Is the Mediterranean Urban?
Neil Brenner and Nikos Katsikis, “Is the Mediterranean urban?,” in Antonio Petrov (ed.), New Geographies 05: Mediterranean. Harvard University Press, 2012, 215-234.
Is the contemporary Mediterranean zone an urban space? This chapter from the volume Implosions/Explosions reflects on this question through an exploration of recent cartographic evidence compiled from state-of-the-art geospatial datasets created by leading research labs at Columbia University's Earth Institute, the Oak Ridge National Lab, and the European Commission, among others. We begin by considering various representations of concentrated urbanisation, with specific reference to traditional indicators such as population (size and density) and the geographical extent of major urban regions. Such representations reveal a thick web of urban development stretching around the Mediterranean zone, albeit mainly in apparently bounded settlement configurations. In a second, more speculative step, we consider several possible representations of extended urbanisation, the broad fabric of land uses, infrastructures and socio-spatial connectivities that at once facilitate and result from the configuration of dense agglomeration zones. Such maps significantly broaden our understanding of the contemporary urban condition by demonstrating the ways in which the formation of the Mediterranean urban system hinges upon the reorganisation of land uses and interspatial connections across the entire continent and beyond. In the early twenty-first century, understanding the “urban” character of the Mediterranean — or any other zone of the earth’s surface — requires not only fine-grained empirical data and cartographic sophistication, but systematic theoretical reflexivity regarding the categories being used to classify sociospatial organisation.