virtual Special Issue (VSI) on urban studies in Latin America that showcases a selection of articles from the journal’s archives from the mid-1970s to the present. It aims to locate urban studies scholarship in/about the region in the context of democratisation struggles and their urban implications. On the one hand, it traces the intellectual trajectories of some key urban debates bringing attention to their disciplinary, methodological and theoretical underpinnings. The VSI identifies four well-established strands: (1) Disputes around local governance; (2) Anatomy of uneven urbanisation; (3) Housing provision landscapes and infrastructural assemblages; and (4) Economic geographies and variegated gentrifications. On the other hand, it delineates a broad picture of the emergent debates and thematic, methodological and geographical absences in the pages of this journal. Through this analysis, the editorial concludes by identifying some potentially productive future directions for research.


Other recent VSIs include:

Urban Studies in India across the Millennial Turn: Histories and Futures edited by Karen Coelho and Ashima Sood

The millennial turn saw a distinct efflorescence in scholarship on urban India. This essay introduces a Virtual Special Issue on urban studies in India that showcases a selection of articles from the journal’s archives. It traces the disciplinary, thematic and methodological shifts that have marked this millennial turn. On the one hand, the social science of the urban has had a statist bent, reacting to the policy focus on cities as growth engines in the post-liberalisation era. On the other hand, critical urban studies has brought attention to the unregulated, deregulated, unplanned and unintended city produced by dynamic processes of informality acting overtly or covertly against the state’s neoliberal agendas. This introductory essay aims to examine the ways this interplay has unfolded both in the pages of this journal and elsewhere. It locates the Virtual Special Issue selection within a broader review of the state of scholarship in Indian urban studies and marks out areas for productive interventions in the future study of Indian cities.


Urban debates for climate change after the Kyoto Protocol edited by Yong Tu

From the catalogue of environment-related publications in Urban Studies, this paper identifies and reviews 12 thought-provoking articles that have addressed the issue of climate changes and cities from complementary perspectives. It argues that to advance a holistic understanding of urban environmental issues it is necessary to embrace a broad multi-disciplinary approach, particularly as moving towards low carbon urban living will require integrated social, political and technical adaptation processes. Ultimately, the paper advances a forward-looking research agenda that extends beyond consideration of how to improve urban environmental performance to include evaluation of how urban consumers, firms and local government endeavour to achieve sustainable urban development.


Reclaiming Public Space: Virtual Special Issue edited by Judit Bodnar

By the 1990s the mood of critical urban analysts once again became pessimistic and the end of public space was announced authoritatively. Mike Davis warned that Los Angeles was “inexorably […] mov[ing] to extinguish its last real public spaces, with all of their democratic intoxications, risks, and undeodorized odors” (Davis, 1992: 180). In a similar vein, writing from New York, Michael Sorkin (1992) concluded that the city was becoming a theme park. In the unambiguously entitled edited volume Variations on a Theme Park: The New American City and the End of Public Space Sorkin described how, along with non-place urban sprawls, the new urbanity was consciously and programmatically preserving and recreating the bare minimum of urban form devoid of the formal and social mix that had once made cities lively and political; “there are no demonstrations in Disneyland” (xv) he famously remarked. Traditional public space was being co-opted in the process of ageographical generalized urbanization.


Urban Studies at 50: A Virtual Special Issue with a Difference

It has become common for academic journals to mark significant anniversaries by putting together virtual special issues. The usual procedure is to collect the most cited articles published in the journal over the years. The Editors of Urban Studies have decided to mark the journal’s 50th birthday by putting together a virtual special issue with a difference. Although citation rates are a significant marker of the importance of an article, they are not the only measure, and not necessarily the best one either, particularly with regard to an interdisciplinary journal such as Urban Studies. Different disciplines have different citation practices, for example, and citing has moreover changed over time; certainly, a strong case can be made that contemporary academic writing has become plagued by what might be termed “citation inflation”… A high citation rate may furthermore be no guarantor of quality; some articles are frequently cited either because they are ‘wrong’ or because they offer an analysis that is considered contentious......


'The shitty rent business': What's the point of land rent theory edited by Callum Ward and Manuel B Aalbers

In this introduction to a virtual special issue on land rent, we sketch out the history of land rent theory, encompassing classical political economy, Marx’s political economy, the marginalist turn and subsequent foundations for urban economics, and the Marxist consensus around rent theory during geography’s spatial turn. We then overview some of the contemporary strands of literature that have developed since the break down of this consensus, namely political economy approaches centred on capital-switching, institutionalism of various stripes, and the rent gap theory. We offer a critical urban political economy perspective and a particular set of arguments run through the review: first, land is not the same as capital but has unique attributes as a factor of production which require a separate theorisation. Second, since the 1970s consensus around land rent and the city dissipated, the critical literature has tended to take the question of why/how the payment exists at all for granted and so has ignored the particular dynamics of rent arising from the idiosyncrasies of land. Amongst the talk of an ‘Anthropocene’ and ‘planetary urbanisation’ it is surprising that the economic fulcrum of the capitalist remaking of geography has fallen so completely off the agenda. It is time to bring rent back into the analysis of land, cities and capitalism.


For a full list of Virtual Special Issues published in Urban Studies, please see here