Overlooked Cities: Thinking and doing global urban studies differently

Dr Isolde de Villiers, Dr Yimin Zhao, and Dr Erwin Nugraha

Funding period: 1 April 2023 – 30 June 2024
Type of funding: Seminar Series

Host institutions: Faculty of Law, University of the Free State (South Africa), Resilience Development Initiative (Indonesia), School of Public Administration and Policy, Renmin University of China (China), Saw Swee Hock Southeast Asia Centre, London School of Economics and Political Science (United Kingdom), and Institute of Hazard, Risk and Resilience, Durham University (United Kingdom).
Dates: September 2023 (Bandung, Indonesia), October 2023 (Bloemfontein, South Africa), and 2024 (Durham, UK).
Lead organisers: Dr Isolde de Villiers (University of the Free State), Dr Yimin Zhao (Renmin University of China / University of Zurich), and Dr Erwin Nugraha (Resilience Development Initiative)
Team members: Dr Julia Wesely (University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna) and Dr Hanna A Ruszczyk (Durham University).
Contact: Dr Isolde de Villiers

Abstract: In this seminar series, we expand on the term “overlooked cities” to mark our collective critique of the indifferent views on cities that are marginalised, off-the-map and under-theorised due to the logic of domination and control. Post-colonial critiques have equipped us in the past few decades with an alternative lens to shift our focus from selected Western cities to the urban majority (Bhan, 2019; Robinson, 2006, 2022; Simone, 2010, 2018). With the term “overlooked cities”, or simply “overlookedness” we want to move a step further and capture new possibilities of articulating under-studied and under-represented spaces in global urban studies.

This series aims to elaborate on counter-overlooking as a critical pathway to contest historical and contemporary neglect of cities and their dynamics – especially in Africa and Asia. This entails to continue reflecting on the geographies of seeing, and we plan to bring together different groups of researchers, academics, practitioners and particularly early career researchers (ECRs) across South Africa, East and Southeast Asia, and West Europe, from diverse disciplines, to work together and in a gender-balanced way on shaping the global agenda of counter-overlooking the urban majority. We focus on three aspects particularly: firstly, the historical and contemporary debates on the connection between overlookedness and ordinariness; secondly, counter-overlooking as an emerging, collectivising agenda in global urban studies, especially around the knowledge-policy-justice nexus; thirdly, mapping the overlooked urban conditions and interrogating the ethos and praxis of overlooked/ness and their planning implications.

Three seminar events will be organised to embrace counter-overlooking as intellectual, political and ethical commitment towards the urban majority via a conference, ECRs workshop and mentoring, a colloquium, and an agenda-setting workshop. In so doing, we will be able to register the interconnections between the diverse urban experiences and unpack overlookedness as a form of neglect, redress knowledge imbalances in global urban studies, and reorient research and planning practices.

Project Website