The Culture of Cities:
Montreal, Toronto, Berlin, Dublin

The Culture of Cities Centre first hosted the SSHRC-funded Culture of Cities: Montreal, Toronto, Berlin, Dublin project from 1999-2005. The project was a collaboration between professors from several Canadian and European universities (such as the University of Waterloo, York University, McGill, Concordia, the University of Calgary), and its principal investigators were Alan Blum, Kieran Bonner, Jean-François Côté, Janine Marchessault, Greg Nielsen, and Will Straw, with Anouk Bélanger, Kevin Dowler, and Johanne Sloan joining at later dates.

Much of the project’s work stems from Alan Blum’s idea (articulated in The Imaginative Structure of the City) that the city is an imaginative object that both qualifies and exceeds longstanding views of it as a municipality, a market, or even as an indifferent locus of ‘flows’ by always putting its parochial signature on whatever universal influences it encounters. Although project researchers differed in various ways in relation to this formula, they tended to develop work under the auspices of its shadow, identifying case studies at which conflict over such matters come to view for analysis. Faculty and student research includes studies of ways in which cultural and arts policies are reconfigured as investments differently in different cities; how the question of foreign influences was advanced and contested in cities with different histories; how the partitioning of cities became a locally contested matter; and how ethical implications of maintaining the city, its past, and its future in memory and anticipation is visible in the local activities of building and rebuilding and in the circulation of commodities, spaces, and social scenes.

Absorbed by the question of identity and its ambiguity, the project intervened in the discourse on the city controlled at the time by political economy and varieties of urbanisms to challenge the interpretive regimes indifferent to the question of interpretation itself and its sources and limits, playing this out through tropes such as globalization, public space, imaginary community, and hybridity – all tending to deflect attention from the real object of analysis concealed by the inflexible force of such platitudes. That is, in the face of growing standardization of world cities implied in such shibboleths as globalization, the question remained – what makes citites distinct, unique, and singular, and how does this tension between the generality of cities and their individuality surface in the mundane regions of everyday life?


A Fry-Up and an Espresso: Bewley’s Café and Cosmopolitan Dublin
Asian Film Series
Bathurst and Dupont
Berlin Topographies
Circulation and the City
Cities as Scenery
Disaster Tours: New Orleans After Katrina
Culture of Cities . . . Under Construction
Culture of Cities Research Institute
Culture of Cities: Urban Comparisons/Comparaisons urbaines
Diasporic City
First Graduate Colloquium
Le Spectacle des Villes/The Spectacle of Cities
New York New York
Nostalgic City
Space, Place and the Culture of Cities
Symptoms of the City Series
The Imaginative Structure of the City
The Long and Enduring Tradition of Taverns in Montreal
The Material City
Urban Enigmas
X Marks the Spot


Alan Blum
Anouk Bélanger
Kevin Dowler
Kieran Bonner
Jean-François Côté
Janine Marchessault
Greg Nielsen
Johanne Sloan
Will Straw