The crowd and citylife: Materiality, negotiation and inclusivity at Tokyo’s train stations

Romit Chowdhury, C McFarlane

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


In the history of urban thought, density has been closely indexed to the idea of citylife. Drawing on commuters’ experiences and perceptions of crowds in and around Tokyo’s Shinjuku Station, this article offers an ethnographic perspective on the relationship between urban crowds and life in the city. We advance understandings of the relations between the crowd and citylife through three categories of ‘crowd relations’– materiality, negotiation and inclusivity – to argue that the multiplicity of meanings which accrue to people’s encounters with crowds refuses any a priori definitions of optimum levels of urban density. Rather, the crowd relations gathered here are evocations of citylife that take us beyond the tendency to represent the crowd as a particular kind of problem, be it alienation, exhaustion or a threshold for ‘good’ and ‘bad’ densities. The portraits of commuter crowds presented capture the various entanglements between human and non-human, embodiment and mobility, and multiculture and the civic, through which citylife emerges as a mode of being with oneself and others.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1353-1371
Number of pages19
JournalUrban Studies (print)
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 6 May 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article: The research for this paper was funded by the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (grant agreement No. 773209).

Publisher Copyright:
© Urban Studies Journal Limited 2021.


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