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Synecdoche, Columbus: An Anthropology of an Urban Design Experiment


This ongoing book project, widely conceived, is an urban ethnography that draws on oral history narratives, archival research, participant observation, architecture and design theory, social theory, and studies of the built environment. Synecdoche, Columbus wrestles with questions at the heart of architectural theory and urban design: What do buildings do? How do buildings shape people? How do built structures and urban environs enable and constrain certain types of lived actions and habitudes? What are cities for? How do cities function? Providing the first monograph-length, social scientific study of Athens of the Prairie, Synecdoche, Columbus offers an anthropological account of the city by way of the architects, artists, designers, urban planners, city officials, filmmakers, educators, activists, politicians, tour guides, and everyday inhabitants who live, work, contribute to this North American Brasilia. The book argues that cities are experimental and cosmological metaphors for ideal, imagined worlds. Like the buildings that constitute them, cities are synecdoche. 

For articles published as part of this project, see here, here, here, here, hereand forthcoming here


Tentative Table of Contents: 

Introduction: Cities are Synecdoche, Buildings are Metaphors 

Part I: Building Columbus: The Making of a North American Brasilia 

1. Pre-Modern Columbus
2. The Modern Home 
3. The Modern Industry
4. The Modern Church
5. The Modern School 

Part II: Depicting Columbus: The Maintaining of a Mecca 

6. Columbus in the Media 
7. Archi-tourism, Urban Identity, and Distinction 
8. Kogonada’s Urban Neo-Realism

Part III: Living Columbus: An Ethnography of the Contemporary Everyday


9. Exhibit(ing) Columbus 
10. Architecture School 
11. Parks, Greenspace, and other Outdoor Rooms 
12. "Utopia," "Athens," "Mecca," "Experiment" 

Epilogue: Notes on the Plasticity of Concrete 

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