Urban Anthropology

For open discussion related to the anthropology of cities and urban space.

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Urban anthropology addresses the social and cultural complexities of cities and urban life. Although generally seen as a subset of socio-cultural anthropology, urban anthropology overlaps with many other areas, such as economic, political and environmental anthropology, human geography, architecture, globalization, transnationalism, immigration, urbanization, and development studies. Due to their expansive size, population density and often multicultural nature, urban spaces provide distinct methodological challenges for anthropologists and ethnographers.

It is hoped that this group will foster beneficial discussion to enrich the practice of urban anthropology and to highlight the importance of understanding human societies of any scale. Please feel free to join and contribute.

Discussion Forum

Call for Abstracts - crossing borders conference

Started by Aimilia Voulvouli yesterday.

Investigation of Privacy and Space in contemporary art

Started by Nicole Rademacher Mar 9, 2013.

Athens: Social Meltdown VIDEO

Started by Dimitris Dalakoglou Sep 30, 2012.

Material Culture/Anthropological Literature on a specific Ethnographic Area? 4 Replies

Started by Jannik Friberg Lindegaard. Last reply by Tracey Pahor Feb 3, 2012.

Background music in the public space, the "horror vacui" of perception. 4 Replies

Started by luca silvestri. Last reply by Rachelle Annechino Jul 4, 2011.

Getting Physical in the Field 2 Replies

Started by John McCreery. Last reply by paulrchalmers Jun 18, 2011.

Weimar Cities? 2 Replies

Started by John McCreery. Last reply by John McCreery Dec 28, 2010.

Urban Anthropology-related blogs, sites and publications. Send me a link to add your blog to this list!

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Comment by Hannah Knox on November 2, 2012 at 10:22pm

Hi Samantha,

If you are interested in looking at planning from an anthropological perspective one good place to start would be James Scott's Seeing like a State. You might also find it useful to look at the anthropology of development literature. Whilst not exactly about urban planning it should give you a sense of what perspective or angle you might want to take on understanding urban planning from an anthropological perspective.

I haven't worked with architects or planners before but I have done anthropological fieldwork with people trying to develop cities through economic regeneration in Manchester, UK; with road engineers and local government officials in charge of local economic development in Peru and am currently doing fieldwork with people who are trying to tackle climate change through urban development policies back in the UK. I'm also supervising a PhD student who's working on the experiences of people living in a community which has undergone 'regeneration' - contact me off list if you'd like me to put you in contact with her.

Comment by Michael E. Smith on November 2, 2012 at 5:54pm

I'm not a planner and I am not deeply involved in that field. I only feed around the edges of the planning literature, but I have seen lots of material that seems relevant to what you are asking. Try searching on terms like "participatory planning", "charettes", "informal planning", or "generative planning". And, if you want to get into a literature that is very big and (much of it) quite clueless anthropologically, try "social sustainability" "community resilience" or "urban resilience". For some anthropological work, maybe some of the papers in City and Society 4(2) and 5(1) (on generative planning) are relevant

Comment by Chelsea L. Booth on November 2, 2012 at 5:10pm


There was a PhD student at Rutgers doing very similar research (although her project was based in southern France). Send me a personal message and I'll give you her name.



Comment by Samantha Hyler on November 2, 2012 at 5:07pm

Hi -- thanks for your link John.  Michael, I'm posting it here because I am an anthropologist working with urban issues and have worked with urban planners before. I think that in terms of 'sustainability' projects, which are quite common in urban development now, the social dimensions are often not fully developed (also was and is my work). I think that anthropology has a lot to contribute to urban planning, and the cooperation between urban planners, architects, and anthropologists (among others) is quite fruitful to realize many of the visions of sustainable, multicultural, and tolerant cities (how do we plan a 'sustainable future' without talking about the social aspects?). Anthropology of course has a very different perspective to cities than urban planning, so I am curious is there is any other similar research going on. Though I think this kind of collaboration is still few and far between. I would be happy to hear of any research being done or published by planners or other practitioners, Michael.  I'm reading from urban studies, geography, as well as cultural perspectives. I'm very much interested in a multidisciplinary perspective, so any relevant literature would be very helpful for my research.

Comment by Michael E. Smith on November 2, 2012 at 4:35pm

Samantha - There is a HUGE literature on this, but you have to get outside of anthropology. Why are you posting on an anthro site? Get in touch with planners - they are the ones doing this research.

Comment by John McCreery on November 2, 2012 at 3:59pm

Samantha, you might be interested in the way in which the Yokohama Graduate School of Architecture (Y-GSA) presents itself.

Comment by Samantha Hyler on November 2, 2012 at 3:48pm

Please excuse if anyone has asked or posted before, I haven't read all the comments on this group. I'm doing my doctoral research on urban/city regeneration and renewal from an anthropological perspective. I wonder if anyone has done any research on, or has suggestions for literature pertaining to cultural planning, participatory design, or even cultural analysis within city planning? I'm curious specifically about how social aspects are being incorporated into urban planning practices (this buzz word of social sustainability), and I'm curious to what level have culturally/socially trained specialists (who maybe call themselves a anthropologist, sociologist, ethnographer, cultural analyst...) are working with urban planning. And of course what they are doing. Any suggestions or help would be very much appreciated!  Thanks

Comment by Sheyma Buali on February 9, 2012 at 1:21pm

Thanks Keith, that's very supportive! Very much appreciated

Comment by Keith Hart on February 8, 2012 at 11:51pm

Thanks, Sheyma. I have posted the link on my Facebook page and sent it to interested friends.

Comment by Sheyma Buali on February 8, 2012 at 11:42pm

Someone Clap For Me is a feature documentary film about the lives and work of contemporary Ugandan poets and hip hop artists. With more than forty-four ethnic groups, each with its own unique language and culture, Uganda has various rich oral traditions, which is still influential in people's lives despite the forces of globalization and urbanization. This film tells the story of how poetry is resurfacing in Uganda in the form of open mic events and hip hop music.


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