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Call for Papers

6–7 July 2011, London

Shadow Cities: Realities and Representations

Institute of Advanced Legal Studies, 17 Russell Square, London WC1B 5DR

The Centre for Metropolitan History (Institute of Historical Research, School of Advanced Study, University of London), in association with the University of Cape Town, invites individual and panel proposals for a two-day conference on ‘Shadow Cities: Realities and Representations’. More than a billion people live in improvised dwellings or shanty towns in the early twenty-first century. Whether in inner cities or on the outskirts of a metropolis, these settlements have been dubbed “Shadow Cities” by Robert Neuwirth. Neuwirth takes a relatively positive view of the economic and cultural creativity of such places. In contrast Mike Davis has a more apocalyptic vision of a fast developing “Planet of Slums”. For Davis such habitations offer little hope and potentially cataclysmic danger in a post-industrial and neo-liberal world.

What light can historical investigation shed on what have often been Manichean representations of the shanty town as either a place of hope or a site of irredeemable misery? Most research and writing on this phenomenon has focused on contemporary developments. The aim of this conference is to
investigate and explain the historical existence of Shadow Cities, their varying nature in different historical and geographical circumstances – such as medieval Europe, nineteenth century North America or the twentieth century global South – the living conditions and experiences of their
inhabitants, and the perceptions or representations of such settlements.

Some issues that the conference hopes to explore include:

  • What factors have explained the emergence and form of Shadow cities?
  • What evidence is there for the existence and nature of Shadow cities in pre-industrial societies?
  • What material conditions, economic activities, social organisation, political expression, and governance have been associated with Shadow cities in different times and countries?
  • To what extent or in what ways have accounts or visual representations of Shadow cities changed over time?
  • How have Shadow cities been perceived by their inhabitants? How have these insider perceptions compared to those of outsiders? What role has class, gender or ethnicity played in the experience of Shadow cities?What have been the connections and boundaries between Shadow cities and adjacent more formally established built environments or the countryside?
  • What explains the resilience of Shadow city inhabitants? What support networks or forms of pleasure and leisure have been created?
  • What characterises the organisation of urban government (the state) in the different contexts where Shadow cities are evident?


Panel (three speakers) proposals should include a panel title, paper titles and 200 word abstracts for each paper, and a short CV for each panel presenter. Individual submissions should include a paper title, 200 word abstract and a short CV. Abstracts should clearly indicate how proposed panels or papers address themes of the conference. All proposals should be submitted by 31 January 2011.

Enquiries and submissions to Vivian

For registration details, please contact Olwen Myhill

Call for Papers

inscription dates
in 31/01/2011

Urban Digest


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