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Cities, Urbanisation, and the Politics of Urban Infrastructure Systems 
Robert Farnan (Stockholm Environment Institute, University of York)
Richard Friend (University of York)
Jonathan Ensor (University of York Stockholm Environment Institute)
Wednesday 6 July, 13:50-14:30 (UTC+1)

Short Abstract:

Advancing scholarship on urban infrastructure systems, we invite papers that critically link theory & practice in order to reimagine the relationship between cities & marginalisation, with an applied & participatory emphasis on political capabilities, sustainable futures, & infrastructure politics.

Long Abstract

Amidst the persistent marginalisation of urbanisation in the Global South, the issue of sustainable cities has increasingly been conceived in terms of urban infrastructure systems. Resonating across the disciplines of human geography and developmental studies, the issues of access, poverty, vulnerability and violence associated with the politics of urban infrastructure systems raise key questions. These pertain to the relationship between theory, practice, and the role of knowledge in addressing social marginalisation and fostering sustainable futures. The deep connection between theory and practice is often foregrounded by activists and engaged researchers, as well as grassroots practitioners, as a means by which to challenge positivist research frameworks and build equitable collaboration. Aimed at transforming societal injustices, participatory, action-oriented research provides a useful entry point for rethinking how critical urban theorising can be put to work for and by marginalised groups and their representative organisations. An explicitly political understanding of knowledge is central to how we understand both the persistence of marginalisation in relation to urban infrastructure systems, and the possibilities for urban transformation. For many the city remains a democratic space filled with hope, where rights may be claimed, justice recognised, and futures realised. Yet as others point out, urban systems and infrastructure are not only spaces of transformation but also vehicles for social marginalisation. These critical voices – drawing attention to the inequitable access, disruption and failure of urban infrastructure systems – urge us to revisit the political efficacy of our concepts, pointing to the political capabilities our theories may or may not engender in practice. Speaking to grassroots scholarship concerning marginalisation and urban infrastructure systems, we invite papers that critically link theory and practice in order to reimagine the relationship between cities, justice and urbanisation, with an applied and participatory emphasis on political capabilities, sustainable futures, and the politics of infrastructure systems.

We plan to run two or three synchronous paper-based panel sessions, comprising approximately six to nine papers. For each 40-minute session we plan to include three papers, inviting presenters to speak for no more than 8 minutes. This will enable plenty of time for Q&A at the end of each session. We will also ask contributors to circulate their interventions three weeks ahead of time, and encourage panellists to use non text-based mediums as part of their presentations, such as audio-visual and/or web-based materials. In addition to providing these papers and/or materials in advance of the sessions, the chair, on the basis of what has been shared ahead of each panel, will circulate a discussion question. This will be designed to provoke critical conversation amongst participants, and to draw out the three key contributions that each speaker will have been required to highlight as part of their presentation.

Accepted papers: