Category Archives: Uncategorized

3 Postdoc opportunities on ERC Urban Density Project

The application process for three Postdoctoral Research Associates on an Urban Density project is now open on the Durham University website (https://recruitment.durham.ac.uk/pls/corehrrecruit/erq_jobspec_details_form.jobspec?p_id=012908). Each postdoc is a full-time 3 year post. The deadline for applications is 16th May (12 noon GMT), and the plan is for the postdocs to be in place by September 1st 2018.

The project is funded through the European Research Council’s (ERC) Consolidator scheme – a short description is available here. It aims to develop a fresh approach to an Mohammed Ali Road 10enduring and central element of the city and urban life. It will examine how high urban densities – or ‘intensities’ -are lived and perceived in Asian cities, focusing on Mumbai, Dhaka, Hong Kong, Manila and Tokyo. In doing so, the project will explore several themes that cut-across different sites in urban Asia: urban markets, waste and informality, urban mobility, vertical densities, and ways of seeing and knowing intensity.

Detailed information on the roles, project, and what we’re looking for in applicants is provided on the application website (https://recruitment.durham.ac.uk/pls/corehrrecruit/erq_jobspec_details_form.jobspec?p_id=012908).

Please do let your colleagues and friends know about the opportunity! I’m keen to talk to interested applicants and to answer questions (email me in the first instance on colin.mcfarlane@durham.ac.uk). The start of the recruitment process is an exciting moment and I’m really looking forward to getting into the project with new colleagues!

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Life at the urban margins: sanitation infra-making and the potential of experimental comparison

Very pleased that this paper by Michele Lancione and myself has been published with Environment and Planning A. The paper seeks to contribute to two sets of debates: first, on comparative urbanism, and here we think through what we call ‘experimental comparison’; and, second, on urban infrastructure, and specifically through the idea ‘infra-making’, which we use to explore forms of agency and atmosphere through which infrastructure is lived on the economic margins of the city.

The paper examines the role of sanitation in everyday life in the city, and compares Michele’s work on homelessness in Turin and work I’ve been doing on low-income neighbourhoods in Mumbai. Drawing on these examples we make a case for infra-making and experimental comparison as conceptual and methodological resources for critical urban research, by considering some of the implications for the relations between generalisation, specification, and intervention.

The Poolitical City: ‘Seeing Sanitation’ and Making the Urban Political in Cape Town

Jonathan Silver and I have just published a new paper with Antipode on the politics of sanitation in Cape Town. The paper – ‘The Poolitical City: ‘Seeing Sanitation’ and Making the Urban Political in Cape Town’ – is available here (via paywall).

The paper builds on work Jonathan and I have both done on urban infrastructure in different cities. In this piece, we connect infrastructure to the city in several ways: as a metric of urban inequality, as an active and constitutive force shaping the city’s contemporary and historical geographies, and as a vital part of different forms of political response. In particular, we are concerned with how sanitation is seen and politicised, and here there are deep-seated politics of race and space at work.

What drew us to research sanitation in Cape Town was a remarkable political movement in the past few years that has challenged the dominant historical associations of race and waste in Cape Town’s townships and informal settlements. The movement took excess uncollected shit from the spaces where people live and dumped it over key political targets in the city, sites of economic and political power. It is a profoundly geographical story that takes a crisis of infrastructure and turns it into a wider politics of the city, and does so through a selective geographical that it operates not just on discursive levels, but as a powerful sensorial politics.

Across a variety of actors – social movements, the state, NGOs, and others – we show how sanitation is not just a service delivery problem (although it is of course in part this), but a politics of the city more widely. Sanitation connects not just to service or infrastructure delivery, but to race, history, the organisation of urban space, and a politics of dignity and the Constitution. It is in this sense that we talk about shifts between sanitation as a ‘poolitical’ problem – ie one of service and infrastructure in particular spaces – to sanitation as an ‘political’ problem, ie a politics of the city per se.

Here’s our abstract:

‘In an urbanizing world, the inequalities of infrastructure are increasingly politicized in ways that reconstitute the urban political. A key site here is the politicization of human waste. The centrality of sanitation to urban life means that its politicization is always more than just service delivery. It is vital to the production of the urban political itself. The ways in which sanitation is seen by different actors is a basis for understanding its relation to the political. We chart Cape Town’s contemporary sanitation syndrome, its condition of crisis, and the remarkable politicization of toilets and human waste in the city’s townships and informal settlements in recent years. We identify four tactics—poolitical tactics—that politicize not just sanitation but Cape Town itself: poo protests, auditing, sabotage, and blockages. We evaluate these tactics, consider what is at stake, and chart possibilities for a more just urban future’.