CFP: Contentious planning: insurgent practices and new democratic openings

ISA RC21 International Conference The Ideal City: between myth and reality. Representations, policies, contradictions and challenges for tomorrow’s urban life’,

27-29 August 2015  | Urbino, Italy |

Session Title: Contentious planning: insurgent practices and new democratic openings

Organizer: Enrico Gualini (Technische Universität Berlin, DE) Walter J. Nicholls (University of Amsterdam, NL).


The resurgence of forms of contention and conflict in cities and the renewed interests for related practices of protest, mobilization and resistance are associated in critical urban studies with radical conceptions of democracy. Leaning on theorists of the undetermined, incomplete, and inherently differential and antagonistic nature of democracy, several scholars associate urban contention with the crisis of urban democratic politics and with an urgency to redefine the meaning and contents of ‘the political’ in relation to urban development processes.

In this perspective, ‘democracy to come’ (Derrida) appears as a performative challenge not amenable to closure within acknowledged institutionally and established models and routines of democratic practice. Rather, radical democratic practices are premised on the capacity of challenging the ‘urban order’ expressed by urban politics and of unravelling its contingency. As such, however, insurgent practices also challenge received understandings of what is to be seen as democratically legitimate. It seems as if, accordingly, radical practices of contention or resistance are confronted with the challenge of either bringing forward innovations that enable new democratic openings, or rather be ultimately aligned to practices that reflect established patterns of democratic legitimacy. In this respect, even the instruments of a progressive urban policy and planning are increasingly put under stress and critical scrutiny.

The session examines how contentious mobilizations can give rise to innovations in democratic planning. We conceptualize democratic planning as methods for planning urban spaces and life in ways that are egalitarian, open, and constantly disruptive of the existing order. For example, “social centers” and squats provide members with tools to plan urban life in accordance with egalitarian values and, by doing so, disrupt the policing order. Migrant workers centers, cooperatives, and other collective projects can operate in largely the same ways. We encourage papers that highlight democratic planning projects that arise from contentious struggles, and explore how these projects create new openings for producing more egalitarian cities.

Please send a one page summary of a proposed paper to the session organizers. Please submit summaries by January 31, 2015.


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