EAUH Conference 2018


Session M09. Belonging and Exclusion, Insiders and Outsiders: People and the Resilient City from 1450

Coordinators: Emma Hart (, Deborah Simonton (

People make towns. They inhabit them, they shape them and they identify with them. They build relationships with towns and have feelings about them. Love, hate, sorrow, pleasure, people’s emotions are engaged by towns. Towns not only form part of one’s self, but they also shape identity: I am a Londoner, I am a Parisian, I am a Muscovite, I am a Roman. The meaning of towns operates both on a practical and utilitarian level, as well as on a deeply psychological one. They are both places where people act and make their lives as well as where they build a sense of belonging. As Daniel Bell and Avner de-Shalit have noted, even in our global age, the essential “spirit of cities” endures. While cities are nurseries of rooted identities, they simultaneously lack the homogeneity and resilience that this role suggests. Migrants, and those passing through, create a restless, rootless environment and throughout history such conflicting urges have confronted each other in the cityscapes and the institutions that create and govern them.
A city’s resilience thus depends upon its ability to reconcile these conflicting forces. Historians have been fairly sure about the recipe for urban endurance. To respond to changing economic, social and political conditions, to flourish over centuries, a city must change. The past is littered with “failed” cities who’s populations failed to welcome outsiders and their innovations. The idea that closed traditional cities suffered in the face of “progress” is deeply embedded in a narrative of transition from early modern to modern. To succeed in the face of industrialization and globalization, early modern cities had to learn to stop excluding “strangers,” abandon corporatism, dismantle fortifications and eject ruling oligarchies. Only then could they become open, innovative, global, cosmopolitan and liberal polities that would succeed in the modern world.
However, recent debate has begun to question this simple and pleasing trajectory. Early modern historians have demonstrated that corporate economies were not necessarily antithetical to innovation, while urban studies scholars have urged contemporary cities to rediscover their “spirit” and to succeed by focusing on their uniqueness, rather than trying to “progress” to a global template for success. This session focuses on questions arising from the dualities inherent in urban belonging and exclusion. We seek papers from the early modern period onwards that focus on the following or related questions:
• How do people create their urban identities or sense of belonging?
• How do urban structures influence how people claim their place in the cities?
• How have the mechanisms by which cities exclude and include people changed?
• How is gender implicated in the processes of belonging, exclusion and resilience?
• Are a city’s people the foundation of its ability to be resilient?
Keywords: belonging; exclusion; insiders; outsiders; identity; migration; emotion; resilience