Cities are the main wheels of the economy despite their various dynamic background and adversities. Despite having these characteristics, some cities in Asia have shown a tendency to be overlooked by various discourses of urban dynamics. In regard to this matter, the Overlooked Cities offers insights into the evolving field of urban studies and geography by interrogating “overlooked cities” or “overlookedness” as a collective critique and expanding on the praxis of counter-overlooking to provide renewed discussions regarding urban lives. This work critically assesses how these cities occupy distinctive positions within various urban and knowledge hierarchies.
Urban Studies Foundation (USF) and the Resilience Development Initiative (RDI) organised the “Overlooked Cities in Asia: Interrogating Blind Fields in Urban Knowledge and Praxes" Conference Program. This conference was conducted on 6–8 September 2023 in collaboration with the University of the Free State (UFS), Renmin University of China, London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) The Saw Swee Hock Southeast Asia Centre (SEAC), and Durham University. The USF Conference consisted of plenary and presentation sessions, film screenings and art exhibitions, and Early Career Researcher (ECR) Mentoring and Workshops.
The first day started with the opening remarks from Director Elisabeth Rianawati, Prof. Hyun Bang Shin from The London School of Economics and Political Sciences (LSE), and delegates from Overlooked Cities Collective which include Dr. Erwin Nugraha, Dr. Isolde Villiers, and Yimin Zhao. It was then followed by three presentations served by the experts which covered various themes, including the politics of cities that often go unnoticed, the economic aspects of being overlooked, and the spatial boundaries that extend beyond this sense of being overlooked.
The next session was a keynote plenary session that was filled out with insights and experiences shared by experts, namely Dr. Rita Padawangi, Associate Professor of Sociology at Centre for University Core, Singapore University of Social Sciences, Prof. Abdou Maliq Simone, Senior Professorial Fellow at the Urban Institute, University of Sheffield, and Prof. Hyun Bang Shin, Professor of Geography and Urban Studies at the London School of Economics and Political Science and former Director of the Saw Swee Hock Southeast Asia Centre.
Artistic installations were also exhibited on the first day. Featured artists included Hamzah Al Asadulloh, Intan Anggita Pratiwie, Yu Qiao, Yuting Zhang and Pu Zhang, Luigi Monteanni and Reak Balebat Pakidulan, and Dr Akino M Tahir. The artists displayed art installations in a variety of media, including audiovisual, video documentary, and architectural models that depicted the conditions of overlooked cities.
The second day of the conference featured a series of insightful presentations that delved deep into the lived experiences of overlooking and overlooked urban-rural forms. Conference participants shared their research findings and diverse viewpoints on counter-overlooking, the realities of overlooked urban-rural forms, and knowledge production for counter-overlooking. On the following day, delegates dissected the concept of 'blind fields' in urban studies, unraveling hidden layers of realities that had previously gone unnoticed. This session provided valuable insights into reshaping perspectives on urban research.
Last Day: Exploring Bandung's Urban Environment
On the last day of the conference, all participants were provided with a Bandung City field trip. This agenda included visitations to significant urban sites and interactions with local communities in Bandung. The aim of this field trip is to engage participants with local urban environments. Participants had the opportunity to visit two places: Kami Ruang Ketiga Community in Taman Film and Seni Tani in the Arcamanik Sub-District. Kami Ruang Ketiga gave a rich cultural experience through youth-led placemaking to grassroots communities in Tamansari, Bandung. On the other hand, Seni Tani provided a unique opportunity to empower urban youth to become urban farmers through the implementation of the CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) system and regenerative agriculture education.
A Beacon of Hope for Future Urban Counter-Overlooking Research
In conclusion, the USF Conference was an absolutely delightful and profoundly knowledge-enriching experience. The conference has connected academics, practitioners, and early career researchers in order to establish a common agenda for counter-overlooking in global urban studies. The active participation of participants in lively discussions and presentations has ignited a brilliant beacon of hope for the future of research and scholars in overlooked city topics in global urban studies. This conference, exemplified by "Overlooked Cities," reflects and influences the evolving landscape of urban studies and geography, offering renewed discussions on urban life from the perspective of overlooked and ordinary cities. Moreover, this study endeavor is evidently indispensable to enhance public awareness with this particular perspective.
In regard to this matter, the Overlooked Cities offers insights into the evolving field of urban studies and geography by interrogating “overlooked cities” or “overlookedness” as a collective critique and expanding on the praxis of counter-overlooking to provide renewed discussions regarding urban lives.