Leaving post-industrial urban studies behind?

Jason Luger*, Tilman Schwarze

*Corresponding author for this work

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In this forum paper, we question the lasting utility of the framework and language of urban post-industrialism. We suggest that, while such conceptual metaphors are useful to understand economic, social and cultural change at specific times, post-industrial may obscure more nuanced explorations of the realities of today's multi-faceted, planetary, and digitally-mediated urban processes and socio-spatialities. Post-industrial speaks primarily to dramatic and violent changes that happened in the twentieth century, and continue to happen today, but, we suggest, the story is more complex. Specifically, we bring forward a few critiques of the post-industrial, that a revitalized agenda might begin to move beyond. Firstly, is that industrialisation is always-ongoing, and not something that can be fixed into place. Where it is absent, it continues to haunt. Second, is that over-use of post-industrial as a descriptor and critical lens can lead to territorial, class, racial/ethnic, political, and world-regional stigmatizations. In particular, it can reinforce colonialist hierarchies of prototype Northern/Western cities versus those in the majority world, and certain assumptions about linearity and path dependencies about industrial trajectories. Thirdly, we suggest post-industrial frameworks can calcify gender binaries and obscure counterhegemonies and fluidities, especially given the realities of global urban industrial labour today. Finally, we propose that moving beyond the post-industrial might open more radical space for vibrant art and politics, from cross-spectrum alliances and solidarities (like revitalized labour movements), to joyful artistic expression that transcends rust, decay, and ruin. We do not propose throwing away post-industrialism, but rather, to invite other possibilities to coexist.
Original languageEnglish
JournalDialogues in Urban Research
Early online date8 Feb 2024
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 8 Feb 2024

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