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Summary. This paper addresses the ways in which urban regions are represented in contemporary urban policies. In doing so, it critically examines how urban trends are reflected in diverse notions of ‘cityness’ in contemporary policy discourses about spatiality and territoriality. Through a detailed case study of the use and construction of the word ‘city’ in a range of urban governance contexts in Newcastle upon Tyne, this paper analyses the political work done by diverse representations and invocations of ‘cityness’ in contemporary urban governance. Such representations matter because the way in which contemporary cities are conceptualised influences policy formulations and policy outcomes. In addition, considerable emphasis is being placed in contemporary urban policy on ‘joining-up’, ‘integrating’ and co-ordinating governance efforts. How conceptions of the city are mobilised to do such integrating work provides insight into the challenge such ambitions present. The evidence from the case study suggests that the capacity of local actors to think about the processes of change in metropolitan regions, and to define the ways in which they can respond, is often limited, as they struggle to define what their ‘city’ actually might be these days. This tends to be to the detriment of collective attempts to maximise conditions for citizens and for investment.