My dissertation, City Mutable: Delimiting Urban Space from Metropolis to Megalopolis, traces how “the city,” as an object of study, grew larger over time. It explores how new theoretical constructs and administrative definitions for urban space informed policy decisions and how these policy choices reinforced these constructs, making them more real. The project tracks the development of progressively more expansive definitions of the city, from the United States Census Office’s first attempts to systematically distinguish urban places from rural ones in the nineteenth century, to the rise of metropolitan thinking in the early twentieth century, through the post-World War II entree of Jean Gottmann’s concept of Megalopolis. The project identifies unease with and opposition to these evolving definitions, exploring moments where the city’s notional boundaries had been seemingly stretched to the breaking point, becoming so vast that the concept risked losing its explanatory capacity, its cultural relevance, and its power as an idea.
Kathy Peiss (Chair), Amy Offner, Brent Cebul, Francesca Ammon (Design)
M.A. University of Pennsylvania (2015)
B.A. Carleton College (2011)
Modern US History, Urban History and History of Planning, Cultural History, History of the Social Sciences