Urban Studies

Organizers: David Pike and Malini Ranganathan

How are today’s cities portrayed in popular and visual culture? How can humanities-based approaches bolster our understanding of everyday urban life, urban planning, and urban texts?

The Urban Studies working group will focus on the discourses, imaginaries, and cultures of cities through a global, theoretical, and interdisciplinary perspective.

Our focus this semester will be on visuality and urban studies. We have planned two meetings:

  1. We will read and discuss a selection of texts on visuality and urban studies, led by Jordanna Matlon and Brandi Thompson Summers.
  2. We will plan an event out in DC, also related to visuality.


Spring 2016

February 23, 2016, 12-2pm in 228 Battelle-Tompkins

Please join us for our first Spring 2016 meeting, on Tuesday, February 23 from 12-2pm in 228 Battelle-Tompkins. The theme will be Visuality and the City: The Dialectics of Race and Space. We will begin our meeting by discussing two articles that examine visual culture and urban life, and draw on blackness as a social and aesthetic category. We are very fortunate to have both authors, Jordanna Matlon (SIS) and Brandi Thompson Summers (Viriginia Commonwealth University), present to moderate the conversation. We encourage participants to share ideas about their works in progress. Dr. Matlon and Dr. Summers are both urban sociologists whose research employs visual methods in quite distant contexts.


Urban Studies 1

Jordanna Matlon’s research is in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire.  Matlon is currently teaching two courses at SIS: Visuality in Africa and The Postcolonial City. Her article is titled “‘Il est garçon’: marginal Abidjanais masculinity and the politics of representation.”  Brandi Summers teaches in the Department of African American Studies at VCU. Her work examines Washington, DC, and a version of her article, “H Street and the aesthetics of cool,”  also appears in the new book “Capital Dilemma: Growth and Inequality in Washington, DC” edited by Derek Hyra (SPA) and Sabhiya Prince. Please come prepared to discuss both pieces. We have also attached a bonus optional article, “Harrowed landscapes: white ruingazers in Namibia and Detroit and the cultivation of memory” by George Steinmetz. 

We are ordering a light lunch for participants, so kindly RSVP by sending an email to Elizabeth Bersin <bersinef@gmail.com> by February 16th, 2016.


The readings can be accessed below. Please come prepared to discuss these great essays.


Fall 2015

Slumdog Action sceneNovember 17, 5:30: An informal discussion with Liza Weinstein following her talk on Dharavi at the Metropolitan Studies Center.

Interested in Joining?

Email David Pike dpike18@gmail.com or Malini Ranganathan malini@american.edu.