Questioning Urban Modernity

May 18, 2012, Location: ARCAM Architectuurcentrum Amsterdam (Prins Hendrikkade 600), Time: 9am – 7pm.

Keynote Speaker: Prof. Jennifer Robinson (Department of Geography, University College London)

Modernity has since long formed a key concept in attempts to capture what is distinctive about city life. It has been constitutive of the way in which western cities have been designed, described and marketed since the nineteenth century, and it has formed a focal point around which scholars, writers and poets, filmmakers, architects, urban planners, travelers and many others have been articulating their visions of cities. By the turn-of-the-century, the concept of modernity also started to inform a critical understanding of urban space and culture, yielding insights into class relations, commodity culture and the alienated mental state of the urban dweller in western metropolises such as Paris and Berlin.

Yet, urban life has changed a lot throughout the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, bringing forward new urban concepts such as the ‘megalopolis’, the ‘generic city’ or the ‘cybercity’. Globalization and technological innovation have transformed the design and social life of cities enormously. Beyond that, they have broadened our perspective for thinking about cities. It is therefore crucial to also rethink both the idea and the imagery of urban modernity. As the early history of the concept gave prominence to certain western cities, the Questioning Urban Modernity conference provides a space to rethink what the attribute ‘modern’ means in relation to twenty-first century ‘global’ cities. Can the modern be defined in such a flexible way that it would serve to better understand contemporary cities as diverse as Cape Town, New York, Pudong and New Delhi?

Bringing into consideration diverse expressions of urban modernity worldwide, the Questioning Urban Modernity conference uses globalization as a central paradigm for understanding contemporary urban space and culture. In doing so, it seeks to develop a more adequate understanding of urban modernity, which can enrich not only the scholarly analysis of today’s cities but also practices of urban development and interaction.

Organizers: Pedram Dibazar, Christoph Lindner, Miriam Meissner and Judith Naeff

The conference is free and open to the public. To register, please contact Judith Naeff (

(image: Jacques Tati on the set of Play Time, 1967)

call for papers

Conference Program

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