Positioning urban policy at the foreground of innovations in urban studies/science


Professor Susan Parnell

GCRF Chair in Urban Development, School of Geography, University of Bristol and Emeritus Professor, and University of Cape Town

Wednesday 15th May, 17:30pm
The Diamond, Lecture Theatre 5

There are no easy answers to the deep urban crisis that cuts across cities and towns of all global regions and almost every aspect of contemporary urban life. Radical new ideas about urban design and dynamics as well as better applications of existing knowledge are pre-requisites to halting the currently unsustainable global urban development path. Identifying what might unlock progress on the 2030 Agenda should provide the starting point not the end point of a new radical global urban scholarship, not least because there is a political commitment from all nation states to a new course of action in and through cities. If realized, even in part, this will be fairer and more sustainable than the current regime of settlement management. However, it is unclear how existing (and future) urban studies/science might shape the large-scale changes that are implied by the SDGs and other global urban agreements. Urban scholars can appear curiously removed from the imperatives  of city management.  Given the ambitions of the 2030 vision and the severity of the crisis it is surprising that stronger collaborative engagement between scientists and policy makers has not already emerged as a dominant new mode of enquiry, a failure widely attributed to the lack of a coherent urban science and an effective science policy interface on cities. Overcoming these disconnects rests, in the first instance, on accepting the inherent complexity of the urban problem and acknowledging the demand not only for new research but also for the urban scientists to synthesize the urban knowledge that already exists so as to prioritize evidence-based change. This is no simple task as incommensurate categories of ‘the urban’ have to be brought into the same operational frame, drawing on expertise from across disciplines, philosophical perspectives, temporalities and scales. Using the urban policy imperatives of the SDGs, this paper seeks to demonstrate how the fragmented conceptual and methodological optics of the global urban might, when focused on application, be reconstituted in ways that absorb the at times conflicting rationalities of the underlying scholarship  to provide composite perspectives on emergent global urban trends, patterns, dynamics – and choices – that are necessary to inform policy choices and implementation priorities.

This event is co-sponsored by the Urban Institute, Sheffield Institute for International Development, and the Department of Urban Studies and Planning.

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