[URBANTH-L]CFP: Going Underground: Excavating the Subterranean City

Angela Jancius acjancius at ysu.edu
Tue Oct 4 22:24:56 EDT 2005

Going Underground: Excavating the Subterranean City


An Interdisciplinary Workshop  21st - 22nd September 2006
Co-organised by SURF, Salford University and 
Centre for the Study of Cities and Regions 
(CSCR), Geography Department, Durham University


Like trees, cities have root systems. The spaces, 
materialities, imaginaries, experiences and 
processes of cities delve deep into the 
subterranean world as well as towering vertically 
into the sky. And yet urban studies has focused 
overwhelmingly on the surface of cities and has 
only very rarely considered the urban 
underground. As a result, understanding of the 
mutually defining material, technical, political, 
social and cultural relations between the surface 
and subterranean city remains poorly developed. 
At a time when underground spaces are being 
bombed by terrorists, networked by infrastructure 
operators, colonised by the military, excavated 
ever-more deeply by engineers and planners, and 
stalked intensively by a whole range of fictional 
narratives, archaeologists, historians, 
subterranean explorers and tourist guides, it is 
time for the urban subterranean to emerge as more 
than an esoteric interest within urban studies. 
This workshop is designed to address to help 
achieve this. It will bring together 20-30 
researchers from as wide a range of disciplinary 
backgrounds as possible to reflectively discuss 
the affinities between their work on the urban 
subterranean and assess the potential for 
constructing a more symmetrical view of the 
relations between the surface and the sub-surface 

Aim and Objectives

The core aim of the workshop is to critically 
explore the conceptual, empirical and theoretical 
issues involved in developing an 
interdisciplinary and critical urban studies of 
the urban subterranean. There are therefore three 

1. to review the work of researchers who have 
focused on the urban underground from across 
social science, history, the arts and media, 
engineering, architecture, journalism, literature 
and film studies to explore how the underground 
is understood from within these different 
2. to critically examine competing conceptual and 
theoretical approaches to the urban underground 
by contrasting their different ways of 
understanding the relations between the hidden 
and visible city.
3. to consider the desirability and feasibility 
of producing an interdisciplinary book on the 
urban underground and its relations with 
contemporary urban studies based on the papers 
presented at the workshop.

Workshop Themes

Proposals for papers could be orientated around the following themes:

. The 'Politics' of the Urban Subterranean: 
papers could include the relationship between 
geopolitics and the underground such as recent 
attacks on London; contesting the commodification 
of underground space; competition for underground 
space by utilities and infrastructure operators; 
use of underground bunkers for security and 
survival; informal use of underground for the 
homeless; the political ecology of lost rivers, 
rats, alligators and sewers; workers on the 
underground in sewers and transport networks; 
contested design, planning and engineering of the 
underground space and tunnelling; sociologies of 
underground technology and techno-science; the 
contested archaeology of cities; risk and 
resilience of underground assets.

. The 'Imaginary' of the Urban Subterranean: 
papers could include work on the representation 
of the underground, in film, literature, art, 
religion, history, sci-fi and journalism; the 
growth in underground guidebooks, exploration and 
tourism; the treatment of the underground in 
design and architecture; art in, of, and on the 
urban subterranean; the iconography of the 
underground and cultures of design; the concept 
of the lost underground; revealing the city 
through excavation; urban subterranean mythology; 
senses and the underground; exposing and 
remembering the past through the underground.

. The 'Otherness' of the Urban Subterranean: 
papers could include representation of the 
separateness and the distinctiveness of the 
underground; death and fear of the urban 
underground; the links with hell, myths and 
religion; unusual uses of the urban underground 
such as catacombs; forgotten time and clashing 
temporalities of the underground and modernising 
urban landscapes; the puncturing of the city 
through the underground; the absence of the 
underground in contemporary urban studies; the 
niche and esoteric nature of underground 
research; the growth of popular interest in 
excavating the city; experiencing the urban 
underground as spectacle and explorer; exposing 
and remembering the underground.

Submission of Abstracts
Please send a 200 word abstract to Pam Allen on 
P.Allen at salford.ac.uk by December 17th 2005, 
selected papers will be notified by 27th January 
2006 and draft papers will be required by July 
31st 2006.

    Stephen Graham
    Professor of Human Geography,  Department of Geography
    University of Durham, Room 408, West Building
    Science Site, South Road, Durham DH1 3LE, U.K.

   Tel +44 (0) (191) 3341857     FAX  +44 (0) (191) 3341801
   Email s.d.n.graham at dur.ac.uk

   Personal web site

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