Friday, January 22, 2016

CfP: Cities Beyond City Limits

Urban History Association Conference (Chicago, 13–16 October 2016)

Organizers: Garrett Dash Nelson (Geography, University of Wisconsin–Madison) and Samuel Kling (History, Northwestern University)

Comment: Prof. Jon C. Teaford (History, Purdue University)

Scholars are well aware of the geographic problem of defining the city as an object of analysis. Research on urban topics often begins by defining what exactly is meant by the city at hand: a municipality defined by administrative jurisdiction, a Standard Metropolitan Statistical Area defined by commuter and economic circulation, a bio-ecological region defined by metabolic interactions, or something else entirely.
However, the challenge of determining the city's edges is not just a descriptive and interpretive problem. It is also a problem with its own history, the subject of considerable contestation as cities have grown, shrunk, and transformed across different temporal and geographic contexts. Historical debates over the city’s physical extent can therefore best be understood as carriers of politics, ideology, and power, rather than as the dispassionate products of empirical analysis.
This panel seeks to explore historical accounts of cases in which definitions of the geographic limits of cities (both specific cities and cities in general) have been deployed in the service of ideological aims—whether radical, reformist, or reactionary. What are the different political, social, cultural, and intellectual interests that have motivated such attempts to conceive of a city beyond the simple lines of the city limits? How can historical debates about urban borders offer new perspectives on developments such as suburbanization, metropolitan fragmentation, and regional governance? What broader currents in cultural and political history can we detect in discussions of cities’ boundaries?
We welcome papers that take a historical approach to such themes as annexation; metropolitan institution building; regionalism; core-periphery relations; the politics of federalism; theories of "global urbanism"; transportation, housing, and parks planning; the production of statistics and geographic data; mapping and representation; centralization and decentralization; metropolitan administration; and other topics.
To propose a paper, please submit a 250-word abstract and a CV to Garrett Nelson and Samuel Kling by 19 February 2016.
More information about UHA 2016 may be found at

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