"What Is a City? offers sensitive and nuanced explorations of the urban approached through themes of nature, mobility, community, and memory. The contributors present a thorough, insightful, and revealing portrait of one city's experience at a pivotal moment in its historical trajectory. This is a technically adept, keenly observed, and emotionally gripping work, standing at the cutting edge of urban analysis, interpretive method, and geographic conceptualization."
—Robert W. Lake, author of Locational Conflict
"What Is a City? is a thematically and conceptually unified collection of essays about New Orleans and also about transcendent urban questions. I like this book."
"What is a City? is a welcomed and profound engagement with modern urban theory."
—Clyde Woods, author of Development Arrested
“Steinberg and Shields have assembled an intriguing set of essays that explore the fate of modern cities through the lens of New Orleans in the face of the hurricanes. . . .The chapters are lively, informative and well written, and provide a nice overview of what New Orleans and her neighbors face in the years to come.”
—John G. McNutt, Community Development: Journal of the Community Development Society
Planners, architects, policymakers, and geographers from across the political spectrum have weighed in on how best to respond to the destruction wrought by Hurricane Katrina. The thirteen contributors to What Is a City? are a diverse group from the disciplines of anthropology, architecture, geography, philosophy, planning, public policy studies, and sociology, as well as community organizing. They believe that these conversations about the fate of New Orleans are animated by assumptions and beliefs about the function of cities in general. They unpack post-Katrina discourse, examining what expert and public responses tell us about current attitudes not just toward New Orleans, but toward cities. As volume coeditor Phil Steinberg points out in his introduction, “Even before the floodwaters had subsided . . . scholars and planners were beginning to reflect on Hurricane Katrina and its disastrous aftermath, and they were beginning to ask bigger questions with implications for cities as a whole.”
The experience of catastrophe forces us to reconsider not only the material but the abstract and virtual qualities of cities. It requires us to revisit how we think about, plan for, and live in them.
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