Call for Papers: 'Urban Elites'

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2015 Association of American Geographers Annual Meeting
Chicago, USA
21-25 April 2015

Urban Elites

David Bassens, Vrije Universiteit Brussels
Bas van Heur, Vrije Universiteit Brussels


Metropolitan centers, as key nodes for global capitalism, have received much attention for their marked geographies of sociospatial polarization. While the urban disadvantaged have been an obvious focus of attention here, urban elites and their ways of shaping the urban environments they inhabit are often only cursorily mentioned. Researchers from various disciplines have started recognizing this analytical and empirical lacuna, even though in geography this problematic of elite behavior and organization tends to be narrowed down to the question of the ‘super-rich'. The empirical focus has been on how transnational business communities interlock corporate directorates into a global network, the role of high skilled transnational professionals in servicing global capital flows from world cities and the servicing of those professionals and other so-called “(ultra) high net worth” individuals. This work provides inroads into how command and control practices through the city contribute to structured coherence within the city, as urban land and labor markets, politics and growth regimes tend to co-evolve with the prevalent accumulation logic. More specifically, it points to how the benefits from global accumulation strategies are fixed in urban space, through investment in high end real estate projects, or dissipates through conspicuous consumption practices by those who hold strategic positions in global circuits of value. Most recent geographical research has focused on global economic elites that are only loosely coupled to particular localities, but this session also wants to emphasize the continuing importance of ‘parochial elites' with strong ties to urban spaces due to their involvement in local social relations of dependence as shaped through capital investment, labor relations and civic sentiment. In all these cases, elite reproduction appears to rely on making legible and visible 'benign' or fascinating segments of elite worlds as well as on veiling and making incomprehensible more antisocial elite practices. Especially “post-crisis”, this raises fundamental questions on the social, cultural and political legitimization and normalization of elitist behaviors, practices, and the spaces in which these occur. Crucially, these dynamics can take different forms depending on particular political economic settings in cities across the world.

This session builds on this emerging literature, but would in particular appreciate contributions on the following research directions that have so far received less attention:

  • Intra-elite competition (between ‘old' and ‘new', between political and economic elites) as an important driver of urban change
  • Relations between urban elites and non-elites
  • Conspicuous consumption and the display of wealth in ‘anonymous' urban settings
  • Urban elite reference frameworks and the (transnational) transfer of elite norms
  • Urban elite networks: education, clubs and events
  • Cultural and social organizations and elite patronage and philanthropy
  • Elite styles and trickle-down / trickle-up logics
  • Intermediaries and servi(ci)ng the elites

Submission Procedure:

To be considered for the session, please send your abstract of approximately 250 words to: and

The deadline for receipt of abstracts is October 1, 2014. Notification of acceptance will be before October 7. All accepted papers will then need to register for the AAG conference at Accepted papers will be considered for a special issue or edited volume edited by the organizers.


Beaverstock, Jonathan V., Phil Hubbard and John Rennie Short (2004) Getting away with it? Exposing the geographies of the super-rich, Geoforum 35(4): 401-407.

Beaverstock, Jonathan V., Hall, Sarah and Thomas Wainwright (2013) Servicing the Super-Rich: New Financial Elites and the Rise of the Private Wealth Management Retail Ecology. Regional Studies 47(6): 834-849.

Caletrío, Javier (2012) Global elites, privilege and mobilities in post-organized capitalism, Theory, Culture & Society 29(2): 135-149.

Carroll, William K. (2007) Global Cities in the Global Corporate Network. Environment and Planning A 39(10): 2297-2323.

Daloz, Jean-Pascal (2010) The Sociology of Elite Distinction: From Theoretical to Comparative Perspectives, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Hay, Iain (ed.) (2013) Geographies of the Super-Rich. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar Publishing.

Harvey, David (1985) The Urbanization of Capital. Oxford: Basil Blackwell.

Lees, Loretta (2003) Super-gentrification: the case of Brooklyn Heights, New York City, Urban Studies 40(12): 2487–2509.

Nevarez, Leonard (2011) Efficacy or Legitimacy of Community Power? A Reassessment of Corporate Elites in Urban Studies, in: John Eade and Christopher Mele (eds.), Understanding the City: Contemporary and Future Perspectives, Oxford: Blackwell.

Salverda, Tijo, and Jon Abbink (2013) The Anthropology of Elites: Power, Culture, and the Complexities of Distinction, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Savage, Mike, and Karel Williams (2008) Remembering Elites, Oxford: Blackwell.