Global Cities: Culture, Ecology, World Literature

deadline for submissions: 
February 7, 2020
full name / name of organization: 
Nanyang Technological University, Singapore
contact email: 

Deadline extended to 7th February 2020


Global Cities: Culture, Ecology, World Literature

11-12 June 2020

Keynote speakers: Prof. Jini Kim Watson (NYU), Prof. Rashmi Varma (U of Warwick)


Global cities are the locales that command and control global capitalism, shaping the world’s economy and its ecology. As integral to the global flow of people, products and services, they are also sites of precarity and marginality, with their own cores and peripheries, their own glocal politics, trends and problems – their own unevenness. As Achille Mbembe and Sarah Nuttall write, global cities are ‘composed not only of flows of money, skills, knowledge, security, machinery, and technology, but also of people, images, and imaginaries’ (2008: 3). The abundance of cultural products which foreground glamour in global cities, combined with astute city branding and the preponderance of narratives of rapid economic growth, mean that these cities loom large in global imaginaries of capitalism. Counter-representations of, for instance, precarious migrant labour, resettlement, depleted ecologies, waste, and the informal economy complicate this image. These cities are often sites of publication, translation, consumption and dissemination of cultural products, and as such they participate in the reproduction of the very idea of the global city. Hence, global cities can be interpreted as places of opportunity and prosperity, and of management, policing, militarization and resistance.

Drawing on these ideas of the global city and its complexities, this conference will explore the multiple ways in which global cities can be imagined and represented, explored and examined. It will consider specific case studies of individual cities and comparative studies stretching across different global cities. It will ask how the global dynamics of individual cities and the current network of global cities can be illuminated, challenged and/or repurposed in order to inform new ways of thinking about cities spaces within and across academic disciplines. The conference will also address the concept of the ‘global city’ itself, the manner in which it exists in national, political and international imaginaries, as well as how these imaginaries are shaped and can be reshaped. This exciting, international and interdisciplinary two-day event seeks to engage with the concept of, experience within and academic work upon the global city, drawing on research and writing from across the humanities. The following themes are prompting categories for papers to consider or respond to: 

  • Global city branding and competition
  • Tourism, glamour and hyper-visibility in global cities
  • Race, migrancy and lived experience in global cities
  • Links between global cities and distant or masked resource and commodity processes
  • Global city metabolism, energy, and securitization
  • The role of the global city in the climate emergency
  • Global city vulnerabilities and anxieties as well as urban dystopia
  • Global urban forms, public space, and heritage
  • The world-literary ramifications of global city experiences

 Abstracts examining one or more of these themes, or other relevant themes, are welcomed. Please email abstracts of a maximum of 250 words, plus a brief biography, to by 7 February 2020. Please see for updates.  We are fortunate to be joined by two brilliant keynote speakers, whose research is influential in the fields of postcolonial studies and global city studies (among other fields). Their biographies are outlined below.  Prof. Jini Kim Watson is Associate Professor of English and Comparative Literature at New York University, USA. Prof. Watson’s research interests include postcolonial AsiaPacific literature and theory; spatial and architectural theory; questions of sovereignty and political modernity; decolonization and Cold War studies. Her publications include The New Asian City (U of Minnesota P, 2011); “Aspirational City: Desiring Singapore and the films of Tan Pin Pin” (2016) in Interventions; and The Postcolonial Contemporary: Political Imaginaries for the Global Present (co-edited with Gary Wilder, Fordham UP, 2018). Her current book manuscript, “Ruling Like a Foreigner: Authoritarianism and Genres of Cold WarDecolonization” is under contract with Fordham UP. She is a co-convener of NYU’s regular Postcolonial, Race and Diaspora Studies Colloquium and serves as Secretary-Treasurer of the American Comparative Literature Association.  Prof. Rashmi Varma is Associate Professor in English and Comparative Literary Studies at the University of Warwick, UK. She is the author of The Postcolonial City and its Subjects: London, Nairobi, Bombay (2011), and co-editor of Marxism and Postcolonial Theory: Critical Engagements with Benita Parry (2019). She has published articles on postcolonial cities, feminist theory, and indigenous cultures in journals such as Social Text and Third Text and numerous edited volumes, and also co-edited a special issue on “Marxism and Postcolonial Theory: What's Left of the Debate” in the journal Critical Sociology. Prof. Varma is a member of the editorial collective of the journal Feminist Dissent.