Real problems as dangerous and productive fairy-tales: On Problems, their Solutions and the Fear of Problematizing

Authors: Martijn Duineveld*,
Topics: Geographic Theory
Keywords: Problematizing; Solutions; Power/Knowledge
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/13/2018
Start / End Time: 1:20 PM / 3:00 PM
Room: Bonaparte, Marriott, River Tower Elevators, 4th Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Problems are social constructs, the result of power/knowledge configurations. In their trajectories of emergence some problems gain prominence and get normalised and taken for granted by a variety of actors in different discourses, networks or social systems. Other problems are pushed to the margin, neglected and subjugated. Based on a variety of cases, such as the problem of Urban Heat Islands in Dutch cities, and departing from a post-structuralist perspective on problems, combining Foucault, Luhmann and Latour, we argue that in academia many scholars are producing clearly defined, essentialised and depoliticised problems: real problems. These real problems enable them to envision and legitimise their solutions, often based on positivist, post-positivist and instrumental ways of reasoning. Attempts to problematize, deconstruct or highlight the multiplicity of problems and their constructed nature are perceived as undermining the problem-solution modus, and are therefore feared and fought against by disciplines (planning, public administration) where positivist and instrumental ideologies still linger on. We conclude the paper by proposing citizen science and local journalism as novel ways to include more variety of and competition between the problems that enter academic agenda’s.

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