From Hinterland to Hinterglobe

From Hinterland to Hinterglobe

Doctoral Dissertation
Harvard Graduate School of Design
Dissertation Committee: Neil Brenner, Hashim Sarkis, Pierre Belanger
2009-2015

 

The total ‘used’ area of the planet (black) and the global system of agglomerations (red). © Nikos Katsikis

 

Urbanization is a process of generalized geographical organization where variegated agglomeration forms (from the city to the metropolis and the various forms of post-metropolitan urbanization patterns) are only the focal points in the utilization of the whole earth by humans. Urbanization has always been characterized by a continuous process of socio-metabolic exchange between agglomerations and complex webs of (dis)continuous supply and service hinterlands. Historically confined at the regional scale, this relationship has become extremely hard to define under conditions of globalized urbanization: While the configuration of systems of ‘global cities’ is coevolving with an equally unprecedented reorganization of a system of global hinterlands, the later are largely obscured, dissolved in the operations of logistical networks. A multidisciplinary set of approaches has tried to address the socioeconomic and, more recently, ecological dimensions (footprints) of these global hinterlands; still, the processes of their construction and restructuring have largely remained ‘external’ to the study of urbanization. Building upon the agenda of ‘Planetary Urbanization’, ‘from Hinterland to Hinterglobe’ tries to investigate how the global system of agglomerations, although occupying no more than 5% of the planetary terrain, is responsible for the (re)-organization of most of the 70% of the earth’s surface currently used. By introducing the concept of the ‘operational landscapes’, as the total system of specialized areas used for primary production, extraction, circulation and waste disposal, upon which dense agglomerations, or ‘agglomeration landscapes’, are dependent for their subsistence, the aim of this contribution is to re-frame the dimensions of contemporary urbanization beyond agglomeration, and explore novel concepts, spatial categories and cartographies. Through a hybrid methodology of both historical research, spatial analysis and critical cartographic experimentation, this research aims to explore how the geographical, social and technical processes behind the construction of the ‘Hinterglobe’ can be integrated into the study of urbanization.