Seeing Like a Region 1: Interdisciplinary Perspectives

Type: Paper
Sponsor Groups: Urban Geography Specialty Group, Regional Development and Planning Specialty Group
Poster #:
Day: 4/14/2018
Start / End Time: 10:00 AM / 11:40 AM (Eastern Standard Time)
Room: Iris, Sheraton, 8th Floor
Organizers: Jean-Paul Addie
Chairs: Jean-Paul Addie


How are regions rendered visible, experienced, and governed? Who can ‘see regionally’, and what, in conceptual and applied terms, does it mean to ‘see like a region’?

According to Scott (1998), to ‘see like a state’ means viewing the spatiality of politics through the territoriality of sovereignty. A world constituted by cohesive territories with claims to internal sovereignty emerges, in which subjects are beholden to the authority of a final arbiter – usually the national state – and disciplined by the arts of spatial governmentality. In contrast, several prominent scholarly interventions now argue that to ‘see like a city’ opens a plethora of diverse political and socio-spatial possibilities that themselves undermine appeals to territorial authority (Valverde, 2011). For Magnusson (2011), ‘seeing like a city’ presents a political world characterized by multiplicity, the presence of diverse knowledges, and a decentered web of politics ‘in becoming’. Amin and Thrift (2017) alternatively ‘see like a city’ to present the urban as a vital, messy, machine-like infrastructural space; the city appears as a living thing built from the agency of numerous human and non-human actors that actively powers urban life.

The territoriality and relationality of regions, however, defy the simple transfer of either the spatial or ontological politics proscribed by seeing ‘like a state’ or ‘like a city’ (Allen & Cochrane, 2010; Jones & MacLeod, 2004; Paasi & Metzger, 2017). Alternative techniques of spatialization and political modalities are required find coherence within the ‘fuzziness’ of regional space. Significantly, the ability to produce and claim regional space is uneven and unequal; regions are experienced over variegated scalar frames and understood differently by diverse social groups, often in partial and fragmented ways (Jonas & Ward, 2007; Owens & Sumner, 2017; Parker & Harloe, 2015). As frames for political activity – from formal governance to everyday urbanism – regions look, and function, very differently relative to where they are viewed from: center/periphery, city/suburb, points of connectivity/spaces of marginalization. This has distinct ramifications for understanding how ‘real existing’ regions are rendered visible, experienced, and governed (Addie & Keil, 2015); tasks rendered all the more pressing in the face of accelerated urbanization, the suburbanization of race and poverty, antiquated infrastructure systems, and the impacts of climate change (Keil, Hamel, Boudreau, & Kipfer, 2017; Turok et al., 2014).

This session examines the implications of ‘seeing like a region’ for urban/regional theory, politics, and socio-spatial practice, addressing issues including:

• Who develops regional visions and how are their space imaginaries legitimized?
• What technologies of power and infrastructure arrangements concretize the region?
• Who benefits, and is excluded, from such formations?
• How can key actors shift from producing a region ‘in itself’ to a region ‘for itself’?
• How are the dynamics of ‘power over’ and ‘power to’ articulated in regional politics?
• How is the region enacted and understood from the bottom up, and outside in?
• How is the regions seen relative to the suburbanization of race and poverty?
• In what ways do state and non-state actors adopt a regional spatial politics?
• How are tensions between differing dimensions of regional space negotiated, and competing scalar agendas balanced?
• What role is played by the (re-)production of regional knowledge and practice inside and outside the academy?


Type Details Minutes Start Time
Presenter Johnathon Speed*, Vanderbilt University, The "Poor Children of the Upper-Inn Valleys”: Public Debates over the Schwabenkinder in Austria and Germany 20 10:00 AM
Presenter Ivan Mitin*, National Research University Higher School of Economics, From symbolic construction of regions towards living in urban palimpsests: A case of distant residential areas of Moscow (Russia) 20 10:20 AM
Presenter Joshua Shake*, Center for Metropolitan Studies (CEM), The public, the private, and the other: leaders, agents and facilitators of Brazilian Metropolitan Region governance 20 10:40 AM
Presenter Franziska Sielker*, University of Cambridge, Exercising power in new regions - A conceptual framework to analyse stakeholders’ use of power channels in EU sector policies 20 11:00 AM
Discussant Enora Robin UCL 20 11:20 AM

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