‘Provincialising’ smart urban futures I

Type: Panel
Theme:
Sponsor Groups:
Organizers: Ayona Datta, Ola Söderström
Chairs: Diganta Das

Call for Submissions

Scholarship on Smart cities have evolved significantly in recent years. This has been spurred largely by a movement towards understanding ‘actually existing’ (Shelton et al., 2015) cases on ground that have shifted our knowledge from ‘one-size fits all’ (Kitchin, 2015) theories of digitally driven urbanism emerging in the global north. In the global south this move has generally been motivated and framed by an agenda that seeks to examine the genealogies and historiographies of smart urbanism (Datta, 2015) through the lens of speed (Datta and Shaban, 2017), techno-utopianism (Poggiali, 2017; Das, 2019), citizenship (Datta, 2018) and postcolonial urban futures (Datta, 2019). These approaches, we argue have taken earlier discourses of smart cities as ‘corporate storytelling’ (Söderström et al., 2014) ‘policy mobility’ (McCann and Ward, 2011) and ‘seductions’ (Bunnell and Das, 2010) to formulate a ‘provincialization’ (Chakrabarty, 2000) of the very knowledge systems and itineraries of smart urbanism. Recent scholarship has suggested how knowledge about the ‘alternative smart city’ (McFarlane and Söderström, 2017) is produced from the margins of both virtual and material spaces that are equally rooted in historic social inequalities. This will form the basis of developing a new empirical and theoretical agenda around cities in a digital age that captures the local histories, politics and creative approaches to the ‘digital turn’ (Ash et al., 2016) in urbanism.

In a double panel we seek to pursue this new agenda by examining the meanings, forms, actors and processes at work in provincializing smart cities across comparative contexts. The first includes presentations on different themes in a Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) research project examining smart cities across India and South Africa, while the second invites a group of established and early career scholars reflecting on how smart cities are provincialized in a global context. Panellists will discuss how a ‘digital turn’ in the global south is transforming the relationship between cities and citizens, state and municipalities, knowledge and information, big data and rich data, analogue pasts and digital futures among other themes. Our aim is to explore comparative moments of transformation across smart cities in the south and to disrupt universal notions of ‘smart urbanism’ through the messy realities on ground. Speakers in the panels bring a recent research experience on smart cities in a broad range of contexts across the world and an interest in comparatively theorising urban futures across global north and south.


Description


Agenda

Type Details Minutes
Panelist Ola Söderström 10
Discussant Ayona Datta University College London 10
Panelist Diganta Das Nanyang Technological University 10
Panelist Nancy Odendaal University of Cape Town 10
Panelist Evan Blake Universite De Neuchatel 10

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