[reblogged from URB-GEOG-FORUM listserv]
AAG Paper session: “Rising to the challenge: defining the contours of a new 21st century critical urban theory”
This session enquires strategically and critically into the current tradition of critical urban theory (CUT) and calls for creative reformulations. The task of articulating alternative forms of CUT has been piecemeal and implicit. Now is the time to formally and explicitly address this exciting challenge.
Brenner at al.’s recent (2012) critically-acclaimed volume, Cities for People, Not for Profit which, while offering some challenging and illuminating perspectives on the impact of the current crisis in global capitalism also admits that current CUT struggles to keep up with the ‘restless periodicity and extraordinary slipperiness of the urban phenomenon’ (p.117). The rapid transformation and expansion of urban space (often referred to these days as ‘planetary’ urbanism) challenges the binary simplicity and clarity of traditional neo-Marxist-based CUT with regards to the formulation of critiques and political alternatives to prevailing urban injustices. As the authors suggest current models of CUT can only ‘partially grasp the contours and consequences of emergent urban transformation’ (p.117).
We propose the following framework by which this challenge might be addressed.
First it is important to address the type of critical questions that 21st century urbanism raises in respect of current CUT hegemony. What dynamics and dimensions of planetary urbanism are sufficiently complex and ambiguous to be ahead of the current theoretical curve? What new constellations of urban experience challenge the methodologies and/ or epistemological assumptions of traditional CUT, while augmenting its transformative and emancipatory capacities? What key issues and questions need to be addressed and recognised which are currently ignored or misrepresented? Questions of this kind are an important stage in the new critical urban hermeneutic which is starting to emerge.
Second, it is important to reflect on actual urban praxis where the coming together of disparate elements and actors reflect a new focus or expression of liberative and critical urban practice. Here case studies of agonistic as well as synthetic rapprochement where moral and practical imperatives to address urgent new challenges and opportunities have outstripped theoretical developments, and yet which reflect important new paradigms and spaces of participative transformation in the urban realm.
Third there is the ongoing task of developing new theoretical concepts and discourses that critically interpret the dynamics of power, as well as inspire new collectivities of political and structural response. The impact of capitalism will remain a central concern, but overtly ideological responses will not generate the new and necessary critical thinking and response that is required. Other overtly hegemonic metanarratives are unlikely to unlock the complexity, but also potentiality, offered by the scale and fluidity of global urban development. The current crop conceptual catchphrases (assemblage; grey space; hybridity; third space; postsecular rapprochement, to name a few) are committed to dealing with multiplicities of experiences, epistemologies and ontologies of urban space. Far less is yet known how these alternative narratives actually reconcile the strategic and political demands of a reinvigorated CUT.
The organisers of this session welcome papers that address any one or combination of these hermeneutic tasks in constructing a new CUT for the 21st century.
We look forward to receiving short abstracts from those of you interested by 30 September 2012.
Dr. Chris Baker, Department of Theology, University of Chester, United Kingdom, firstname.lastname@example.org
Dr. Justin Beaumont, Department of Spatial Planning & Environment, University of Groningen, The Netherlands, email@example.com
Faculty of Spatial Science
University of Groningen
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