Conference Agenda

RS18_03: Urban Futures: City-ness, rights and utopias
Wednesday, 21/Aug/2019:
4:00pm - 5:30pm

Session Chair: Elisa Pieri, University of Manchester
Location: BS.3.17
Manchester Metropolitan University Building: Business School, Third Floor, North Atrium Oxford Road


On The Edge In Aberdeen, Manchester and Swansea: What Place Do The ‘Peripheral’ and ‘Peri-Urban’ Have In Our Imaginaries Of The City And Why Does It Matter?

Jill Elizabeth Ebrey

University of Manchester, United Kingdom

This paper will first of all interrogate the idea of the city. What does it mean for a place to be understood as a city? Can ‘city-ness’ encompass the rural, the semi-urban, the ‘rurban’, lying on its boundaries? How is the rural-urban binary negotiated in the identity of ‘edge’ communities? Drawing on empirical qualitative research undertaken on the peripheries of three large cities, Aberdeen, Manchester and Swansea, this work will consider whether places on the edges of cities might be understood as part of that city, or merely its residue, its ‘left behind’. The paper will go on to consider whether dominant imaginaries of the metropolis unconsciously marginalise places on their periphery? Whilst the research locations in question were in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries thriving industrial hubs, their identity to a large extent determined by what they produced (paper, cotton thread and copper), by the twenty first century they had often become relegated to the realm of the invisible, ‘ghosted places’ almost, as more resources and attention seemed to gravitate towards their metropolis. Whilst cities might look towards the future, are their peripheries, in the absence of a ‘peripheral vision’, encouraged to look back to a time when their communities were supported by good jobs and thriving social and cultural infrastructures?

The Human Rights City: An Idea And A Practice

Michele Grigolo

Nottingham Trent University, United Kingdom

In this paper I discuss the idea and practice of the human rights city. The human rights city is not an academic invention. It comes from human rights practice. Over time, however, several municipalities have subscribed to the idea (in the form of declarations, laws and policies) of turning the city into a space which is governed through human rights. Drawing on a sociological perspective that combines Bourdieu and Foucault, I view this as a social process in which different social agents and discourses are involved and that produces a ‘distinct’ urban practice of human rights. To begin with, I explore the genesis of the human rights city and present it as a conceptual tool that contains and makes sense of different ways in which human rights are articulated and implemented in cities. Concrete examples are offered to illustrate some core issues emerging from the practice of human rights cities, focussing especially on urban policy and the case of Barcelona. Some attention is also given to the nexus between human rights (in the city) and the right to the city. Eventually, while the idea of the human rights city has potential for promoting social inclusion, the analysis of how human rights are developed in practice invites attention to multiple uses of rights in cities and the subjection of human rights to the logic of government that drives municipal views of and engagements with human rights.

Counter-Establishment Evaluation to Learn About Radical Policy Futures

Daniel Silver, Liz Richardson

University of Manchester, United Kingdom

Utopia is commonly seen as an imagined ideal that is so far away that is should not be considered attainable. Recent scholarship (Wright 2010; Levitas 2013; Cooper 2014; Srnicek & Williams, 2015) brings the location of utopia closer than how it had been positioned previously (Sliwinski, 2016). Wright (2010) insists that ‘real utopias’ in civil society should be seen as sites of knowledge production about concrete alternatives to the capitalist system. Srnicek and Williams (2015) explain that one of the most important features of contemporary utopian thought is to combine immediate impacts with an orientation to the future to destabilise established political discourses.

This paper brings together scholarship on utopia and policy evaluation to introduce a new form of counter-establishment evaluation, and identifies the potential to create new civic epistemologies. There are very few contemporary normative ideas about how evaluation should be ‘embedded in the architecture of governance’ (Jacob et al, 2015). Counter-establishment evaluation can evidence the ways in which social action in civil society causes tangible improvements to people’s lives and then use this evidence as the basis for broadening the scope of policy learning beyond dominant discourses of political economy.