Urban Arrangements

Urban Assemblages. How Actor-Network Theory Changes Urban Studies. Edited by Ignacio Farías, Thomas Bender. Routledge – 2009 – 352 pages

Below is the course description that I am continuing to develop for my upcoming course Urban Arrangements. A key text for this course is  Urban Assemblages and the key thinkers that the course will engage on the urban question are Lewis Mumford, Bruno Latour, Nigel Thrift and Ash Amin (at the moment). I am currently going through some of the key texts again (i have just finished Technics and Civilization by Mumford and going through Aramis by Latour) and will hopefully pull a few posts together for the blog as I develop the course.

Any suggested readings and/or comments are more than welcome.

Urban Arrangements:

Urban Studies meets Science, Technology and Society (STS) Studies

Urban Arrangements offers students an introduction, in the context of urban studies, to the study of Science, Technology and Society (STS), the approach of Actor-Network-Theory (ANT) and the concept of assemblage/agencement. In Urban Studies, ANT is credited with transforming and challenging conventional understandings of the object of study, reshaping our view of urban infrastructures, built environments, ecologies, urbanites, practices, spaces, economies and other core issues central to urban studies. This course will cover the central literature in urban studies utilizing ANT approaches and engage with the debate that has emerged between proponents of ANT urbanism and “traditional” critical urban theorists.

Science, Technology and Society (STS) Studies is an interdisciplinary field that examines the creation, development, and consequences of science and technology in their cultural, historical, and social contexts. This course aims to provide an overview urban studies’ engagement with STS, and specifically Bruno Latour’s Actor-Network-Theory (ANT) and the central concepts of assemblage/agencement. Bruno Latour, one of the central figures of the “Paris school” of STS, with his colleagues Callon and Law, developed ANT in part from Deleuze and Guttari’s concept of assemblage/agencement. ANT treats objects as part of social networks and is a “material-semiotic” method that tries to explain how material-semiotic networks come together as a whole. As this course illustrates, urban studies’ utilization of ANT and Deleuzian notions of assemblage/agencement has resulted in important new avenues of research.

Technology and the city have always had a special relationship. Indeed CCNY alumni Lewis Mumford produced path-breaking work addressing the link between technologies and urban history and how cities and technical networks co-evolve. Until recently, however, Mumford’s path was one few urbanists followed. The rise of STS has begun to change urban studies approach to technology and the city and over the past decade urban studies has returned to a more extensive and innovative engagement with city-technology relations. Some of the most important texts coming out of urban studies over the past decade have utilized, both explicitly and implicitly, an ANT approach and this course will engage with these texts.


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