Islands are often associated with peripherality, yet over the course of human history,
they have also been important sites of urban development. Many important regional
cities and global cities have developed wholly or partially on small islands or archipelagos.
Physical separation from the mainland and spatial limitations along with a maritime
tradition can encourage the transport of products and ideas, improved defence infrastructure,
construction of social capital, consolidation of political power, formation of vibrant
cultures, and concentration of population. Some such island-based cities were located
on inland river islands and have since expanded far beyond their original borders
(for example, Paris and Strasbourg) while others are still strongly associated with
their island cores (for example, Hong Kong and New York City).
Major population centres located on larger, primarily rural islands and archipelagos
represent another type of island city. Each of these cities is affected not just
by the dynamics at work in urban areas in general but also by the special functions
it gains from acting as a metropolis that provides goods and services to rural island
About the conference.
This international, interdisciplinary academic conference explores how island status
influences urban development, common attributes of island cities worldwide, and the
opportunities that islandness presents for developing urban cultures and economies.
It will also consider how and why different island cities have developed in different
The conference will feature presentations on a variety of subjects relating to urban
island culture, government, and economy. A variety of fields and disciplines will
be covered, including anthropology, archaeology, architecture, arts & design, business,
film, folklore, history, literature, planning, political science, public administration,
sociology, and tourism. Presentations may concern cases from individual cities or
take a comparative approach to understanding what it means to be an urban island.
The conference will take place in the Baltic island city of Copenhagen, with presentations
being held at Kulturhuset Islands Brygge and VerdensKulturCentret.
Delegates will be able to explore Copenhagen as a whole: in Christianshavn, a man-made
archipelago from the 1600s, now home to cutting-edge galleries, an opera house, gourmet
restaurants, and the counter-cultural bastion of Freetown Christiania; in the North
and South Harbours, where luxury residential development meets maritime industry
meets traditional fishing; in Tivoli Gardens, established in 1843; in the vibrant
and diverse neighbourhoods of Vesterbro and Nørrebro; and on Slotsholm, the seat
of Denmark’s cultural, financial, and political power.
Saskia Sassen (Columbia University)
Jon Pierre (University of Gothenburg)
Christian Wichmann Matthiessen (University of Copenhagen)
Godfrey Baldacchino (University of Malta)
Brenda S.A. Yeoh (National University of Singapore)
University of Portsmouth,
Centre for Art, Architecture & Design
Memorial University of Newfoundland,
Leslie Harris Centre of Regional Policy & Development
University of the Balearic Islands,
Department of Catalan Philology & General Linguistics
Department of Human Geography
Queen’s University Belfast,
School of Geography, Archaeology and Paleoecology
Islands cities, past and present
Ambon • Abu Dhabi • Amsterdam • Bruges • Chongming
Copenhagen • Fukuoka • George Town (Penang)
Gothenburg • Haikou • Havana • Heraklion • Hong Kong Honolulu • Jeju City • Lagos
• Macau • Malé • Malmö