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At the Limits of Urban Theory: Racial Banishment in the Contemporary City

Public lecture hosted by LSE Cities

In cities around the world, especially in the United States, processes of socio-spatial restructuring continue to unfold. Often understood as neoliberal urbanism and identified through concepts such as gentrification, these processes entail the displacement of subaltern classes to the far edges of urban life.  In this talk, Roy argues that it is necessary to analyse such transformations through a theorisation of racial capitalism. In particular, she draws on research conducted by scholars and social movements in Los Angeles to delineate processes of racial banishment.  In doing so, Roy argues that the standard conceptual repertoire of urban studies is ill-equipped to study such processes.  In particular, influential explanations that invoke neoliberalisation often miss the long histories of dispossession and disposability that are being remade in the contemporary city.  Put another way, she makes the case for how urban studies must contend with legacies of white liberalism and the elision of the race question.  Relying on both postcolonial theory and the black radical tradition, Roy demonstrates that what is at stake is not only a more robust analysis of urbanism but also attention to the various forms of movement and mobilisation that are challenging racial banishment.


  • Ananya Roy

    Ananya Roy

    Ananya Roy is Professor of Urban Planning, Social Welfare and Geography and inaugural Director of the Institute on Inequality and Democracy at UCLA Luskin. She holds The Meyer and Renee Luskin Chair in Inequality and Democracy.

  • Ricky Burdett

    Ricky Burdett

    Ricky Burdett is Professor of Urban Studies and Director of LSE Cities and the Urban Age Programme. He sits on the Mayor of London’s Cultural Leadership Board, is a Council Member of the Royal College of Art and Trustee of the Norman Foster Foundation. He was Chief Advisor on Architecture and Urbanism for the London 2012 Olympics and architectural advisor to the Mayor of London from 2001 to 2006. He was Director of the Venice Architecture Biennale in 2006 and curator of the Global Cities exhibition at Tate Modern in 2007. Burdett has been on architectural juries for high-profile projects including Tate Modern, London’s Aquatic Centre, Rothschild Bank Headquarters, Holland Green and Elizabeth House and has worked on major regeneration projects across Europe and the USA, including the 8-million sq ft redevelopment around Penn Station in New York City. He was appointed CBE in the Queen’s 2017 New Year’s Honours List.