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What's So Urban About the Suburbs?

A new book makes the case for suburban urbanity.
January 12, 2016, 7am PST | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
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Morgan Brown

CityLab provides an edited excerpt of the recently recently released book: Surburban Urbanites: Suburbs and the Life of the High Street. The book, published by UCL Press and available for free download, departs from a tradition of academic study that tends to devote more time and effort to urban environments. Another novel approach found in the book: considering suburbia together with the city. "The book therefore intends to make the case for suburban urbanity. It counteracts the binary opposition between city and suburb and challenges the perception that urbanity only exists in the city," explains Laura Vaughn, the editor of the book.

After beginning to debunk some of the familiar arguments made against suburbs, Vaughn cites one example of how suburbs are more complex than reductionist theories about suburbia allow:

Cities are routinely acknowledged as complex and dynamic built environments, but this description is rarely extended to the suburbs, which are generally regarded as byproducts of the urbs and therefore of little intrinsic theoretical interest. The opening chapter of this book presents a detailed critique of this widely held assumption by showing how the idea of “the suburb” as an essentially non-complex domain has been perpetuated by a range of disciplines and perspectives. It makes the case for a more substantive theory of the suburban built environment as one in which socioeconomic processes and cultural identities can be contested and negotiated over time.

The excerpt promises additional case studies and empirical evidence from around the globe and an assurance that the suburbs will play a critical role in the future of cities.

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Published on Thursday, January 7, 2016 in CityLab
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