From Hinterland to Hinterglobe
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CitationKatsikis, Nikos. 2016. From Hinterland to Hinterglobe. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard Graduate School of Design.
AbstractFrom Hinterland to Hinterglobe investigates urbanization as a mode of generalized geographical organization in which agglomerations, although covering no more than 3% of the total land surface, are connected to the reconfiguration of most of the 70% of the planetary terrain currently used.
Urbanization has always been characterized by a condition of biogeographical interdependency between areas of concentration of population and economic activity, and extensive areas of primary production, circulation and waste disposal. Historically confined at the regional scale, what has been conceptualized as a relationship between cities and their hinterlands, is becoming increasingly elusive to define under conditions of globalized urbanization: On the one hand, agglomerations densify, diffuse and expand into unprecedented, increasingly continuous zones. On the other hand, through a thickening web of transport infrastructures, they become increasingly interwoven with the operationalization of multiscalar, increasingly discontinuous and specialized agricultural, forestry, grazing, energy and mineral extraction zones. The later constitute the majority of the used part of the earth’s surface; yet they remain a ‘terra incognita’ to the study of urbanization.
Although various strands of scholarship have highlighted the multiscalar impact of urbanization on shaping global patterns of socio-economic development and environmental transformation, the question of the hinterland has remained deeply inscribed within a set of persistent dichotomies: From a demographic perspective, the dichotomy between densely populated ‘urban’ agglomerations and low density ‘rural’ hinterlands; from a land-use perspective, between densely built-up ‘hardscapes’ of agglomerations and thinly equipped ‘softscapes’ of hinterlands; from an economic perspective, between agglomerations as economic generators, and hinterlands as void of economic performance; and from an ecological perspective, between agglomerations as ‘entropic black holes’, and hinterlands as producers of ecological surplus.
Building upon the agenda of Planetary Urbanization, I critically revisit and deconstruct the concept of the hinterland aiming to transcend its associated dichotomies and limitations. I introduce the meta-categories of agglomeration landscapes and operational landscapes as landscapes of possible externalities associated with particular operations: Agglomeration landscapes are characterized by the presence of ‘urban’ and ‘clustering’ externalities; operational landscapes are mostly connected with ‘locational’ externalities.
I investigate how these externalities emerge out of, or are prohibited by, particular compositions of asymmetrically distributed, but largely continuous, elements of geographical organization (elements of the natural environment, elements of infrastructural equipment, demographic factors, institutional and regulatory frameworks). Instead of trying to delineate the particular hinterlands of cities, or chart the flows that connect them, I suggest that all processes of urbanization include the activation of a multitude of both agglomeration landscapes and operational landscapes. These are brought together through complex webs of commodity chains, reflecting the advanced division of labor that characterizes industrial and postindustrial societies. According to this framework, agglomeration landscapes are presented as the main locations for operations of the secondary and tertiary sectors of the economy, while operational landscapes for operations of the primary sector of the economy. In this way, I claim that, while urban economies have been only associated with the former, the economies of urbanization should be also stretched to include the latter.
In addition to introducing these novel categories, I also explore how they could be cartographically defined through the composite charting of the various geographical elements that constitute them. As a result, my research blends a theoretical apparatus, building upon theories of the social and ecological production of space under capitalism; with a cartographic and geostatistical apparatus, building upon a critical engagement with selected global geospatial datasets. Finally, as a means of exploring the capacities of these novel concepts, I attempt a historical overview of the development of urbanization as geographical organization over the past two centuries: I claim that as urbanization generalizes a condition of biogeographical interdependency, operational landscapes expand and specialize constructing a globalized shared assembly. Instrumentalized through global commodity chains, this planetary operational totality signals the shift from the universe of fragmented hinterlands, to the totality of the Hinterglobe: an alternative interpretation of the complete urbanization of the world.
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