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Friday, June 9 • 11:55am - 12:15pm
Dispatches from the Urban Humanities: Making and Sustaining an Emergent Global Network

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The newly established Urban Humanities Network (UHN) is a consortium of campuses, organizations and professionals (scholars, practitioners & community leaders) collectively building the emerging field of Urban Humanities. Urban humanists share practices of research, design and place-based public engagement at the intersection of architecture, urban studies, and the public humanities. Over the last decade, this trans-disciplinary work has been institutionalized as a field through the support of the Mellon Foundation, creating pedagogical programs, research centers, and community engaged scholarship in cities across the globe. This panel submission, created by members of the UHN Steering Committee, will document and report on the UHN’s convening of the Inaugural Urban Humanities Global (Un)Conference to be held at Tucson, AZ in March 2023. It reflects on the process of building and sustaining this network as a form of critical making.

With planning currently underway, the (Un) Conference is framed around the critical question of what is missing –people, data, methods, theories–and how we can address these missing elements within the field. This is to build-up a next generation of urban humanities scholars and practitioners that exist beyond the R1 institution to include and support pre-tenured faculty, adjunct lecturers, graduate students, early career professionals from academic and non-academic institutions, as well as interested artists, organizers, and community practitioners. We hope the network pushes the field in new directions with more explicit orientations towards social justice, while also seeding urban humanities in new institutions and cities. These questions will be reflected on by participants in a variety of settings, such as roundtable discussions on the central pedagogical commitments of the field to place-based experiences on the streets of Tucson.

The conference will also highlight the power of place via the cultural and environmental landscape of Southern Arizona, in its austere ecological frailty, fraught borderlands history and utopian imaginaries. To that end, a central thematic spotlight and conference location is the University of Arizona’s stewardship of Biosphere 2, the largest sealed environment in the world, and which is now a laboratory for studying the effects of climate change. During a day-long site visit, the conference will experiment with the ways that sites like the Biosphere can serve also as a laboratory for humanistic thought, especially about the city, to meditate on speculative models for collective life, or to glimpse new relationalities formed into being (such as the network itself).

We envision our panel contribution as a first chance to make sense of the collective ideas generated by the conference. As organizers, we will gather our impressions throughout the proceedings, and explicitly engage participants with reflecting on the process of making this network together, so that we can better understand both the current state and future of the field of urban humanities. We hope to synthesize these collective ideas into some kind of creative object (visual, textual, sonic, material) utilizing collaborative making practices already existing the urban humanities (or perhaps discovered through the gathering itself), which can be showcased as part of the panel talk.


Gus Wendel

Assistant Director, University of California, Los Angeles
Gus Wendel is the Assistant Director of cityLAB at UCLA. Gus is interested in the ways that visual culture informs planning and design, the politics of place and space, urban humanities, and the effect of urban interventions on marginalized communities. He previously served as the... Read More →

Jonathan Banfill

Assistant Professor, Champlain College

Jacqueline Barrios

Assistant Professor, University of Arizona

Kenny Wong

Lecturer, University of Arizona

Friday June 9, 2023 11:55am - 12:15pm EDT
Main 212