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Contested times of urban expertise
Jenny Lindblad (KTH Royal Institute of Technology)
Nikhil Anand (University of Pennsylvania)
Time zone:
Wednesday 22 July, 14:00-15:45

Short abstract:

This roundtable explores how work among urban experts unfolds through relations, negotiations and modifications with different temporalities. We attend specifically to how this work is entangled with paces engendered by bureaucratic documents and infrastructures.

Long abstract:

Contemporary issues such as climate crisis, environmental injustice and capitalist extractions of finite resources call for critical engagements with futures. How do urban experts imagine and bring these futures into being? In recent years, these sociospatial mediations of temporal horizons have proven to be generative vista for anthropological analysis. In a review of the temporal turn in anthropology, Laura Bear urges us to "track the conflictual pacings of bureaucratic action" and explore "technologies of imagination" among expert knowledges (2016: 493). In this roundtable, we engage with Bear's provocation to consider how work among urban experts (planners, engineers, lawyers, for example) unfolds through relations, negotiations and modifications with various temporalities. Through planning, anticipation, and modelling, experts are continuously involved in portraying different futures as imaginable, unthinkable or unavoidable. The fashioning of futures draws on multiple time layers (pasts, presences, near and far futures) and different paces (cyclical, linear, hierarchical). While shaping mediations of time, urban experts are also confronted with asynchronous rhythms engendered through interrelated materialities of bureaucratic documents and infrastructures. Taking the intersection between urban expertise and materialities as a starting point, this roundtable addresses questions such as: how do urban experts arbitrate and address conflicting temporalities? How do struggles of legitimacy and authority play out in negotiations of time? Which techniques are mobilized for sensing and mediating diverse temporalities? How does attention to materialities help us conceptualise what temporalities do in the production of urban expertise, and what kinds of temporal processes challenge the work of urban experts?