Proposal for a paper session at the Annual Conference 2016 of RGS-IBG, London, 30 August – 2 September, 2016
Constance Carr, University of Luxembourg
Markus Hesse, University of Luxembourg
development remains a powerful concept across European and global
fields of policy-making. Spurred by the all-encompassing threat of
climate change, the rhetoric of a great transformation successfully
occupies current policy and practice. However, in contrast to the doom
and gloom predictions, and in stark contrast to the sheer magnitude of
the challenge of dealing with such complex set of problems, recent
policy ideas and recipes seem trivial, and overly rationalized and
optimistic. With respect to this, there are two interrelated issues that
we want to explore in this session.
First, much of this new rationality of sustainability moults into popular labels such as ‘green’ or ‘smart’ where the city
is the primary setting. This search for practical solutions in the city
is further buttressed by the ‘sustainability business’ and associated
green-washing practices that have emerged, as well as a variety of tools
to assess, monitor, evaluate, and certify sustainability initiatives
(indicators, metrics, and planning orthodoxies such as density,
integrated, or holistic planning) that have become standard practice.
Scholars have been active to identify the pitfalls here: Elgert &
Krueger (2012) discussed the epistemology of metrics; Wiig (2015)
interrogated the corporate strategy of a multi such as IBM behind ‘smart
city’; Angelo & Wachsmuth (2015) criticized ‘methodological
cityism’ in political ecology; Purcell (2006) showed the limits to
localism; Mössner (2013) exposed socio-political limits of green cities.
These criticisms highlight that there is something else to explore
beyond current notions of sustainability. In this session, we welcome
further critiques of existing attempts, as well as imaginaries of
sustainability that embrace more contemporary imaginaries of urban
geographies. These may include:
- Critical reflections on
super-optimist projects such as transition towns, or green cities (e.g.
localism, methodological city-ism, green-washing in urban marketing);
on the disparity between the normative of sustainable development and
current policy realities (How has this disparity changed? How is it
produced? What lays outside the current lens? How has green urbanism
changed over time and across places?)
second issue relates to expectations of knowledge proliferation in
academia, as research communities are increasingly embedded in
contradictory settings, expected to provide results and not problems, to
be frank but constructive, and moreover, to be elite, excellent,
income-generating as well as critical. In this respect, there is thus
good reason to analyse the research-policy nexus, as Woods & Gardner
(2011), Pain (2006), and Beaumont et al. (2005) have explored, examine
the construction of knowledge claims as Rydin (2007) has explained, and
rework some considerations with regards to rationalist modes in
sustainable development and emerging sustainability modernities. We thus also want to, additionally, interrogate the tensions
between the construction of positivist sustainability on the one hand,
and the position of the critical researcher on the other hand, treading
the fine line between Dennis Judd’s claim that urban scholars tend to assume that “everything
is always going to hell” (Judd 2005) and Elbert Hubbard’s classical
“positive anything is better than negative nothing” (Hawthorne 1902).
Concrete questions in this regard may include:
- Who is producing and endorsing claims to knowledge in practices of sustainable development urbanism?
are the possibilities and limitations for researchers to balance
constructive interventionism with realistic limits of sustainable
development and all its complexities, messy politics, wicked problems
that are observed in human geography?
- How is it possible to pursue state-led contract work while maintaining critical integrity?
- What are relevant reflections the ontology, methodology and ethics of applied SD research practice?
we also welcome contributions that address how these two issues
intersect and are interrelated. Please send abstracts of ca. 250 words,
including a preliminary title, by February 10, 2016 to Constance Carr
(firstname.lastname@example.org) and Markus Hesse (email@example.com)
Call for Abstracts Deadline
February 10, 2016
Angelo, H. & Wachsmuth, D. 2015. “Urbanizing Urban Political Ecology: A Critique of Methodological Cityism”. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research DOI: 10.1111/1468-2427.12105
J., Loopmans, M. & Uitermark, J. 2005. “Politicization of research
and the relevance of geography: Some experiences and reflections for an
ongoing debate”. Area 37: 118-126.
L. & Krueger, R. 2012. “Modernising sustainable development?
Standardisation, evidence and experts in local indicators”. Local Environment 7(5) 561-571.
H. (1902) “Contemplations: being, several short essays, helpful
sermonettes, epigrams, and orphic saying selected from the writings of
Elbert Hubbard” NY, The Roycrofters.
Judd, D. R. (2005). “Everything is always going to hell. Urban scholars as end-time prophets”. Urban Affairs Review 41 (2), 119-131.
Lyons, N. (ed.) 2010. “Handbook of Reflection and Reflective Inquiry: Mapping a Way of Knowing for Professional Reflective Inquiry”. Springer, DOI 10.1007/978-0-387-85744-2
Mössner, S. 2013. Sustainable Urban Development as Consensual Practice: Post-Politics in Freiburg, Germany. Regional Studies 10.1080/00343404.2015.110287
Pain, R. 2006. “Seven deadly myths in policy research”. Progress in Human Geography 30: 250-259.
Purcell, M. 2006. “Urban democracy and the local trap”. Urban Studies 43(11) 1921-1941
Rydin, Y. 2007. “Re-examining the role of Knowledge within planning Theory” Planning Theory 6(1) 52-68.
Wiig, A. (2015). “IBM’s smart city as techno-utopian policy mobility”. City 19 (2-3), 258-273.
M. & Gardner, G. 2011. “Applied policy research and critical human
geography: Some reflections on swimming in murky waters”. Dialogues in Human Geography 1(2) 198-214.