I’ve just got back from this year’s Association of American Geographers Annual Conference which was held in Washington DC. These large international conferences can be very exciting if somewhat overwhelming, with AAG featuring over 5000 papers and around 7000 attendees spread across two giant hotels in the Woodley Park neighbourhood of Washington. As part of the SAPER project I organised a double session themed ‘Planning in theory, theory in planning’, with speakers from the US, France, China, Finland and South Africa. The session was co-organised with Charlie Corwin from University of Illinois-Chicago and Emmanuel Frimpong Boamah from SUNY at Buffalo.
I presented some of the work that has come from the SAPER project where we have used our research data on South African planning education to critique the ideas of French theorist Michel de Certeau. Drawing on a paper that myself, Lauren, Stu and Lorena have just submitted to Urban Studies, the presentation argued that there are some fundamental flaws in the way that de Certeau – a famous theorist of resistance – conceptualised power and particularly how powerful actors have to negotiate between different, often contradictory, agendas.
There were a range of really exciting papers in the session. There’s not space here to discuss them all, but I’ll pick out a couple of highlights. Allie Appelbaum discussed how dealing with potholes was being used by white South Africans as a proxy for discussing political failure and urban mismanagement. Sarah Gelbard drew on personal experiences in the punk scene to explore creativity and gentrification in north American cities. Claire Tollis told us about a fascinating project she ran in Northern France exploring the bottom-up generation of strategies for urban transportation management. Meanwhile Neville Mars, an architectural practitioner, gave some fascinating insights into the lack of joined up thinking in Chinese urban sustainability planning.
Conference papers are often a precursor to journal articles and given the quality of work on show in the session, I’m hoping that we’ll see some of these ideas out in print very soon.
Full details of the papers included in the session: