A collection of ethnographic case studies of urban planners and their practices
Urban planners project the future of cities. As experts, they draft visions of places and times that do not yet exist, prescribing the tools to be used to achieve those visions. Their choices can determine how a city will merge its public transit and automobile traffic or how it will meet a demand for thousands of new dwelling units as quickly and with as little avoidable damage as possible. Life Among Urban Planners considers planning professionals in relation to the social contexts in which they operate: the planning office, the construction site, and even in the confrontations with those affected by their work. What roles do planners have in shaping the daily practices of urban life? How do they employ, manipulate, and alter their expertise to meet the demands asked of them? The essays in this volume emphasize planners' cultural values and personal assumptions and critically examine what their persistent commitment to thinking about the future means for the ways in which people live in the present and preserve the past. Life Among Urban Planners explores the practices and politics of professional city-making in a wide selection of geographical areas spanning five continents. Cases include but are not limited to Bangkok, Bogotá, Chicago, Naimey, Rome, Siem Reap, Stockholm, and Warsaw. Examining the issues raised around questions of expertise, participation, and the tension between market and state forces, contributors demonstrate how certain planning practices accentuate their specific relationship to a place while others are represented to a global audience as potentially universal solutions. In presenting detailed and intimate portraits of the everyday lives of planners, the volume offers key insights into how the city interacts with the world. Contributors: Margaret Crawford, Adèle Esposito, Trevor Goldsmith, Mark Graham, Michael Herzfeld, James Holston, Gabriella Körling, Jennifer Mack, Andrew Newman, Lissa Nordin, Bruce O'Neill, Kevin Lewis O'Neill, Federico Pérez, Monika Sznel.
Jennifer Mack is Associate Professor at Kungliga Tekniska Hogskolan in Sweden and author of The Construction of Equality: Syriac Immigration and the Swedish City. Michael Herzfeld is Ernest E. Monrad Research Professor of the Social Sciences in the Department of Anthropology at Harvard University. He is author of numerous books, most recently, Siege of the Spirits: Community and Polity in Bangkok.
Life Among Urban Planners deserves a place on planning school reading lists. It offers valuable
views into the diverse contexts of planning practice globally and raises many provocative questions.
Moreover, it suggests the importance of advancing the conversations between social scientists who
study urban development, and planners who work to improve the future of cities.
~Journal of Urban Affairs
"[A] welcomed contribution to the study of the contemporary planning profession in times of questioned legitimacy of techno-scientific expertise as the sole basis for urban interventions, and of plans as blueprints of the future. Its focus on the less spectacular dimensions of planning work across different cities speaks to debates in the planning literature about continuous tendencies to propose universalized theories that fail to account for how context matters"
~Anthropology Book Forum
"Raising important questions about the complex web of relationships among technocrats, administrators, and residents in the making of urban space, Life Among Urban Planners will initiate productive conversations about cities as fluid social, cultural, and political artifacts. Urban anthropologists as well as planners and architects will find it interesting and provocative."
~Emanuela Guano, Georgia State University