International Conference, Columbia University
September 30-October 1, 2010
Location: Italian Academy for Advanced Studies
Free and open to the public
Advanced registration required; email

Full Schedule

The conference is cosponsored by the Herbert H. Lehman Center for American History at Columbia University; the Italian Academy for Advanced Studies at Columbia University; the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation, Columbia University; the Seminar on the City, University Seminars, Columbia University; and the Interuniversity Consortium for the Study of European-American Politics and History (CISPEA). Professor Lisa Keller, Chair of the Seminar on the City and Lehman Faculty Fellow, is chair of the conference. 

The central question that the conference will address is the issue of cities in the United States and Europe with declining populations across different time periods, with a focus on the 20th and 21st centuries.  We are accustomed to the modern world of the ever-expanding metropolis, in which populations aggregate in an ever-increasing number of mega cities. While there are countless examples of such growth, there are also numerous large urban centers in which the population is declining significantly, with concomitant social, economic and political impact. We are interested in examining what this means for the future of cities.  In the midst of deindustrialization, severe economic challenges, and new immigration patterns, do these “shrinking” cities represent a downward spiral for urban settlement? Or does their contraction signify a way to save cities by making them more workable?  What are the factors leading to shrinkage?  What historical precedents are there for contraction?  How have cities coped with such changes? What are the implications for future planning?   Is contraction tied into decay, or is it symptomatic of a new urban reality in which smaller cities can be more efficient and effective?    This cross-disciplinary conference will look at both historical and contemporary examples of cities with declining populations, and we expect historians, economists, urban planners, and others to participate in formulating a picture of the 21st century urban future. 


Sandro Balducci, Politechnico Milano, Italy

Robert Beauregard, Columbia University

Matthias Bernt, University of Berlin/Leipzig, Germany

Tracy Campbell, University of Kentucky

Themis Chronopoulos, Stony Brook University

Emmanuele Cunningham-Sabot, University of Rennes, France

Margaret Dewar, University of Michigan

Allen Dietrich-Ward, Shippensburg University

Barbara Faedda, Italian Academy for Advanced Studies

Kathryn Foster, University at Buffalo Regional Institute, The State University of New York

Owen Gutfreund, Hunter College

Kenneth T. Jackson, Columbia University

Lisa Keller, Purchase College, SUNY

Jeffrey Kroessler, John Jay College

Jeffrey Manuel, Southern Illinois University

Guido Martinotti, University of Milano-Bicocca

Lars Nilsson, Institute of Urban History, Stockholm University

Deborah Popper, College of Staten Island

Frank Popper, Rutgers & Princeton Universities

Maria Prieto, Independent Scholar, Spain

Jaime Rodriguez, St. John’s University

Terry Schwarz, Kent State University

Elliot Sclar, Columbia University

Michael Skrebutenas, Deputy Commissioner, Housing & Development, New York State

David Smiley, Columbia University

Jose Vargas-Hernandez, University of Guadelajara, Mexico

Maurizio Vaudagna, University of Piedmont, Italy

Alberto Violante, University of La Sapienza, Rome

Full Schedule

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