Urbanism as Material Discourse: Questions of Interpretation in Contemporary Urban Theory

  • Parker S
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This essay seeks to challenge the idea that those who consider themselves to be empirical urban researchers are necessarily concerned with a quite separate quest for knowledge than those involved in the interpretation of representations and narratives of the urban experience. Two essential claims are advanced. First, the attempt to make an epistemological distinction between the city as a lived, physical space and the city as a complex ensemble of shared knowledge, memory, and representation, undermines rather than clarifies the purpose of critical urban research. And second, that urban culture—broadly defined—is understood and constructed narratively through the shared medium of its material discourses. In other words, spatiotemporal narratives allow the urban complex to operate both as a self-legitimating sociospatial system as well as promoting the economic, social, political, and cultural discourses that form the material bases of the unequal distribution of social power.

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  • Simon Parker

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