1st Edition

Imagining Urban Complexity A Humanities Approach in Tropes, Media, and Genres

    320 Pages 61 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    320 Pages 61 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    Imagining Urban Complexity introduces passionate and critical perspectives on the link between humanities and urban studies. It emphasizes tropes, media, and genres as cultural techniques that shape complexity in urban environments by distributing affordances, modes of sensing, and modes of sense-making.

    Focusing on urban political and cultural dynamics in 24 global cities, the book shows that urban environments are thematized in literature and art, but are also entities that are shaped, perceived, interpreted, and experienced through sense-making techniques that have long been central to the humanities. These techniques activate a dialectic between urban imaginations and cancellations because tropes, media, and genres are aesthetically and politically powerful: they propel imaginations and open up multiplicities of urban possibilities, they naturalize actualized orders and cancel alternatives. This book moves between close readings of city spaces and more systemic and infrastructural approaches to urban environments, providing tools and strategies that can be adapted and extended to understand urban complexity in different cultural and historical contexts. 

    The book speaks to global audiences from a continental philosophical tradition. It is aimed for scholars and researchers in the field of the Humanities, Social Sciences, Urban Studies, urban complexity, aesthetics, and politics.  It is relevant to graduate or postgraduate students in critical urban studies, urban design, comparative literature, art history, cultural studies, cultural analysis, ecocriticism, citizenship, political theory, and ethics.


    Urban complexities: a humanities toolkit of tropes, media, genres




    1. What holds cities together?

    Body Politic - Network - Belt: Hong Kong & Atlanta

    2. Cities as paradigms of nature-culture

    Jungle - Desert - Garden : Mexico City & Canberra

    3. Urban distributions of access

    Archive - Labyrinth - Zone: Istanbul & Moscow

    4. Cities as centers of expectation and disillusion

    Utopia - Dystopia - Non-Place: Paris & Brasilia




    5. Bringing urban selves and world into perspective

    Theatre - Spectacle: Amsterdam & Naples

    6. Connecting the private and the masses

    Newspaper - Radio: Chicago & Caïro

    7. Battlegrounds of representation and motors of desire

    Television - Cinema: Beijing & Bangkok

    8. Media relating dividuals and scapes

    Digital - Social Media: Mumbai & Nairobi




    9. Cities as forms of emplotment

     Narrative – Documentary: Rio de Janeiro & Seattle

    10. Urban life fragmented and improvized

    Collage – Play: Lagos & Barcelona

    11. Who does a city address and what do its rhythms express?

    Lyric – Poetry: Isfahan & Jakarta

    12. City secret, city trauma and the unrepresentable

    Allegory – Comics: Jerusalem & Hiroshima



    The smart city: archipelagos of tests


    Frans-Willem Korsten is professor ‘Literature, Culture, and Law’ at the Leiden University Centre for the Arts in Society and professor 'Literature and society' at the Erasmus School of Philosophy. He was responsible for the NWO internationalization program ‘Precarity and Post-Autonomia: The Global Heritage’ and took part in a NWO/FWO funded program: ‘Imagineering Techniques in the Early Modern Period’. He currently takes part in a NWO funded program entitled ‘Playing Politics: Media Platforms, Making Worlds’. He published extensively on the Republican baroque, theatricality and sovereignty (A Dutch Republican Baroque; open access), and the relation between literature, art, politics, justice and law – Art as an Interface of Law and Justice: Affirmation, Disturbance, Disruption (2021) and Cultural Interactions: Conflict and Cooperation (2022).

    Anthony T. Albright is a PhD candidate and lecturer at the Leiden University Center for the Arts in Society. He received an B.A. in English and Comparative Literature from Columbia University and an M.A. in Media Studies from Leiden University