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Keywords:

  • comparative urbanism;
  • postcolonialism;
  • Hartford;
  • Nairobi;
  • Cape Town;
  • Dakar

Urban geography is breaking free from the bonds of global developmentalist categories and regionalisms as it approaches comparativism. As a result it is becoming possible to place cities everywhere onto some sense of a level playing field, where comparability exists for certain circulations of policies and certain categories of events, processes or phenomena. This essay is an exploration into practically working out the empirical shape of new forms of comparative work. Sometimes changing the flows of ideas in urban studies means bypassing the expected global North comparisons; sometimes changing the flows means reversing them, for South-North comparisons which begin in the South. In this paper, I use two brief thought experiments for thinking through the flows of ideas differently. The first experiment entails developing an understanding of the spatial, social and economic divides of Hartford, Connecticut from African urbanism; the second involves building understandings of urban morphologies from China-Africa urban comparison.