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Accepted Paper:

Doing urban research without the urban: repurposing lateral anthropology as practice of ethnographic 'slowdown'  

Authors:

Jenny Lindblad (KTH Royal Institute of Technology)
Julio Paulos (University of Lausanne)

Paper short abstract:

This paper argues that a lateral engagement with city planning constitutes a peripheral investigation in situating and slowing down urban research. It provides a multi-sited ethnography with an infra-reflexive move to inquire the socio-technical modes of planning as political urgency.

Paper long abstract:

This paper critically engages recent debates in urban research that claim to generate 'urban theory without an outside'. It argues that theoretical debates of rapid global urbanism are human-centred extensions of the 'ideological edifice' dominating urban studies, and therefore, calls for more lateral conceptualisations to study cities without 'the urban'. This paper provides a multi-sited ethnography in the municipalities of Bordeaux and Lisbon. It argues that a perspective on city planning as an ecology of practices contributes to challenge current urban theory-making in three ways: First, while many studies in urban theory follow a reductive judgement of particular socio-spatial subjects/settings, this analysis questions the very reduction and prescription of time-space and its implicit modes of anticipation required to synthesise the city. Second, it attends to coordination, taking account of the explicit passage-points of democratic values, and the provisional gesture by urban experts in navigating absolute and relative urban spaces of knowledge-production. Third, it shows that city planning acts upon an infrastructural 'in-versioning' of cities that are enacted as differentiated materialisations of public goods. Finally, the paper assesses that a lateral engagement constitutes an infra-reflexive move arguing in favour of situating urban research not only in terms of 'idiotic' analysis but through a peripheral investigation of the socio-technical modes of planning as political urgency.

Panel P011
Peripheral Speculations in the City [Colleex network]