The first issue of IJURR was published more than 30 years ago, in 1977. It opened with a brief editorial statement in which the journal's founders defined their project. IJURR would be interdisciplinary. It would be open to diverse theoretical approaches and methodologies, whilst seeking to understand urban and regional development in terms of the ‘fundamental economic, social and political processes which operate at local, national and international levels’. Such an understanding should inform ‘social action’ and not be confined to intellectual debate.

The tone for the new journal was set by the inaugural issue, which opened with four articles (by Ray Pahl, Jean Lojkine, Enzo Mingione and Richard Child Hill) on ‘urbanism and the state’. Other contributors to the first volume of IJURR included Manuel Castells, Edmond Preteceille, Chris Pickvance, Patrick Dunleavy, Doreen Massey, Martin Ravallion, Roger Friedland, Frances Fox Piven, Robert Alford, Josef Gugler and William Flanagan. Pahl, Mingione, Preteceille, Pickvance, Piven and Castells were all founding members of IJURR's editorial board, together with Michael Harloe (the editor) and S.M. Miller. The founders of and initial contributors to IJURR comprised a remarkable generation of scholars concerned with the development of a radical or critical approach to urban and regional issues that would be relevant to political and social change. Indeed, IJURR included a section on ‘Praxis’. In the first issue, this section comprised articles on social or popular movements in the USA, Mexico and Spain, and on the civil war in Beirut. The impetus behind IJURR came mostly from sociologists, and there was a considerable overlap between IJURR and Research Committee 21 of the International Sociological Association, but IJURR also drew on the efforts of political scientists, planners and geographers.

Change was central to IJURR's identity. Drawing on egalitarian conceptions of social justice, IJURR's founders sought to show that cities and regions could change in a variety of directions. Marxist theory was especially appealing to scholars who combined activist and scholarly missions, although Marxist theory certainly did not go unchallenged (not least by Ray Pahl and Patrick Dunleavy) and was never a precondition for publication. The scholarly practice of the journal was unambiguously embedded in an overall surge of radical and even revolutionary politics across the world. The 1970s were the morning after the 1960s explosion of critical theory and revolutionary practice. Student rebellion and scholarly debate fed and radicalized each other. IJURR was both a product of and protagonist in this important shift, and was seen by its editors, authors, reviewers and readers as such.

But the journal itself is not immune to changes of many kinds. It operates not only amidst rapid change in the cities and regions of the world, but also in the rapidly changing worlds of urban and regional scholarship in the academy and of the business and technologies of journal publishing. IJURR continues to follow the general path chosen more than 30 years ago, emphasizing strongly the combination of critical scholarship, a commitment to social justice, and an engagement with processes of political and social change. But we seek to follow this path in ways that are cognizant of the new challenges posed in the changing world around us.

Change in the journal and the publishing environment

  1. Top of page
  2. Change in the journal and the publishing environment
  3. Change in critical urban scholarship
  4. What does it mean to be an international journal?
  5. Continuity and change: format and content

This reflection is prompted in part by changes in the editorship. At the end of 2004, Patrick Le Galès stepped down as the editor of IJURR. His editorship since 1997 had marked a significant generational change for the journal as IJURR was now in the hands of a younger editor who was only indirectly related to the upheavals of the 1960s and 1970s that had given birth to the journal. During his tenure, Patrick invited onto the editorial board a group of scholars who were diverse in terms of both academic discipline and personal background. These included the book review and Debates and Developments editors AbdouMaliq Simone, Steve Graham and Roger Keil. When Patrick handed the baton over to Alan Harding and the two of us, he had edited the journal for 7 years, steering the journal through a crucial period of change. Alan played a major transitional role as co-editor for 3 years, before stepping down at the end of 2007. AbdouMaliq Simone took over as editor of the Debates and Developments section and Talja Blokland as book reviews editor, from the beginning of 2005.1

These changes in personnel entail a significant and telling geographical change also. For its first 21 years, the actual editors of the various parts of IJURR were all Western Europeans and the journal's centre of gravity was in Britain. The editorial board was somewhat more diverse, comprising some American scholars as well as British and other European ones. Under its second editor — a French scholar based in France — the editorial board was ‘internationalized’ beyond Europe and the USA, adding scholars from Japan, Brazil, South Africa, China and India. Now it is edited by a German-born scholar who studied the American city and now lives in Canada and a British-born and -educated scholar who lives in South Africa with extended stays in the USA. The Debates and Developments section is edited by a Chicago-born urbanist who works across Africa, the Middle East and Southeast Asia. The book review section is edited by a Dutch scholar who has worked on neighbourhood change in the United States and now teaches in Germany. The globalization of academia has transformed journals like IJURR. In addition, whereas most of IJURR's founders were sociologists, the board now comprises a broader mix of geographers, political scientists, planners, and anthropologists also (although not, yet, an economist).

Much of the production of IJURR remains in Britain. For authors and reviewers, the ‘face’ of IJURR continues to be the indefatigable and indispensable Terry McBride, our managing editor, who lives and works near Brighton in the south of England. And, from 1991, the journal was published (but not owned) by the British-based Blackwell. But, in a world of globalizing technologies, these British connections are less and less meaningful. The paper edition of the journal is printed in Singapore. Blackwell was recently bought by the American publisher Wiley, forming the new composite Wiley-Blackwell. The internet has transformed completely the production of the journal. The submission and review of papers is now done entirely through our online system (ScholarOne's ‘Manuscript Central’, A large and growing minority of our core institutional clients now subscribe to the online version, either with or without the print edition also. And more and more readers access back issues through online archives (until recently through Blackwell's platform ‘Synergy’, and now through Wiley-Blackwell's platform ‘InterScience’).

Changing technologies have allowed IJURR to expand its readership across the world. Over 3,000 institutions worldwide can access the current content of IJURR either through traditional subscriptions or via the Wiley-Blackwell sales programme to consortia of libraries. About 3% of these institutions are in the UK, another 30% in the rest of Europe, 21% in North America and nearly 40% spread across the rest of the world. Over 600 institutions in the global South have free or heavily discounted access to the journal under philanthropic arrangements.

There is a slow but steady shift from print to online traditional institutional subscriptions. In 2007, the number of articles downloaded over the internet passed 100,000 in a year. The most downloaded article (Jamie Peck's ‘Struggling with the Creative Class’, in IJURR 29.4) was downloaded 2,600 times. More than 1,000 people receive via email the ‘table of contents’ for each issue as it is published (and we think that this number should be far higher). Articles are published online prior to being printed.

Technological change poses constant challenges. When IJURR was founded, the epitome of high tech was an IBM Selectric typewriter with erasure function, and the idea of an image was a 24/36 mm colour slide. Now, of course, all work is digitalized. The digital revolution has overwhelmed us with a rising tide of images both still and moving. Cities themselves have become screens for layers of textual and image-based information, off which urban scholarship is ‘read’. IJURR now publishes photographs, maps and graphics, but we are a long way from realizing the potential imagery unleashed by the digital revolution. We are facing the challenge of the digital revolution and its apparent opportunities with a broad range of editorial strategies ranging from representation inside and outside the printed journal (e.g. through our emerging website), through more engagement with visualization as a problematic of urban research, and through recognition of the role architecture, design and style play in the urban fabric of the twenty-first-century city.

Change in critical urban scholarship

  1. Top of page
  2. Change in the journal and the publishing environment
  3. Change in critical urban scholarship
  4. What does it mean to be an international journal?
  5. Continuity and change: format and content

When IJURR turned 21, its editorial board produced a short retrospective statement (published in IJURR 22.1). Four members of the board (Harloe, Mingione, Pickvance and Preteceille) spelt out some of the concerns that had motivated them and their colleagues. The first was the journal's embrace of ‘a critical, or radical, approach to urban problems’. In the 1970s, urban and regional research was ‘largely dominated by the interests and views of urban planning and state administrations’, and was generally isolated ‘from current debates in the social sciences’. The vision for IJURR, as set out in a pre-launch planning document, was a ‘macro-sociological research approach, giving more emphasis to problems such as the social structural class interests which are affected by planning and state intervention, the accumulation and circulation of capital in the regional system, the ownership of land and other economic determinants of the urbanization process, and urban social movements as spatial reflections of the class struggle’. At the same time, in the predominant view of the journal's founders, research should not be subordinated to politics.

The ‘sense of intellectual excitement’ around the founding of IJURR was also described by Ray Pahl. ‘The new currents of social theory and analysis that began flowing in the late 1960s and early 1970s’ held out the promise of a paradigm shift in the study of the city. ‘Not that there was much to push out of the way’, Pahl added acerbically, ‘since much previous work had been atheoretical and descriptive, often based on a technocratic or planning perspective’ (Pahl, 1989: 709).

This original intellectual and political agenda was strongly Marxist in orientation, notwithstanding intermittent challenges from Weberian scholars (and a rather vague commitment to scientific method). Articles in IJURR focused on capital, class and conflict. In this it reflected the concerns of European urban sociologists, in contrast to the concerns of (say) the Chicago School. Since the late 1970s, urban and regional studies have been transformed and expanded through both a general, relative retreat from explicitly Marxist political economy and an infusion of some elements of radical analysis into the mainstream of urban scholarship. Logan and Molotch's Urban Fortunes, for example, took the spirit, if not the letter of radical political economy into different terrain than had previously been staked out by neo-Marxist writers. These intellectual shifts have posed a challenge to the identity of self-consciously ‘critical’ or ‘radical’ journals like IJURR. Urban and regional studies have experienced a number of ‘turns’, including the postmodern turn, the cultural turn, the spatial turn, the scalar turn, the discursive turn, and perhaps others also, while political economy asserted its continuing relevance. Some of these shifts occurred primarily in one or more of the individual disciplines that inform the multidisciplinary character of urban and regional studies, others are more specific to the overarching project of urban or regional studies themselves. The result is, on one level, a much more eclectic understanding of what constitutes ‘critical’ or ‘radical’ in terms of urban and regional scholarship, and one of our ongoing discussions necessarily needs to be on what exactly ‘radical critique’ entails in these changing times.

The core or defining elements of ‘critical urban scholarship’ persist. As Harloe et al. reasserted (‘emphatically’) in 1988, IJURR remained firmly committed to a ‘critical or radical intellectual orientation’. The task of ‘developing concepts and research methods independent of the dominant powers — the state, urban planners and capitalist producers of the city — is just as important today as it was at the time of the journal's founding and remains just as difficult, because these powers influence the funding of research’. The ways in which we specify these core elements have changed somewhat as the paradigms change and urbanism evolves.

Critical urban scholarship is above all concerned with issues of power and justice in the urban (and regional) contexts. For Marxists, these issues concerned the ways in which urban and regional political economies were constructed as spaces of capitalist exploitation through the direct or indirect efforts of capital and in the face of resistance from class-based movements. For non- (or post-) Marxists, injustices arose from a wider range of sources: from the practices of states that were at least semi-autonomous of capital, from the practices of classes other than the bourgeoisie and of interest groups other than classes, from gendered, racialized or imperial dimensions of power, and through the power of discourse and the constitution of difference. Critical urban scholarship is concerned with the injustices of production and distribution, in economic, political and cultural terms; with the macro- as well as micro-social foundations of these injustices; and with the possibilities of challenging them. This covers much of what might be viewed as post-Marxist political economy but extends beyond this. IJURR certainly does not have a monopoly on critical urban scholarship: many excellent critical urban papers are published in other journals (which have tended over time to become more welcoming of such papers, thereby helping to erode IJURR's distinctiveness). But IJURR remains special in its commitment to a scholarship informed by normative concerns and its assumption that critical urban scholarship is an indispensable part of critical urban praxis.

Many aspects of the reach of contemporary critical urban scholarship were noted in the ‘policy statement’ penned by Patrick Le Galès and colleagues when they assumed responsibility for IJURR in 1998 (see IJURR 22.1). They pointed to the importance of cultural dimensions of urban political economy. In addition, the ‘forces, effects and processes associated with globalization’ had become central to IJURR's agenda. They emphasized that the relationships between state and society needed to be understood in terms of a ‘wider view of regulation’, or what we would now term ‘governance’. The normative agenda also demanded analysis of the ‘social fabric’ of the city. Le Galès et al. pointed to several specific topics on which the journal should focus: the changing position of cities within national and international systems, the widening range of political struggles in and over the city, and the linkages between cities, new technologies and urban infrastructures. IJURR thus combined a ‘more open, pluralist political economy perspective’ with various cultural and sociological traditions.

In practice, however, the shift from what was seen as a predominantly Marxist approach to critical urban scholarship to a more eclectic approach has perhaps rendered less obvious the critical character of the journal. IJURR attracts many submissions which might have been sent to a number of other journals (and, in some cases, should not have been sent to any urban studies journal). Some of these papers are excellent contributions on one or other aspect of urban society, but fail to establish the broader relevance of the analysis to the normative questions driving the journal. This is most obvious with respect to submissions analyzing quantitative data, that present technically sophisticated and empirically careful analyses of topics such as the labour market in a specific urban setting or interregional growth rates in a specific country, but do not explain to readers why the selected topic is of interest to a broader range of (critical) urban and regional scholars. Yet, clearly, as editors of the journal, we need to be constantly aware of how we can reconcile quantitative analysis and the journal's normative traditions.

IJURR also receives some submissions that exhibit the opposite weakness, i.e. focus on issues with evident normative importance or political relevance, but do so without any or sufficient scientific merit. From the outset IJURR has insisted that papers should satisfy scientific and not just political criteria. Over time, IJURR has become more accommodating of diverse methodologies, although our record remains disappointing in publishing papers that offer robust analysis of quantitative data on urban topics (papers which, we regretfully note, are too often submitted and published in US-based journals associated with the discipline of sociology). Too many submissions to IJURR take a topic of interest to the journal (such as how shifting public and private responsibilities for urban service delivery result in changing inequalities of access) and provide a case-study of a specific city (that, for example, ‘demonstrates’ the inequity of ‘neoliberalism’) but without a thorough analysis of all available data using the full range of appropriate methodologies. Such submissions risk spurious ‘corroboration’ of politically correct conclusions on the basis of insufficiently robust analysis.

The challenge to a journal like IJURR— and to contributors to such journals — is how to balance normative concerns and methodological diligence. Critical scholarship has tended to neglect some methodologies, notably the analyses of quantitative data, just as some methodologies have tended to generate uncritical analyses. Technological change has transformed the social sciences, as computing power has grown with astonishing rapidity and diverse quantitative datasets have become widely available. If critical urban scholarship does not engage more fully with the analysis of quantitative data, it will become more and more marginalized within the social sciences generally. By combining the analysis of quantitative data with ethnographic and other qualitative research, however, critical urban scholarship will continue to make a substantive contribution to the broader academic terrain. This will have to recognize, of course, that qualitative research is also affected strongly by technological change, not so much in terms of the availability and extent of datasets, but in terms of the capacity to produce and represent qualitative data through digital media.

A concern with normative issues means that the kinds of scholars associated with IJURR run political risks. One of IJURR's corresponding editors — Kian Tajbakhsh — was detained for more than four months in Iran in 2007. Authors in Germany working on gentrification were linked by the German police to alleged acts of terrorism. On a much larger scale, deep injustices persist in cities across the world, affecting millions if not billions of people.

What does it mean to be an international journal?

  1. Top of page
  2. Change in the journal and the publishing environment
  3. Change in critical urban scholarship
  4. What does it mean to be an international journal?
  5. Continuity and change: format and content

Whilst IJURR has long viewed itself as an ‘international’ journal, this has become more of a priority for the journal in the past decade with the internationalization of the editorial board. Internationalizing the editorial board is, however, just the first step in a more thorough-going intellectual ‘internationalization’, in which the goal is to transcend Eurocentric intellectual traditions and practices and help to build an urban scholarship that is as cognizant of global diversity as it is of universalizing processes. A pessimist looks at this challenge and sees Pandora's box. An optimist sees a genie waiting to be let out of the bottle.

Being ‘international’ does not simply mean publishing papers on different parts of the world, or on topics such as ‘globalization’ per se, or by scholars of diverse origins (although all of these may be worthwhile in themselves). Nor does it mean merely applying established wisdoms derived from the study of cities in North-West Europe or North America to the rest of the world. The critical application of such wisdoms is certainly valuable, insofar as the case-studies are used to reflect on the merits of the ‘wisdom’ at least as much as the wisdom is used to illuminate the case-study. More fundamentally than this, internationalization is surely above all about acknowledging that theories derived from the experiences of North-West Europe and North America may not be universally applicable, and that those regions may be exceptional from a global perspective. Internationalization is thus a process of reconsidering and challenging theory on a range of levels.

Many of the core concepts of urban studies ‘travel’ poorly, and understanding how and why this is so is a key challenge facing critical urban scholars. Is the concept of gentrification useful in settings — perhaps including cities in Japan or Mexico — where housing has been less segregated historically by class than in Britain or the north-eastern states of the USA? What does ‘neoliberalism’ mean in contexts common across the global South where the public sector's role in service delivery has rarely amounted to pro-poor decommodification and the extension of private sector involvement in service delivery may have entailed real benefits to the poor? Are ‘Western’ models of land and housing markets useful for understanding how contemporary China is changing? Critical internationalization entails avoiding uncritical celebration or undifferentiated gloom, acknowledging diversity within the global South just as we routinely do within the global North, as well as interrogating the similarities and differences between the diverse sets of Northern and Southern cases.

The project of internationalization faces many practical challenges. One of these is linguistic, in that IJURR publishes only in English. Initially, IJURR published also in French, but stopped this in 1979. Abstracts were translated into French, German and Spanish until 1989, and thereafter in French only. We are considering translating abstracts into other languages (specifically Spanish, Portuguese and Chinese) so as to promote access to articles more widely and evenly across the global South. In the face of English becoming the international language of academia, however, the publication of translated abstracts might facilitate readership of IJURR articles but will do nothing to change the division of the world into English-reading (and writing) insiders and non-English-reading (and writing) outsiders. The second (and related) practical challenge is posed by the overwhelming dominance of academic production by universities in the USA, and to a lesser extent elsewhere in North America, North-West Europe and Australia. The global South produces relatively few urban scholars, and the few there are often end up employed at universities in North America or North-West Europe.

Together, these produce a dichotomous academic landscape. On the one hand, scholars at universities in the global North work within an intellectual environment largely defined by the study of the North. Many scholars — especially native English-speakers — have a limited understanding of the world outside the global North, and risk assuming that theories that make sense in the global North are universally applicable. Scholars who were born or conduct research in the global South often experience institutional and intellectual marginalization. On the other hand, many scholars at universities in the global South face the challenges of conducting research in environments characterized by constrained material resources and intellectual isolation. Some of the contributions submitted to IJURR by scholars in countries such as Brazil, Nigeria, Turkey and (especially) China are weakened by a failure to link original empirical research to broader theoretical debates and literatures. This delinkage seems widespread in academic contexts which are isolated from global academic circuits and tend towards parochialism.2

IJURR is associated with a number of strategies to redress this dichotomy. Profits earned by IJURR go to the Foundation for Urban and Regional Studies (FURS), a charitable organization that sponsors students and junior researchers from poor countries of the world (see IJURR is currently working with Research Committee 21 of the International Sociological Association in developing a ‘summer’ or ‘winter’ school on urban studies (a ‘summer’ school for students and scholars from the northern hemisphere being a winter school for those from south of the Equator). The first such School is to be held in São Paulo, in Brazil, in August 2009, with funding from RC21 and FURS and the generous assistance of a number of eminent urban scholars. IJURR has also experimented with workshops for urban scholars in parts of the world that are less well connected to the supposedly global circuits of academic production and publication. In line with this philosophy, IJURR's publisher Wiley-Blackwell also grants subsidized or free distribution of the journal in certain countries in the South. To us, the very existence of FURS, and the particular not-for-profit status of IJURR— published by but not owned by a major globally active corporation — is a distinctive element that separates IJURR from most other journals. We consider it a reason to commit to IJURR and to be part of its ‘community’— as author, reviewer, or supporter in other ways. As the whole publishing/knowledge industry evolves, it may be a model for others to follow, not necessarily in the same form but at least in concept.

Most importantly, perhaps, IJURR seeks to encourage comparative analysis, through both encouraging explicitly comparative studies and facilitating conversations between scholars with knowledge of diverse settings. Comparison does not mean the abandonment of theory through descriptive juxtaposition. On the contrary, the objective of comparison should be theoretical revision. Given that diversity might have deep historical roots and cultural dimensions, so a comparative and critical urban scholarship needs to engage with setting-focused disciplines such as history and anthropology. But given the pace of change in cities across the global South, the comparative project also needs to confront squarely also global influences and dynamics. The comparative project faces many difficulties. Not the least of these is the existing dominance of knowledge of Northern cities and the theories derived from these, such that it is difficult to avoid looking at Southern cities without employing lenses manufactured in the North. But critical urban scholarship requires that such challenges be tackled.

There is perhaps no part of the world which is as subversive of established urban wisdom as contemporary China. IJURR has a long record of publishing articles on Chinese cities, and in 1997 we published a symposium (edited by Michael Harloe). In recognition of the importance of Chinese urban studies, we have made a series of appointments as Corresponding Editors of the journal and we look forward to appointing at least one Chinese specialist as a full member of the Editorial Board in the near future. In 2006, Wing-Shing Tang (from the Hong Kong Baptist University) became a Corresponding Editor. In 2008, we appointed three more Corresponding Editors with expertise in East and Southeast Asian cities: Fulong Wu (Cardiff University), Jieming Zhu and Henry Yeung (both working at the National University of Singapore). In 2009, Bae-Gyoon Park (Seoul National University) accepted our invitation to join the Editorial Board. With the help of these scholars, IJURR is committed to helping to develop the critical analysis of cities in East and Southeast Asia through an engagement with the analysis of cities in other parts of the world. As urban scholars, we should be very aware of the risks of Chinese urban studies developing as either an enclave or a ghetto, isolated from comparative urban scholarship. The book series ‘Studies in Urban and Social Change’, linked to IJURR and published by Wiley-Blackwell, has also published recently an edited collection on Urban China in Transition, edited by John Logan and Susan Fainstein, comprising chapters authored by Chinese and non-Chinese specialists in collaboration. This seems to us to be a valuable model of one way in which Chinese urban studies can engage with broader literatures.

Overall, IJURR aspires to be international not simply in the sense of balancing the global North and global South (for example, in terms of its coverage or the composition of IJURR's editorial board), but rather through building a critical urban scholarship that transcends ‘South-centrism’ as much as Eurocentrism or Americocentrism. Of course, realising this aspiration will not prove easy.

Continuity and change: format and content

  1. Top of page
  2. Change in the journal and the publishing environment
  3. Change in critical urban scholarship
  4. What does it mean to be an international journal?
  5. Continuity and change: format and content

Substantively, urban and regional studies have come a long way since 1977. But much remains fundamentally continuous and ongoing. Many of the topics and questions animating IJURR are old ones. Basic theoretical and epistemological issues persist. How do we go about understanding cities? What theories, methodologies and concepts have (re-)emerged to help us to understand cities and regions? But these concerns take on new forms in response to the changing global, intellectual, methodological and perhaps even political environments.

IJURR's intellectual agenda and ambition are perhaps best illustrated with respect to some recent and noteworthy contributions to the journal. In 31.1, we published a collection of papers put together by Andy Jonas and Kevin Ward on city-regions, prompting a response (in 31.2) by Alan Harding and a rejoinder (in 31.3) by Jonas and Ward. At issue are the relationships between theory, evidence and praxis, and including especially economic data. Justin Beaumont and Walter Nicholls guest-edited a symposium on participation and governance in 32.1, and Colin McFarlane and Jonathan Rutherford edited a symposium on the politics of urban infrastructure in 32.2. Both symposia were explicitly comparative and cross-disciplinary. The first of these symposia sought to incorporate more fully insights from Habermas and Mouffe into analyses of the kinds of deliberative and participatory institutions associated with the Worker's Party in Brazil. The second symposium explores some of the diversity of infrastructural politics across North and South. IJURR 32.2 also included a debate on gentrification prompted by an earlier article by Tom Slater (in 30.4). Slater had argued that the literature on gentrification was losing its critical edge, that a celebration of gentrification had displaced the study of the displacement of the working class. Slater's argument attracted both praise and criticism, but praisers and critics concurred on the importance of analysing gentrification in terms of its losers as well as winners, and to contribute to a pro-poor political project. Both combined case studies from the global North and South. A rather different set of papers were included in a symposium on ‘Spaces of Modernity: Religion and the Urban in Asia and Africa’ in 32.3, edited by Mary Hancock and Smriti Srinivas. Drawing on ethnographic research in a variety of settings, the contributors examined the interactions between religion, modernity and the city. In addition, we have recently published stand-alone articles on development mafias in Mumbai (Liza Weinstein, 32.1), the labour market consequences of mass incarceration in Chicago (Jamie Peck and Nik Theodore, 32.2), the politics of urban growth in Korea (Yooil Bae and Jefferey Sellers, 31.3), and the character of ‘markets’ in land and housing in China (Anne Haila, 31.1).

Symposia and papers such as these provide some indication of the direction in which critical urban scholarship is moving. Whilst it is not up to IJURR (or any other journal) to seek to direct scholarship in any particular direction, some directions do seem to be especially promising and worthy of whatever encouragement a journal like IJURR can provide. One such direction is the critical analysis of urban process and form in light of the extraordinarily rapid changes sweeping across much of the global South. Critical urban scholars of the global South engage with states, markets and societies that are, in important respects, very different to their counterparts in the global North, i.e. to the historical experiences on which ‘urban studies’ as a field has been constructed. Globalization and neoliberalism are certainly deserving of close attention, but it should not be assumed that they entail or generate the same changes in diverse settings. Urban scholars might pay more attention to the ‘ordinary cities’ of the world, and to the ordinariness of all cities (as Jenny Robinson reminds us in her book and earlier article in IJURR 26.3). They might also pay more systematic attention to the diversity of ways in which states, markets and societies are being remade, not only in obvious settings such as eastern and south-eastern China, but also in settings such as Brazil and South Africa where the dynamics of accumulation and conflict are shaped by distinctive social and cultural contexts. Cultural sociology and social anthropology obviously have a lot to contribute to comparative urbanism, but so too do geographers, political scientists and even economists who are sensitive to difference.

The dialectics of continuity and change also force us to constantly monitor and reinvent the format in which we publish urban scholarship. We have long standing rubrics and sections but we also have added new features. Symposia play an important role in IJURR. Long ago IJURR resolved not to dedicate entire ‘special issues’ to themes, but rather to set aside parts of issues for symposia comprising (usually) between three and five articles. These allow for groups of authors to tackle, together, a theme that is difficult to accommodate in a single issue.

Ideally, we would also publish more essays that tackle large themes within a single, stand-alone paper. Such essays were common in the early days of IJURR, but are rarely submitted now. We are not sure why. Perhaps it reflects the institutional pressures on authors to publish more rather than better papers. Some of our contributing authors suggest that our review process is unfair on writers of essays, favouring the more limited, empirically-based case-study. Whatever the reason, IJURR decided to introduce a new occasional section into the journal: ‘Urban Worlds’. This new feature will allow authors to provide synthetic but critical reviews of a field in urban and regional studies. The field might be an emerging sub-field (such as urban political ecology), a newly emergent issue (such as terrorism and the city, or infectious disease and the city), or new scholarship on a particular urban region or school (such as the Los Angeles School, or African urbanism). Contributions to this section may comprise literature reviews, but we anticipate that most will rather locate new developments in the selected field within broader intellectual and urban contexts. They will not include extensive reporting of original, primary research. Taken together, contributions will serve to take the pulse of contemporary urban and regional studies. The first two papers published in this section are Mike Hodson and Simon Marvin's survey of ‘Urban Ecological Security’ (33.1) and Benjamin Goldfrank and Andrew Schrank's analysis of ‘municipal neoliberalism’ and ‘municipal socialism’ in urban policy regimes in Latin America (33.2). We anticipate that ‘Urban Worlds’ articles will prove especially useful to teachers and students as well as researchers.

IJURR is present in the world of urban and regional studies beyond the pages of the journal. The Studies in Urban and Social Change book series retains editorial autonomy from the journal but is tightly linked to the overall IJURR project. Chaired by Neil Brenner (New York University), the SUSC board3 has consistently accepted only the very best monographs and edited volumes that current urban scholarship has to offer. We intend to make the ties between SUSC and IJURR even stronger in the future as we articulate a coherent editorial program in joint discussion. Furthermore, the sponsored IJURR lectures at RC21 and the AAG, for example, have been important in terms of raising the profile of the journal within the broader social science community and have increased visibility for the entire project. Finally, we seek the input and advice of the IJURR community through reader surveys and inviting scholars to contribute intellectually in special sessions of our annual editorial board meetings.4

Format changes may also involve future exploration of other-than-print publication. First and foremost, digitization of all volumes of the back catalogue of IJURR is well under way. In our new website which is currently being built on the platform of Wiley-Blackwell, we intend to work as much as we can with interactive technologies as they have now entered journal publishing. We are thinking, for example, of introducing a ‘meeting the author’ feature as it is practiced by other journals. Yuri Kazepov, who is a member of the IJURR editorial board as well as being a pioneer of technological change in urban sociology, reminds us that IJURR has a readership that would accept and contribute to an innovative shift in the use of technology.

In the end, our biggest challenge in the emerging, more competitive, more commercialized, more accelerated international landscape of academic research and publishing may be to stay true to our core belief in interdisciplinarity. Young scholars and established researchers in many institutions are already pressured to ‘bring home the bacon’ for their departments and universities, and many feel under pressure to send their work to a more clearly disciplinary journal than IJURR. We believe there is a continuing need for critical interdisciplinary and comparative work, and we pledge to continue offering an outlet for both. Finally, as one of our senior editorial board members, Harvey Molotch, reminds us, a commitment to interdisciplinary and comparative work makes it especially necessary to keep assessing and reassessing what it means to be ‘critical’: as prior stances become accepted and as urban worlds change, so the assumptions of prior critique are often undermined. What it means to be ‘international’ and ‘comparative’ shifts as our own work changes the meaning of the units to be compared: What is a nation? What is a region? What are cities? If none are what they once were, how does one now do a comparison? With this puzzle, we invite your, our readers', reviewers' and authors' continuing engagement with the future path of this journal.

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    The full list of IJURR office-holders is as follows. Editor: Michael Harloe (1977–97), Patrick Le Galès (1998–2004), Alan Harding, Roger Keil and Jeremy Seekings (2005–07), Roger Keil and Jeremy Seekings (2008–). Editor of the ‘Praxis’ section (later renamed ‘Events and Debates’, and later still ‘Debates and Developments’): Manuel Castells (1977–86), Chris Pickvance (1987–97), Susan Fainstein (1998–2001), Steve Graham (2002–2003), Roger Keil (2003–2004), AbdouMaliq Simone (2005–). Review Editor (i.e. the book review section): Chris Pickvance (1977–86), Gareth Rees (1988–94), Patrick Le Galès (1995–97), Linda McDowell (1998–99), Steve Graham (1999–2001), AbdouMaliq Simone (2002–2004), Talja Blokland (2005–).

  • 2

    This statement, which might offend some scholars from the global South, is derived from the experience of editing IJURR. Papers based on strong empirical research too often appear to be written for national rather than international audiences, with insufficient explanation of either national debates or location in international ones. This is, of course, not true of all contributions from the global South, and IJURR is pleased to have published many outstanding papers by Southern scholars. It is less true of scholars from the global North who study the global South, and are better plugged into international debates and literatures. The challenge of facilitating a larger number and broader range of scholars from the global South to play a fuller part in international debates must be a crucial challenge facing journals like IJURR over the next few years.

  • 3

    Current members beside Neil Brenner are Matthew Gandy, Patrick Le Galès, Margit Mayer, Chris Pickvance and Jennifer Robinson.

  • 4

    In 2006, Wing-Shing Tang presented his analysis of urban studies in China, and in 2007 we held a one-day seminar on the future of urban studies.