Urban Theory and the Urban SDG

IMG_3127Sue Parnell and I have a paper, “Ideas, implementation and indicators: epistemologies of the post-2015 urban agenda, forthcoming in Environment and Urbanization, in a special issue dedicated to exploring the significance of the so-called ‘urban SDG’ and the associated ‘new urban agenda’ associated with the Habitat III conference later this year. Our paper explores the intellectual background to the campaign that culminated in the inclusion of the ‘urban’ goal (Goal 11, which commits to making cities “inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable”).

If you’d like a journal-ready copy of the piece, let me know. Here is the abstract of our paper:

“The success of the campaign for a dedicated urban Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) reflected a consensus on the importance of “cities” in sustainable development. The relevance accorded to cities in the SDGs is twofold, reflected both in the specific place-based content of the Urban Goal and the more general concern with the multiple scales at which the SDGs will be monitored will be institutionalized. Divergent views of the city and urban processes, suppressed within the Urban Goal, are, however, likely to become more explicit as attention shifts to implementation. Acknowledging the different theoretical traditions used to legitimize the new urban agenda is an overdue task. As this agenda develops post-2015, the adequacy of these forms of urban theory will become more contested around, among other concerns, the possibilities and limits of place-based policy, advocacy and activism; and ways of monitoring and evaluating processes of urban transformation along multiple axes of development.”

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2015 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 12,000 times in 2015. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 4 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

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Music to Write Books To

UntitledI participated in an ESRC-sponsored seminar last week on the theme of the politics and economies of attention, which was interesting and fruitful in all sorts of ways. Lots of the work on this topic turns around a distinction between ‘good’ forms of attention, which is focussed and contemplative and “deep”, and ‘bad’ forms of attention, which is fleeting, distracted. A certain sort of reading of a certain sort of text is the model against which other forms of attention are often judged in a great deal of high theorizing on this topic.

Trying to find something interesting to say about this topic made me aware of how the ways in which I work, both in relation to reading and writing, do not quite conform to the expected model of scholarly attention. I read with the TV on, and write while listening to music or the radio, and not serious Radio 3-type music either (it’s generally a matter of choosing between Taylor’s 1989 and Ryan’s 1989). This way of working may or may not be reflected in the depth of understanding of ideas and thinkers displayed in the things that I write. I actually find it rather odd to write, in particular, in silence. I am still in recovery from having finished a book manuscript, and found myself today, while sitting in a hairdressers, not having my hair done, constructing a list of songs that, more or less tangentially, capture something of the experience of writing the sort of book I have been trying to write for the last year and a half:

  1. I Just Don’t Understand – Spoon
  2. Jacques Derrida – Scritti Politti
  3. Acid Tongue – Jenny Lewis
  4. Distractions – Bobby Darin
  5. Why Theory – Gang of Four
  6. Unputdownable – Róisín Murphy
  7. Waking Up – Elastica
  8. We Love You – Psychedelic Furs
  9. Drink in My Hand – Eric Church
  10. Gone Daddy Gone – Violent Femmes
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10 Best Books (I haven’t read) in 2015

IMG_0215I spent much of this year trying to write my own book, which ended up being all-consuming in various ways. I have read plenty of stuff in a “need-to-look-at-this-for-the-book-even-though-it-won’t-make-the-final-cut” kind of way. So it’s been a year of reading instrumentally, if you see what I mean. There are various books I haven’t read but which I want/need to read soon, for fun or for new/deferred research and teaching projects. Amongst others, they include:

  1. Ivan Vladislavic, 101 Detectives.
  2. James McPherson, The War that Forged a Nation: Why the Civil War Still Matters.
  3. Patrick Modiano, The Search Warrant.
  4. Ira Katznelson, Fear Itself: The New Deal and the Origins of Our Time.
  5. Marie Luise Knott, Unlearning with Hannah Arendt.
  6. James Ferguson, Give a Man a Fish: Reflections on the New Politics of Distribution.
  7. Steven Friedman, Race, Class and Power: Harold Wolpe and the Radical Critique of Apartheid.
  8. Lisa Gitelman, Paper Knowledge: Towards a Media History of Documents.
  9. Wolfgang Streeck, Buying Time: The Delayed Crisis of Democratic Capitalism.
  10. Jamie Peck and Nik Theodore, Fast Policy: Experimental Statecraft at the Thresholds of Neoliberalism.
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Oscilliate Wildly

I think I just finished my book.

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Space, Power and the Commons: new book in Place, Space and Politics series

9781138841680The latest book in the Routledge Research in Place, Space and Politics series is now published (technically it is a 2016 book) – Space, Power and the Commons: The struggle for alternative futures is edited by Sam Kirwan, Leila Dawney and Julian Brigstocke, and is associated with the Authority Research Network. It’s an important addition to the literature on the theme of ‘the commons’, not least because it draws together discussions of high theory on this topic (Hardt, Nancy, Ranciere, etc) with empirical analyses of practices of ‘commoning’.

This is the second title to appear in the Place, Space and Politics series, after the collection on Urban Refugees. There are more titles in the pipeline. More details on the series, including guidelines for submitting proposals, can be found here and here.

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Raewyn Connell on Writing for Research

IMG_0223A bit too late for me, I have too many ingrained bad writing habits, with which I am still trying to finish a book… but this looks useful and engaging: Raewyn Connell has an open access ‘how to’ book on Writing for Research. More matter-of-fact and vocational, one might say, than the How We Write collection which was published a couple of months ago, and which includes pieces by Derek Gregory and Stuart Elden amongst others, but a nice complement perhaps.

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Andy Merrifield on Europe’s New Urban Question

Here is Andy Merrifield on ‘Europe’s New Urban Question’, speaking at Kentucky a month or so ago.

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On the milieu of security: Paper and discussion in Dialogues in Human Geography

IMG_0167I have a piece newly published in Dialogues in Human Geography, grandly titled ‘On the milieu of security: Situating the emergence of new spaces of public action‘. As that may or may not indicate, it is a discussion of different ways in which issues of security are discussed in various fields of critical social science. It is one attempt to think through how ideas of problematization might re-cast the self-image of ‘critique’ in left theory, or at least, to elaborate further on two very different ways of doing things with Foucault (I’m sure there are more than tw0).

The formula for this new-ish journal is that lead articles are published alongside a series of commentaries. My interlocutors were Ben Anderson, Anne-Marie D’Aoust, Matt Hannah, Jess Pykett, William Walters, and, David Murakami Wood. And then there is response (‘The Scandal of Publicity‘) to their comments. It’s an interesting process, and I would have loved to write more in response to the commentaries, partly for clarification inevitably, but also because different people raised all sorts of issues I have lots to say about as well (like concepts of attention).

As with lots of my publications recently, this one was not so much planned as arising out of an invitation to think about a topic I didn’t know I was meant to know about. It dates back to a conference in Ottawa more than three years ago on the theme of Security and its Publics (organised by two of the commentators mentioned above, William and Anne-Marie). Efforts to publish a collection of the papers from the event fell foul of some rather shoddy practices from journal editors (not in geography, I should hasten to add). The turnaround for the piece in Dialogues, from submission to full publication, has been less than a year, which is remarkable considering that it involved not just getting referees for the original submission but also a whole bunch of coherent commentaries too. William and Anne-Marie have also published a piece which addresses some of the issue raised at the event, on the theme of ‘Bringing publics in critical security studies‘.

Here’s the abstract for my lead piece:

“Critical analysis of security presents processes of securitization as sinister threats to public values such as accountability, inclusion and transparency. By questioning some of the theoretical premises of this view of the milieu of security, it is argued that practices of securitization might be understood less as an assertive medium for the constitution of the social field and more as a responsive mode of problematization of the temporalities of concerted public action. The argument proceeds in stages. First, two ways in which publicness is figured in the critique of security are identified and the spatiality of securitization associated with them elaborated. Second, this view of the spatiality of securitization is then linked to two modes of temporality that apparently define the historical novelty of contemporary security practices. It is argued that uncovering the pernicious politics of security depends on identifying putative subject effects sought and achieved by programmes of rule. In contrast to this approach, an alternative inflection of the genealogical perspective on security is identified. This inflection seeks to diagnose problematizations to which security initiatives are a response, suggesting a reorientation of critical attention to investigating the reconfiguration of public life around various temporal registers of uncertainty, adjustment and repair. The article closes by arguing that the specific public values at stake in securitization should be given more credence.”

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Going public

cbcoraI am, finally, ever so close to finishing my book, and sending the final manuscript away to the publisher. A couple more weeks of ‘research retreat’ would enable me to complete it, but I am well and truly back in the real world now, so it’s a matter of squeezing book-work in between all sorts of other things. This coming week I have a nice distraction from worrying about not working on the book, as I am attending the Annual Meeting of Finnish Geographers, in Tampere. I am giving a couple of talks, one on ‘Geography and the Priority of Injustice’. Last time I talked to this title, back in April, I only had a very long note-like draft of a book. This time, I have a written-out-in-prose final draft, going through final edits. It’s a real thing, not a pretend thing.

My working title for the book has become The Priority of Injustice, although the ‘geography’ bit is not actually central to the book. The talk is developing into the occasion where I try to say out loud why the grand theme of the priority of injustice might capture some of the difficulties covered over in much of the work in the burgeoning field of geographies of justice. So I’m thinking of the coming week as a final impetus to finishing the monster in the box, so that I might move on to other things.

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