Themes Differences and Connections: Beyond Universal Theories in Planning, Urban, and Heritage Studies

Differences and Connections: Beyond Universal Theories in Planning, Urban, and Heritage Studies image
  1. . Dialogues between planning theory and research, critical urban theories, human and cultural geography, critical heritage studies, and beyond.


Planning research and critical urban studies have for long time refused to dialogue, leaving several theoretical voids at the border between analyses of micro-practices of policy-making and critiques of urban trends. Germinal disciplinary intersections have been experienced in recent times around, e.g.: insurgent practices and radical planning (see Planning Theory special issue 8[1], 2009); conflict and planning, in-between agonistic pluralism and deliberative democracy (Bond, 2011); neoliberal trends and urban governance (Sager, 2011); crises, peripheralisation, and local responses (Lang, 2012). Contributors are invited to explore the borders of disciplines, and going beyond them, offering methodological, epistemological, and empirical reflections on how different theoretical foundations may collaborate for renovating scholarship and practice.


  1. . Comparative studies, de-parochialising theories.


A recent (re-)flourishing of post-colonial studies (Chakrabarthy, 2000; Santos, 2010) has had a strong impact on planning research and urban studies. Looking at cities, governance patterns, and insurgent practices in the Global South, some scholars have advocated for a ‘de-provincialisation’ and ‘de-parochialisation’ of urban and planning theories (Roy, 2009; Meagher, 2010). Yet, the opposition between ‘Western world’ and ‘Global South’ is one of countless ‘divides’ which shape academic and public debate: in Europe, for instance, representations of ‘North/South’, ‘Easth/West’, ‘centre/periphery’ oppositions are deeply embedded into institutional and commonplace understandings, making such opposition a heritage that is passed on from one generation to another. The publication of the EU Compendium of spatial planning systems (CEC, 1997) has opened a fruitful era for comparative studies of planning practices and cultures within Europe (Janin Rivolin, 2012; Nadin, Stead, 2013). The existence of different regional traditions of planning has been considered, by different scholars and in different epochs, as both a problem for European integration and an opportunity for mutual learning. Processes of Europeanisation in the frame of the European Spatial Planning Perspective have not only produced re-scaling of institutional arrangements (Brenner, 1999), but contamination and debate as well. At the global scale, planning systems and traditions have been put in relation by globalisation and neoliberalisation trends. Papers on this thematic area are invited to explore horizontal connections between urban contexts, planning systems and cultures, and vertical relations between global trends and local responses, and go beyond, looking at the connections between planning, governance, institutional arrangements, grass-root action. Especially welcome are comparative contributions able to put into debate historical divides at the global, regional, national, local level, and question mainstream theories’ Western-centric gist.


  1. Heritage and the politics of local-global divide


The emerging field of critical heritage studies raise significant critiques on the Western-centricity of heritage practices worldwide and explore the significant socio-political and cultural consequences of current globalised heritage discourse. What is identified as heritage in this discourse emerged within the ‘context of the developing narrative of nationalism and of a universalizing modernity’ (Smith 2006: 18). Values associated with the sense of the new Modern Europe were established through the foundation of museums, the conservation of monuments, and the enactment of legislation for the protection of monumental heritage. These values today shape policy documents and discourses in several countries producing unnoticed sociopolitical and spatial consequences. In this session, contributions are invited to advance dialogues on how planning and heritage ought to promote a more democratic approach that goes beyond Western-centricity of heritage and the continuously expanding local-global divide.