Elusive Promises

Elusive Promises: Planning in the Contemporary World

Simone Abram
Gisa Weszkalnys
Series: Dislocations
Copyright Date: 2013
Edition: 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 190
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  • Book Info
    Elusive Promises
    Book Description:

    Planning in contemporary democratic states is often understood as a range of activities, from housing to urban design, regional development to economic planning. This volume sees planning differently-as the negotiation of possibilities that time offers space. It explores what kind of promise planning offers, how such a promise is made, and what happens to it through time. The authors, all leading anthropologists, examine the time and space, creativity and agency, authority and responsibility, and conflicting desires that plans attempt to control. They show how the many people involved with planning deal with the discrepancies between what is promised and what is done. The comparative essays offer insight into the expected and unexpected outcomes of planning (from visionary utopias to bureaucratic dystopia or something in-between), how the future is envisioned at the outset, and what actual work is done and how it affects people's lives.

    eISBN: 978-0-85745-916-9
    Subjects: Anthropology, Architecture and Architectural History, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledegments
    (pp. vii-vii)
  4. Elusive Promises: Planning in the Contemporary World. An Introduction
    (pp. 1-33)
    Simone Abram and Gisa Weszkalnys

    What does an anthropology of planning have to offer when the discipline’s tools, notably ethnography, are becoming an increasingly common feature in a range of professions, including planning? Conversely, what can a sustained theoretical engagement with planning bring to anthropology? This volume aims to craft a response to these questions by demonstrating, first, that although anthropology’s critical perspective rests in no small part on the ethnographic method, it cannot be reduced to it. Instead, ethnography produces a particular kind of critical insight through its capacity to grasp the contradictory and conflicting aspects that form an inherent part of the human...

  5. Chapter 1 Utopian Time and Contemporary Time: Temporal Dimensions of Planning and Reform in the Norwegian Welfare State
    (pp. 35-55)
    Halvard Vike

    In his monumental book on planning,Planning in the Public Domain: From Knowledge to Action(1987), John Friedmann optimistically calls for a form of planning that mobilizes people and makes use of their ideas, knowledge and energy in deliberative processes that may realize the common good. In his Enlightenment vision, it is essential to establish a popular counterweight to the technocratic tendencies that so often are generated by the institutions of modernity – science, expertise and management.

    Norwegian politics, which has been the focus of my research for about two decades now, is an interesting test case for the kind of democratic...

  6. Chapter 2 From Within a Community of Planners: Hypercomplexity in Railway Design Work
    (pp. 57-75)
    Åsa Boholm

    Planning decisions about zoning, land use and the localization and building of large-scale facilities (e.g., transportation infrastructure for road, railway and air traffic; plants for energy production and distribution; waste disposal and mining facilities) have broad and lasting societal impact, and high public and media visibility. Consequently, they also have a host of political implications (Saint, Flavell and Fox 2009). A key tension addressed in the literature on facility siting (for an overview see Boholm and Löfstedt [2004]) concerns interactions between planning communities made up of decision makers interconnected within a complex institutional framework, and affected local populations and stakeholders...

  7. Chapter 3 Invaded City: Structuring Urban Landscapes on the Margins of the Possible (Peru’s Southern Highlands)
    (pp. 77-95)
    Sarah Lund

    Recent discussions about the ambiguities of bureaucracies and regulatory practices focus on contexts described as marginal to the state – borderlands or ‘third spaces’ (Das and Poole 2004). Such marginal placement is neither fully within accepted practice nor outside existing bureaucratic parameters. The in-between quality of these situations sheds light on many conflicting assumptions concerning citizenship and other kinds of belonging the nature of property and its evolving often contradictory valuations within the nation state; and understandings of the nation state that go beyond concrete territory within fixed political-economic boundaries to encompass third-space encounters of subjugation and resistance. From the borderland...

  8. Chapter 4 Tenure Reformed: Planning for Redress or Progress in South Africa
    (pp. 97-115)
    Deborah James

    Planning ‘seeks to make the will of the people in some way compatible with efficient control’ (Robertson 1984). Whereas such planning was a paradigmatic undertaking of states in the post-war era, the outsourcing of many state functions and the establishment of parallel bureaucracies – often by NGOs – have been seen as both cause and effect of the progressive weakening of states and their functions (Abram and Weszkalnys, this volume). NGOs have become involved in ‘planned interventions’ (Long 2001), drafting policies and laying out designs to shape the future. Rather than replacing the state, however, they interact with it in the enterprise...

  9. Chapter 5 Redeeming the Promise of Inclusion in the Neo-liberal City: Grassroots Contention in Salvador, Bahia, Brazil
    (pp. 117-135)
    John Gledhill

    The democratic constitution that Brazil adopted in 1988 after two decades of military rule promised a revolution in urban planning. Modernist planners and real estate developers alike had shared a dream of creating rationalized capitalist cities fit for expanding middle classes to live in, a vision that had no place for the irregular settlements of the poor, many still recent rural migrants. Yet Brazil’s public housing programmes, limited in scope by fragile public finances and distorted in resource allocation by logics of political clientelism, remained economically inaccessible to the poorer sectors of the population (Gordilho 2000; Valença 2007). Even when...

  10. Chapter 6 Even Governmentality Begins as an Image: Institutional Planning in Kuala Lumpur
    (pp. 137-153)
    Richard Baxstrom

    Kuala Lumpur is always in motion. This fact is so widely cited it qualifies as a cliché. Yet in acknowledging the common sense of the statement, I cannot help but think that we seldom contemplate its wider effects on the everyday lives of Kuala Lumpur’s urban population. Is the direction of this moment really clear? What are the outcomes of a form of urban living that is premised on never coming to rest? Can we anticipate what ‘the future’ will bring? Importantly, it appears that a particular form of urban life is discernibly coming into being in Kuala Lumpur. This...

  11. Chapter 7 Making a River of Gold: Speculative State Planning, Informality and Neo-liberal Governance on the Hooghly
    (pp. 155-178)
    Laura Bear

    Adam and Groves have described the plans produced within state institutions as ‘actively chosen futures for which the outcome is by no means assured’ that outline intended futures or promises (2007: 100). Their social effect is that they forge relationships between bureaucrats and citizens in the present through an attempt to bring about a promised future. This is differently imagined and practiced by various participants, producing contestation and unintended outcomes. This chapter uses such a definition of state planning, turning it towards an exploration of how negotiations of the future proceed between state officials and citizens in the neo-k=liberal networked...

  12. Notes on Contributors
    (pp. 179-181)
  13. Index
    (pp. 182-187)