Writing the city spatially
The centrality of cities to an understanding of historic societies is an assumption shared by most urbanists but it is scarcely evident in the work of other social analysts. It is still possible to write or compile contemporary histories that allot, at best, a chapter to urban phenomena. This may not be because the other social analysts are being obtuse but rather because urbanists have, in the main, not made an adequate case for that centrality. Among the few that have made such a case Edward Soja's work is particularly distinctive. As was noted in an earlier discussion of aspects of his work, Soja's trilogy - Postmodern Geographies (1989), Thirdspace (1996) and Postmetropolis (2000) - is 'an exciting enterprise, superbly written, showing great insight and increasing catholicity and generosity towards a wide range of work' (Catterall, 'It All Came Together in New York? Urban Studies and the Present Crisis', CITY, Vol.6, No.1, 2002). But it is more than that. It is a reconceptualisation of the field that puts it in touch with and contributes to the recasting of contemporary, transdisciplinary social analysis. It includes, as his personal introduction below to key aspects of his work indicates: a rejection of binary divisions that set, for example, Marxist and postmodern approaches apart; an emphasis on and exploration of the notion of synekism (the stimulus of urban agglomeration), and of the essential spatiality of urban phenomena; and - unexpectedly, for those still coming to terms with the spatial turn - a related reconsideration of urban history (including a prequel of 5,000 years added to, and necessitating the rethinking of the established account of, 'the Urban Revolution').