Urban Arrangements, a new blog

The geographer Edward Soja declared at some point that “every square inch of the world is urbanized to some degree,” it is possible then to understand the world as one vast urban arrangement. On the other hand, however, the geographers Thrift and Amin argue cities have become extraordinarily intricate and difficult to generalize. Urban arrangements are simultaneously everywhere and distinct, and the various urban arrangements (and their various techno/socio/eco/political arrangements) on our planet further new/particular modes of living. What a city is, how cities work, what cities engender and what makes a good city are just some the debates that will form the focus of my research and will take up a large part of this blog.

I want to use this blog as a laboratory for ideas focused around my research and central disciplinary interests: geography; science, technology and society studies; urban studies and middle east studies. It will also be a place for me to post thoughts and reviews on books (expect small reviews/thoughts soon on The Security Archipelago and Leisurely Islam), exhibitions (I will soon post something on the new exhibition at the New Museum Here and Elsewhere) and for me to provide updates on other work I am pursuing, which at the moment also involves the creation of an issue of the Urban Research Journal that is currently in production.

The blog will also act as an extension of two courses that I am teaching at City College both of which I am still refining the syllabuses for and hope to share some of the ideas that I developing for both of these courses. The first course I am teaching is the blog’s namesake Urban Arrangements (officially listed as Urban Assemblages and the reason I changed the name will likely be the subject of a blog post). The second course that I am teaching is an undergraduate course called global perspectives also at City College but in the international studies program. I am excited about this course and designed it so students engage “global” issues through the absolute spaces of New York City.

I am eager to explore ways in which social media can accompany the courses to both engage students taking the course beyond the classroom and generate discussion with a broader audience. I have introduced Twitter into the classroom and had some positive results but I think there are more ways in which social media can be utilized to enhance engagement, conversation and interest in the subjects I am teaching and researching that I want to try out. So, I will continue to experiment – suggestions are very welcome, so please feel free to use the comment section!

I have not blogged properly for nearly four years and a return to the world of the blogosphere (do people still use that term?) is long overdue. When I actively wrote this blog I was a journalist and consultant in Lebanon – I stopped living (but not visiting) Lebanon when this blog also stops in October 2010 – but since then there have been many changes. The most significant development is that I do not live in Lebanon or work as a journalist any longer. At the end of 2011, I came to New York and in the Fall 2012 I was accepted as a doctoral candidate in the Earth and Environmental Science Department at the Graduate Center, CUNY specialized in geography. Other things, however, have not changed. My research continues to engage Lebanon and the Arab world and I am still focused on questions surrounding the built environment. Keeping with the theme of both continuity and change, I have decided to keep the blog I maintained in Lebanon but to change its name. Previously, this blog was called al-bayt baytak (my home is your home in Arabic) and is now called urban arrangements. I hope this is a start of a long and fruitful journey.




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