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Thoroughly Modern Cities

Bombay, Buenos Aires, London, and New York are focus of April conference

How has urban life been transformed in the modern era? What defines a modern city, and how does it function? From April 20 through April 22, Dartmouth will host an international group of scholars for "Four Cities in Modernity: Bombay, Buenos Aires, London, New York." The conference, which is free and open to the public, will examine modernity as it has formed and transformed urban life between the late-19th and the mid-20th centuries in these four cities.

Buenos Aires

 New York
Top: Buenos Aires
Bottom: New York City (Photos by Mona Domosh)

"This conference will examine not only different modernities in these cities but also the flows among them—flows of people, culture, and capital—which indicate that modernity is a diverse and an interactive process of local and global dimensions," says Patricia McKee, professor of English and a conference organizer. McKee stresses the interdisciplinary nature of the conference, which includes scholars from anthropology, architecture, film, geography, literature, political history, sociology, and urban history.

The conference will consist of two keynote addresses and four panel discussions, each focused on one of the four cities. The first address will be given by David Harvey, distinguished professor of anthropology at CUNY Graduate Center, on Thursday, April 20, at 7 p.m. in Moore B03. Arjun Appadurai, John Dewey Professor in the Social Sciences at The New School, will deliver the second address on Friday, April 21 at 7 p.m. in Moore B03. "These speakers will generate debate by contesting ideas of modernity," says McKee. Panel discussions will be held on Friday, April 21, from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. in the Wren Room, Sanborn House, and on Saturday, April 22 from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. in Moore B03.



Top: Bombay (Photo by Patricia Pomierleau
Bottom: London (Photo from

Examining different interpretations of modernity is a key goal of the conference. "For those who understand modernity as a process that does not necessarily radiate from northern societies, this conference offers an exceptional opportunity to compare how the phenomenon unfolded in two northern cities and two major cities in the south," says Marysa Navarro, professor of history and of Latin American, Latino, and Caribbean Studies. Mona Domosh, professor of geography, adds, "By uncovering and comparing the interrelated processes and practices of urban modernity in four sites, this conference promises to move beyond the divide between Western and non-Western kinds of cities that has so often clouded our understanding." Navarro and Domosh, also organizers of the conference, will moderate the discussions on Buenos Aires and New York, respectively.

"Four Cities in Modernity" is funded by the Dickey Center for International Understanding, the Rockefeller Center for the Social Sciences, the Leslie Center for the Humanities, the Associate Dean of the Humanities, and the Associate Dean of the Social Sciences, the Department of Geography, the Rosenthal Fund in History, and the Master of Arts in Liberal Studies Program (MALS). For further information, call 646-3378 or visit

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Last Updated: 12/17/08