Recent anthropological approaches to temporality and spatiality can offer particularly important insights into established planning theories. In this introductory essay, we consider planning as a manifestation of what people think is possible and desirable, and what the future promises for the better. We outline how plans can operate as a particular form of promissory note, and explore how plans may be seen to perform a particular kind of work, laying out diverse kinds of conceptual orders while containing a notion of the state as an unfulfilled idea. The task of the ethnographer is to chart the practices, discourses, technologies, and artifacts produced by planning, as well as the gaps that emerge between planning theory and practice. We consider the changing horizons of expectation and the shifting grounds of government in different phases and forms of neoliberalization that are characteristic of planning in the contemporary world.
Anthropologies of planning—Temporality, imagination, and ethnography
Simone Abram and Gisa Weszkalnys
Institutional planning in Kuala Lumpur
This article considers the complexity of contemporary urban life in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, through an analysis of planning and the plan itself as a thing in this environment of multiplicity. It argues that the plan functions as a vehicle for action in the present that does not require a singular vision of the future in order to succeed. Plans in the context of governance and urban development gesture to “the future,” but this gesture does not require “a future” in order to function in a highly effective manner. The evidence presented indicates that the primary effectiveness of the plan largely relates to its status as a virtual object in the present. Such virtual objects (plans) bind subjects to the conditions of the present within the desires and limits asserted by the institutions seeking to dominate contemporary life in the city, but this domination is never absolute, singular, or complete.
The ambiguities of nonproductive accumulation in the West Wales countryside
Enclosure, a historic and contemporary accumulation regime, is part of a global conversation about what resources are, who may use them, and for what purpose. Here, it is suggested that spatial planning extends the practice of enclosure in its approach to land use. This article focuses on Wales's strategy for sustainable development (OPD), which theoretically promotes low-impact developments. Ethnographic research explored how OPD applicants navigate different people and organizations with a stake in the character of land, and how OPD applications are rarely approved. The data reveals a tension between the notions of self-provisioning and planned development, but indicates how activists circumvent and adapt the planning system. This article extends the notion of what counts as accumulation by focusing on the nonproductive value of an unspoiled countryside, a notion central to debates about the production of the countryside as leisure space and the enclosure of nature under global sustainable development regimes.
Ehsan Nouzari, Thomas Hartmann and Tejo Spit
The underground provides many spatial planning opportunities as it offers space for structures, but also functions as a resource for energy. To guide developments and use the capabilities the underground provides, the Dutch national government started a policy process for the Structuurvisie Ondergrond (a master plan). Stakeholders are involved in the policy process because of the many interests linked to underground functions. However, past policy processes related to the underground dealt with lack of stakeholder satisfaction. This article explores a quantitative approach by focusing on (a) statistical testing of four criteria of interactive governance and (b) using said criteria to evaluate the satisfaction of stakeholders in a policy process. This article highlights the usefulness of a more quantitative approach and provides new insights into the relation between interactive governance and the procedural satisfaction of stakeholders. It also provides insights that help to improve interactive governance in terms of process management to achieve greater procedural satisfaction.
Planning for redress or progress in South Africa
This article explores the contradictory and contested but closely inter- locking efforts of NGOs and the state in planning for land reform in South Africa. As government policy has come increasingly to favor the better-off who are potential commercial farmers, so NGO efforts have been directed, correspondingly, to safeguarding the interests of those conceptualized as poor and dispossessed. The article explores the claim that planned “tenure reform” is the best way to provide secure land rights, especially for laborers residing on white farms; illustrates the complex disputes over this claim arising between state and NGO sectors; and argues that we need to go beyond the concept of “neoliberal governmentality” to understand the relationship between these sectors.
Planning, Discourse, and State Power in Post-War France
During the presidency of Charles de Gaulle (1958–1969), state-led spatial planning transformed the Paris region. The aim of the Schéma directeur d’aménagement et d’urbanisme de la région de Paris (1965) was to improve urban life through modernization; but its scale and ambition meant that it came to represent the hubris of state power. This article examines the role of discourse and narrative in state planning. It explores the role of planning discourses in the production of space, as well as stories told about planning by the planners and those who live with their actions. It investigates perceptions of power in post-war France, placing the Gaullist view of the state as a force for good in the context of contemporary critiques of state power. Addressing the relationship between power, resistance, and critique, it sees the environments produced by spatial planning as complex objects of dispute, enmeshed in conflicting hopes and visions of the future.
Speculative state planning, informality, and neoliberal governance on the Hooghly
This article examines the forms of state planning associated with neoliberalism, through a history and ethnography of the Kolkata Port Trust during liberalization. All state plans are promised futures which create a contested dialogue between bureaucrats and citizens. Neoliberal governance makes these interactions particularly ambiguous and opaque, because it relies on decentralized, speculative planning and the stimulation of public-private partnerships. These produce diverse, behind-the-scenes negotiations whose outcome is entirely different from the schemes initially outlined in textual state promises. It also places low-level bureaucrats in a liminal, Janus-faced role, in which they act both to create and to cross a boundary between public and private action. This new mode of rule is particularly problematic in settings such as the Hooghly River, where informality dominates in labor relationships. Bureaucrats deploy practices previously associated with “corruption” and patronage in order to enfold networks of unprotected labor into the revenue streams and plans of the state.
Critical Perspectives on Marine Spatial Planning
Luke Fairbanks, Noëlle Boucquey, Lisa M. Campbell and Sarah Wise
Marine spatial planning (MSP) seeks to integrate traditionally disconnected oceans activities, management arrangements, and practices through a rational and comprehensive governance system. This article explores the emerging critical literature on MSP, focusing on key elements of MSP engaged by scholars: (1) planning discourse and narrative; (2) ocean economies and equity; (3) online ocean data and new digital ontologies; and (4) new and broad networks of ocean actors. The implications of these elements are then illustrated through a discussion of MSP in the United States. Critical scholars are beginning to go beyond applied or operational critiques of MSP projects to engage the underlying assumptions, practices, and relationships involved in planning. Interrogating MSP with interdisciplinary ideas drawn from critical social science disciplines, such as emerging applications of relational theory at sea, can provide insights into how MSP and other megaprojects both close and open new opportunities for social and environmental well-being.
Donna Houston, Diana McCallum, Wendy Steele and Jason Byrne
Cosmopolitical action in a climate-changed city represents different knowledges and practices that may seem disconnected but constellate to frame stories and spaces of a climate-just city. The question this article asks is: how might we as planners identify and develop counter-hegemonic praxes that enable us to re-imagine our experience of, and responses to, climate change? To explore this question, we draw on Isabelle Stengers’s (2010) idea of cosmopolitics—where diverse stories, perspectives, experiences, and practices can connect to create the foundation for new strategic possibilities. Our article is empirically informed by conversations with actors from three Australian cities (Sydney, Brisbane, and Perth) who are mobilizing different approaches to this ideal in various grassroots actions on climate change.
Bicycle Lanes in Urban Europe, 1900-1995
Ruth Oldenziel and Adri Albert de la Bruhèze
Today most cities emphasize the construction of separate bicycle lanes as a sure path toward sustainable urban mobility. Historical evidence shows a singular focus on building bicycle lanes without embedding them into a broader bicycle culture and politics is far too narrow. Bicycle lanes were never neutral, but contested from the start. Based on comparative research of cycling history covering nine European cities in four countries, the article shows the crucial role representations of bicycles play in policymakers' and experts' planning for the future. In debating the regulation of urban traffic flows, urban-planning professionals projected separate lanes to control rather than to facilitate working- class, mass-scale bicycling. Significantly, cycling organizations opposed the lanes, while experts like traffic engineers and urban planners framed automobility as the inevitable modern future. Only by the 1970s did bicycle lanes enter the debate as safe and sustainable solutions when grass-roots cyclists' activists campaigned for them. The up and downs of bicycle lanes show the importance of encouraging everyday utility cycling by involving diverse social groups.