Abstract: This seminar provides commentary and reflections on the definition(s) and evolution of modern suburbia by drawing on the panoply of case studies presented in Suburbia in the 21st Century: From Dreamscape to Nightmare? Put simply, the suburbs have evolved from a being a subservient/submissive/peripheral space within the metropolitan context to a primary/central space. The enhanced centrality of the suburbs has of course been amplified and accelerated in the last two years as a result of the global COVID-19 pandemic which has resulted in a re-ordering of the structure of the city. The idea that the suburbs have been/continue to be seen as a peripheral space is a legacy of long-standing spatial stigma levelled at the suburbs by built environment academics, public intellectuals and cultural elites who have tended to hold a city-centric view of the world. The suburbs have effectively been labelled as a “blandscape” on account of being perceived as a space of domesticity, conformity, heteronormativity and racial/class exclusivity. Our perceptions and imaginaries about the suburbs have, to an extent, also been reinforced by popular cultural representations of the suburbs and suburbanites. This is especially true of TV soap operas within the ‘Anglosphere’. Moreover, rhetorical discourses such as ‘the urban century’ or ‘the majority of world’s population now live in cities’ overshadows the significance of the suburbs in such grand declarations. This is reflected, for example, in Gleeson’s (2014) book The Urban Condition. The complex and dynamic constellation of global suburbanisms depicted in Suburbia in the 21st Century with case studies drawn from Australia, Canada, Finland, France, Ireland, the UK, and, the US indicates that it arguably more accurate to describe contemporary suburbia as a “blendscape”, especially in demographic and morphological terms. Furthermore, the constellation of suburbanisms outlined in Suburbia in the 21st Century evokes the idea of the existence of a suburban genealogy and mutating suburban genus. Ultimately, the process of suburbanisation and the emergence of new variants of suburbanisms show no signs of stopping. If anything, recent census data in Australia, Canada, the UK the US and elsewhere, including the global south, points to what Guney et al. (2019) refer to as “massive suburbanisation”. In turn, the horizontal and vertical expansion of and within the suburbs gives rise to what Maginn and Keil (2019) have termed the “brutalscape”.

 

Bio: Paul J. Maginn is Associate Professor of Urban and Regional Planning at UWA in Perth, Western Australia, where he has been based since February 2007. He is the co-editor of/contributor to the forthcoming book, Suburbia in the 21st Century: From Dreamscape to Nightmare? (Routledge) which includes a chapter on COVID (Sub)urbanisms. Paul is also co-editor of/contributor to (Sub)Urban Sexscapes: Geographies and Regulation of the Sex Industry (2015 Routledge) which won the PIA (National) Award for Cutting Edge Research in 2016. Assoc. Prof. Maginn is active within the wider Australian (sub)urban studies community via his roles as Editor-in-Chief of Urban Policy and Research, immediate past Co-Convenor of the Australasian Cities Research Network and co-organiser of the 2019 State of Australian Cities Conference. Paul is co-organiser of an Urban Studies Foundation-funded seminar series on Peripheral Centralities: Lost, Past, Present and Future and co-guest editor/contributor of a forthcoming special issue on global suburbanisms in Built Environment. You can him on Twitter - @planographer.

 

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