Blog No. 7: Post-Workshop 3 and the challenge of method/ologies

Photo Credit: Ceren Gamze Yasar

By Will LaFleur

Helsinki, Fi—Many thanks to all who joined us last week—presenters, discussants, chairs and thoughtful audience members—to explore and challenge the means by which we make sense of the world and how we try to make the world make sense.

As expected, several themes concerning methods and methodologies surfaced throughout the two days. Within these themes, a term that did not escape (at least my) notice was the word ‘slow(ness)’, invoked here and there as an intimation—following perhaps the philosopher Isabelle Stengers—of a more deliberate or reflective research process that constantly questions the purposes to which science is put, in which “science could discover it’s own demands”, rather than the demands of, for example, the corporate good (see also, Stengers, 2018). Yet, the contemporary landscapes of academia in which the number of papers published seems to determine ‘success’ is a clear challenge to the very idea of slowness. Add to this the attack on critical and post/decolonial movements in (especially) the social sciences—astutely remarked upon by discussant Ola Söderström in his keynote—and we find what appears to be a fairly hostile environment to both slow and critical social science research.

It is against this broad socio-political backdrop nonetheless, that much boundary pushing methodological innovation—often in correspondence with decolonial scholarship—appears to be playing out. Indeed, much of which has been on display by presenters throughout the Dislocating Urban Studies workshops. Despite this contemporary (industrial, neoliberal, etc.) academic research environment, it is heartening (hopefully for you, too!) to participate in events of research-sharing that inspire, and are seemingly able to transcend, at least momentarily, the contemporary pressures and constraints on the scientific work we do, and hope to do. Moving on from last week’s workshops, that momentary transcendence faded, we once again face the realities of our contemporary research environs, but, hopefully, with a renewed spirit to continue pushing to the fore the narratives, movements, communities, things, spaces and places that matter for a more just world.

To aid us in our move onward, I shall revisit here some (but not all) of the pertinent topics that came up last week. In the continued push for theoretical and methodological innovation we were treated to a smorgasbord of interventions that shone some light on crucial processes of research that we hold in common. Below are a series of interactions from last week’s workshops that raise relevant questions for urban studies scholars and beyond.

Take a look, have a think, click the ‘comment’ button and put some (metaphorical) ink to paper to share your thoughts. Or, simply read and think/reflect about the issues in relation to your own work.

Workshop 3: Follow-up Queries

The question of Slowness

In the very first presentation of Workshop 3, Pavel Grabalov introduced us to the notion of ‘deathscapes’. In the ensuing discussion, Elena Trubina reacted to the ‘spontaneous’ interview methods used in Grabalov’s study, saying

“People’s reactions to death need more time elaboration, and more participant observation would help that.”

Thus, we can find here a suggestion of slowness in dealing with the issue of death—an issue that self-evidently takes time to process, and perhaps is always, ongoingly being processed. Turning to this question of slowness, it seems worthwhile to think about and reflect:

-What aspects of our own research demand slowness in order to be comprehended, analysed, or otherwise engaged with in ethical ways?

-In a world that often seems to move so quickly, is slowness always the right strategy? What challenges does slow research pose for scholar-activists who may feel the need to act sooner, rather than later?


Narrative cartographies/ethnographic analysis

Veronica Hendel presented work on narrative cartographies and ethnographic analysis, through which she found the presence of subtle forms of everyday violence, though the research was not initially focused on violence. Hendel showed how research collaborators drew out maps referring to particular instances of violence, and how using methods like walking through neighbourhoods with participants helped to disentangle the complexities and invisibilities of these young people’s experience.

In response to the question: “To what extent do these methods/theories have the potential to dislocate urban studies?”, Hendel replied: These methods give a chance to these young people to become part of the agenda of urban studies, and the agenda of the state and colleagues through subversion.

To you, reader:

-Have you yourself experimented with similar methods to narrative cartographies? In your view, what aspects of experience do they have the potential to make visible, and in what ways? Are there limitations to these methods?


Authoritarianism(s), scalarities, gentrifications and a plea for going ‘beyond’

Authoritarianism was one theme that arose multiple times in reference to how we conceptualise what is happening with the urban, and also no doubt due to it current geopolitical spectre. Sven Daniel Wolfe was asked about these together and replied: “The intention of theorising from the East here is to trouble the notion of authoritarianism, which exists not in the manifestation of a state like Belarus, but in the West as well: Portland or London, for example.” The implication of course is that authoritarianism is heterogenous, messy and anything but straight-forward. Which raises the question of the applicability of many standby concepts today. Maybe one way to approach this is to “think form the East”, or perhaps the South.

But taking a cue from Jennifer Robinson’s repeated insistence to go beyond our tried and true concepts:

-Is there an opportunity here to think from beyond conceptualisations of East, South, North, or West? What openings are there for re-assesing and re-making our conceptualisations of how we understand and research e.g. authoritarianism, gentrification, scalarity?

-How do these concepts change depending on where we think ‘from’? And might the places we think from render some of these concepts unfit for purpose?


Digital methods

Due to the global pandemic, several of our presenters were forced to reimagine their methods for fieldwork and the way they teach. It perhaps goes without saying that ‘in-person’ social research is ‘more preferable’ to digital, but perhaps it is more helpful to instead think of digital research as one other type of social research, simply a different approach that can provide different insights, and that’s OK, too. Luckily, several presenters in last week’s workshops demonstrated this exceedingly well.

In response to Aparna Parikh, Karen Paiva Henrique and their students’ digital visual methods for research and pedagogy, discussant Carina Listerborn commented:

“I think this method is really an interesting way to go around reproducing stigmatised social categories. As well, pedagogically it was very inspiring as a teacher myself thinking about what we all can do.”

As well, Josefa Maria Stiegler suggested that “research design cannot simply be transferred to the online sphere”, and indicated that digital ethnography is not as something that replaces urban ethnography, but something that is itself a different kind of ethnography where, like any research—ethnographic or otherwise—one must remain aware of who/what is being included/excluded. Thus, digital ethnography might be described as understanding one or another instantiation of the realities of involved participants, just as more traditional (urban) ethnographic work (I would argue!) aims to understand not a single reality, but certain instantiations of plural realities.

Finally, Dalia Milián Bernal introduced us to an example of how digital research can substantially widen the scope of what is being studied. Bernal’s work on ‘spaces of temporary use in Latin America’ showed simultaneously the openness and limits of online work, and, as Listerborn commented, one of the keys to such high quality research lie in Bernal’s openness of the process: “Your honesty about the process and research is rich and detailed and I think would be very useful insight about how research actually unfolds

Thus, from the above we can find some prime examples of how high quality digital research might be pursued, that it is not a replacement, but is yet another type of research, as well as its limits and potentials. Turning now to you, reader:

-Moving on from this work, how could digital methods and pedagogical strategies be rethought and reimplemented in your own work?

-What can digital methods tell us that more traditional methods cannot? And visa-versa?

-What are your own experiences with digital research and pedagogical methods that you would like to share, or think would be useful for others to know?


Feminist methodologies

In a presentation titled Revisiting Gentrification- Social Reproduction Nexus: A Feminist Ethnography of Gendered Dispossessions in Gentrifying Tarlabasi, Istanbul, Bahar Sakizlioglu drew from her project to assert:

One of the things that has happened is that as women have entered the labour market, they take on double work: both formal and informal work for women that increases burdens disproportionately

Indeed, this statement connects to one of the (many) key insights that feminist social theory have pointed out over the years. Sakizlioglu moreover brings our attention to a particular key insight in feminist theory, namely the entanglements of scale: of the intimate, sensing body with global, macro processes (see Mountz and Hyman, 2006; Katz, 2002, 2011; also, Hayes-Conroy and Hayes Conroy, 2008, 2015; and Pink, 2015, to name only a few).

Taking such key insights as only a sampling of example, the questions seem to be begged:

-Is neglecting or excluding such insights even possible? Ever justifiable?

-Are feminist theoretical and methodological insights to be used only when it seems to befit the research and researcher, or are they actually inextricable parts of any contemporarily-relevant theoretical, methodological or analytical insight?


Comparison

To the question of comparison, it became apparent, for example in Frances Brill’s presentation when a colleague said to Brill regarding a research proposal:

The selection of case studies need clearer justification. Whilst this type of in-depth work has value, it still needs a stronger justification in terms of the sampling framework and approach used“,

Thus, a clear justification of comparison seems to be a requirement that holds more weight than “in-depth work”, or else focusing on places that are of interest, as another commenter told Brill: “My advice, stick to London. People always want to know about London”. While several questions arise from this, it is clear that comparison is never straight forward but can appear so, as long as it is justified to those with power to decide, and thus contingent on the positionalities of funders and other researchers in complex ways.

The questions for you:

-According to your experience, in what ways are ‘traditional’ approaches to comparison still useful, and in what ways have they become useless? What are the benefits of comparing seemingly incomparable urbans? What are the insights to be gained from doing so?

-Does a well-justified comparative approach deserve more import than a thorough, in-depth research about understudied or novel phenomenon that may or may not ultimately make fruitful comparative work? In your experience, how have the politics of comparison affected you and your work?

Reflect and/or Discuss!

Share your thoughts in the comments: what is your experience? Do you have strong feelings about the ideas above? Perhaps you have problems with the way the questions are even posed?! Let the world know! And/or just take these questions to think with as you move on.

References

Hayes-Conroy, A., & Hayes-Conroy, J. (2008). Taking back taste: Feminism, food and visceral politics. Gender, Place & Culture15(5), 461–473. https://doi.org/10.1080/09663690802300803

Hayes-Conroy, A., & Hayes-Conroy, J. (2015). Political ecology of the body: A visceral approach. In R. Bryant (Ed.),  The International Handbook of Political Ecology (pp. 659–672). Edward Elgar Publishing. https://doi.org/10.4337/9780857936172

Katz, C. (2011) ‘Accumulation, excess, childhood: toward a counter topography of risk and waste’. Documents d’Anàlisi Geográfica 57: 47–60.

Mountz, A., & Hyndman, J. (2006). Feminist Approaches to the Global Intimate. Women’s Studies Quarterly, 34(1/2), 446–463. JSTOR.

Pink, S. (2015). Doing sensory ethnography (2nd edition). Sage Publications.

Stengers, I., & Muecke, S. (2018). Another science is possible: A manifesto for slow science (English edition). Polity.

BLOG No. 6: Some thoughts about universalism and generalisation

By Miguel A. Martínez, Professor of Housing and Urban Sociology, Institute for Housing and Urban Research, Uppsala University


Debates on the relations between urban phenomena in the Global North and the Global South have recently been framed by postcolonial (also known as decolonial or anti-colonial) approaches. These have mainly invited scholars to question their Euro-Anglo-centric and developmentalist bias. This insight can be traced back to the dependency and centre-periphery theories in the 1960s, and to the critical views on imperialism and colonialism much earlier. Above all, its recent echo in urban studies has called to make metropolitan regions, urban processes, and authors from the Global South more visible, in addition to produce more nuanced, contextualised, and comparative analyses everywhere. Also, indigenous views, in a broad sense (as those expressed by all types of locals), would deserve recognition and close examination, according to this framework. Furthermore, these scholars are also prone to engage in critical reflections of the researchers’ positionality and theoretical and methodological choices, as well as to question the political implications of their academic activity (Leitner et al. 2020), in a similar vein as the proponents of participatory action-research did since the 1970s in various settings of the Global South. 

In my view, the above assumptions of the postcolonial approach have been very beneficial to challenge mainstream social sciences that have regularly dismissed knowledge production from the Global South. However, I also find weaknesses in that theoretical inspiration. 

On the one hand, the dichotomy North vs. South carries many inconveniences. The issue of the researchers’ positionality is not a straightforward one, for example. The intersection of class, gender and ethnicity plays out both within the Global North and the Global South, including the academic trajectories between privileged and marginalised environments, back and forth. Academics can hardly claim a legitimate representation of the most oppressed groups in any society, although a situated and critical research may make a difference in order to understand oppressions and suggest emancipatory ways out. Furthermore, the significant variations within both the vast territory of the Global South and the tinier lands of the Global North may mislead researchers. In short, none of these are socially homogeneous spaces or regions. Just consider, for example, the historical, political and economic differences between some Asian ‘developmental states’ such as South Korea, Taiwan or Singapore, the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) group, the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) region, specific OECD countries in Latin America (Mexico, Chile and Colombia) and the others in the same continent, and the Eastern and Southern parts of Europe (or Global Easts). Specific contextualisations and accounts of the relevant scales and actors at play are needed for every portion of the Global South under examination.

On the other hand, postcolonial insights especially look at the complexity and diversity of urban spaces and phenomena. In most cases, the epistemological consequence of such an approach is relativism and emphasis on the local differences and particularities (Storper & Scott 2016). Generalisation or explanatory analyses are thus usually avoided. Although universal truths in social science are impossible to achieve due to the effects that scientific statements may have in society once disseminated, an extreme relativist epistemology wrongly avoid the determination of social structures and processes that can be generalised under certain circumstances. Careful attention to differences (historical contexts, above all) and diversity is a necessary departing point for knowing the specific social dimensions of urban phenomena, but does not suffice for making conclusive observations. In contrast, a critical realist or dialectical epistemology aims at neatly identifying the collective structures and the actions within – or interacting with – them, which may illuminate significant patterns of social relations, as well as constraining and enabling conditions, active in various historical-spatial contexts. Notwithstanding, as Harvey (2000: 16) suggests, regarding ‘particularity’ and ‘universality’ we should investigate how ‘one is always internalized and implicated in the other’. Without assuming the core tenets of positivism (the pursuit of cause-effect laws and accurate predictability, the fragmentation of the world in isolated facts from each other, the exclusive mathematical expression of knowledge, etc.), it is sensible to acknowledge that regular phenomena such as power conflicts occur under similar conditions of possibility, so nuanced comparisons and generalisations are advisable. In this respect, I would argue that a limited epistemological universalism sets a feasible horizon for social science but should not contradict universal claims of justice, equality, human rights, and democracy, to name a few. Political and moral universalism is a crucial driver of critical social science for both the selection of research topics and the interpretation of results. Therefore, I suggest investigating urbanisation processes and social inequality from a critical realist-structuralist perspective that takes into account their manifestations across the Global North and the Global South.

References

Harvey D (2000) Spaces of Hope. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Leitner H, Peck J and Sheppard E (2020) Urban Studies Inside/Out. Theory, Method, Practice. London: SAGE Publications Ltd.

Storper M and Scott AJ (2016) Current debates in urban theory: A critical assessment. Urban Studies 53(6): 1114–1136. DOI: 10.1177/0042098016634002.

BLOG No. 5: Still “Off The Map”?

Still off the map?
Photo Credit: Ceren Gamze Yasar

By Will LaFleur

Helsinki, Fi—True to the theme of Workshop 2, presenters helped to shine a light on various unseen or under-appreciated processes of urbanisation. What we saw is that while the invisibility of such “off the map” cases may be a case of misdiagnosis related to stigmatisation (as Raffael Beier shows us in Casablanca), or the absence of material evidence of significant historical events (as Patricia Capanema Alvares Fernandes presents in Belo Horizonte), these processes are, significantly, not simply instances of forgetting, or unnoticed, misdiagnosed or stigmatised populations. Rather, many forms of urbanisation we heard about have come to be through deliberate erasure or neglect, and are contested or made invisible for political, social, economic development or nation building purposes.

Taken altogether, the presentations of Workshop 2 demonstrate the crucial importance that researchers must play in drawing out and dynamically “mapping” the lived realities of peoples subject to policies and practices that affect erasure of every day life and livelihoods. In this regard, several pertinent issues were raised over the two days of workshops which can (and indeed must!) be pursued further.

Below we lay out a series of comments, questions and exchanges that came up during Workshop 2, and invite you to engage with them further in the comments here and/or at our Twitter account @DislocatingUS.

Workshop: Follow-up Questions

Architectures

In Heini-Emilia Saari’s presentation on Finnish architectural competitions that reimagine ‘periphery’ cities, Saari stated “I chose [these] cases not because I see them as stagnant places, but to critique the public discourses that they somehow are”. A member of the audience expressed their interest in the research, stating, “When I trained in Zambia [as an architect], the library was filled with books by Finnish architects!”

What can be said about the imaginaries at play in the politics of architecture and development in Finland, which includes particular blindspots regarding place, and the fact that Finnish architecture seems to influence architectural training far beyond its borders?

What are the implications for the training of architectural imaginaries—or perhaps policy or research imaginaries—that seem to immobilise the dynamism of place?

What is your own experience with such issues?


Frictions

In discussion with presenter Thomas Betschart about the notion of frictions, discussant AbdouMaliq asked a question that is pertinent to ask anyone working with similar concepts:

“Frictions imply some kind of boundedness. In your experience, when does this become blurred? Or, when do these frictions become complementary and not necessarily frictional?”

Betschart acknowledged this to be a very difficult question—and it surely is—as well as an important one to grapple with to continue pushing the field.

Do you have an idea, based on your own experience, of how to answer such a query?


Representations

Multiple presenters brought cases to light in which so-called slums or squatter communities are often seen in public or policy discourse as crime-ridden, dangerous, destitute or otherwise. Yet, researchers demonstrate the organisation of such places in quite contrary ways to these discourses.

What, ultimately, are the aims of bringing such cases to light?

In what ways do researchers document such work beyond presenting at academic conferences? Can they? Should they?

What is your experience? What is your opinion?


Histories

In some presentations, presenters shared their detailed historical work. In the case of Laura Belik’s, in which moments and spaces of the past—the so-called concentration camps in N. Brazil—have been all but erased and require various reconstructions to make them known again, a participant asked: “Besides photographs and oral history, what other sources could you use to “rebuild” this history? Is there literature or music, or other ways of engaging in this work?

For example, Yegor Vlasenko told us about his experience being back in Ukraine, in the presence of one of the statues in his study, and how that embodied—or indeed, emplaced—experience was insightful as a way of engaging in this work.

What are your experiences and thoughts in this regard?


In what ways have you used various sources, media, or experience for research in your own historical research?

What kinds of sources can be used that go beyond the normative? What kinds of sources could be engaged with more?


Categorisation + Stigma

In one exchange between Anja Nygren and Raffael Beier, we saw the every-pernicious, double-edged sword of categorisation unsheathed:

Anja:
Terms like ‘informal settlements’ or ‘auto-constructed’ can be problematic. But what
about the term ‘ordinary neighbourhoods’? Does this not have an inherent comparison? Does it not generalise too much?
Raffael:
Yes, names are problematic, but I want to provoke this as a starting place the exceeds categorisation
Anja:
But could the state not then say: well, these are ‘ordinary neighbourhoods’ so they do not need special attention for infrastructure, etc.
Raffael: The discourses however, are generally based on ideas that slums are criminal, filled with terrorists and the like, and states act according to these narratives. But if the state had done nothing, the neighbourhoods may well have been better off. Then, places where there actually are problems in ‘non-slum’ neighbourhoods, the state does nothing because it does not see it”

So the question is:

where do we go from here? What kinds of situations require alternative categories?

When should we use those that are easily understood to wider audiences? What experiences with this tension have you found in your work?

Relatedly, the problem of categorisation implies the problem of stigmatisation. Yet, as Anja Nygren asked:
If we just take out the stigma, do these problems really disappear? What about biophysical or for example, maternal issues that go beyond a problem of stigmatisation? Can stigma be looked at together with all the other issues, policies, politics and more?

What would you say? What is your take? Is challenging stigmatised peoples and places an effective route to change? Why or why not?


Capitalism + Commons

In a serendipitous response to Professor Shin’s keynote, Asa Roast drew our attention to an under-researched city in China: Chongquing, introducing us to the ‘Kongdi’ or “empty land” spaces where informal agriculture was juxtaposed with a rapidly developing city. Professor Shin made an observation that is perhaps relevant in many other contexts, regarding the notion of commons: as there is also competition within these same spaces—a capitalistic notion that would seem to undermine the commons—how can we make use of notions like ‘commons’ within wider processes of capitalism?

To expand on this, what are they ways that such notions of commons, as Asa Roast brought to our attention, clash or work with, for, or against processes of capitalism?

What kind of room is there for co-existence? Is this even possible? What might be the outcomes of such frictions?


Children + Marine Environments

Aireen Grace Andal made a plea for the inclusion of children into processes of urbanisation, coupled with considerations of marine environments. Indeed, it seems relevant to ask:

Are children adequately considered in urbanisation processes? Is there a gap between our interactions with children in the field, and our representation of children in research or their inclusion in policy?

In regard to coastal cities, how does a renewed consideration of the aquatic environment interrupt or augment our understanding of urbanisations, or our concepts of space and place?

Discuss!

Do you have any of your own experiences, comments, opinions or stories to share? Go ahead and leave a comment below!

Sincerely,

The Dislocating Urban Studies Team

BLOG No. 4: “Off The Map”

Off the map?
Photo Credit: Ceren Gamze Yasar

Workshop 2: places “off the map”: bringing to light the hidden locations of urbanisation

By Will LaFleur

Helsinki, Fi — Welcome! And welcome again to those of you joining us for the second time, to our second workshop: “Places “off the map”: Bringing to light the hidden locations of urbanisation”. This month’s sessions feature research based in a broad range of locales that cast a light on the under-attended, “off the map” processes that compose the urban globally.

Thursday’s presenters address a range of topics, from architectural design competitions’ role in configuring the urban, to the multitudinous tactics, improvisations or strategies that communities employ in making and defining the places in which they dwell, often in the face of state neglect, land seizure, or gentrification. Presenters will be joined by discussants Anja Nygren, Professor of Global Development Studies at University of Helsinki, and AbdouMaliq Simone, Senior Professorial Fellow at the Urban Institute at University of Sheffield.

On Friday, our presenters cue our attention to toward myriad historical formations of the urban, as well as the need to (re)consider the ‘blue’ spaces of costal cities. On Friday morning we will be joined by discussants Hana Cervinkova, Professor of Anthropology at Maynooth University, and then in the afternoon by Hyun Bang Shin, Professor of Geography and Urban Studies at London School of Economics. Please do join us (and register if you haven’t already!) on Zoom and follow us on Twitter (@dislocatingUS), where we will be live-tweeting the sessions as they unfold.

Selected Reading Lists
As a foretaste to this weeks presenters, we have curated a bibliographic reading list in order to give you a sense of the literature behind the research, where the presenters are coming from and where they might be headed. The lists are selected to appeal to a wide array of interests. You will find representation from works that range from solidly “urban studies”, to classics in a range of disciplines and geographies, and even PhD theses. The lists contain references in more than six languages and are organised by publication type:

-PhD Theses
-Book + Edited Volumes/Book Chapters
-Journal Articles + Reports + Essays + Other

Check out the “Library” tab here in the website to download the lists. In addition, you can also navigate to the “Speakers” tap and select “Presenters” to read through the abstracts of each presenter.

Twitter: 100% Live
Alongside our Zoom session you can find us on Twitter (@dislocatingUS) where we’ll be tweeting the presentations and discussions as they happen in the fluid space-time virtual reality projected by the super-computer in your pocket. We encourage the audience to get involved by commenting and sharing when you feel moved to do so. As well, if something is preventing you from staying with our Zoom feed, you can be sure to get regular updates via Twitter.

Reminders
If you need a schedule of the daily events, navigate to the “Workshops” tab where you can find daily schedules for Thursday and Friday. Then, next week, keep an eye on our blog and Twitter account as we try to further develop our thinking and discussions from the workshops.

See you on Thursday 18 and Friday 19!

Sincerely,

The Dislocating Urban Studies Team

BLOG No. 3

Urban Transformation. Istanbul, Turkey.
Photo Credit: Defne Kadioğlu

Post-Session Discussion #1a: The vulnerability of doing things differently

By Will LaFleur

Dear Presenters, Discussants, Attendees and Participants-otherwise,

We thank you for your energy in generating last week’s discussions, debates and explorations. Hopefully your experiences in the sessions still have you thinking into this week, and the blog/discussion here will continue stoking your engagement over the next months. This will be our first of several post-workshop discussions over the next few months, and we ask that you please join us in advancing the discussions we began last week. Discussion prompts will be posted nearly every week from now until the end of May. We don’t mean to be overly ambitious, but if we can get a good running dialog here we hope to organise and publish them as part of the workshop series at a later point in time. But first, let’s quickly go through some practicalities for the discussion. The discussions will work something like this:

  1. In the following 2-3 weeks after a workshop we will aim to post one blog/discussion prompt to extend the dialog on issues that arose in the previous workshops.
  2. The blog posts will take a theme and ask a selection of questions aimed at collecting your reflections, opinions, positions and blind-alley thoughts as we continue digesting the workshop discussions and developing our thinking.
  3. In order to begin a discussion, simply click on the “Leave a comment” button on the top right side of the blog post, (or else scroll to bottom of page to reply to previous posts). If you have a WordPress, Twitter or Facebook account you can log in with one of them to comment. If you do not wish to log in with one of those accounts, you can still comment, either anonymously or by typing your name in the appropriate box. You can also choose to enter your email so that you can receive notifications if another person replies to your comment. Your email will remain private, but your social media picture will appear if you choose to use it.
  4. To reply to another user’s comment, simply click on the “Reply” tab that appears on each comment. Your reply will appear indented underneath the comment you replied to. New comments will appear flush to the left.
  5. If you want to delete your comment, please contact us ASAP, as only the website moderators can remove comments.

As a reminder, don’t forget to check out our “Library” section for reading lists based on last week’s presentations. We’ve also added a bonus list of recommendations that Kanishka Goonewardena provided during his time as discussant. Be sure to have a look!

Right, now that the basics are covered, let’s begin the discussion!

Different, vulnerable, uncertain

In one of the final discussions last week, Jens Kaae Fisker and Letizia Chiappini took an avant-garde approach to platform urbanism in their presentation with Serres and Lefebvre. In the ensuing discussion, they remarked: “When you decide to do things differently, you open to a new set of vulnerabilities”. Considering the overarching theme of “learning from theories outside the canon”, questions of vulnerability and uncertainty seem inevitable if we take our learning to then ‘think’ and ‘do’ from outside the canon, perhaps daring to be epistemically disobedient. What might thinking and doing from outside the canon look (sound or feel) like when it comes to, for example, breaking with or ‘re-reading’ trusty binaries (North-South, centre/periphery, etc)? How can we reconcile or justify the messiness that may follow from doing things differently from the Eurocentric canon (perhaps John Law’s “Mess in Social Science Research” is instructive)? Should we even have to? A new dialectic seems necessary if we allow ourselves to turn down the blind alley, while nonetheless maintaining the ability to call on the knowledges that have led us there when necessary. With these considerations, we invite you to comment, provoke, stake out positions/movements, and engage on the myriad pathways from here. Question prompts given here are an amalgamation of thoughts drawn from presenters, discussants and participants of last weeks workshops, but these should not strictly delimit the discussion.

  • How do we think/do/make from “outside the canon”, without losing sight of what it means to be critical? Do we want/need theory to be transformative?
  • What is the role of a researcher? To be close to the official subaltern way of thinking? Or is it to think of different ways that identities are structured? Do the examples from the South help us to understand the globe in different ways?
  • What do we understand epistemic disobedience to be, and how can it be enacted? How can settler colonialisms, Black geographical thought, decolonial praxis or other such frames advance this work? How can memory be brought into force in research and theory building?
  • Did your thinking alter, change, remain or otherwise after your workshop experience? How? Why? In what direction? Engage us in the comments!

BLOG NO. 2

Shinjuku, Tokyo.
Photo Credit: Will LaFleur

PREVIEW: FRIDAY SESSIONS

By Will LaFleur

Helsinki, Fi — Prepare yourselves for the barrage of alter-canonical works in the Friday workshop by having a quick look at the lineup below, then head over to the Library and dig into the suggested reading list gleaned from the presenter’s papers.

The lineup for Friday, February 19:

Chairs:
Marjaana Jauhola (Morning)
Lina Olsson (Afternoon)

Disucussants:
Piro Rexhepi (Morning)
Tanja Winkler (Afternoon)

Morning Sessions

Presentation 1:
Burcu Yigit Turan and Mia Ågren, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Urban and Rural Development; Uppsala, Sweden
Paper:
White landscapes: tracing socio-spatial epistemologies of whiteness in contemporary Swedish planning

Presentation 2:
Eija Meriläinen, University College London, Institute for Risk and Disaster Reduction; London, U.K.
Paper:
Gendering planetary urbanization in the Arctic

Presentation 3:
Rachel McArdle, Maynooth University, Department of Geography; Maynooth, Ireland
Paper:
Intersectional Climate Urbanism: the inclusion of Irish Traveller voices

Presentation 4:
Magdalena Novoa, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, Department of Urban and Regional Planning; Urbana-Champaign (Illinois), U.S.A.
Paper:
Insurgent Heritage: Memory, place-based care and cultural citizenships

Afternoon Sessions

Presentation 5:
Ben Purvis, University of Sheffield, School of Architecture; Sheffield, U.K.
Paper:
The boundaries of urban studies: what space for ‘urban science’?

Presentation 6:
Jens Kaae Fisker, University of Southern Denmark, Department of Sociology, Environmental and Business Economics; Odense, Denmark
and
Letizia Chiappini, University of Amsterdam/University of Milano-Bicocca, Department of Human Geography, Planning and International Development Studies; Amsterdam, Netherlands
Paper:
Coding the Urban Differently: Thinking Parasitic Platform Urbanism with Serres and Lefebvre

Presentation 7:
Miguel Montalva Barba, Salem St. University, Department of Sociology; Salem (Maine), U.S.A.
Paper:
To Move Forward, We Must Look Back: White Supremacy and Settler Colonial Logic at the Base of Urban Studies

BLOG No. 1

PREVIEW: THURSDAY SESSIONS

Morning View. Tokyo, Japan. Photo Credit: Will LaFleur

By Will LaFleur

Helsinki, Fi — Welcome to the inaugural week of Dislocating Urban Studies: rethinking theory, shifting practice!

As we prepare to dive into our February focus – A Non-occidentalist West: Learning From Theories Outside the Canon – we provide here a little more detail regarding the schedule and flow of the workshop days and encourage you to preview (or preview again!) the upcoming presentations and get to know the discussants for each day. All this information can be found by clicking on the “Speakers” tab in the menu. Also, please be reminded that the main schedule information can be consulted in the “Workshops” section of this website, so please look there for a visual overview of the schedule.

Let’s have a quick look at Thursday’s paper presentations (Sessions 1-4).

Tightly adhering to the non-occidentalist theme, Thursday’s papers collectively and effectively derail the canon from its tracks. Attendees will find themselves charging beyond Lefebvre, winding through genealogies and past hitherto unseen narratives that (decolonial) turn South in an exploration of knowing and thinking/doing differently only to arrive – but not promising to stop – at more-than-suburban spaces to dwell in a new empirics of reflexivity and unlearning. And if this journey has you feeling confused, we kindly encourage you to navigate to the “Speakers” tab to have closer look at the presentation abstracts – that should help you find some footing. Furthermore, please do check the “Library” tab, where you’ll also find a selection of literature drawn from the paper presentations, and meant to help guide you.

The lineup for Thursday, February 18.

Chairs:
Lorena Melgaço Silva Marques (Morning)
Claudia Fonseca Alfaro (Afternoon)

Disucussants:
Sujata Patel (Morning)
Kanishka Goonewardena (Afternoon)

Morning Sessions

Presentation 1:
Nobukhosi Ngwenya, University of Capetown, School of Architecture, Planning and Geomatics; Capetown, South Africa
Paper:
Unlearning within the canon: A critical reflection on navigating ‘Western’ theory’s Eurocentricism in the global South

Presentation 2:
Nelson Carroza Athens, Playa Ancha University, Social Science Faculty; Valparaíso, Chile
Paper:
The Popular Habitat: Decolonizing the Genealogies of Urban Thought in Latin America

Presentation 3:
Bruna Ferreira Montuori, Royal College of Art, School of Architecture; London, U.K.
Paper:
Cartography of hidden narratives: reconfiguring planning practices through the case of Maré, Rio de Janeiro

Presentation 4:
Nipesh Palat Narayanan, University of Florence, The Laboratory for Social Geography; Florence, Italy
Paper:
Isme kya rakha hai? Informality as a privileged manifestation of urban theory built on southern empirics

Afternoon Sessions

Presentation 5:
Vladimir Rizov, University of Southampton, Department of Sociology, Social Policy and Criminology; Southampton, U.K.
Paper:
Towards a Critique of Lefebvre’s Production of Space: The Limits of Eurocentrism and Idealism

Presentation 6:
Simone Vegliò, King’s College, Department of Geography; London, U.K.
Paper:
Postcolonizing Planetary Urbanization: Aníbal Quijano and an Alternative Genealogy of the Urban

Presentation 7:
Greta Scolari, University of Milan-Bicocca, Department of Sociology and Social Research; Milan, Italy
and
Lorenzo De Vidovich, University of Trieste, Department of Political and Social Sciences; Trieste, Italy
Paper:
Manifold theories for a lexicon: navigating multiple geographies of post-suburbia

A few session notes

There are a few minor details regarding the workshop flow that are not indicated in the daily schedule. These details will remain constant throughout the workshop series, so you can always come back to this blog post if you need a refresher about procedure.

-Discussants will open their session with a short introduction, about 10 minutes.
-Each presenter then has 10 minutes to present.
-Each discussant has 15 minutes to comment.
-After the second (or final) presenter in each session, there will be 10 minutes for Q&A. Please listen in the sessions for instructions on how to ask questions.

We hope you’re as excited as we are! If you have any questions for need clarification, as always, please don’t hesitate to get in touch!

The Dislocating Urban Studies Workshop Series Presents: The Blog

Dear All,

We warmly welcome you to this four-part series Dislocating Urban Studies: Rethinking Theory, Shifting Practice. This blog will serve as an important tool for deepening the quality of our engagement with each other throughout the next four months. With the COVID-19 pandemic upending any chance of meeting in-person, this blog space figures as one way of responding to the new realities of academic conferencing. Here, we will both preview the work from upcoming presentations and engage in extended and expanded discussion, debate, and analysis over key issues in the wake of each workshop. Thus, we propose thinking of this blog as a collaborative space where presenters, discussants, chairs, and attendees are invited to participate in a continuous correspondence toward the development of new and intellectually rigorous ways of thinking through the issues at hand. 

Below we outline the intentions for this blog space, set some (great) expectations, and, we hope, precipitate a fever of anticipation (and only anticipation) for the months ahead!

Presentation Previews and Reading Lists

While we prepare for the first workshop on February 18-19 you can expect to find a couple of blog posts (one for each day) providing a brief “Presentation Preview” of the papers being presented in February, and repeating for each month thereafter. These previews are meant to encourage a closer look at the abstracts for the presentations (which can be found in Speakers > Presenters), get to know your fellow workshop series participants, and to draw your attention to the suggested reading lists.

Which brings us to the suggested reading lists!

As an accompaniment to the Presentation Preview, we will curate suggested Reading Lists highlighting literature that presenters have used in their work and that speak to the workshop themes. The suggested readings will ideally help to introduce new or previously unknown and cutting-edge work that will augment the workshop series overall and inspire new ways of working and thinking into the future. 

Post-Workshop Collaborative Dialogs and Twitter

After each workshop we will cast a series of short blog posts (2-4) that address and elicit key issues and themes that arose in the presentations and Q&A formats, including things that we were unable to fully explore within the time limitations of the workshops. Using the comments feature in this blog, we call on all participants to engage in an ongoing dialog with each other to further debate, discuss, and develop the ideas presented. By creating an ongoing and engaging dialog with the workshop series themes, we aim to ameliorate some of the less welcome effects the pandemic has had on the knowledge activities of academic work. We sincerely hope you’ll join us in these discussions — indeed, our expectations are great!

In addition to developing a dialog on the website, we also want to ensure that the insights shared and developed are made available to a wider audience. We will use Twitter as a way of engaging and connecting scholars from around the world. A live feed will be generated during the workshop days and periodic tweets will reverberate through the Tweet-o-sphere (is that how it’s called?) throughout the series. You can follow us at this handle: @dislocatingUS, and we hope you will share these (sure-to-be profound) musings with your networks.

Getting Ready

With these great expectations set, we encourage everyone to explore the website to see what’s on the menu over the next few months. As always, if you have questions, comments, concerns, or do not find something you were expecting, please feel free to contact us. We will be seeing you soon!

Sincerely,

The Dislocating Urban Studies Team