Urban Studies

Our interdisciplinary Urban Studies list examines how the built environment shapes behaviour and how to address complex problems like urban poverty, gentrification, climate change and educational inequality.

Subjects covered include urban planning, urban geography, urban policy, local governance and community-based participation, to offer a broad understanding of how urban dynamics shape both global interdependence and local spaces.

Urban Studies

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This chapter summarises the material of the book. It revisits some of its core theoretical themes, suggesting that there are openings within the fissures presented by rentier capitalism’s corrosion of community, and its densification of everyday life within dwindling space. The author argues that these openings incorporate alternative strategies of social reproduction that signal a ‘will to become’: a desire for generational reconfiguration borne from the erosion of ‘secure’ pathways to traditional kinship structures.

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This chapter looks at the ways that affective politics circulate within precarious rental accommodation, amidst constricted desires and difficulties in holding boundaries. Moving from a discussion of sexual constriction to feelings of ‘displaced sovereignty’ among respondents who are mistreated by, yet defend, controlling landlord behaviour, the chapter makes connections between capital’s constriction of embodied agency and the suppression of political subjectivity. In the second part of the chapter, the author explores the efforts of queer collective households to realign their homes with desire for social and political transformation, and the tensions and challenges experienced along the way.

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This chapter sets out the substantive content of the book and its broad themes of generational inequality, housing unaffordability and intimate relationships. The chapter includes an account of the author’s personal housing experiences and an overview of their critique of the nuclear family. The author connects the generational disjunctures posed by housing inequality to the diminishing political purchase of the home-owning family, identifying the precarious intimacies of the rented sector as fertile ground for exploring this historical moment in the history of capitalism. There is also a discussion of methods.

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This chapter explores the immaterial, affective and invisibilised labour that renting respondents carried out to replenish their relationships. It first focuses on the affective labour carried out by some social housing residents affected by intergenerational histories of racial capitalism – something the author terms ‘cumulative precarity’. The chapter goes on to explore the precarious relational labour involved in creating a sense of belonging in transient, privately rented homes, looking at relationships to home improvement and outdoor space.

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This chapter draws out the politics of renting respondents’ reproductive imaginaries, and how they speak to the different lives that can be made and remade amidst precarity. The chapter explores the assumed dependentlessness embedded in the transient temporalities and dense spaces of London renting, and examines the ways that both social and private tenants’ access to social reproduction is eroded by the formulation of housing as either investment or consumption. The final section of this chapter shifts focus from the reproduction of families to the reproduction of romantic relationships.

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Generation, Rent and Reproducing Relationships in London

In a time of increasing social and economic inequality, this book illustrates the precarity experienced by millennials facing both rising rents and wage stagnation. Featuring the voices of those with lived experience of precarity in north-east London, MacNeil Taylor focuses on intimacy, reproduction and emotional labour.

The book widens readers’ understanding of a middle-class ‘generation rent’ beyond those locked out of anticipated home ownership by considering both social and private renters. Situated in a feminist and queer theoretical framework, the book reveals the crucial role of British policy-making on housing, welfare, and immigration on deepening inter- and intra-generational inequality.

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This chapter provides a conceptual overview of the theoretical literature and research on precarity, intimacy and reproduction. It unites these concepts to formulate a theory of precarious intimacy as the ‘place between difficulty and desire’ in insecure rented accommodation. This chapter also offers a geo-historical account of the assetisation of housing in Britain and specifically in London, with emphasis on the imperialist politics undergirding this process.

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This chapter analyses the tactics of civil society organizations (CSOs) in three South African cities: Cape Town; Ekurhuleni, in the Gauteng City-Region; and Buffalo City. Drawing on work on data politics, data activism, and postcolonial STS, it uses the notion of ‘conjugated knowledge positions’ to open the reflection to data tactics as part of broader knowledge politics and envisage them as negotiated within a multi-actor game. Based on the case studies, the chapter shows how CSO tactics are positioned along a spectrum between data power and knowledge power. Extending work on CSO urban data politics, the authors conclude that South African CSOs have not rolled out and rolled back data-focused tactics as a consequence of moments of faith and disillusionment in the power of data, but rather mobilize data and other forms of knowledge according to local political contexts and interactional situations.

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Data, data everywhere. Never a moment’s rest. Never an aspect of life not potentially convertible into indicating something besides itself, never unable to participate in a gathering of factors whose particular compositions indicate future behavioral dispositions or scenarios. Data reworks the fundamental ontological status of things, as they no longer exist for themselves or for their actual and potential uses for others, but rather as placeholders, momentary points of reference for an assemblage of futurity always in the making. In other words, things are basins of attraction – to use cybernetic vernacular – that contribute to the singularity of specific events, personalities, and operations: a contributing factor to why events transpired in the way they did and what their likely implications are to be. The chapter explores some of the operations and ramifications of urban data technical apparatuses. What do they do, how do they function, and what, most significantly, is the terrain of the urban they both analyse and constitute? In what ways is the interoperability of knowledge increasingly predicated, or at least suggestive of, an entire domain of the inoperable, the feral; that is, procedures of knowing and doing that seem to come out of nowhere, that have no ready mechanisms of translation, no discernible relational frameworks.

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Ethics as practice in data-driven contexts refers to ways of organizing, acting with, relating to, or contesting data. The use of data within urban settings provides a number of specific contexts and practices, intersecting and transcending what might be considered ‘top-down’ or ‘bottom-up’ dynamics. Data-based governance, management, and civic engagement are deeply embedded into the function and experience of cities, raising issues of justice that require considerations of meaning that cut across scale, since issues of justice are temporally dispersed and contextually specific. Ethnographic methods can surface a range of possibilities for understanding issues of data justice across these contexts and scales. Areas of practice with ethical and justice implications include: commercial practices of data-based companies; participatory and civic data-gathering and engagement processes, including data activism; and community- or commons-based data governance strategies. A future data ethics can move away from responsive actions set within frameworks set by existing powerful actors and towards attention to implications across scale and time, producing and drawing from dynamics of resistance, resilience, and community strength. This chapter outlines a multiscalar data ethics in practice, using examples to illustrate the processes of trust and autonomy modelled through practices of ethics including governance, management, and civic engagement.

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