New Urban Law Book Examines the Legal Power of Cities

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A new book co-edited by Fordham Urban Law Center Faculty Director Nestor M. Davidson and Associate Director Geeta Tewari ’05 illuminates the legal power of cities at a moment when increasing numbers of the global population are migrating to urban areas.

Global Perspectives in Urban Law: The Legal Power of Cities (Routledge) was inspired by scholarship presented at the Urban Law Center’s second and third annual International and Comparative Law Conferences, held in Paris in 2015 and Hong Kong in 2016. The book’s 11 chapters feature rich contributions from internationally renowned urban law scholars, which “add an interdisciplinary and global perspective” to the study of cities, according to Tewari.

“In creating this collaborative book, we sought to bridge a gap between the law and urban studies” said Tewari of the second volume of the Juris Diversitas series, which focuses on the interdisciplinary study of legal and sociopolitical movements. The series’ first installment, Law Between Buildings: Emergent Global Perspectives in Urban Law, was co-edited by Davidson and former Urban Law Center Director Nisha Mistry.

Davidson and Tewari will speak about their newly published work on Wednesday, Feb. 6, during the Maloney Library’s Behind the Book series event, “The Global Metropolis: Policy & Power in the 21st Century.” In addition, Fordham Political Science Professor Annika Hinze, Fordham University’s director of urban studies, will discuss her book City Politics: The Political Economy of Urban America.

Today, more than half the world’s 7.7 billion people live in cities. By 2050, that percentage is expected to rise to approximately 70 percent. For this reason, urban planning and addressing legal issues around creating cities are essential to creating a better future, Tewari said.

“Cities have the opportunity to take greater steps to reduce crime and violence, economic inequality, flooding, and so many other pervasive environmental issues,” Tewari added. “Because the population in cities will be so large, it is vital to study cities from a legal perspective.”

Chapters in The Legal Power of Cities highlight distinct issues facing different cities. For instance, one chapter examines street markets in Chennai, India, using fieldwork and research on spatial reorganization with an analysis of government regulations of street markets, also known as bazaars. Another chapter explores how the Sriracha sauce manufacturer in Irwindale, California, faced pressure to shut down because of claims that the odors emanating from the factory represented a public nuisance. Yet another chapter examines the global housing crisis through the lens of Hong Kong.

Davidson and Tewari are now working on the Juris Diversitas series’ third volume, Law and the New Urban Agenda, tentatively scheduled to be published in 2020. That book will explore the New Urban Agenda, a United Nations resolution adopted in 2016, and its opportunities for governmental and systematic change from a legal perspective. 

“I enjoy working on these books because they explore the question of how we can shape cities for the future,” Tewari said. “For centuries, cities have been the center of creativity and culture. I hope that our volumes contribute to this going forward.”

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