< Back to previous page


Can the straw man speak? An engagement with postcolonial critiques of ‘global cities research’

Journal Contribution - Journal Article

This paper engages with postcolonial critiques of global cities research (GCR). We argue that such criticisms tend to be hampered by their tendency to be polemical rather than engaging, as evidenced by both the quasi-systematic misrepresentation of the core objectives of GCR and the skating over of its internal diversity. We present a genealogy of postcolonial critiques starting from Robinson’s (2002) agenda-setting discussion of GCR, followed by an analysis of how her legitimate concerns have subsequently morphed into a set of apparent truisms. These misrepresentations are then contrasted with the purposes, diversity, and critical character of GCR as actually practiced. We interpret this discrepancy to be part of a gradually routinized straw man rhetoric that emerged as an unfortunate rallying point for postcolonial urban scholars. The consequence is that GCR tends to be casually invoked to distinguish one’s own position. We conclude by advocating practices of ‘engaged pluralism’ rather than ‘polemical pluralism’ when doing global urban research and propose that critical realism can provide an important epistemological bridge to make different positions communicate.
Journal: Dialogues in Human Geography
ISSN: 2043-8206
Issue: 3
Volume: 6
Pages: 247-267
Number of pages: 21
Publication year:2016