Cities and the New Wars

September 25-26, 2009 • 1:00PM – 6:45PM

Columbia University, Avery Hall, Wood Auditorium

How do cities confront conflict? This conference approached this question from two perspective. First, it explored the multiple meanings of the new urban wars: asymmetric armed conflict, US Army training for the “urban enemy,” forms of economic violence that kill, cities and urban space as a technology for war, and civil war refugees and their flight from and to cities. Secondly, it probed the limits of power and of war: the role of the civic, war and law, the consequences of the growing global web of interdependencies.

This conference was part of the Signature Research Project Urbanizing Technology: The Mobility Complex.



  • Saskia Sassen, Robert S. Lynd Professor of Sociology and Member, Committee on Global Thought, Columbia University.

Geographies of Terror

  • Chair, Saskia Sassen
  • Arjun Appadurai, Goddard Professor of Media, Culture, and Communication, New York University.
  • Stephen Graham, Professor of Human Geography and Deputy Director of the Centre for the Study of Cities and Regions, University of Durham.
  • Jessica Stern, Professor of Law and Affiliate, the Belfer Center's International Security Program, Harvard University.

War and Displacement

  • Chair: Elazar Barkan, Center for the Study of Human Rights, Columbia University.
  • Les Roberts, Associate Clinical Professor of Population and Family Health, Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University, and former Director of Health Policy at the International Rescue Committee.
  • Karen Jacobsen, Associate Professor at the Fletcher School of Law & Diplomacy, and Academic Director of the Feinstein International Center, Tufts University.

Economic Violence

  • Chair: Yasmine Ergas, Center for the Study of Human Rights, Columbia University
  • Sudhir Venkatesh, William B. Ransford Professor of Sociology and Director, Institute for Social and Economic Research and Policy, Columbia University.
  • Claire Cutler, Professor of International Law and Relations, University of Victoria, Canada.

Urban Spaces as a Technology of War

  • Chair: Claire Cutler, Law and International Relations, Victoria U.
  • Eyal Weizman, Architect, Profesor and Director of the Centre for Research Architecture at Goldsmiths College. Member, architectural collective "Decolonizing Architecture" in Beit Sahour/Palestine.
  • Peter Marcuse, Professor Emeritus of Urban Planning at the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Presevation at Columbia University.
  • Partha Chatterjee, Professor of Anthropology and Member, Committee on Global thought at Columbia University and, Professor of Political Science at the Centre for Studies in Social Sciences in Calcutta, India.

The Dictionary of War Project

The concepts will be presented in 20-minutes time slots, in alphabetical order and without a break; they are recorded in a television studio setup, encoded in real-time and published on the internet.

  • 11:00 Cold war planning - Jennifer S. Light (Northwestrn University)
  • 11:30 Information - Ted Byfield (Parsons, The New School for Design)
  • 12:00 Not-not- war - Rosalind C. Morris (Columbia University)
  • 13:00 Pigeon - Gediminas Urbonas (MIT, Visual Arts Program)
  • 13:30 Re-appropriating the city of fear - Fiona Jeffries (CUNY, Graduate Center)
  • 14:00 Marketing War - Danny Kaplan (Tel Aviv University, Israel)
  • 14:30 Annexpression - Tony Conrad (University of Buffalo, New York)
  • 15:00 The Wall - Richard Sennett (New York University and London School of Economics)
  • 15:30 Urban Warfare – Gar Smith (Environmentalists Against War)
  • 16:00 Virtuous War - James Der Derian (Brown University)
  • 16:30 War Games - Ashley Dawson (CUNY Graduate School)
  • 17:00 Explosion Implosion: war in our time - Susan Crile (Artist, New York)
  • 17:30 When a riot becomes a war - Suketu Mehta (New York University)
  • 18:00 Wounded Cities - Ida Susser and Jan Schneider (CUNY Graduate Center)

( is a collaborative platform for creating concepts on the topic of "war". This is their first US presentation. Previous events have been held in Frankfurt, Munich, Graz, Berlin, Novi Sad, Gwangju, Bolzano and Taipei. Fifteen speakers will each present a concept that plays a crucial role in the contemporary discourse on war and urban space. Such a concept might be a term that needs to be newly created, one that has been neglected so far, or one that needs to be re-invented.)