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"Dream Conversations" in Urban History

Past Events

Urban Theory For, Of, and By Urban Historians

Cities, Empires, and (Dis)Contents

Cities and Inequalities

Cities and the Anthropocene

Dream Conversation on Cities and the Anthropocene

Carl Nightingale, “Toward an Urban History of the Anthropocene”

May 23, 1 PM BST/12PM UCT

University of Leicester

Council Room 1, Fielding Johnson Building

This lecture uses the concept “Our Urban Planet” to explore how global urban historians can contribute to - and learn from – debates about “the Anthropocene,” a proposed new Epoch in the Geological Time Scale distinguished by what one scientist calls the “geological superpower” of “human activities.” Building on insights from the author’s book Earthopolis: A Biography of Our Urban Planet (Cambridge 2022), the talk will explore what happens when urban historians radically expand our sense of time, urban space, and our definition of cities - to think of them as spaces where humans gamble on concentrated harvests of energy from the Sun and Earth to produce, amplify, and deploy our power over each other and over extra-human space in many ways not possible in smaller settlements alone. The talk will propose a geography and a chronology of the highly unequal expansions and contractions of city-amplified spatial power and its many instruments, as well as its periods of acceleration to planetary dimensions.

Co-sponsored by the Centre for Urban History, the Institute for Environmental Futures, and GUHP

Dream Conversations Panels

50 years of the Urban History Journal Conference

The State of Urban History: Past, Present, Future

University of Leicester

July 11-13, 2023

GUHP Dream Conversation on the Anthropocene

Round Table: Urban pasts, Urban futures - a roundtable on the Anthropocene

Tuesday July 11, 11:15-12:45 

GUHP Dream Conversations on Cities, Empires, and their (Dis)contents

Empires and Global Urban History

Wednesday, July 12 1430-1600

GUHP Dream Conversations on Theory For, Of, and By Urban Historians

Round Table: Urban theory of, for, and by urban historians: the state of a two-year conversation at the Global Urban History Project

Thursday, July 13, 11:30-13:00

Dream Conversation on Theory Of, For, and By Urban Historians

GUHP Meets Uta-DO African Urban Studies Workshop: A "Trialogue" on Theory, History, and Global South Urbanism (Nairobi)

March 31, 2023, 1:00 UTC

Watch on GUHP Vids

Moderators: Wangui Kimari, Uta-DO and Kenny Cupers and Carl Nightingale, GUHP
Main Presenter: Kanishka Goonewardena, University of Toronto

With help from our main presenter, Professor of Urban Theory Kanishka Goonewardena, we hope to start an ongoing “trialogue” between global urban historians, urban theorists, and urban practitioners. Our aim is to find suitable new meeting grounds and develop new intellectual agendas accountable to those who are directly involved in Global Southern challenges. The ethos of this meeting is to open our minds to ideas and forms of practice articulated in conceptual languages and research methodologies that may differ or even contradict with our own yet also hold potential to expand our interpretive tools.

This roundtable follows upon last year's discussions of "Urban Theory from the Global South" and inaugurates a multi-year, multi-disciplinary collaboration between the Global Urban History Project (GUHP) and the Nairobi-based UTA-DO African Cities Workshop -- an annual “venue for critical African urban scholarship development and collaboration.” The event, led by Professor Goonewardena and featuring scholars from both organizations will offer a new platform for exchange between scholars of the urban past and an emerging generation of urbanists who are engaging in multi-year conversations with theorists to grapple with the urban future of some of the fastest-growing cities on Earth. Participants will seek to tackle an array of questions, including: How may historical scholarship contribute to ongoing debates on and solutions to majority-world urban challenges? How do these challenges invite widened perspectives on the global urban past?

Dream Conversation on Cities, Empires, and (Dis)Contents

All events are virtual; please email Cyrus Schayegh at for Zoom links

Session 1: February 3, 2023, 13:30-15:00 UTC

  • Stephen Legg: “Mapping a Pre-Partition City: the Communal Geographies of Late-Colonial Delhi”
  • Michael Thornton: “Growing a City, Cultivating an Empire: Urbanization and Agriculture in Early Japanese Colonialism


Session 2: March 3. 2023, 14:00-15:30 UTC

  • Geert Castryck: “The dissociation between imperialism and colonialism in the 1920s: a snapshot of the urban area of Kigoma-Ujiji”
  • Cyrus Schayegh: “The Making of an Aerocity: US empire and Urban Transformation in Beirut, 1945-1955”

Session 3: Thursday, 6 April, 12:00-13:30 UTC

  • Sohini Chattopadhyay: “The urban in the history and sociology of science”
  • Umit Firat Acikgoz “The Problem of Continuity”


Session 4: May 4, 2023, 11:00-13:15 UTC

  • Dries Lyna: “Institutional(ized) Inequality? Access to Justice in Cities across VOC Asia
  • Mohd Aquil: Medical panics and the restructuring of urban spaces in Colonial North India
  • Taoyu Yang: “Multi-Imperial Entanglements and Spatial Configuration in Treaty-Port Tianjin, 1860s-1940s"

GUHP Emerging:
The Second Annual Spring Symposia, May 2022
Three events featuring emerging scholars who participated in GUHP's 2021-22 Mentorship Program as part of our four "Dream Conversations"

Symposium 1: Global Urban Environments — Thursday, May 19, 2022, 4-6PM UTC

  • Lucia Carminati, Fecal Matters in the Suez Canal: Bringing Order to the Ordure of Early Port Said
  • Adrian Lerner, Staying Afloat: Urbanization and Poverty in Cold War Amazonia
  • Catherine Oliver, Unearthing London’s Urban Barnyard: Galline Life in and beyond Anthropocene Cities
  • Brian Spivey, Bitter Water: Toxicity, Water, and Science in a Chinese Mining City

Symposium 2: Global Urban Imaginaries — Friday, May 20, 2022, 4-6PM UTC

  • Gabriel Doyle, The making of an imperial periphery: nature and extraterritoriality in the north of Istanbul in the late Ottoman era
  • Tamer Elshayal, Shelter, Human Settlements, and the Urban Planet: The Politics of Scale at the United Nations Center for Housing, Building and Planning, 1963-1977
  • Andrew Hedden, Empire in Need: Seattle and the U.S. Federal Government in the 1970s
  • Daniela Samur, Bogotá’s World of Books: The Beautification and Commodification of the Urban, 1880s-1920s

Symposium 3: Mock Job Talks — Thursday, May 26, 12-2PM UTC

  • Nicole Gipson, Welfare Hotels: Race, Gender, and Family Homelessness (1970–1990)
  • Queenie Lin, Beyond the Dutch Paradigms: The Cosmopolitan Hybrid of the Seventeenth-century Dutch Overseas Settlements in Formosa and New Netherland
  • Vyta Pivo, Global Politics of Concrete in the Anthropocene
  • Zhengfeng Wang, Refrigerated Space as Contact Zone: Techno-politics of Food Provisioning in Treaty Port Cities in China

Material Environments: 

Architecture, Space, and Temporality in the Anthropocene(s)

GUHP's "Dream Conversation" on 
in collaboration with the 
European Architectural History Network
Monday, April 4, 2022, 13.00-14.30 UTC

WATCH this event on GUHPVids.

We are delighted to invite you to a roundtable discussion of the theoretical and methodological implications of the Anthropocene for scholars working on cities as material built environments, social constructions, and ecological entanglements.

  • Dalal Musaed Alsayer (Kuwait University)
  • Megan Eardley (Princeton University) from EAHN
  • Sam Grinsell (University of Antwerp) from GUHP


  • Daniel Barber, University of Pennsylvania
  • Faysal Tabbarah, American University of Sharjah
  • Alla Vronskaya, Kassel University
  • Mark Williams, University of Leicester
The roundtable will especially explore temporal, material and scalar aspects of the Anthropocene in its application to historical sites and thinking. There will be plenty of time for shared discussion of these ideas, drawing on the insights of this international and transdisciplinary gathering of scholars. We hope to welcome a broad range of attendees to enrich this urgent conversation.

Thursday April 7, 2022, 2PM UCT (note corrected time)
in collaboration with the
African Urban Dynamics Collaborative Research Group

Roundtable: Urban Theory from the Global South

Thursday April 7, 2022, 2PM UCT for a

AbdouMaliq Simone, Urban Institute, University of Sheffield

Wangui Kimari, University of Cape Town

Prince Guma, British Institute in East Africa, Nairobi

Anwesha Ghosh, National Law School of India University Bengaluru

Rafael Soares Gonçalves, Pontifícia Universidade Católica do Rio de Janeiro (PUC-Rio)


Some Questions Include:
  • How does urban theory look differently when viewed from the perspective of the “Global South”?  
  • What is southern urbanism and how does it challenge or reframe the way that we define cities as an analytical concept? 
  • What implications does southern urbanism have for technocratic regulation and practice, both in the Global South and beyond? 
  • How / what differentiates the Global South as a place / concept from earlier debates about the 3rd World & Developing World? Is there something unique / specific when put in an urban frame? 
  • How do debates about the (urban) Global South (dis)empower the places and people they are ostensibly about? Who can and should write about the (urban) Global South? (We see this question as connecting to some of your recent work on marginality and blackness as a methodological and conceptual tool.)
  • Urban historians tend to import theory from the social sciences.  What specifically can urban historians working on the Global South bring to the production of urban theory more generally?
To participate, please register here. A Zoom invite will be sent to you during the week before the event.

GUHP Seminars on Cities, Empires, and their (Dis)Contents

INAUGURAL EVENTS IN GUHP's "Dream Conversation" on "Cities, Empires and their (Dis)Contents


Online Seminar Series

on “Cities, Empires, and their (Dis)Contents”



The members of the GUHP track “Cities, Empires, and their (Dis)Contents” are happy to announce that we will host an online seminar series in February and March 2022.

1.       Friday, 11 February, 12:30-14:00 UTC: Will Sack (Harvard University): “Let’s use Yams as Capital”: Finance, Urbanization, and America’s 4-H Clubs in Rural South Korea (1960-1980)

2.       Friday, 25 February, 12:30-14:00 UTC: Holly Randell-Moon (Charles Sturt University): First Nations Foundations: Australian Cities and the Infrastructuring of Settler Colonization

       Friday, 11 March, 12:30-14:00 UTC: Eva Schalbroeck (Utrecht University): Belgian Catholic Missionaries and Aural Critique of the Colonial City

       Friday, 18 March, 12:30-14:00 UTC: Heba Ahmed (Jawaharlal Nehru University): The Discontents of Writing the City: British Colonial Texts and the ‘History’ of Calcutta

If you would like to attend a seminar, please send a registration request, specifying the seminar(s), to; you will receive a zoom link.

Friday, January 28, 3-4:30pm EST (20:00 UTC)

Urban Inequality and Political Struggle: Socialism, Capitalism, and Global Cities in Transition

A GUHP Cities and Inequalities Dream Conversation Lightning Round Panel
(Watch on GUHP VIDS)

This panel brought together urban historians working on cities in moments of political transition in twentieth-century Latin America, Asia, and Eastern Europe. It examined how transitions in political ideology are reflected in cities and urban space, with particular attention to questions of inequality. To what extent do political transitions, whether independence struggles, revolutions, or military coups, affect processes of urban development? How are political ideals and aspirations, such as urban citizenship, equality, and rights to the city, tempered by material constraints, patterns of inequality, political opposition, or grassroots resistance? How do workers, landowners, tenants, and urban planners form alliances or contest different visions for the city? 

The geographical breadth of the panel offered the exciting opportunity to collaborate across fields of study. The creative "lightning round" session format, with four 8-10-minute visual presentations modeled on the TED conference, ensured an engaging conversation with ample time for discussion and questions. 


Late Stalinist Inequalities on the Cityscape of Moscow” – Katherine Zubovich (University at Buffalo, SUNY)


“Housing Inequality in Socialist China: State Building Projects and Residual Neighborhoods” – Kristin Stapleton (University at Buffalo, SUNY


“Revolution, Corporatism, and Informality in 1940s Mexico City” – Emilio de Antuñano (Trinity University)


“Unequal Infrastructure: Building the Santiago Metro Under Democracy and Dictatorship” – Andra Chastain (Washington State University, Vancouver)

For more information about the papers and presenters, please refer to the Cities and Inequalities Dream Conversation page.

Thursday, December 16, 2 PM UCT

"Mutualism and Parasitism:
Cities and Environments in the Anthropocene"
A Conversation between Historians, Geologists,
and Climate Scientists

INAUGURAL EVENT in GUHP's "Dream Conversation" on Cities and the Anthropocene


Minal Pathak, Senior Scientist at the Global Centre for Environment and Energy, Ahmedabad University, and member of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
Mark Williams and Jan Zalasiewicz, Professors, Department of Geology, Leicester University and
Members of the Anthropocene Working Group of the International Union of Geological Sciences
Julia Adeney Thomas, Associate Professor of History, Notre Dame University
Co-Chairs: Carl Nightingale, Coordinator, the Global Urban History Project; Toby Lincoln, Centre for Urban History, Leicester University

NOTE: This is a Readers meet Authors event. Registrants will receive two items to read in advance:
"Strengthening and Implementing the Global Response," Chapter 4 of the IPCC Special Report: Global Warming of 1.5º C
"Mutualistic Cities of the Near Future," by Mark Williams, Gavin Brown, Minal Pathak, Moya Burns, Will Steffen, John Clarkson, Jan Zalasiewicz, Julia Adeney Thomas, Chapter 12 of Julia Adenay Thomas, ed., Altered Earth: Getting the Anthropocene Right (Cambridge University Press, forthcoming, 2022)

In addition, especially for those interested in continuing the Dream Conversation we strongly recommend purchasing:
Julia Adeney Thomas, Mark Williams, Jan Zalasiewicz, The Anthropocene: A Multidisciplinary Approach (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2020) (Available in e-book form).

We decided to begin our conversation with two forward-looking texts by scientists working on cities in the Anthropocene. Naturally the future is a tricky subject for specialists of the urban past. Our goal is to explore how global urban historians and environmental urban historians can deepen or contextualize themes in these texts and how our research might take further inspiration from efforts to confront the many perils we face as residents of a heavily urbanized planet as it enters/entered the Anthropocene Epoch.   

Thursday October 28, 2021 3-4:30 PM EDT (7-8:30 UCT)

Roundtable on Cities and Inequalities

INAUGURAL EVENT in Dream Conversation #3 Cities and Inequalities

Event Co-Sponsored by the Urban History Association as part of Urban History Month

Watch this event on GUHPVIDS, the YouTube Channel of the Global Urban History Project

Description and Participants:
The "Cities and Inequalities" roundtable is the inaugural event of the Global Urban History Project Dream Conversations initiative on the topic of inequalities. Roundtable participants Constanza Castro (Universidad de los Andes), David Huyssen (University of York), Hilary Jones (University of Kentucky), and Michael Vann (Sacramento State University) will kick off our year-long conversation by discussing the role inequality, examined through a global urban history perspective, has played in their research and writing. The discussion will be moderated by Zephyr Frank (Stanford University).

Wednesday, October 27, 10 AM-12:30 PM EST (2 PM-4:30 PM UCT): 

Readers Meet Author: Richard Harris's How Cities Matter"

INAUGURAL EVENT in Dream Conversation #1 Urban Theory Of, For, and By Urban Historians

WATCH THIS EVENT ON GUHPVIDS, the You-Tube Channel of the Global Urban History Project

Description and Participants:

In How Cities Matter, the first "Element" in the new series of Cambridge Elements in Global Urban History, Harris elegantly inventories and comments on so many of the theoretical concepts that urban historians have used over the past half-century or more. At the heart of the matter - and Harris element-  of course, is "the City," as vexed a concept as it is universally familiar.

Participants are invited to purchase and read How Cities Matter in advance of the discussion.

Then: join us on October 27 as we plumb his text  and begin a multi-year effort to dig deeper into the question of "Theory Of, By, and For Urban Historians."

Discussants: Rosemary Wakeman, chair, Alexia Yates, Carl Nightingale

Response: Richard Harris,

Further Discussion: The Audience

Friday, 15 October, 2021, 7-9 PM EST (11PM-1AM UCT):

UHA Plenary: “The State of the Global City: Problems and Possibilities”



The Urban History Association President and Program Committee Co-Chairs are pleased to announce the second plenary of Urban History Month, 2021: “The State of the Global City: Problems and Possibilities.” This plenary brings together some of the leading voices writing on cities around the world, those who have been pushing at the boundaries of global history (from a variety of methodological, historiographical, and subject interests as well as traditions) by researching and writing about modern 20th and 21st century global cities as both historians and public intellectuals. These panelists have each been asked to offer their thoughts on the state of global cities, both in terms of the state of the literal cities in which countless people in the world reside today (so that we might hear their perspectives on where we are, and where might be headed), and also in terms of the state of the field of global urban history (so that we might hear their equally important perspectives on where it could, should, or might, head as it continues to evolve and grow).


Bryant Simon, Professor of History, Temple University, and UHA Program Committee co-chair

Cyrus Schayegh, Professor of International History and Politics, Graduate Institute Geneva
Ademide Adelusi-Adeluyi, Assistant Professor of History, University of California Riverside
Michael Goebel, Associate Professor of International History, The Graduate Institute Geneva
Nancy Kwak, Associate Professor of History, University of California San Diego
Debjani Bhattacharyya, Associate Professor of History, Drexel University
Sheetal Chhabria, Associate Professor of History,Connecticut College

Please direct any questions about this event to Hope Shannon, UHA Executive Director, at