Ordinary Cities in

Exceptional Times

24 - 26.8.2022



The theme for the 2022 RC21 conference explores Ordinary cities in exceptional times.


Urban analysis was long based on concepts and theories developed in institutions at the core of the academic division of labor. These concepts and theories tended to focus on a small number of cities at the top of the hierarchy of global cities. This focus was often implicitly justified by their position as exemplary urban environments where the new developments they face would, sooner or later, affect cities at lower echelons of the global urban hierarchy. Thus, exceptional global cities become the ordinary and generalizable urban reality, while the majority of cities around the world attracting less attention become exceptional and particular according to their differences with the former. In the last few decades, urban studies moved away slowly from this approach.

This conference connects the emerging spatial perspective of ordinary cities to the theme of the exceptional time. Ordinary cities, after all, may be going through times perceived as exceptional –like crises– although nothing is exceptional in capitalism, and nothing is ordinary either. However, when theory has unwarranted and usually unintended contextual attachments, its estimations can be seriously biased. The focus on top global cities and mainly on those dominated by neoliberal regulation promotes approaches that consider global forces as the determining factors of urban social futures and demotes those considering the importance of other factors, especially policies aimed at counteracting or at least mitigating the effects of such global forces. Yet, exceptional circumstances (such as crises or disasters) have become the continuous rather that the exceptional driving force of urban governmentalities.

The apparent bipolar categorization of exception versus rule or ‘normalcy’ runs through many aspects of the urban, raising questions about the theorizations, politics and lived experiences of what is ascribed as ‘exception’ and what as ‘regular’. As a result, new hybridities of ordinary or even ‘banal’ exceptions reconfigure and reshape the broad terrain of the urban.

The conference welcomes sessions and papers on urban and regional issues perceptive of the not random ways in which concepts and theories travel among different contexts around the world and of the impact of this travelling on the ways we assume what is ordinary and general and what is exceptional and particular.