Prioritizing Place in Urban Policy Analysis: Learning from Charleston, South Carolina

Authors: Kevin Keenan*, Rowan University
Topics: Urban Geography, Urban and Regional Planning, Qualitative Research
Keywords: urban geography, urban policy, case study, policy analysis, municipal government
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/7/2019
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Jackson, Marriott, Mezzanine Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


How do traditional methods of urban policy analysis change when the concept of place is prioritized in the process? Nearly all training in policy analysis prioritizes understanding of basic economics, free market principles, and market and government failures, rather than a foundational idea of place. Because there is not an existing textbook devoted specifically to urban policy analysis, those city managers and other officials who work for municipalities are often trained in the dominant modes of policy analysis informed by economic-centric perspectives, yet they do not use these principles in their efforts to shape the city. Rather, they often utilize ideas of place that they have learned from the community, in their everyday lives, or in the jargon of office politics and mayoral priorities. Place analysis, rather than economic analysis, should be the lens through which urban policy is understood and by which its practitioners are taught. By interviewing municipal workers in Charleston, South Carolina—a city conceptualized as an extreme case—this paper reorients urban policy analysis frameworks away from economic primacy, and it advances several theoretical traditions. First, it challenges neo-liberal theories that are themselves informed by economic-centric perspectives. Second, it emplaces the policy mobility theories, demonstrating how mobile policy will always be inherently flawed because it has limitations of place understanding when transferred from one place to another. And finally, it expands the policy theories of devolution by demonstrating how core concepts of place must be understood for any municipal analyst to respond in that paradigm.

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