World Cities and Second Cities: Imagining Growth and Hybridity in Modern Literature

  • Bart KeunenEmail author


Second cities can be analyzed by means of two models of scaling, based on either temporal or spatial parameters. The first model uses growth (an evolution in time) as a central metaphor and can be found in the Mumfordian vocabulary of urban theory (polis, metropolis, megalopolis). It concentrates on the economical expansion within modern capitalism and on the technological and sociale side effects of the economical modernization process. The second model, which is only implicitly used in contemporary theory, is based on a different metaphor that stems from physics. By viewing urban phenomena as “states of matter” (spatial states that are lucidly called “states of aggregation” in Dutch and German) they can be conceived more easily as heterogeneous forms of urbanity in late modern society. Moreover, urban forms can within this frame of reference be more adequately seen as fundamentally hybrid, as a combination of different “states of aggregation”. The notion of “second city” differs greatly when used in one of both discursive contexts. Most commonly, second cities are defined in terms relating to the growth model but recent reflections on what I would like to call “the mediopolis” opt for the alternative contextualization. Artistic representations of second cities seem firmly rooted in the first discursive context. Nevertheless, some inspiring instantiations of the literary city escape from this powerful model. If one looks closer at the representation of urban life in recent Western literature, one can find accounts of urbanity that reflect a fundamental hybridity.


Urban theory Scale States of matter Hybridity 

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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of Arts and PhilosophyGhent UniversityGhentBelgium

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