‘Conceptual Topography’ and the City

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


The essay offers a reflection on the terms used to analyze urban space and society, as a way of engaging with the important notions of ‘Juxtacity’ and ‘urban divisions’ highlighted by the special issue. It proposes the optic of ‘conceptual topography’ which introduces more explicitly the working of power into the formulation and application of terms. Based on insights from cities in Israel/Palestine and using a ‘southeastern’ perspective, the discussion highlights dimensions of power in the making of urban division and citizenship. The essay argues that in contemporary urban settings, which are marked by pervasive colonialities, urban divisions are frequently used to create social and political exclusions and hierarchies. It outlines a distinction between ‘vertical’, ‘diagonal’ and ‘horizontal’ concepts, as ‘ideal types’ on an analytical spectrum. In focusing on ‘vertical’ concepts, the effort is to highlight often hidden oppressive histories and logics that stand behind the making of urban categories such as ‘division’, ‘diversity’, ‘complexity’ or similar terms. This approach to power helps explain the ways in which ‘juxtaposed’ cities work, by prizing open the term ‘division’, through which uneven ‘verticalities’ and ‘diagonalities’ of power produce spatial processes. In doing so, these concepts offer ways to map and articulate subjugation, resistance and possible transformation. This orientation now typifies emerging ‘southeastern’ approaches in urban studies, which attempt to link systemic critique with progressive transformation in the making of urban space and citizenship.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)443-451
Number of pages9
JournalUrban Forum
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 Sep 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Urban Studies


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