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Learning the City: Knowledge and Translocal Assemblage

ISBN: 978-1-4051-9282-8
232 pages
August 2011, Wiley-Blackwell
Learning the City: Knowledge and Translocal Assemblage (1405192828) cover image
Learning the City: Translocal Assemblage and Urban Politics critically examines the relationship between knowledge, learning, and urban politics, arguing both for the centrality of learning for political strategies and developing a progressive international urbanism.  

  • Presents a distinct approach to conceptualising the city through the lens of urban learning
  • Integrates fieldwork conducted in Mumbai's informal settlements with debates on urban policy, political economy, and development
  • Considers how knowledge and learning are conceived and created in cities
  • Addresses the way knowledge travels and opportunities for learning about urbanism between North and South
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Series Editors' Preface ix

Acknowledgements x

Introduction 1

1 Learning Assemblages 15

Introduction 15

Translation: Distribution, Practice and Comparison 17

Coordinating Learning 19

Dwelling and Perception 21

Assemblage Space 23

Conclusion 30

2 Assembling the Everyday: Incremental Urbanism and Tactical Learning 32

Introduction 32

Incremental Urbanism 33

Learning the Unknown City: Street Children in Mumbai 43

Learning, Rhythm, Space 47

Tactical Learning 54

Conclusion 59

3 Learning Social Movements: Tactics, Urbanism and Politics 62

Introduction 62

Knowing Social Movements 63

Global Slumming 66

The Housing Assemblage: Materializing Learning 69

Learning and Representation: Counting the Poor 74

Entrepreneurial Learning 85

Conclusion 90

4 Urban Learning Forums 92

Introduction 92

Uncertain Forums 93

Dialogic Urban Forums 98

Translocalism and Translation 105

Conclusion 113

5 Travelling Policies, Ideological Assemblages 115

Introduction 115

Translating Policy 117

Comparative Learning: Translation and Colonial Urbanism 122

Ideology and Postwar Urban Planning 128

Neoliberal Urban Learning Assemblages 134

Ideology and Explanation: Beyond Diffusionist Story-Making 145

Conclusion 151

6 A Critical Geography of Urban Learning 153

Introduction 153

The Actual and the Possible 155

Agency and Critical Learning 160

Assemblage and the Critical Learning Imaginary 164

Postcolonial Urban Learning? 167

Conclusion 172

Conclusion 174

References 185

Index 205

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Colin McFarlane is Lecturer in Human Geography at Durham University, UK. His research focuses on urban geography, especially theorising the intersections between urban inequality, materiality, and knowledge.
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“Learning the City makes an exhaustive case for framing our studies of knowledge and power through the optic of the learning assemblage. Its revelatory power is arguably profound for McFarlane, it promises nothing short of understanding the power to forge a different kind of city.”  (Antipode, 1 September 2013)

“This book is a significant step in bringing learning to the core of urban study… This volume’s detailed fieldwork effectively supports its desire to see learning occupy a central place in the production of more socially just urbanisms.” (Area, 1 May 2013)

“Learning the Cityis a critical academic contribution useful for scholars of the field.  found it particularly useful for my research on policy circulation of Bus Rapid Transit concepts through the South African city . . . While Learning the Cityis probably too sophisticated for younger readers, it is sure to become indispensable for academics of the discipline.” (Geography Helvitica, 1 December  2012)

"Through Learning the City McFarlane has made a major contribution to our understandings of the urban. In its commitment to the diverse and lively practices through which the city is learned and known, in its engagement with the diverse forms of agency and political practices through which agency is assembled and re-assembled the book enlivens understandings of spatial politics. It is also a text that is animated by a powerful sense of hope that cities might come to bere-assembled in different ways that are more equitable and more open to different agentic forces and contributions." (Society and Space, 1 November 2012)

"There will certainly be a range of contributors that join in on the exciting task of making these links. In Learning the City, McFarlane successfully manages to open the black box of urban learning in widening the perspective to acknowledge diverse urban learning practices, which may even bear a transformative potential in certain contexts." (International Planning Studies, 23 October 2012)

“Urbanism, McFarlane believes, needs a theory of learning; throughout his book he builds a very sophisticated one…[he] brings us closer to the material stuff of urban life and politics…a kind of urbanism in motion, whereby what we come to term ‘knowledge’, ‘infrastructure’ and ‘resources’ are never simply ‘there’, but must be translated, distributed, coordinated, perceived and inhabited”. (International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, Volume 38.1, January 2014).

"Innovative in its approach and rigorous in its coverage, this book is an important contribution to the field of urban studies and human geography. It challenges the standard format of the research monograph and introduces new vectors of knowledge and debate to the study of cities. In a world where the usual North-South dichotomies are being disturbed, McFarlane's emphasis on a postcolonial approach to practices of learning is a valuable framework."
Ananya Roy, University of California

"McFarlane's work stands out in that it tells us how residents from various walks of life actually learn to operate in heterogeneous and often volatile urban environments.  Instead of assuming that urban dwellers walk around with preconceived maps in their heads, this book provides a comprehensive account of the various practices, mobilizations and tools they use over time so that the city becomes a staging area for new capacities and potentials."
AbdouMaliq Simone, Goldsmith College, University of London

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