Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Right to the City: a Virtual Reader

A few posts ago, I wrote up an account of a conference held here in Sydney recently on the ‘Right to the City’. In putting together a paper for that conference, I re-read parts of Lefebvre’s Right to the City for the first time in a while. I got heaps out of it … as with most of my previous efforts to read Lefebvre, I found myself not quite sure what the hell was going on in some passages, and completely inspired by other passages. Not only was it really helpful in interrogating some of the do-it-yourself urbanisms that were the subject of the conference, but I’m sure it’s also going to be incredibly productive in approaching the green bans as I continue to work my way through the archival material on that.

Anyways, I also started putting together a bit of a list of secondary sources on the concept and how it is being approached and used today. So, I thought I’d post that list here (in chronological order), just in case it’s useful to anyone else.

I haven’t made my way through everything listed below, and it’s by no means an exhaustive list of people who have engaged with the ‘right to the city’, but it’s not a bad start. I've tried to keep the list to pieces that engage with the meaning and politics of the 'right to the city', rather than pieces which mention the 'right to the city' only in passing (of which there are lots).

So, if you think I’ve missed anything, let me know. And of course, it goes without saying that if you have trouble accessing any of these in your neck of the woods, get in touch:  kurt[dot]iveson[at]sydney[dot]edu[dot]au

Rosalyn Deutsche (1999) Reasonable Urbanism, in Michael Sorkin (ed) Giving Ground: The politics of propinquity, New York: Verso.

Engin Isin (2000) Introduction: democracy, citizenship and the city, in Engin Isin (ed) Democracy, Citizenship and the Global City, New York: Routledge.

Mark Purcell (2002) Excavating Lefebvre: The Right to the City and its Urban Politics of the Inhabitant, GeoJournal, 58(2-3): 99-108 (this is one of several great articles Mark wrote before his 2008 book came out – see below).

Mustafa Dikeç (2002) Police, Politics, and the Right to the City, GeoJournal, 58(2-3): 91-98.

Eugene McCann (2002) Space, Citizenship and the Right to the City: a brief overview, GeoJournal, 58(2-3): 77-79.

Don Mitchell (2003) The Right to the City: Social justice and the fight for public space, New York: Guildford.

Tovi Fenster (2005) The Right to the Gendered City: Different Formations of Belonging in Everyday Life, Journal of Gender Studies, 14(3): 217-231.

Edésio Fernandes (2007) Constructing the ‘Right to the City’ in Brazil, Social and Legal Studies, 16(2): 201-219.

David Harvey (2008) The Right to the City, New Left Review, 53: 23-40.

Mark Purcell (2008) Recapturing Democracy: Neoliberalisation and the struggle for alternative urban futures, New York: Routledge.

Liette Gilbert and Mustafa Dikeç (2008) Right to the City: Politics of Citizenship, in Kanishka Goonewardena, Stefan Kipfer, Richard Milgrom and Christian Schmid (Eds) Space, Difference, Everyday Life: Reading Henri Lefebvre, New York: Routledge.

Peter Marcuse (2009) From critical urban theory to the right to the city, City, 13(2-3):185-197.

Jackie Leavitt, Tony Roshan Samara and Marnie Brady (2009) The Right to the City Alliance: Time to Democratize Urban Governance, Progressive Planning, 181: 4-12.

Margit Mayer (2009) The Right to the City in the context of shifting mottos of urban social movements, City, 13(2-3): 362-374.

Marcelo Lopes de Souza (2010) Which Right to Which City? In defense of political-strategic clarity, Interface, 2(1): 315-333.

Edward Soja (2010) Seeking Spatial Justice. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Margaret Crawford (2011) Rethinking ‘Rights’, Rethinking ‘Cities’: a response to David Harvey’s ‘The Right to the City’, in Zanny Begg and Lee Stickells (eds) The Right to the City, Sydney: Tin Sheds Gallery.

Andy Merrifield (2011) The Right to the City and Beyond: Notes on a Lefebvrian reconceptualisation, City, 15(3-4).

There are also some relevant collections, for instance:
·      the special issue of GeoJournal in 2002 (58: 2-3) on Social Transformation, Citizenship, and the Right to the City, edited by Lyn Staeheli, Lorraine Dowler, and Doris Wastl-Walter (in which a couple of the articles above were published);
·      International Public Debates: Urban Policies and the Right to the City, UNESCO, 2006;
·      Ana Sugranyes and Charlotte Mathivet (2010, eds) Cities for All: Proposals and Experiences towards the Right to the City, Santiago: Habitat International Coalition.

And of course, there are some great books out there on Lefebvre which provide some broader intellectual and political context for the concept – I’ve enjoyed both Stuart Elden’s and Rob Shield’s books on Lefebvre.

Update #1
Tony Samara wrote to let me know that in Feb 2012 a new collection is coming out, edited by Michael Peter Smith & Michael McQuarrie, called Remaking Urban Citizenship: Organizations, Institutions, and the Right to the City, Transaction Publishers. Thanks Tony!

Update #2
Following James Duminy's comment below, I found the following two pieces:

AbdouMaliq Simone (2005) The Right to the City, Interventions: International Journal of Postcolonial Studies, 7(3): 321-325.

Susan Parnell and Edgar Pieterse (2010) The ‘Right to the City’: Institutional Imperatives of a Developmental State, International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 34(1): 146-162.

Unlike most of the pieces in the list above, neither of these explicitly engage with Lefebvre's work on the topic ... but as James' comment hints, the fact that I have applied this criteria has produced a list mostly restricted to northern theorists (although Marcelo's piece on the list above is an explicit attempt to rework Lefebvre's concept from the perspective of urban social movements in Latin America and Africa). Thanks for the heads up on those pieces James!


  1. Edgar Pieterse, Susan Parnell and AbdouMaliq Simone are interested in the right to the city so, as usual, African urban literature could do with a look-in.

  2. Thanks James. List above has been updated...

  3. Thank you very much, I'm struggling with the concept myself and this list looks really helpful!

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