"Urban Representations Workshop"

James Farrer

a. goal and basic research question

The goal of this research is to come up with better theoretical descriptions of the urban representation as a social, cultural and political process. Cities are represented in texts, images and other media produced by a wide range of actors – government leaders, citizens, corporations, artists, writers and other intellectuals. Thus, urban representations could be described simply as diverse and multi-vocal. On the other hand, no artist, politician or urban resident can really expect to imagine the city out of thin air. Therefore, urban representations build upon previous discourses, maps and representations that can be described as "collective representations" of the city. It is this interaction between cultural creativity and public collective representations that we want to better theorize in this research. As a collaborative effort, this can best be described as an ongoing research workshop, rather than a narrowly defined research project with a single set of data and methodology. However, rather than a single mini-conference, we plan more diverse activities within the limit of the budget. These include a few invited speakers, some student support for ongoing research, and participation in one overseas conference related to this project. The goal of this research group is to apply for funding for a large conference on urban representations to be organized at Sophia University in 2010.

b. analytical framework(s)

The framework we will employ can best be described as synthetic and inductive rather than analytic and deductive. We intend to use this project to generate higher-order theoretical discussions rather than engage a narrow disciplinary agenda. The larger theoretical, or perhaps meta-theoretical discourse, we are engaging in is one about the nature of urban representation as a social and cultural process. How do cities acquire their character? How is this character of urban space actualized in diverse texts, images, and commercial and political activities? What holds together "Tokyo" or "Shanghai" as imaginary spaces? We hope that by meeting regularly together and with scholars in similar fields, we will be in a better position to speak to these larger theoretical debates rather than narrow empirical debates limited to our own foci of research.

c. research method(s)

As an interdisciplinary group our methodology will be appropriate to the cultural objects we are investigating. Concretely, we will be using techniques of textual and visual analysis as well as techniques of ethnographic observation and interviewing appropriate to the objects of study. Most of our research is already complete, so this project is mainly intended for the generation of theory, and the sharpening up of our ideas in an interactive context.

d. expected outcome

The goal of this research group is to apply for funding for a large conference on urban representations to be organized at Sophia University in 2010. Otherwise, we plan to have individual papers that will benefit from the ongoing interdisciplinary discussion in the workshop. e. the potential implications of research findings

This workshop should serve to develop the Institute as a center for comparative urban studies, and to develop the existing strengths in interdisciplinary urban studies at Sophia.

Names of other FLA and non-FLA Sophia faculty involved
(tel/fax numbers and an e-mail address)
James Farrer, David Slater, Angela Yiu, Michio Hayashi all of FLA