Journals

International Development Planning Review 41.1 Featured Article

The editors of International Development Planning Review have selected ‘Contesting socialist state visions for modern mobilities: informal motorbike taxi drivers’ struggles and strategies on Hanoi’s streets, Vietnam’ by Sarah Turner and  Ngô Thúy Hạnh as the Featured Article for IDPR 41.1.

The paper will be free to access for a limited time here.

When asked to describe the paper, and highlight its importance, Sarah Turner stated the following:

This paper came about because I had been working with street vendors in Hanoi, the capital city of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, for over a decade, and I was becoming increasingly concerned that restrictive and punitive measures being applied to these vendors by municipal officials, might be hampering the livelihoods of other informal economy workers who utilize the city’s streets as their workplace. Hanoi’s municipal authorities, with strong backing from the central government, are conceiving an urban space replete with security, orderliness, and modernity. This is resulting in rapid changes to the city’s urban form and access to infrastructure and amenities, while informal economy workers are being sidelined from official narratives of the city’s future.

And then came the city’s proposal to ban motorbikes by 2030. I immediately wondered how xe ôm drivers – informal motorbike taxi drivers – were going to cope. Moreover, I had witnessed the rapid rise in numbers of blue (UberMoto) and green (GrabBike) jacketed app-based drivers weaving through the city’s streets. My regular ‘traditional’ xe ôm driver, Hoà, often shook his head at these younger drivers’ inability to know where to go without their trusty GPS, and made rather disparaging comments about their lack of knowledge of the fastest routes…

Hence this project was born, with the aim of investigating the mobile livelihoods and everyday politics of xe ôm drivers in Hanoi. It would not have been possible without the help of Ngô Thúy Hạnh, my Hanoi-based research assistant and good friend, who goes out of her way to support my research endeavors, and those of my students, even when it means working long hours to complete our interviews alongside her regular job. Hạnh has a natural ability to put people at ease and gaining interviewees’ trust to learn about their livelihoods and concerns beyond the ‘public transcript’. Hạnh also actively introduces new questions and elements into our research endeavors. For example, she recently noticed that traditional xe ôm drivers are now buying green GrabBike jackets and helmets to mimic the new competitors. Moreover, now that GrabBike has bought out Uber and has little competition to keep prices in check, traditional xe ôm are gaining back customers. These customers are disgruntled at the price hikes GrabBike now places on evenings and weekends. As the ban inches closer, and the competition changes in nature, our research and rides continue…

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Journals

Town Planning Review 90.1 Featured Article

The editors of Town Planning Review have selected “Why not Italian? Differences matter! A comment on Ben Davy’s Viewpoint in TPR on ‘Thoughts on internationalism and planning’” by Klaus R. Kunzmann as the Featured Article for 90.1.

The paper will be free to access for a limited time here.

When asked to describe the paper, and highlight its importance the author stated the following:

In his very personal essay Ben Davy, the acting president of AESOP, the Association of European Planning Schools, argues that open physical, mental and cultural borders should certainly be on the agenda of the planning community. His viewpoints on internationalisation and planning, however, remain opaque. What is internationalism in planning? Writing in English, or Globish respectively in “Audacity English” as Ben Davy calls it, certainly is not, though it may help to communicate with planners in other countries when travelling around to see other places and learn from other experiences. He is absolutely right, when he writes “internationalisation never must be an excuse for cultural appropriation, intellectual colonialism”.

In times of globalisation internationalism is a virtue of enlightened citizens (including planners) who are open and curious to learn from other cultures, from people who believe in other gods, and who have still memories of their lands of origin they had left permanently or temporally for whatever reason. Most internationally minded planners outside the Anglo-American world of planning are more international than those within the Anglo-American world, who, as a rule, pick-up developments outside only, once they are written in English.

Though one should not forget that planners, who are doing the hard work of practical planning work in their home countries, who are daily communicating with citizens, developers, politicians and powerful local stakeholders of urban development, do it in their local language. And these are 99% of the planning community. They can be internationally minded, but their assignment is to address local challenges to find solutions for local problems to ultimately to contribute to improving quality of life in the place, for which they are responsible.

In times of globalization the gap between theory and practice in planning is widening. Language that bridges academia, divides planning theory from planning practice. Planners who are bridge-builders between theory and practice are a scarce species. and those who are addressing both international and local planning communities in two languages are even more so.

While internationally recognized planning theory tends to distance itself from local practice, local practitioners are being cocooned in legislative and administrative rationales, often dominated by local party politics. Here a more international view on planning can certainly help. Young academic planners, locked in the treadmill of career promotion may not bother, whether their thoughts on planning are read by local and regional planning professionals. Their ambition is rather to earn international credits to further advance their academic careers.

Planners have to be educated to cope with the obvious gap between international theory and local practice. Basing planning education on theoretical global curricula, as it has been frequently suggested by prominent writers may make sense for post-post-doc degrees , though this is valid only for a small minority of planners. When preparing the other 99 percent planners in a country or region, it may raise the individual awareness but not really qualify for doing the job, neither in India, Italy or Afghanistan.

More bridge-builders are needed to bridge the gap between global and local as well as the gap between theory and practice in planning.. Regrettably the number of such bridge-builders is too small. English will certainly remain the only way of easy communication in business and financial worlds, and in the world of sciences, as Latin has been more than 500 years ago. In the not too distant future daily improving digital translation, however, may become a threat to English as a lingua franca. Internationalism in planning is learning from difference.

Francois Julien, the French philosopher, has reminded us that the future world is a world of in-between languages, of translations not of Globish, the globalized English.

 

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Journals

Town Planning Review 88.3: Featured Article

The editors of TPR have selected ‘The character of the Just City: the regulation of place distinctiveness and its unjust social effects’ by Gethin Davison as the Featured Article for the latest issue. It will be free to access for three months. You can access the article here.

When asked to describe the paper, and highlight its importance, the author stated the following:

One of the most important tasks of planning research is to scrutinise and question the norms, assumptions and values that underpin planning practice. To that end, this article casts a critical light on an area of planning practice that is widespread, long-standing and largely unquestioned: the regulation of place distinctiveness through notions of neighbourhood, or community, ‘character’.

Drawing on the methods of Critical Discourse Analysis, the article examines planning texts in Melbourne, Australia, a city where the concept of character is unusually central to planning decision-making. Not only does the analysis reveal some inherent difficulties in the regulation of character, it demonstrates that such practices can also justify highly inequitable and exclusionary planning outcomes.

Journals

International Development Planning Review 39.1: Featured Article

The editors of IDPR have selected ‘The Ecology of Citizenship: understanding vulnerability in urban Brazil’ by Robert Coates and Jeff Garmany as the Featured Article for the latest issue. It will be free to access for three months. You can access the article here.

When asked to describe the paper, and highlight its importance, the authors stated the following:

Robert Coates:
‘The Ecology of Citizenship: understanding vulnerability in urban Brazil’ began life in Nova Friburgo, a mountainous city inland of Rio. Everyone I spoke with knew a victim of the floods and landslides in 2011, and with a long history of such hazards, most were resigned to an uncertain future. I felt that ‘citizenship’ was left wanting in this context: it lacked purchase on interactions with the decisive elements of water, soil, and risk management infrastructure.

The article developed in collaboration with Jeff Garmany, and writing it stretched both our understandings of urban citizenship. In most guises, of course, citizenship is ‘supposed’ to reduce vulnerability: authors point to links between urban space and political development, and not least the role of urban peripheries in rights claims and national inclusion. But in Nova Friburgo, Brazil’s recent investments in poverty reduction and urban land rights could not account for non-human nature. How could residents feel at once more included in the city and state, and yet describe such uncertainty and vulnerability when it came to the future?

One of the article’s most interesting interventions concerns the way that clientelist forms of political engagement interact with the materiality of floods, landslides, and technologies designed to deal with them. Urban spatial governance via ‘clientship’ is shown to work through and on politicised flows of water, mud, and infrastructure.

The article, then, is part of a broader project to explore a more-than-human geography of citizenship, in conversation with urban political ecology and science and technology studies. Marked by cycles of recognition of the nature of disaster, and appeals for citizenship equality, both urbanisation and vulnerability in this case (and beyond) have become entrenched. The article introduces some new themes, and there is more to debate going forward.

Jeff Garmany:
One of the most interesting things about this article is the way citizenship is critiqued from political ecology perspective. The questions raised in this article help to challenge a number of long-time assumptions, and there’s a real focus on materiality and ecological factors. This helps provide new insight for citizenship studies as well as pushing nature-society debates in a slightly new direction.