A SpaceTime Oddity: Backward Planning in the Global South

Type: Paper
Sponsor Groups:
Organizers: Ricardo Cardoso, Hun Kim
Chairs: Ricardo Cardoso


The narrative of “backward planning” is a familiar trope for those who have conducted research on urbanization in cities of the global South. Capturing the frustrations of those who attempt to forecast spatial development where so-called “irrational” processes dominate, it provides an account of urban phenomena where everyday practices and forms diverge from the plan in fundamental ways. It is under such conditions that planners report engaging in “backward planning;” that is, the Sisyphean act of returning to previous iterations of the future in order to update them to conform to a defiant past and present.

Set against ideal models rather material realities, efforts to plan the city “backwards” tend to fix space and time into specific ontological vectors that produce two notable effects. First, they orient global South cities to the logics of urban development of the North Atlantic. For example, despite the fact that global South cities lack the financial tools of the global North (mortgages, securities, market research, private property), real estate planning often operates under the assumption that market performance behaves in the global South as it does in North Atlantic cities. Second, this space-time orientation has the effect of concealing a whole range of processes and logics of development that can be more productive objects of analysis.


Type Details Minutes
Presenter Laura Belik*, University of California - Berkeley, The Minhocão Elevated Highway, São Paulo: A Case Study of Urban Transformation 16
Presenter Dana Kornberg*, , Incinerators, A Love Story: How Informal Realities Frustrate Modern Plans in Delhi 16
Presenter Hun Kim*, University of British Columbia, Reassembling Urban Infrastructure in Late Socialist Vietnam 16
Presenter Claudia Gastrow*, University of Johannesburg, Parafictional Cities and Aesthetic Consensus in Luanda 16
Presenter Vyjayanthi Rao*, , A New Plan for Mumbai: Public Participation and Conflicts over the Mumbai Development Plan 2034 16
Discussant AbdouMaliq Simone 10

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