Disrupting policy mobilities, displacing the ‘expert’: (2) critical approaches to knowledge

Type: Paper
Sponsor Groups: Urban Geography Specialty Group, Cultural and Political Ecology Specialty Group
Poster #:
Day: 4/12/2018
Start / End Time: 3:20 PM / 5:00 PM (Eastern Standard Time)
Room: Galerie 5, Marriott, 2nd Floor
Organizers: Rachel Bok, Emma Colven
Chairs: Rachel Bok


In recent decades, as private sector, state, and non-governmental actors have sought to develop
various ‘solutions’ to the challenges of urbanization and global environmental change, urban
policy has come to be dominated by discourses of the sustainable, smart-, eco-, and resilient city.
Global networks of expertise, old and new, such as the OECD, the C40 Cities Group, and the
Rockefeller 100 Resilient Cities Initiative, have supported the circulation of these discourses.

Geographers have examined the mobilities, mutations, and adaptations of expert knowledge as it
traverses space and time. While research in development geography has long problematized
ideals of ‘expert’ knowledge, such questions have found new relevance in ‘the urban’. A
growing body of work in urban geography has sought to understand the phenomenon of cross-
border policy networks of knowledge, together with its transformative implications for urban
policy, politics, and governance. This literature has explored the contingency of policy
knowledge for localized conditions, but it has also remained focused on the mobility of policies
and projects, sometimes regardless of their failures (see Chang 2017; Webber 2015) and the role
of formally recognized elites and ‘experts’ (see Bunnell and Marolt 2014; McCann 2008).
In this session, we seek to question this focus on experts and the dominant discourses they
promote. What (pre-existing) forms of knowledge, policy efforts, and programs that address
urban and urban-environmental issues are hidden from view? How can the policy mobilities
literature learn from feminist science studies, postcolonial urban studies, and political ecology?

Bunnell, T., Marolt, P. (2014) Commentary: cities and their grassroots. Environment and
Planning D: Society and Space, 32, 381-385.
Chang, I-C., C. (2017) Failure matters: reassembling eco-urbanism in a globalizing China,
Environment and Planning A, 49(8), 1719-1742.
McCann, E. J. (2008) Expertise, truth and urban policy mobilities: global circuits of knowledge
in the development of Vancouver, Canada’s ‘four pillar’ drug strategy, Environment and
Planning A, 40, 885-904.
Webber, S. (2015), Mobile Adaptation and Sticky Experiments: Circulating Best Practices and
Lessons Learned in Climate Change Adaptation. Geographical Research, 53, 26-38.


Type Details Minutes Start Time
Presenter Napong Tao Rugkhapan*, Thammasat University, Learn from Elsewhere: Historic preservation in Bangkok, Thailand 20 3:20 PM
Presenter Rhys Machold*, York University, Rule of the experts? Un-knowing ‘gang culture’ in the aftermath of the 2011 UK riots 20 3:40 PM
Presenter Sujee Jung*, Rutgers University, Situated Expert Knowledge on the case of Red River Development Plan, Hanoi, Vietnam. 20 4:00 PM
Presenter Emma Street*, University of Reading, Gavin Parker, University of Reading, Expert solutions to local problems: The contingent nature of private sector consultant knowledge in local plan-making’ 20 4:20 PM
Discussant Natalie Oswin McGill University 20 4:40 PM

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