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Transnational Urbanism: Locating Globalization

ISBN: 978-0-631-18424-9
236 pages
October 2000, Wiley-Blackwell
Transnational Urbanism: Locating Globalization (0631184244) cover image


Transnational Urbanism is a profound work of theoretical synthesis by internationally renowned urban theorist Michael Peter Smith. Moving deftly across disciplines and discursive terrains, Smith forges original and stimulating connections between urban studies and the emerging field of transnational studies. With original and extraordinary insight, he addresses the central question of how and why immigrants, refugees, political activists, and institutions locate and maintain social relations in light of transnational urbanism.

  • Brings a concrete, historically informed discussion of globalization and transnationalism applied to urban studies.
  • Offers a blueprint for reconstructing urban theory itself .
  • Forges stimulating connections between the field of urban studies and the emerging field of transnational studies .
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Table of Contents

1. Introduction: The Social Construction of Transnational Urbanism:.

Why Transnational Social Practices?.

Why "Transnational Urbanism"?.

Why Agency-oriented Urban Theory?.

On Social Constructionism.

The Architectonics Ahead.

Locating Globalization.

Reconstructing Urban Theory.

Part I: Locating Globalization: .

2. The Local as Globalism's "Other": The Confines of the Master Narrative of Time-Space Compression.

Beyond Technological Determinism.

Cultural Reductionism.

Postmodern Subjectivity, Political Fragmentation, and Identity Politics.

Essentializing Class and Marginalizing Gender.

The Political Geography of Difference.

An Alternative View of Urban Politics.

Beyond Binary Dualities.

3. The Global Cities Discourse: A Return to the Master Narrative?.

Reconsidering the Global City Thesis.

The Limits of Global Economism.

Historicizing the Global City.

The "Global Governance" Agenda.

Transnational Urbanism: Beyond Reification.

4. Reimagining Los Angeles from the Ground Up.

Mexican Transmigration to Los Angeles
The Legacy of Empire.

The Social Construction of "Local Economic Development".

Transnational Urbanism and the Ethnic Economy.

Constructing and Reconstructing "Koreatown".

Beyond Victimization.

Part II: Reconstructing Urban Theory:.

5. Re-presenting the "Local": Beyond Communitarian Metaphors.

Localities as Defensive Community Formations.

Rethinking the Boundaries of Locality.

Localities and the Politics of Difference.

The Social Construction of Space as Place.

Rethinking the Politics of Everyday Life.

Transnational Place-Making.

6. Beyond the Postmodern City: Rethinking Ethnography for Transnational Times.

Social Constructionism and Postmodern Social Inquiry.

Questioning the Knower and the Known.

Constructing the Subject.

The Uses and Limits of Postmodern Ethnography.

Hybrid Subjects in Patterned Networks.

The Border Crossings of Transnational Ethnography.

7. Transnationalizing the Grassroots.

The Rise of Transnational Grassroots Politics.

Transnationalizing Urban Research.

Beyond the Global-Local Duality.

Thinking Locally and Acting Globally.

Bifocal Border Crossers.

The Politics of Simultaneity.

The Production of Political Space.

8. From Globalization to Transnational Urbanism.

The Agency of Transnational Networks.

The Rise of Translocalities
Questioning the Post-national Discourse.

Towards a Transnational Urban Studies.

Comparative Transnationalisms.

Summing Up.


9. Epilogue: The City as Crossroads.


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Author Information

Michael Peter Smith is Professor of Community Studies and Development at the University of California, Davis, and a Faculty Associate of the Center for California Studies at the University of California, Berkeley. He has published numerous books on cities, global migration, and urbanism including The City and Social Theory (1979), The Capitalist City (1987), City, State, and Market (1988), The Bubbling Cauldron (1995), and Transnationalism from Below (1998).
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The Wiley Advantage

  • Brings a concrete, historically informed discussion of globalization and transnationalism applied to urban studies.
  • Offers a blueprint for reconstructing urban theory itself .
  • Forges stimulating connections between the field of urban studies and the emerging field of transnational studies .
See More


"Michael Peter Smith has done it again! Perhaps the most sophisticated urban theorist alive has written a beautifully crafted book that develops a sophisticated and innovative theory of contemporary transnational urbanism and fleshes it out with fascinating empirical and ethnographic examples drawn chiefly, but not exclusively, from major U.S. cities. The perfect volume to stimulate rethinking of the urban question." Janet Abu-Lughod, Northwestern University <!--end-->

"Michael Peter Smith has been one of the leading theorists in urban affairs for many years. This book takes him to a new level, ranking him at the very top with Harvey and Castells. Smith's reconceptualization of globalization and his insistence on a more precise language - transnational urbanism - is groundbreaking. This book stands as an influential intellectual statement that other scholars will be obliged to take into account for many years." Dennis Judd, Urban Affairs Review

"Smith rightly insists that we need to look behind the mantras of 'globalization,' 'capital,' 'global cities,' and 'postmodernity'. He provides a highly persuasive argument for the recognition of human agency, locality and the growth of cultural practices from below. This is a major work - Smith has succeeded in returning urban theory to the streets where it belongs." Robin Cohen, University of Warwick

"Countering the structural tendencies of urban political economists, the ahistoricism of globalists, and the abstractions of postmodernists, Smith presents "transnational urbanism" as a cultural metaphor for an agency oriented urban theory. Cities are the primary sites of transnational urbanism –a pervasive and complex process involving cultures, policies, institutions, actors, and localities. Smith's is the most balanced theoretical approach to globalization, seeing it as it works, without any vilification or glorification. This is an important book in the field for graduate students and faculty." Choice

"Since 1979, when he published The City and Social Theory, Michael Peter Smith has been providing us with close readings of the writings of urban theorists. Transnational Urbanism is one of the strongest of these offerings, dissecting the hidden agendas and limitations of theories of globalization and rescuing the city from globalization's clutches.The value of Smith's ethnographic social constructionism.depends neither on devastating critiques nor sole possession of the space of urban theory. With insight and persuasion, Smith has made a powerful case for a transnational urbanism." Urban Affairs Review

"This is a powerful and important book. The arguments, subtle but significant to the evolution of our understanding of global systemic change, are compelling. Smith deepens our conceptual sophistication on globalization, sociospatial dynamics, the role of the urban in international relations, and the mechanisms of agency in a world where forces appear to be beyond our control. Smith has given us a significant work, insightful.in its critique of the social evolutionism literature that has dominated this first phase of our struggle to locate globalization." International Affairs

"[T]his is a book to be recommended. Ably supported by well-chosen cases and vignettes, Smith's argument injects a constructive element into the debate about the local and the global in what is altogether a stimulating read." Environment and Planning A

"Transnational Urbanism is an impressive book. It offers a state-of-the-art theoretical treatise on globalization and the city, which even those sceptical that new terms and novel methods can save globalization theory from its conceptual morass will gain much from reading." -- Environment and Planning B: Planning and Design

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