Re-thinking the Peri-urban: A Sensory-visual Exploration of the Making of Mexico City

von Wissel, Christian. 2016. Re-thinking the Peri-urban: A Sensory-visual Exploration of the Making of Mexico City. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

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Abstract or Description

This thesis explores the everyday making and thinking of the peri-urban. The condition of the peri-urban is a troubled one, caught between uneven spatial development, rapid land use changes and competing ‘rural’ and ‘urban’ logics. At the same time, its condition is central to the broader urban process as it is here that planetary urbanisation materialises in the form of ever more houses, neighbourhoods and streets. Accordingly, the peri-urban is frequently described as a ‘territorial crisis’, as a ‘lack of city’ and as a planning and administrative ‘problem’ posed to urban sustainability.

Without denying the urgency of this situation, this thesis starts by observing that the perspective of the everyday tends to be absent from peri-urban accounts. Its intention is to re-think the peri-urban from the viewpoint of those living in its socio-material circumstances. It does so by attending to infrastructural practices, that is, to the inventive ways by which practitioners of space reach beyond themselves and nurture spaces of opportunity. In particular, it focuses on the physical effort these practices imply, as well as on the making of city they entail and the socio-spatial consciousness they afford. As a result, this thesis identifies four types of city-making labour and distinguishes fifteen layers of cityness by which the peri-urban is apprehended through the practising body when emplaced in concrete peri-urban situations.

The findings of this thesis are the fruit of a combination of sensory and visual methods that are particularly receptive to the corporeality and materiality of practice and the space in which it occurs. Fieldwork was carried out in the northern stretch of the Metropolitan Area of the Valley of Mexico, and specifically in and around an affordable housing development, a self-built settlement, the communal land of a farmers’ organisation (ejido) and the highway which ties these sites together.

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)

Identification Number (DOI):


Peri-urban, cityness, infrastructural practice, city-making, city-thinking, Mexico City, urban corporeality, urban materiality, ZMVM

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Sociology > Centre for Urban and Community Research (CUCR)


31 October 2016

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

23 Nov 2016 17:53

Last Modified:

08 Sep 2022 11:43


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