Feminizing Urban Studies

Last week Marguerite van den Berg organized the excellent workshop, “Feminizing the City?” at the University of Amsterdam with Linda Peake, who also gave a lecture. The workshop focused on the (lack of) overlap between urban studies and feminist theory, and Willem Boterman and I were the discussants.

During the workshop, Linda Peake spoke about her important critique (also in work with Martina Reiker) of Neil Brenner and Christian Schimd’s work on planetary urbanization, which is itself a critique of the notion that we now live in an Urban Age. Notably, Peake stresses the connection between theory and the conditions of knowledge production. In a very practical sense, it’s difficult to have a total theory of the urban when academia itself is severely limited, both in terms of being Anglo- and American-centric, and being rather myopically centered in the global North. Similarly, Peake and Reiker argue that urban studies has historically been bifurcated into studies of cities in the global South, in relation to development, and studies of cities in the global North, in relation to modernization, and that the scholars from each body of literature don’t talk to each other.

In a future post, I hope to discuss the consequences of these kinds of omissions and bifurcations. I particularly am thinking about how it’s possible to know something at a planetary scale, and how much is unknown about planetary scales. For now, I want to point to Marguerite’s excellent book, Gender in the Post-Fordist Urban, which was also launched during the workshop, and in which she analyzes the instrumental use of gender in urban planning and policy, for example in how cities sell themselves. I can’t recommend the book highly enough for anyone interested in cities, and in the politics of the overlap between gender and the capitalist marketing of cities. On a theoretical level, it also forcefully counters the tendency of (non-feminist) urban studies theorists to treat gender as an add-on, or a something that is not integral to theories of the city.

Update: You can now also read about the workshop on the Dress and Work project blog.

marguerite_gender in the post-Fordist urban