This special issue publication series on ‘Comparative Urbanism’ is collaborative project of students and teachers from the Geography Department of Ghent University in Belgium. As a part of the examination for the master-level course ‘Urbanization in Global Perspective’, students were required to compare two randomly appointed cities with one another. While they had to relate to a number of issues that have been discussed during the course’s lectures (e.g. spectacular urbanization, socio-spatial inequality and global connectivity), they were free to decide how to embed their comparison within some of the current debates on comparative urbanism in the academic literature. The most original and best quality papers were eventually selected and re-written in order to suit The Proto City’s guidelines for blogposts.
A lot is currently being written by scholars about how to bridge the ‘imaginative’ divide between (cities in) the Global North and the Global South. Does it make sense to depart from ‘Northern’ theories when looking at urban transformations within the Global South? Could one do it the other way around as well, using insights from the Global South as analytical lenses through which phenomena in the Global North can be analysed? What is the added value of bottom-up, or difference-finding studies, vis-à-vis studies that try to find overlapping similarities and structures in order to build on a wider applicable urban theory?
Since the students that have contributed to this series have very different backgrounds (e.g. architecture, political science, sociology and development studies), they each have a very particular and original angle through which they look at ‘their’ cities. While some highlight similar historical trajectories, others focus more on the contemporary embeddedness in global-financial urban networks. In the next couple of weeks, we will publish a new article of the series every Monday. Stay tuned!