Outside the Outside

Outside the Outside:The New Politics of Sub-urbs

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Modern "sub-urbs" as a place of vibrancy, conflict and resistance

Matt Hern argues that the changing relationship between the urban center and the suburban periphery forces us to rethink the entire identity of the city itself. Today, most of the Western world lives on the city outskirts. Yet these neighborhoods that once offered security and respite from the perceived dangers of the city center have been radically transformed in the last few decades to poor, working-class and racialized communities. Outside the Outside maps these changes and argues for a revival of the social life of the city as a whole.

Hern shows how language that relegates parts of the urban to the “outside” and designates other parts as the "center" echoes colonial forms of domination. This should come as no surprise in an era when communities are forced onto the periphery and beyond by gentrification.

With on-the-ground reportage in, among other places, Vancouver, Portland, London, Ferguson and Rabat, Hern demonstrates how we need to challenge our misconceptions and see the "sub-urbs" as vibrant places of resistance and regeneration and to celebrate the movement, circulation and difference to be found there.


  • Outside the Outside offers a radical reconsideration of the suburbs, of their potential for living otherwise. Yet, this is not a romantic recasting of the burbs -- of was once imagined as staid, fixed, and always "peripheral to" -- Hern takes up questions local activists, scholars, planners and critics to ask how the suburb got to be, the logics of dispossession and urbanization, of capital accumulation, and so called flight, of racial, and colonial push-out and the refashionings of place and space that have come to make the periphery its own center. Hern moves through cities and burbs in an analysis of those logics to ask beyond the pushout and into the radical possibility of place, mobility, politics and life beyond the centers.

    Audra Simpson, Columbia University
  • Focusing on the notion of 'movement', Matt Hern's brilliant and captivating Outside the Outside presents an urgently needed, theoretically sophisticated street-level perspective on some of the most pertinent ongoing critical debates about life and politics in our decentered sub-urban world.

    Roger Keil, author of Suburban Planet
  • Hern's extraordinary book depicts the peripheral areas of contemporary metropolises beyond an ordinary picture of suburbia. His investigation reveals their peripheralization into substandard urban forms. Outside the Outside insists on seeing urbanism in its political-economic totality and demands a new language to transform politics and territory. This insightful book greatly advances our understanding of the increasingly complex and destabilized urban periphery

    Fulong Wu Bartlett Professor of Planning, University College London; author of Creating Chinese Urbanism.