Post-Industrial Precarity: What Hope for an Infrastructural Politics of Urban Planning?

Gillian Evans

Post-Brexit, and with the rise of a right-of-centre populist politics, which increasingly appeals to the alienated workers of former post-industrial heartlands in the UK, Europe and the USA, the significance and urgency has never been greater of projects of urban transformation and renewal.

How then to understand what the present moment requires in terms of a new politics of urban place making? How to study and politicise the material techniques in and through which the lived experience of city life, and the processes of urban planning and architectural form take shape?

Against the background of a very new return to thinking about industrial policy and a ‘manufacturing renaissance’, both in the UK and in the UK, what theory of economy, politics and person can contemporary techniques of urban planning and place making substantiate

How are the neo-liberal service economy plans of the recent urban past challenged by what appears to be a contemporary populist restructuring of what post-industrial politics demands?

What kinds of experiments in social engineering can plans and urban forms become? Who decides what shall come to pass? And what form can resistance take as various kinds of publics claim for themselves the power and capacity to plan the future experience of urban life?

What kinds of status quo will be disrupted and transformed by the controversies generated as new kinds of urban form and new kinds of political promise and urban future take shape post-Brexit and post-USA elections?

Making a particular claim for ethnography as the method equal to the demands of the complexity posed by the experience of post-industrial urban life and the processes of urban planning and architectural process, this proposal invites contributions that focus on the lived experience of post-industrial subjectivities as well as behind the scenes investigations of urban planning organisations and architectural practices as unique and historically specific organisational forms.

The provocation is to ask of these forms and lived experiences: what kind of infrastructural politics do they make possible. Or, in other words, to ask whether by thinking about the lived experiences of post-industrial cities, and urban planning organisations/architectural practices as particular kinds of infrastructure, it is possible to produce an ethnographic comparison across cases of the material politics of a new post-industrial politics of possibility.

Papers are invited from a range of international scholars focusing on:

  • the ethnography of post-industrial cities
  • the ethnography of urban planning
  • the ethnography of architectural practices
  • the ethnography of organisations
  • corporate ethnography
  • urban ethnography
  • the ethnography of community planning
  • the ethnography of art-led regeneration
  • ethnography inspired by sensual or visual anthropology of post-industrial urban life

Please submit a 500 word abstract or proposal by Tuesday 28th February 2017.