Urban Theory Reading Group

Convened by Dr David Waite

The purpose of the urban theory reading group is to introduce or reinforce the importance of urban theory within urban studies. The basis of contributions to the group may be capacious, reflecting the nature of the urban studies literature; however, urban phenomena – however that is justified or framed – provides the central focus.

The group aims to be instructive for PGR students, who may be looking to grapple with theory (perhaps for the first time) and how it relates to empirical material; and for staff, who may benefit from a re-engagement with theoretical contributions and perspectives.

It is an interesting time to be re-engaging with urban theory. One avenue through this recalls the contributions made by Scott and Storper (2014) and Storper and Scott (2016) who sought to claim foundations for urban theory in terms of the nature of agglomeration (as a patterned spatial form, hinging on the “urban land nexus”).

This appeal to a central foundation of the urban rubs against other renditions of urban theory – particular taking the form of assemblage approaches, postcolonial critiques and planetary urbanization. Though drawn along particular economic or economic geography concerns, the debates here serve to exemplify the contested nature of urban theory and what urban theory should aim to achieve (or perhaps perform) in explanatory terms.

To date, reading groups have been held on the Harding and Blokland (2014) primer on urban theory, and on Lefebvre's notion of the right to the city (as given in a paper by Purcell (2013)).

Upcoming Reading Group Events

Details forthcoming 

Previous Reading Group Events 

April 28, 2023 - Colin McFarlane (Durham) – Editor presentation of Global Urbanism

March, 2023 - Tim Dixon (Oxford/Reading) and Mark Tewdwr-Jones (UCL) – author presentation of Urban Futures

August, 2022 - Nick Bailey and João Porto de Albuquerque - Urban big data and theory

Kitchin R (2014) Big Data, new epistemologies and paradigm shifts. Big Data & Society, 1(1) - https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/2053951714528481

Kandt J and Batty M (2021) Smart cities, big data and urban policy: Towards urban analytics for the long run. Cities, 109 


June, 2022 - Graeme Young: Theorising the urban global south
Randolph and Storper (2022) Is urbanisation in the Global South fundamentally different? Comparative global urban analysis for the 21st century. Urban Studies, online first. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1177%2F00420980211067926

May, 2022 - Alasdair Stewart: Focus on "planetary urbanisation"

Brenner, N, Schmid, C (2015) Towards a new epistemology of the urban? City: Analysis of Urban Trends, Culture, Theory, Policy, Action, 19(2–3): 151–182. https://doi.org/10.1080/13604813.2015.1014712 

Ruddick S, Peake L, Tanyildiz GS, Patrick D. (2018) Planetary urbanization: An urban theory for our time? Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 36(3): 387-404. doi:10.1177/0263775817721489

March, 2022 - Craig Gurney: Chicago School

June, 2021 - Bilge Serin: Lefebvre
April, 2021 - Alan Harding: Author presentation of: "Urban Theory: A Critical Introduction to Power, Cities and Urbanism in the 21st Century"