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Assembling the sustainable city: from sedimented injustices to just urban futures 
Jon Schubert (University of Basel)
Constance Smith (University of Manchester)
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Anthropology (x) Infrastructure (y)
Philosophikum, S55
Thursday 1 June, -, -
Time zone: Europe/Berlin

Short Abstract:

In the context of enduring ecological and imperial injustices, what might sustainable urban assemblages look like? How do techniques of planning, expertise, finance and services intersect with material landscapes and everyday practices of city-making to shape ideas about desirable urban futures?

Long Abstract:

(sponsored by Africa: Journal of the International African Institute)

From collapsing buildings to climate risk, Africa’s growing urban populations face situations of material, existential and environmental precariousness. Yet cities are also spaces of aspiration and possibility. This raises urgent questions of what desirable urban futures might look like.

Discussions of, and strategies for, sustainable urban futures are still dominated by developmentalist growth paradigms and reductionist, apolitical conceptions of vulnerability and resilience. Such approaches overlook the injustices that are sedimented into the fabric of the city, from the material traces of colonial violence to class struggle, to the social and ecological devastations wrought by Africa’s asymmetrical insertion into global economic flows. In a time when imperial, extractive and environmental injustices are still to be reckoned with, and facing the the double impasses of universalist policy prescriptions and reductionist celebrations of ‘informality as opportunity’, this panel explores questions of urban sustainability, justice and solidarity.

Thinking about good urbanism requires reconciling (analytically and practically) everyday practices of producing the city (socially, spatially, and economically), with grand designs and systems (urban planning and regeneration, infrastructures and services, modes of financing). This gathers diverse actors, from planners, administrators and engineers to funders and ‘ordinary citizens’, into a common field of action that must also negotiate contingent assemblages of bodies, infrastructures, climates, and challenging historical endurances. We invite contributions that explore how techniques and practices of urban future-making (e.g. planning, expertise, risk analysis) intersect with enduring injustices, landscapes and everyday practices of making cities work.

Accepted papers:

Session 1 Thursday 1 June, 2023, -
Session 2 Thursday 1 June, 2023, -