Over the last four decades, comparative urbanism has flourished, triggered by a desire to identify, compare, contrast, or juxtapose parallel phenomena that happen in multiple sociospatial contexts and likely influence one another. Starting in the 1970s, a number of scholars began touting the need for comparative urban research that opens the eyes to broader urban phenomena that can be compared across municipal boundaries and national borders. Underlying comparative approaches carry the notion that urban imaginaries are “sites of encounters with other cities” mediated through travel, migration and the circulation of images, goods, and ideas. In more recent years, a transnational perspective has gained favor in urban studies, arising in response to criticism that comparative urbanism suffers from a static perception of the urban. Transnational approaches focus on interdependencies, movements, and flows across borders in regions and subregions, the goal being to understand urban settings and experiences, as composed by multiple regional, ethnic or institutional identities and forces. In other words, transnational urban studies wish to take down arbitrary divisions between entities so that both their interconnections as well as collisions become more apparent. There are three interrelated ways that urban humanities go beyond conventional comparative urban studies and contribute to our understanding of the urban. In this essay, the matter is fleshed out through a comparative study of Los Angeles and Mexico City.
Neither Here Nor There: Engaging Mexico City and Los Angeles
Dana Cuff is a professor, author, and scholar in architecture and urbanism at University of California, Los Angeles, where she is also the founding director of cityLAB, a think tank that explores design innovations in the emerging metropolis.
Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris is the associate dean of academic affairs and urban planning professor at University of California, Los Angeles. Her research focuses on the public environment of the city, its physical representation, aesthetics, social meaning, and impact on the urban resident.
Dana Cuff, Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris; Neither Here Nor There: Engaging Mexico City and Los Angeles. Boom 1 September 2016; 6 (3): 94–99. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/boom.2016.6.3.94
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