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Cities we don't talk about

Ces villes dont on ne parle pas

Esas ciudades de las que no se habla

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Published on Thursday, May 21, 2015


The cities of urban research have long been and still are widely today, the "great cities". But the realities of urban are not limited to them. In France for example the small and medium-sized cities house more than a quarter of the population. What does the observation of these cities bring to knowledge of the urban phenomenon? On the other hand, in the research devoted to major metropoles, it is often very specific neighborhoods that are the subject of attention of research as well as the media: social housing developments or the central gentrified neighborhoods. But more "ordinary" neighbourhoods are not often the focus. What does the observation of these neighbourhoods that we do not talk about "say" about the city? In other words, we would like to call on work that offers openings of the typologies of cities as the typologies of neighbourhoods that are subjacent to the discourse and debates on the urban.



Berlin (Simmel), Chicago (Park, Burgess, Wirth etc.), Paris (Chombart de Lauwe, Harvey etc.), Los Angeles (Davis), New York-London-Tokyo (Sassen)... the cities of urban research are the “great” cities. They have long been and still are widely today, for various reasons, and without doubt more or less pronounced according to the discipline (sociology, geography, history), the “very grand cities”. But the realities of the urban are not limited to them. In the world today, more than half of the urban population lives (and will likely continue to live) in agglomerations of less than a half-million inhabitants - and only 9 per cent in the “mega-cities” of 10 million or more inhabitants (Damon [ed.], 2008). In France, nearly a quarter of the urban population resides in urban units of 10,000 to 100,000 inhabitants and since the turn of 2000 the small urban units (less than 10,000 inhabitants) are those which have gained the most inhabitants (Clanché and Rascol, 2011).

From one point of view, the objective of this issue of spaces and societies is to deal with in these cities (“small towns”, “medium-sized cities” etc.) that we do not talk about (or have talked about little) in urban research, but also, and these are related, in the media or even in public policy. What does the observation of these cities bring to knowledge of the urban phenomenon? What demographic changes have they seen? What populations live in these cities? What are their ways of life, ways of inhabiting and coexisting? What representations do these urban dwellers have tof the city and of urbanity? What processes of aggregation and segregation characterize these cities? How are these cities governed? To what extent, more widely, are the categories of description and analysis of the “urban phenomena” forged from major cities (with the example of the “gentrification”) operating procedures that characterize and explain the “realities” and the urban and social dynamic of “these cities we do not talk about”? Finally, what representations do the inhabitants of “very large cities” have or “small cities” or “medium cities”, of their inhabitants and their modes of life?

From a second point of view, to explore “these cities we do not talk about” is an invitation to treat the very large cities from perspective of their neighbourhoods (or other spaces)... that are not commonly talked about. In urban research, the observation of very large cities appears to often confine itself to the study of a few neighbourhoods-types: the gentrified neighbourhoods of city centers, “beautiful neighbourhoods”, gated-communities, social housing estates and developments, favelas, etc., leaving in the shadows neighbourhoods that are more “ordinary” (without quality or without fault?), and without doubt of less media interest. What does the observation of these neighbourhoods that we do not talk about “say” about the city?[1] In other words, we would like to call on work that offers openings of the typologies of cities as the typologies of neighbourhoods that are subjacent to the discourse and debates on the urban.

Finally, from a third point of view, this issue could be an opportunity to talk about cities, works and authors in the history of urban research which are little present in contemporary research in urban sociology or geography. It is not a matter of making a catalog of authors or of works that have fallen into oblivion, but to show that this localized research brings to the general theory of the city. As examples, we think of the work by Charles Bettelheim and Suzanne Frère on Auxerre (1950), Pierre Clément and Nelly Xydias on Vienna (1955), Jean Remy on Charleroi (1962), Xavier Piolle on Pau (1979) or, by Michel Bozon on Villefranche-sur-Saone (1985). The expected proposals for this number are obviously not limited to the French case. On the contrary, articles relating to Reutlingen (Germany), Macapà (Brazil), Whichita (United States), Dhanbad (India), etc. are welcome!

References Cited

  • Bettelheim, C. ; Frère, S., 1950. Une ville française moyenne. Auxerre en 1950. Étude de structure sociale et urbaine, Paris, Armand Colin.
  • Bozon, M. 1985. Vie quotidienne et rapports sociaux dans une petite ville de province, Presses universitaires de Lyon.
  • Clanché, F. ; Rascol, O. 2011. « Le découpage en unités urbaines de 2010 », Insee Première, n° 1364.
  • Clément, P. ; Xydias, N., 1955. Vienne sur le Rhône. La ville et les habitants. Situations et attitudes. Sociologie d’une cité française, Paris, Armand Colin, Cahiers de la Fondation nationale des sciences politiques, n° 71.
  • Damon, J. (sous la dir. de). 2008, Vivre en ville, PUF.
  • Lapeyronnie, D. 2008. Ghetto urbain. Ségrégation, violence, pauvreté en France aujourd’hui, Robert Laffont.
  • Piolle, X. 1979. Les citadins et leur ville. Approche de phénomènes urbains et recherche méthodologique, Éditions Privat.
  • Remy, J. 1962. Charleroi et son agglomération : Unités de vie sociale – Caractéristiques socio-économiques, Bruxelles, Éditions du Centre de recherches socio-religieuses. 

Coordination of the issue

Jean-Yves Authier and Catherine Bidou-Zachariasen


June 8, 2015: Deadline for submission of articles

June 30, 2015: Responses to authors

Address for correspondence

Submissions exclusively in electronic version by e-mail to the following two addresses:

Authors who are wondering about the relevance of their proposals may contact the coordinators. 


  •  The magazine does not request proposals for articles, but submissions of articles directly
  •  articles may not exceed 42 000 characters (including spaces) including: text, notes, bibliographic references, appendices, but excluding summaries.
  •  Submission information is included in each number.
  •  The standards of presentation and the advice to authors are available on the website of the journal: http://www.espacesetsocietes.msh-paris.fr/conseils.html
  •  The journal reminds authors that they may submit, at any time, an article outside of the theme, if it concerns the relation between spaces, territories and populations in the broad sense and it complies with the standards of publication; in case of acceptance, these articles are published rapidly.

Drafting committee

  • Jean-Yves Authier,
  • Christian Azaïs,
  • Bernard Barraqué,
  • Fatiha Belmessous,
  • Catherine Bidou-Zachariasen,
  • Maurice Blanc,
  • Florence Bouillon,
  • Alain Bourdin,
  • Olivier Chadoin,
  • Anne Clerval,
  • Jérôme Dubois,
  • Joëlle Jacquin,
  • Leïla Kebir
  • Albert Lévy,
  • Jérôme Monnet,
  • Stéphane Nahrath,
  • Jean Remy,
  • Thomas Sauvadet,
  • Stéphanie Vermeersch

Internacional editorial board

  • Lauren Andres (Birmingham, Grande-Bretagne),
  • Maria Encarnação Beltrão Sposito (São Paulo, Brésil),
  • José Virgílio Borges Pereira (Porto, Portugal),
  • Julie-Anne Boudreau (Montréal, Québec),
  • Philippe Bourgois (Philadelphie, États-Unis),
  • María A. Castrillo Romón (Valladolid, Espagne),
  • Angela Giglia (Mexico, Mexique),
  • Abdou Salam Fall (Dakar, Sénégal),
  • Güzin Kaya (Istanbul, Turquie),
  • Marc Levine (Milwaukee, États Unis),
  • Beatriz Nates Cruz (Manizales, Colombie),
  • Janice Elaine Perlman (New-York, États Unis),
  • Caecilia Pieri (Beyrouth, Liban),
  • Rainer Neef (Göttingen, Allemagne),
  • Robert Shields (Alberta, Canada),
  • Panayotis Tournikiotis (Athènes, Grêce).

[1]. These neighborhoods may sometimes be located in the "cities we do not talk about ", because the focuson their main characteristics erases the context of the city to which they belong (cf. D. Lapeyronnie, 2008).


  • Paris, France (75)


  • Monday, June 08, 2015


  • villes moyennes, petites villes, villes « ordinaires », quartiers « ordinaires », typologies urbaines


  • Joëlle Jacquin
    courriel : Espacesetsocietes [at] msh-paris [dot] fr

Reference Urls

Information source

  • Joëlle Jacquin
    courriel : Espacesetsocietes [at] msh-paris [dot] fr


CC0-1.0 This announcement is licensed under the terms of Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal.

To cite this announcement

« Cities we don't talk about », Call for papers, Calenda, Published on Thursday, May 21, 2015, https://calenda.org/308564

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