Do the Suburbs Exist? article for Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers

June 18, 2009

An article entitled ‘Do the suburbs exist? Discovering complexity and specificity in suburban built form’ has been accepted for publication by Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers.

In human geography cities are routinely acknowledged as complex and dynamic built environments. This description is rarely extended to the suburbs, which are generally regarded as epiphenomena of the urbs and therefore of little intrinsic theoretical interest in themselves. This article presents a detailed critique of this widely held assumption by showing how the idea of ‘the suburban’ as an essentially non-problematic domain has been perpetuated from a range of contrasting disciplinary perspectives, including those which directly address suburban subject matter. The result has been that attempts to articulate the complex social possibilities of suburban space are easily caught between theories of urbanisation that are insensitive to suburban specificity and competing representations of the suburb that rarely move beyond the culturally specific to consider their generic significance. This article proposes that the development of a distinctively suburban theory would help to undermine one-dimensional approaches to the built environment, by focusing on the relationship between social organisation and the dynamics of emergent built form.

A pre-publication version of the article is available from the authors.


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