(Movement): Session at the European Association for Urban History Conference: Cities in Motion 2020

In this session we examine synergies and conflicts between large-scale infrastructural networks and the city. We welcome papers that study the contradictions and tensions between networks and the city both in (i) the flows that infrastructures allow or obstruct in the city and (ii) how much these networks carry social exclusion and spatial separation, hampering city life.


Many historical works have foregrounded how cities integrate different urban flows, often conceptualized under the rubrique of ‘urban metabolism’. Others have shown the disintegrating effects of infrastructure on social inequality, and indeed its ‘splintering’ nature. Yet, how infrastructure networks negotiate, materialize and ultimately reshape relations between city and flows has received less attention. This session brings together urban history, transport history and mobilities to address the synergies and clashes between cities, infrastructure and flows. We welcome papers that study (i) the planning and policy discussions between different governance levels about how (not) to integrate these infrastructures with associated motion in the urban tissue; and (ii) the effects of large flows on the transformation and organization of urban space and its flows.

Potential lines of inquire include, but are not limited to:

(i) Will the highway network go around, through, under, or over the city? Will the railway station be located in the city centre or outside the city gates? The planning and policy discussions around these kind of choices give insight in the interactions between different governance levels and their motives to integrate or resist flows of people or goods. Moreover, it traces the agency of the city in the planning and transformation of large scale networks, and vice versa.

(ii) Did transnational fluxes interrupt urban flows? Were new urban infrastructural complexes developed to channel different flows in and through the city? Cities are often depicted as ‘portals of globalization’, dynamic nodes in a network society. This session materializes and specifies these concepts by focusing on the ways in which these movements transformed urban space, and the ways in which the city channelled different flows.


  • Spokesperson: Greet De Block, University of Antwerp
  • Co-organizer(s): Massimo Moraglio, TU Berlin
  • Keywords: Infrastructure | Urbanisation | Mobility
  • Time period: All periods
  • Topic(s): Architecture and urbanism | Technology
  • Study area: More than one continent