Urban Anthropology

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

Members: 420
Latest Activity: Mar 3


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

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.

The exclusion of fishermen from the sea (Durban. South Africa) 4 Replies

Started by Sjoerd van Grootheest. Last reply by Sjoerd van Grootheest Nov 22, 2010.

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

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Comment Wall

Comment by Michael R Duke on June 3, 2009 at 6:18pm
Hi Francine,
Thanks for starting this group. I would like to include the journal 'City and Society" ( to the growing list of resources. City and Society is the official publication of the Society for Urban, National, Transnational/Global Anthropology, which is a section of the American Anthropological Association.
Comment by eka avaliani on October 5, 2009 at 10:01pm
Thank you for writing. Indeed, I am interesting in urban anthropology but in Ancient period in Ancient Near Eastern and Mediterranean settings and right now working on that project- Conception of “Eternal Capitals” – From Ancient Cosmopolitan Cities to Modern Megalopolis.
Best, Eka
Comment by John McCreery on October 5, 2009 at 10:04pm
Eka, would it be prying too much to ask which cities you are working on?
Comment by eka avaliani on October 5, 2009 at 10:19pm
Thank you for comments, I am focused on the project - Conception of “Eternal Capitals” – From Ancient Cosmopolitan Cities to Modern Megalopolis. And open for further discussions, at least without any grouping.
Comment by Francine Barone on October 5, 2009 at 10:25pm
Eka, can you be more specific?
Comment by Erica Borgstrom on November 18, 2009 at 7:39pm
Call for Abstracts - Informal Settlements: Constructing Everyday Life
part of the Society of Latin American Studies 46th Annual Confernce, 9-10 April 2010 in Bristol, UK

Low-income urban dwellers are responsible for the majority of all new housing construction in the cities of Latin America. Much of this takes place in informal settlements which range widely in terms of density, typology, infrastructure and levels of legality. Through time many such settlements develop and consolidate as householders and communities engage with their material environments in a variety of physical and social ways. However the political and urban policy context in which such developments take place has shifted considerably in recent years with significant examples of state intervention, such as the Favela Bairro projects in Brazil. This suggests that it is timely to revisit these settlements to explore how such changes have impacted on daily life for the inhabitants, and examine in detail the changing dynamics of settlement life. This panel aims to explore current processes of construction and development of informal settlements at the micro-level by bringing together academics and other researchers with experience of urban settlements in different parts of the continent. By drawing on the dynamic interrelationship between people and their self-made environments, we can explore how buildings and places are fundamental to many aspects of life in informal areas, and in the construction of new identities for the dwellers.

We would particularly welcome papers focusing on ‘insider’ perspectives gained through ethnography to complement much recent research which has emphasised policy and planning agendas. Among the themes to be explored are: the symbolic power of space; the creation of material and social well-being; changing identities; competition for space; the transitional nature of informal settlements; social practices in the home; material culture; and coping strategies involving the dwelling.

Abstract deadline: 1 December 2009
Please send questions and completed abstracts to the panel convenor Peter Kellet:
SLAS website:
Conference website:
Comment by Sheyma Buali on January 7, 2010 at 12:42am
I am interested in Urban Anthropology mainly because of my interest in the cultural value of spaces, and more particularly the role both public and private spaces have in individual and collective memories and thus shared culture. Being from the Arabian Peninsula (Persian Gulf) I am witnessing a very fast urban growth that, as of yet, has not included spatial and architectural preservation schemes in mind. My aspiration is to work towards changing that and I anticipate learning a lot from this group.
Comment by Sheyma Buali on April 5, 2010 at 9:16pm
reading 'The Philosophical Notions of the City' by Heinz Paetzold
Comment by Francine Barone on April 8, 2010 at 6:43pm
Maybe post a short review/insights when you're done?
Comment by Sheyma Buali on April 12, 2010 at 7:16pm
In his article, Paetzold looks at philosophical ideas that emerged from the city, or urban living, and compares, philosophically, everyday means of living and communicating to the physical development of the city. A somewhat general essay, it was the first essay in his edited book City Life: Essays on Urban Culture.
Something more like an introduction to basic philosophical notions that are probably elaborated on in the other essays in the book, Paetzold brings up a few different ideas. Divided into small chapters, at first, he is able to compare the growth of thought and the evolution of philosophy to the developing idea of urban growth. Practically, he looks at ideas set out by Descartes in response to architectural planning of a city versus the idea of Lewis Mumford, asking the question: does a city’s physical beauty depend on a uniformity in style or is there more beauty in the spontaneous and fragmented growth? Are cities like Haussman’s Paris truly superior in design because of their purpose-based buildings and centralized model?
Paetzold the goes into the notion that behavior is effected by the physical construct of a city. Furthermore, he also talks about philosophies regarding the construct of a city: how big should a city grow? Should there be limits as William Morris and Lewis Mumford proposed? Finally, Paetzold speaks of the theoretical basis from which the city actually started to form: economic freedoms and autonomous social living going towards a Marxist ideal for developing the ‘total individual’. This, in essence, is an embrace towards what “modernity” is, which is directly related to the idea of ‘metropolitan life’ going closer to, and bringing together, the areas of fashion, lifestyle and art as well as a number of social movements such as civil rights, feminism and socialism as a whole all “bear the impact and imprint of modern urban life”. Referring to Simmel, Paetzold illustrates that the metropolitan person has become encroached with the idea that money will solve and influence all aspects of life thus leaving ‘metropolitans’ blasé and somewhat estranged from the values of life prior to life in the city. These changing attitudes in people are what have developed the previously mentioned urban-interests. The example put out is Simmels belief that the blasé and the reserve have become integral parts of the urban person’s personality: reserve, more specifically leads to the idea that most people living in cities are seeking for a form of individuality, which can be seen as the basis for fashion. “For Simmel, the metropolis is the place where the crisis of modern culture, ‘culture’s tragedy’, is occurring;” a statement that may be too extreme for my liking, but one that draws the black and white of what one may consider the city to have grown into. Leading to the final points of the essay: Lefebvre’s idea on the city being the “bureaucratically controlled consumer society” and the Debordian reflection on society in the city being one that imitates a certain mediated spectacle.
Opening up these questions and ideas regarding the city, Paetzold looks at how the urban experience is able to be drawn into a collection of symbols and refers to the idea that the spaces people are offered within a city are never formally stated, thus should be looked at, yet again, from the lens of more new experiences. Looking at the multiple layers of a city can lead readers towards a “spatial anthropology” uncovering modern human development within the urban geographies.


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