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At the Frontiers of Urban Space

Aux frontières de l'urbain

Small towns of the world: emergence, growth, economic and social role, territorial integration, governance

Petites villes du monde : émergence, croissance, rôle économique et social, intégration territoriale, gouvernance

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Published on Thursday, July 11, 2013 by Élodie Faath


From 22nd to 24th January 2014, will be held the international conference “At the Frontiers of Urban Space. Small towns of the world” at the University of Avignon. Organized by the laboratory ESPACE, this conference aims to compare the different issues concerning the least studied part of the urban hierarchy. It will also address the question of limits and definitions that are supposed to set the opposition between urban and rural, as well as between urban and metropolitan. Process of emergence, growth, economic and social role, territorial integration, governance: this meeting provides an opportunity for researchers and professionals from different backgrounds to take stock on a topical issue that arises all around the world.



When we speak of cities, the attention of researchers, the media, and institutions is traditionally focused on large metropolis. Yet in reality, half the urban population of the world lives in hundreds of small and medium-sized cities (Moriconi-Ebrard, 1994).

 These agglomerations play a key role in urban growth. They have heterogeneous dynamics and profiles that diverge from what is observed in metro cities. Therefore, studies of the base of the urban hierarchy enrich and deepen the urban concept as a whole.

 Defining these agglomerations also requires the testing of categories of space which go beyond a simple, and increasingly problematic, urban-rural dichotomy. What criteria should define the threshold between these spaces? Can we speak of an “in-between” territory? In terms of process, small cities highlight the different stages of urban growth: genesis, development, mutation, and regression.

 In the context of fieldwork, researchers’ observations are faced with the arbitrary official definition of urban areas, which differ from one country to the next. This contributes to the fuzziness of objective boundaries between “small towns” and villages. The change of the status of small agglomerations can lead to modifications in fiscal, environmental and urban rules. Access to urban status is a major issue for the development of a locality and territory (Giraut, 2005). What is the impact of urban policies on such towns? Is it enough to proclaim that a locality is “urban”? Are there specific governance issues that come with the small and medium town? Are these issues at the basis of original proposals concerning country planning?

 In a global marketplace, where agglomeration economies are prioritized, metro cities seem to be the only competitive spaces. In reality however, small towns are often spaces of innovation capable of taking their own place in wider global networks (Bairoch, 1984). What are the major assets of such towns compared with larger metro cities? How do they face the major spatial issues of a society: mobility, land access and competition, exploitation of local resources, procurement, and environmental protection? These issues are dependent on forms of spatial organisation, which are themselves the result of intense processes of concentration and dispersion. Do clusters, urban corridors and dispersed settlements represent specific organisational types of such intermediary, “in-between” spaces?


  • Comparative approach: India, Europe, Africa, Latin America…
  • Small towns, networks and mobility
  • Small town and land issues
  • Urban systems and hierarchies
  • Emerging towns: genesis and history
  • Role of politics, role of spontaneous urbanisation
  • Small town economy
  • Small towns and hierarchies
  • Small towns and sustainable development

Submission guidelines

  • Proposals for papers or posters should include the following:
  • Title of the paper
  • Abstract (between 500 and 800 words)
  • Name and details of the author(s)

Proposals should be submitted on the conference website : http://fronturb2013.sciencesconf.org/submission/submit


Final date for abstract submission: 11th October 2013

Paper confirmation: 15th November 2013

Final date for sending full paper: 20th December 2013


chatelcathy@yahoo.fr and julien.bordagi@netcourrier.com

Scientific committee

  • Julien Bordagi, Doctorant Université d'Avignon et de Pays de Vaucluse et Institut Français de Pondichéry
  • Cathy Chatel, ATER Université d'Avignon et de Pays de Vaucluse
  • Eric Denis, Chercheur CNRS, UMR Géographie-cités
  • Michel Dimou, Professeur en Economie spatiale, Université du Sud Toulon-Var
  • Frédéric Girault, Professeur en Géographie, Université de Genève
  • Kamala Marius, Maître de conférences HDR en Géographie, Université de Bordeaux III
  • Jordi Marti-Henneberg, Professeur en Géographie, Université de Lleida
  • François Moriconi, Directeur de Recherche CNRS, UMR 7300 ESPACE
  • Mounir Redjimi, Maître de conférences en Géographie, Université d'Avignon et de Pays de Vaucluse 


  • Université d'Avignon et des Pays du Vaucluse - 74 Rue Louis Pasteur
    Avignon, France (84)


  • Friday, October 11, 2013


  • petites villes, réseaux, systèmes urbains, économie spatiale, mobilité, politiques urbaines, gouvernancechef-lieu


  • Julien Bordagi
    courriel : julien [dot] bordagi [at] netcourrier [dot] com

Information source

  • Julien Bordagi
    courriel : julien [dot] bordagi [at] netcourrier [dot] com

To cite this announcement

« At the Frontiers of Urban Space », Call for papers, Calenda, Published on Thursday, July 11, 2013, https://calenda.org/255295

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