Planning for Feminist Futures: Feminist Practice in the Urban Planning Academy

Authors: Bri Gauger*, University of Michigan
Topics: Urban and Regional Planning, Gender, Qualitative Research
Keywords: feminism, feminist theory, feminist planning, radical planning, social movements, intellectual history
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/10/2018
Start / End Time: 10:00 AM / 11:40 AM
Room: Grand Couteau, Sheraton, 5th Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Despite a rich legacy of feminist practice in the urban planning academy, planning history has paid little attention to the central role that feminist scholars played in shifting the discipline away from a modernist, technocratic paradigm. Drawing off critical urban theory and personal experience in grassroots social movements, feminist planners in the 1970s exposed spatial implications of women’s unpaid labor and exposed the value-laden nature of “technical” planning mechanisms like zoning and land use.

Faced with active resistance from the male-dominated planning academy, feminist planning scholars employed a variety of tactics to insert their theoretical perspectives and institutionalize efforts for gender equity. They fostered interdisciplinary feminist practice, drawing on personal and intellectual connections across related disciplines to create opportunities for sharing ideas such as organizing mini-conferences, creating affinity groups, and publishing in interdisciplinary feminist journals.

What can we learn from the experiences of the first generation of women to enter the planning academy? How can current scholars build upon their epistemological and pedagogical interventions to connect planning theory and education to meaningful social change? How can planning more deeply embrace its political nature, strengthen ties with and support for social movements, and help to privilege the voices and leadership of women and non-binary people of color?

This paper relies on oral history accounts from women entering the planning academy in the 1970s. I assess their professional, political, and intellectual contributions to urban planning and related fields, and suggest ways that contemporary feminist scholars might productively engage with successes and failures.

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