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Planning Futures?
On Decolonial, Postcolonial, and Abolitionist Planning

Fri, Mar 12, 2021    9:30am

Planning Futures? On Decolonial, Postcolonial, and Abolitionist Planning

This one-day conference organized by Assistant Professor Hiba Bou Akar, brought leading planning and urban scholars who are re-thinking the field of urban planning and policy from postcolonial, decolonial, and abolitionist perspectives. It asked the following two interrelated questions: What are the futures of the field of urban planning, and what futures we ought to plan for when the future that is imagined in most of the world is one of state violence, dispossession, exploitation, war and conflict, pandemics, and climate change?

Conference Schedule

9:30 am - 9:45 am
Hiba Bou Akar, Assistant Professor of Urban Planning and Director of the Post Conflict Cities Lab, Columbia GSAPP
Amale Andraos, Dean, Columbia GSAPP

Panel 1: Decentering Planning
9:45 am - 11:30 AM
Moderator: Sai Balakrishnan, Assistant Professor of City and Regional Planning, UC Berkeley

Faranak Miraftab, Professor of Urban and Regional Planning, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
Mustafa Dikeç, Professor of Urban Studies at the École d'urbanisme de Paris
AbdouMaliq Simone, Senior Professorial Fellow at the Urban Institute, University of Sheffield.
Mona Fawaz, Professor in Urban Studies and Planning, American University of Beirut

Scholars in this panel asked us to re-think planning and its actors outside the normative planning box, by attending to spatial and temporal disjunctures, uprisings, political movements, displacements, mobilities, and everyday urban life. How can we understand the making of our cities by undocumented immigrants, formerly colonized populations, religious organizations, civil society movements, and the simple majority of people who produce, negotiate, contest, and transform cities? And how can the field of planning incorporate contested pasts and alternative futures into the planning process and its imaginations?

Panel 2 Decolonizing Planning
12:00 pm - 2:00 pm
Moderator: Hiba Bou Akar, Assistant Professor of Urban Planning and Director of the Post Conflict Cities Lab, Columbia GSAPP

Ananya Roy, Professor, The Meyer and Renee Luskin Chair in Inequality and Democracy at the University of California, Los Angeles
Andrea Roberts, Assistant Professor of Urban Planning and an Associate Director of the Center for Housing & Urban Development at Texas A&M University
Oren Yiftachel, Professor of Planning and Geography, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev
Vanessa Watson, Professor of city planning in the School of Architecture, Planning and Geomatics at the University of Cape Town

What does it mean to “decolonize planning,” both normatively and in practice? How do we learn from, theorize, practice, as well as differentiate between postcolonial, decolonial, and abolitionist planning while placing these movements in their proper and distinct historical and academic contexts? And given historical and ongoing realities of settler colonialism, white supremacy, economic precarity, and neoliberal inequality, and occupation, what role can and should planners play in engaging the field’s historical origins, and what future direction(s) represent possibility and potential for the field to envision and inscribe socially just and contextually suited interventions?

Panel 3 Re-thinking Planning from the Margins
3:00 pm - 4:45 pm
Moderator: Delia Wendel, Assistant Professor of International Development and Urban Planning, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Teresa Caldeira, Professor of Urban Planning, College of Environmental Design, University of California, Berkeley
Akira Rodriguez, Assistant Professor, City and Regional Planning, Weitzman School of Design, University of Pennsylvania
James Spencer, Vice Provost & Dean, Professor, Urban & Regional Planning, Louisiana State University
Libby Porter, Professor, Sustainability and Urban Planning, RMIT University

Margins —as geographies and positions of power, of excluded populations and neglected sites— can offer new insights to planning theory and practice. What new views of the center or the mainstream emerge when we foreground putatively marginalized perspectives? With a global and comparative group of scholars, this panel asks: how can we reconceptualize planning from the margins as well as from peripheral epistemic and ontological traditions? In parallel, what new planning theorizations could thinking from the margins bring to light?

Panel 4 Frontiers and their Politics of Planning
5:00 pm -7:00 pm
Moderator: Kian Goh, Assistant Professor of Urban Planning, University of California, Los Angeles Luskin School of Public Affairs

Katharine Rankin, Professor, Geography and Urban Planning, University of Toronto
Neema Kudva, Associate Professor, City and Regional Planning, Cornell University
Malini Ranganathan, Associate Professor, School of International Service, American University, Washington DC
Bjorn Sletto, Associate Professor, Community and Regional Planning, University of Texas at Austin
Sheryl-Ann Simpson, Assistant Professor, Geography and Environmental Studies, Carleton University

This panel challenged planning and development through the concept of the “frontier”— both as physical and imagined geography of accumulation and dispossession and political transformation, as well as a conceptual framework of futures to be imagined and steered whether of climate change or social equity. How might our understanding of frontiers in planning — across territorial, historical, and conceptual contexts — help us sift through the stakes and potentialities of planning research and practice? What are the consequences of such inequalities for equitable development? How can existing research, such as that of the panelists, on global geographies, feminist and critical theory, political ecology, and critical development studies, carry these questions forward in new ways?