Transnational Urbanism in the Americas

Urban History Association
Saturday, January 7, 2012: 2:30 PM-4:30 PM
Rogers Park Room (Westin Chicago River North)
Nancy H. Kwak, University of California, San Diego
The Audience

Session Abstract

Urban communities often cohere, grow, and thrive because of the transnational connections that help sustain them. Sometimes this transnationalism can be manifest in the continuous migratory flows of urban residents themselves; other times, such communities can maintain connections “using advanced means of communication… which because of their simultaneity, indirectly implicate transnational actors in an orbit of cosmopolitan ideas, images, technologies, and sociocultural practices that have historically been associated with the culture of cities,” in the words of Michael Peter Smith.[1] Cities also link residents together in production and consumption networks that rise above region or nation.

In trying to understand how communities cohere and form linkages with others globally, this panel will focus on the role of cities in circulating “information, knowledge, and traditions.”[2] How has urban infrastructure facilitated or blocked the creation of transnational spaces in the second half of the twentieth century? How have transnational flows transformed American cities, both in form and function? What knowledge and traditions have not become part of transnational urban communities, and why?

In this panel, presenters will discuss the role of transnational flows in shaping urban and rural economies, in creating and transforming local architectural practices, in shaping “place” within specific urban communities, and in determining complex relationships between foreign policy and American urban spatial order. Transnational flows are not defined as simple transfers of knowledge or people, but rather as an ongoing process of hybridization; not surprisingly, conflicts play a central role in this story, as communities, financial interests, and cultures collide. Four papers will offer case studies of these flows, from the remittance urbanism emergent in Mexico’s Tres Por Uno program and the impact of Hometown Associations in the Peravia Province and in major US cities like New York City and Boston, to the formation of pan-Latino political consciousness in Washington DC and the revitalization of one Dallas neighborhood through transnational, Latino urbanisms.

This panel should be of particular interest to architectural and urban historians, as well as to those interested in transnational and interdisciplinary studies.

[1] Michael Peter Smith, Transnational Urbanism: Locating Globalization (Blackwell Publishing, 2001) p. 5.

[2] Jacob Soll and Jennifer Siegel, AHA Call for Papers, 2012.