Difference is foundational to urban governance and urban life. This article—and the special issue—focuses analytically on the juxtaposition of multiple urban differences, and what happens especially in relation to urban authority and citizenship when such differences articulate with each other. This analytical work is based on a conceptual lens we call juxtacity, which is used to examine the origins, dynamics, and effects of urban divides, where urban divides are seen as active, situated domains in themselves that provide key opportunities for understanding and theorizing complex urban dynamics. The juxtacity approach emphasizes three key elements of difference and division—relationality, articulation, and productive co-constitution—and their differentiated effects. The focus is especially on but not limited to more overt, visible structures of urban domination, but consciously counters the ways in which more common sense hierarchies of power leave out a wide range of subtler forms of inequality, domination, exclusion, and violence. These latter are crucial for understanding differences and divisions in cities around the world. The juxtacity approach counters EuroAmerican-as-universal urban theory. Including cases from Africa and Asia, the special issue employs a form of openly comparative southern urbanism that contributes to the wider project of theorizing from the south/southeast.
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The focus here is on a broader set of inter-related social, cultural, political, and structural dimensions of difference captured through a combination of political economy and cultural politics sensibilities, rather than on the more agentive and affective dimensions of what Valentine and Sadgrove (2012), situated within the ‘geographies of encounter’ literature, refer to as ‘lived difference’. Thanks to Oren Yiftachel for flagging some of this literature. See also Aceska et al. (2019) on entanglements of urban diversity.
Originally, the planned collection also included several Latin American cases, but at a later stage, the respective authors were unable to participate. The intention was never to attempt a comprehensive ‘representation’ of south/southeastern urban experiences. Indeed, almost any context of urban division could have served as a relevant case to which a juxtacity approach could be applied. Both co-editors of this special issue are Africanist scholars, but at the outset, we saw great advantages in including a spectrum of geographical and conceptual positions, so generating our own productive ‘juxtaposition of differences’.
Both historically persistent and newer divides within cities of the global north have been critiqued in recent times through a wave of interconnected, popular global activisms. Examples include the Occupy movements that arose during the late 2000s to confront the brutal exigencies of capitalism; and, in mid-2020, the mass demonstrations across the USA and globally in the wake of the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, to protest sustained structural racism and its relationship to violent forms of governance.
This was initially very briefly conceived in the Concept Note for a collaborative conference on ‘Urban Property, Governance and Citizenship in the Global South’ in Copenhagen in June 2015 funded by the Danish Research Council. It was developed further during a small, focused writeshop in Copenhagen in May 2016. The authors of the present paper were key co-conveners of both events.
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The authors wish to express our sincere appreciation for the commitment, hard work and invaluable insights of all the contributors to this special issue, all the anonymous reviewers, and the editors at Urban Forum, especially Sophie Oldfield and Saskia Greyling. The long labour in arriving at the final publication of this special issue has been a truly rich collective experience.
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Hammar, A., Millstein, M. Juxtacity: an Approach to Urban Difference, Divide, Authority, and Citizenship. Urban Forum 31, 273–288 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12132-020-09402-8
- Urban difference
- Urban divide