Area Studies for Urban Sustainability Research: Current Practice and Untapped Potential

  • Daniele Brombal (Author)


This paper discusses the potential of Area Studies to inform scientific inquiry for urban sustainability. It draws from two strains of scholarship: the systemic and place-based research on sustainability and the post-1989 reflection on the conceptual foundations of Area Studies. The author starts from the assumption that Area Studies and sustainability research share a similar concern over place(s), shaped over time by human-to-nature and human-to-human relations. He then lays down two pathways for the contribution of Area Studies to urban sustainability research. The first reflects the role of Area Studies in overcoming disciplinary and sectorial barriers, fostering holistic understandings of sustainability. The second relates to the capacity for self-reflexivity inherent in Area Studies, which nurtures critical approaches to the study of sustainability. Once its epistemological and ethical potential is unearthed, Area Studies can become a thriving trans-disciplinary field informing socio-ecological transformations.


Area Studies, urban sustainability, place, transdisciplinary research, Asia