Universiteit Leiden

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Why cities outlive empires: the potential in non-sovereign cities

Thursday 28 February 2019
Den Haag

For whom? 

Staff and students are welcome! The Urban Studies Seminar series is meant to give both students and staff in an informal setting insight in the research of the Urban Studies staff. 

About the seminar 

Cities are older than empires but there is no denying that cities have also been the dominant centres of empires. Remarkable thing is, that whereas all empires have disappeared and some major cities, too, most cities are still there. The Roman empire fell apart, Rome stayed. The Ottoman empire disappeared, Istanbul remained. The English colonial empire vanished, London became the node in a new network. The Mali empire fell apart, Timbuktu kept attracting people. The dynamic is not coincidental. All empires depend on a supreme power, on some sort of sovereign, that wants to hold things together by force. In the long run this must fail. In a distinct sense, empires confirm the second law of thermodynamics, which claims that in a closed system disorder will grow. Cities, in contrast are the paradigm of a miraculous phenomenon: they are able to organize and reorganize themselves through time. The reason may be that all cities deny the very existence of a supreme power: they are rather the places where different people flock together attracted by the potential embodied in cities. 

The seminar will be followed by drinks.

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