Rachel Bok
Department of GeographyUniversity of British Columbia

2016   —   : PhD, Geography, University of British Columbia
2013-2015: M SocSci, Geography, National University of Singapore
2009-2013: B SocSci (Hons), Geography (and English Literature), National University of Singapore

I am a PhD candidate in the Department of Geography at UBC. I work across areas of urban studies and economic geography, focusing on approaches to cities and their global connections through registers of political economy. I am also the Student Representative for the AAG Urban Geography Specialty Group (2018 – ) and the AAG Asian Geography Specialty Group (2018 – ).

Situated in debates on global urbanism, geographical political economy, and interdisciplinary approaches to the politics of experts and expertise, my PhD dissertation examines the phenomenon of the globalizing urban ‘solutions’ industry. It is principally interested in the global circuitry of practitioners, organizations, and institutions that think they are capable of providing ‘solutions’ to cities. Whether or not genuine solutions to varied, cross-scalar urban crises actually exist is an open question. But there is an entire industry that has sprung up based on the assumption that there are real solutions for cities.

How are cities and urban phenomena variously constructed as ‘problems’ and ‘solutions’ by epistemic communities of practitioner-advocates? Who are these global, networked gatekeepers and what role do they play in co-producing, articulating, and performing a global circuitry of ‘best practice’ knowledge for urban policy, based on their particular conceptions of what a city is? How and why have discourses of solutions, best practice, and models become normalized in the everyday language of urban policy? Finally, what are the multi-scalar implications of these flows of capital, clout, and (reinvented) expertise for cities, urban policy, and urban governance?

I have just completed twenty months of fieldwork (July 2018-April 2020), undertaking a global/multi-sited ethnography of this global circuitry (or ‘field’) of urban policy knowledge within, but also across, the porous relational categories of North and South. Methodologically, I approach cities not as singular, bounded field-sites, but instead as differentiated, situated ethnographic vantage points from which to understand this global field of power. In practice, so far this has entailed undertaking full-time internships and work attachments in para-statal urban policy organizations in London and Singapore, combined with attending conferences and doing interviews in cities such as Detroit, Munich, Philadelphia, D.C., New York City, Los Angeles, Toronto, and Penang.

I use this website mainly as a digital repository both to catalog media I find interesting, and to store photographs of the whimsies of urban landscapes I encounter while walking through cities.

1 Comment

  1. Hi Rachel,
    Accidentally, found your site researching ‘territoreality’ and enjoying the articles you’ve assembled. I also used the term “territoreality’ in my PhD dissertation and thought you might be interested. The original version in available online in PDF — and you can search the term from within — at http://www.egs.edu/media/research-database/tracy-ann-essoglou/

    I would be interested in following your work and keeping in touch.
    Let me know,

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