Seeing Like a Region 3: Debates and Future Directions

Type: Panel
Sponsor Groups: Urban Geography Specialty Group, Regional Development and Planning Specialty Group
Poster #:
Day: 4/14/2018
Start / End Time: 4:00 PM / 5:40 PM
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
Panelist Michael Glass University of Pittsburgh 20
Panelist David Wachsmuth McGill University 20
Panelist Jen Nelles Hunter College, CUNY 20
Panelist Igor Calzada University of Oxford 20
Discussant Jean-Paul Addie Georgia State University 20

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