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Sergio Montero

Tue, Sep 12, 2023    1:15pm

Comparing Cities, A Posteriori

A lecture by Sergio Montero, Associate Professor of Geography and Planning at the University of Toronto Scarborough, organized as part of the Lectures in Planning Series (LiPS) at Columbia GSAPP.

Urban studies scholars have engaged in a lively debate on how to reformat comparative methods in the face of critical scrutiny of the discipline’s purported universalism. In this talk, Prof. Sergio Montero will discuss a recently published article on comparative urban methods co-authored with Gianpaolo Baiocchi (NYU). Sharing the enthusiasm for a reformatted urban comparativism, Prof. Montero will turn to the thorny and more pragmatic question of how to actually do it. While traditional comparisons in urban studies have sought to find variation among similar cases by selecting a priori, the authors propose to compare the findings of different researchers through a posteriori, that is, after the research has been done. They argue that urban researchers need to focus on urban processes rather than cities; on repeated instances rather than on controlling for difference; and on mid-level abstraction rather than on grand theory or descriptive empirical cases. In this talk, Prof. Montero will also put this strategy to work to compare empirical research previously undertaken by both co-authors on how two Latin American cities became international urban ‘best practices’: Bogotá as a sustainable transport model and Porto Alegre as a model of local participatory budgeting. The comparison highlights the tension between the simplified policy narratives that were mobilized to circulate Bogotá and Porto Alegre as international ‘best practices’ and the broader multi-scalar institutional reforms that these ‘best practice’ narratives have left behind in their global circulations. In doing so, the talk will show the potential of a posteriori comparisons to analyze contemporary global urban dynamics and provide some explicit methodological tactics on how to do urban comparisons in a more systematic way.

Sergio Montero is Associate Professor of Geography and Planning and Inaugural Director of the Institute for Inclusive Economies and Sustainable Livelihoods (IIESL) at the University of Toronto, Scarborough. Prof. Montero recent research has been focused on the politics of urban and regional planning; on the South-South and South-North circulation of international policy models and “best practices,” particularly around sustainable transport; and on local and regional economic development strategies, especially in Latin America.

He has published on these topics in several academic journals such as Urban Studies, Environment and Planning A: Economy and Space, Latin American Studies or the International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, among others. He has also edited two books on local economic development in Latin America (in English and Spanish) and a recent collection on the global mobility and diffusion of policy knowledge (in English and Portuguese). Sergio Montero is associate editor of the journal Regional Studies and international corresponding editor of Urban Studies. He holds a master and PhD in City and Regional Planning from the University of California, Berkeley (USA) and a BA in Economics from Universidad de Granada (Spain). Before joining the University of Toronto, he was a professor of urban & regional development at Universidad de los Andes in Bogotá, Colombia.

Organized by the Urban Planning Program at Columbia GSAPP.