Remaking Cities: Regeneration, Social Justice and Competitive Urbanism
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Division: Eugene Lang College The New School for Liberal Arts
Department: Urban Studies
Course Number: LURB 4508
Course Format: Seminar
Location: NYC campus
Permission Required: Yes
Cities throughout the world now operate in an increasingly globalized and competitive context. Attempts to promote growth and regenerate ailing urban economies no longer take place predominantly at the scale of the local (if they ever did) but are inherently transnational enterprises which place cities into direct competition with one another for a strategic niche in the global hierarchy. At the same time, politicians, planners and policy-makers across the globe are drawing on a new arsenal of cultural, aesthetic and spectacular initiatives which emphasize place-based development projects grounded in processes of consumption over traditional industrial recruitment and retention programs aimed at a range of productive economic sectors. As a result, contemporary cities look dramatically different from their predecessors. Indeed, the postindustrial metropolis, with its architecturally spectacular downtown, walking waterfronts, refurbished historic neighborhoods, glitzy shopping districts, eye-catching galleries and museums, innovative inner city parks and sports complexes, has become a commodified package that is promoted and marketed worldwide. At the same time these material remakings have been accompanied by equally dramatic shifts in the nature of urban politics. The globalized city is governed, managed and structured according to new competitive agendas informed by the logics of individualism and consumerism which have given rise to new conceptions of the role of cities and the meaning of the urban experience. Not surprisingly, all this has had significant impacts on the every-day lives of people in these cities and raised important questions about the nature of urban citizenship, the construction of community and local democratic process. This course will offer students the opportunity to explore the causes and consequences of the latest trends in ‘competitive’ urbanism – paying particular attention to the mechanisms of urban redevelopment, politics and planning – by focusing on the transformation of cities across the globe from New York to Johannesburg, Paris to Rio de Janeiro. The course will provide an overview of the rise of the ‘competitive city’ and examine the rapid dissemination of a range of strategies and tools that planners, policy-makers and developers employ in the pursuit of competitive advantage (from large-scale development projects, themed place-making and the creation of ‘imagineered’ urban landscapes, through the coordinated application of architecture and urban design enabled by the use of public-private partnerships as forms of civic management and urban governance; sophisticated promotional campaigns employing mechanisms of representation, expectation and experience manipulation, facilitated by the techniques of city marketing and urban branding; targeted investments in sports, the arts, culture and ‘heritage’ industries, designed to promote tourism, leisure spending and other forms of consumption; bidding for and orchestrating hallmark events and global spectacle and so on). We will also explore emerging challenges and contradictions arising from variants of neoliberalism and other forms of post-democratic politics increasingly associated with these forms of urbanism, examining questions of social justice and urban citizenship and the concerns of community formation, looking at real cases to understand what has occurred in specific contexts.