Questioning Urban Modernity


On 18 May, 2012 the Amsterdam School for Cultural Analysis organised a conference titled ‘Questioning Urban Modernity’. Bringing into consideration diverse expressions of urban modernity worldwide, the conference sough to use globalisation as a central paradigm for understanding contemporary urban space and culture.

Modernity has since long formed a key concept in attempts to capture what is distinctive about city life. It has been constitutive of the way in which western cities have been designed, described and marketed since the nineteenth century, and it has formed a focal point around which scholars, writers and poets, filmmakers, architects, urban planners, travelers and many others have been articulating their visions of cities. By the turn-of-the-century, the concept of modernity also started to inform a critical understanding of urban space and culture, yielding insights into class relations, commodity culture and the alienated mental state of the urban dweller in western metropolises such as Paris and Berlin.

Yet, urban life has changed a lot throughout the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, bringing forward new urban concepts such as the ‘megalopolis’, the ‘generic city’ or the ‘cybercity’. Globalisation and technological innovation have transformed the design and social life of cities enormously. Beyond that, they have broadened our perspective for thinking about cities. It is therefore crucial to also rethink both the idea and the imagery of urban modernity.

With this in mind, the Questioning Urban Modernity conference aimed to provide a space for rethinking what the attribute ‘modern’ means in relation to twenty-first century ‘global’ cities. In doing so, it sought to develop a more adequate understanding of urban modernity; in the process enriching not only the scholarly analysis of today’s cities, but also practices of urban development and interaction.


  • Christoph Lindner
  • Pedram Dibazar
  • Miriam Meissner
  • Judith Naeff

Keynote address

  • Prof. Jennifer Robinson (department of Geography at University College London)


  • Kathryn Brown (University of Tilburg)
  • Dana Bönisch (University of Bonn)
  • Dana Dolghin (University of Amsterdam)
  • Lena Scheen (Leiden University)
  • Jeroen de Kloet (University of Amsterdam)
  • Niall Martin (University of Amsterdam)
  • Iain Low (University of Cape Town)
  • Andrea Vesentini (London Consortium)
  • Esther Romeyn (University of Florida)

Contact details

For more information about the Questioning Urban Modernity conference, please contact

The Amsterdam School for Cultural Analysis
Spuistraat 210 (room 113)
1012 VT Amsterdam
The Netherlands


Published by  ASCA

12 September 2012