Disrupting policy mobilities, displacing the ‘expert’ (AAG 2018, New Orleans, LA)

For the upcoming AAG Annual Meeting in New Orleans, LA next month, Emma Colven (UCLA) and I have co-organized a few sessions on ‘Disrupting policy mobilities, displacing the “expert”‘. This stems from our shared interests in what exactly widely-used terms such as ‘expertise’ and ‘expert’ mean in (and for) the historical and contemporary urban condition. We’re excited to have received some great abstracts and we’re looking forward to the final line-up, which includes an interesting range of discussants.

Disrupting policy mobilities, displacing the ‘expert’

 Session organizers: Rachel Bok (UBC) and Emma Colven (UCLA)

In recent decades, as private sector, state, and non-governmental actors have sought to develop various ‘solutions’ to the challenges of urbanization and global environmental change, urban policy has come to be dominated by discourses of the sustainable, smart-, eco-, and resilient city. Global networks of expertise, old and new, such as the OECD, the C40 Cities Group, and the Rockefeller 100 Resilient Cities Initiative, have supported the circulation of these discourses.

Geographers have examined the mobilities, mutations, and adaptations of expert knowledge as it traverses space and time. While research in development geography has long problematized ideals of ‘expert’ knowledge, such questions have found new relevance in ‘the urban’. A growing body of work in urban geography has sought to understand the phenomenon of cross-border policy networks of knowledge, together with its transformative implications for urban policy, politics, and governance. This literature has explored the contingency of policy knowledge for localized conditions, but it has also remained focused on the mobility of policies and projects, sometimes regardless of their failures (see Chang 2017; Webber 2015) and the role of formally recognized elites and ‘experts’ (see Bunnell and Marolt 2014; McCann 2008). In this session, we seek to question this focus on experts and the dominant discourses they
promote. What (pre-existing) forms of knowledge, policy efforts, and programs that address urban and urban-environmental issues are hidden from view? How can the policy mobilities literature learn from feminist science studies, postcolonial urban studies, and political ecology?

Bunnell, T., Marolt, P. (2014) Commentary: cities and their grassroots. Environment and
Planning D: Society and Space, 32, 381-385.
Chang, I-C., C. (2017) Failure matters: reassembling eco-urbanism in a globalizing China, Environment and Planning A, 49(8), 1719-1742.
McCann, E. J. (2008) Expertise, truth and urban policy mobilities: global circuits of knowledge in the development of Vancouver, Canada’s ‘four pillar’ drug strategy, Environment and Planning A, 40, 885-904.
Webber, S. (2015), Mobile Adaptation and Sticky Experiments: Circulating Best Practices and Lessons Learned in Climate Change Adaptation. Geographical Research, 53, 26-38.

Session 1. Historical circuits of expertise

Discussant: Kevin Ward, University of Manchester

Housing provision and the technocratic imaginary of experimentation: the case of the “minimum house” in Canada, 1957-61 (Jacob Forrest, University of British Columbia)

Exploring the historical contingencies of policy circulation: the case of Montreal’s innovation district (Patrick Kilfoil, McGill University)

Circulating Colonial Planning Practices to South Africa (Astrid Wood, Newcastle University)

Technocrats in the city (Rachel Bok, University of British Columbia)

Session 2. Critical approaches to knowledge

Discussant: Natalie Oswin, McGill University

Rule of the experts? Un-knowing ‘gang culture’ in the aftermath of the 2011 UK riots (Rhys Machold, York University)

Situated Expert Knowledge on the case of Red River Development Plan, Hanoi, Vietnam (Sujee Jung, Rutgers University)

Expert solutions to local problems: The contingent nature of private sector consultant knowledge in local plan-making (Emma Street and Gavin Parker, University of Reading)

Session 3. Different ways of knowing

Discussant: Katie Meehan, University of Oregon

From Allies to Accomplices: (Dis)locating planning and policy expertise through settler-Indigenous relationships in Southern Ontario, Canada (Leela Viswanathan, Queens University)

Crowd(fund)ed cities: urbanism without experts and its contradictions (Joseph Daniels, University of British Columbia/University of Nottingham)

Ecologies of expertise: “production” points of environmental mobilization in the Peruvian anchovy fishery, 1972-2000 (Apollonya Porcelli, Brown University)

Fast activism: How urban social movements contest fast policy regimes (John Lauermann, City University of New York; and Anne Vogelpohl, University of Hamburg)

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