How might the urban be articulated? What analytical work do concepts do in making cities legible and knowable?
Conceptual vocabularies for understanding urban governance, economic formations and everyday life have, in the last two decades, infiltrated urban research and policy accounts to reflect both the challenges and the opportunities facing urban futures. These concepts help us describe urban phenomena, but equally, and perhaps more so, they also do work to create productive connections and can allow us to think of new possibilities.
In November 2017 the British Academy held a workshop which brought together leading experts from the UK and overseas. It examined extant vocabularies on experiences of the urban habitat, governance of plural cities and plural economies, questioning how our understanding of the urban has changed over the past decades and the implications of that for the concepts used to comprehend the city of today.
Maan Barua, Lecturer in Human Geography at the University of Cambridge, and Thomas Jellis, British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Oxford, offer reflections on the workshop. They draw on the lively discussions that took place during the workshop, where each participant was invited to explore how their ascribed concept makes cities legible and knowable as well as the trajectory of this concept and where it might go.