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Space, Politics and Ecologies

This research platform focuses on space, politics and ecologies. Planning, built environment and practices on the one hand, and relational spatial entanglements on the other. Researching and theorizing space and urban development, as well as planning as both a spatial and a political practice, is important. It is vital to understand more about different and sometimes conflicting enactments, uses and conceptualizations of space, perhaps especially in a planning context characterized both by power struggles and high ambitions of democratic governance. The deeply political aspects of how conditions for urban development and planning practice are shaped also needs detailed investigation, as well as the entangled relationship between policy practices and other social processes in the materialization of our environments. Focusing on contestations and the political dimensions of place-making bring to light how different user practices claim space or explore how normative concepts such as democracy, sustainability, attractiveness, growth or diversity are played out, converge or come into conflict.

We work with projects dealing with for example planning in a post disaster context, urban social risk and youth crime, socio-ecological sustainability, sustainable urban development as export good, heritage policies in planning, and institutional architecture. The scope of analysis span different scales; from a building and the micro practices of everyday life, to the neighbourhood, city or region, as well as across country borders. We ask questions such as: Why are certain goals formulated? What knowledge are they based on? Who formulates them, and for whom? What are the effects of urban development initiatives on different social groups? And, by constantly keeping in mind the question “Could it be done differently?”, we explore alternative practices and futures and highlight contestations and struggles over space and planning.

We work with a variety of theoretical approaches, such as discourse theory, political ecology, material semiotics, radical democracy and post-structural theory. The methodological approaches are mainly qualitative and interpretative. The research includes both empirical and theoretical investigations into questions of how meanings of space and place are formed relationally between different actors (human and non-human), institutions and policy levels; how policy formulation can be understood as an instrument of power; how knowledge is produced, transferred and used in planning practice and research; how political objectives get implemented and what their socio-political, cultural and spatial consequences are, or how professional roles and “the language of planning” are shaped and further shapes practice.

Our research is critical and theoretical, but spatial and planning practices, as well as the built environment, are constantly present. We are in dialogue and cooperation with practice – through case studies, action research, dissemination activities, commissioned courses etc. We are an international group working with cases in for example the Middle-East, UK, China and Germany apart from Sweden. The results of our research are relevant for the planning and development community – practitioners as well as researchers – in terms of clarifying complexities and contestations over planning, politics and use of space, and contributing to the understanding of imaginations of desired and alternative futures.

Belongs to: Department of Urban Planning and Environment
Last changed: Sep 27, 2012