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Telescopic Urbanism

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CRASSH City Seminar - all welcome!

By 2030 between a third and half of the world’s population will be leading a precarious, and often abject, life in the neglected urban interstices. Urban scholarship is beginning to turn to this eye-watering problem, and to questions of sustainable urban competitiveness and growth, but interestingly without referencing one to the other. This paper claims that the ‘endless city’ is being looked at through the wrong end of the binoculars, with ‘business consultancy’ urbanism largely disinterested in the city that does not feed international competitiveness and business growth, and ‘UN-Habitat’ urbanism looking to the settlements where the poor are located for bottom-up solutions to human well-being. The paper muses on the implications of such an urban optic on the chances of the poor, their areas of settlement, and their expectations of support from others in and beyond the city. While acknowledging the realism, inventiveness and achievements of effort initiated or led by the poor, the paper laments the disappearance of ideas of mutuality, obligation and commonality that telescopic urbanism has enabled, in the process scripting out both grand designs and the duty of distant others to address the problems of acute inequality and poverty that will continue to plague the majority city.

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