Where: RMIT University, Barcelona Campus, Spain
When: 16th & 17th June 2016

Hosts: Critical Urban Governance Program, RMIT University, Australia & AESOP Planning/Conflict Thematic Group

Abstracts (300 words): Due January 30th
Short papers (3,000 words): Due May 30th

Planning decisions are often the artefact of locally situated political struggles to attract, resist or prepare for the impact of change (Gualini et al, 2015; Gualini, 2015). These decision processes shape the physical city, but can unsettle normative framings of citizenship and belonging, values and ethics, and also expose a democratic paradox of planning praxis. Dominant economic growth imperatives and urban austerity strategies combined with global challenges related to climate change and urbanisation serve to intensify the political in planning. Yet, there is a concern that city planning has transitioned into what has been described as a postpolitical urban condition tempering episodes of conflict and undermining critical discourse (Metzger et al, 2015; Legacy, 2015; Blühdorn, 2013; Bylund, 2012; Oosterlynck and Swyngedouw, 2010).

Critics argue that by managing conflict out of planning and prioritising consensus-generating processes, the political is suppressed preventing citizens from questioning and challenging planning orthodoxy. The processes that do remain may offer opportunities for limited citizen engagement however still placing considerable demands on citizens as political subjects (Inch, 2014).  Conflict that does mount is displaced elsewhere positioning conflict and consensus into a dichotomous relationship (Bylund, 2012; Purcell, 2013). This binary, while useful as an analytical tool, is highly problematic and overly simplistic as a normative framing, removing the conflict/consensus nexus from nuanced analysis and critical engagement (Bond, 2010).

This symposium, co-hosted by the AESOP Planning/Conflict thematic group and the Critical Urban Governance program at the Centre for Urban Research, RMIT University, Melbourne, will bring together early, mid and late career planning academics to interrogate, reimagine and critically engage with the idea that planning is political. It will do so by exploring the potential for ‘everyday politics’ as well as ‘extraordinary politics’ to expose and challenge the conception that ‘consensus’ and ‘conflict’ form a dichotomous relationship. The aim of the symposium will be to develop a more nuanced understanding of how planning processes interact with moments of conflict and consensus and the spaces ‘in between’. In particular, the symposium will invite papers that offer responses to the following questions:

  • How can planning/urban theory relate a more nuanced analytical understanding of conflict dynamics in planning processes?
  • In what ways can we move beyond treating 'consensus' or 'conflict' as transcendent ideals and instead work towards engendering a more immanent evaluation of always situated conflict dynamics?
  • What pathways of transformation may emerge from the dialectics of conflict/consensus in terms of either innovative social practices or new policing and disciplining orders?
  • How are ideas about conflict/consensus (e.g. from agonistic political theory for instance) transforming planning practice? (Are we seeing a move from the "engineering of consent" towards the choreography of carefully curated conflict? Or is that too cynical an approach?
  • Which contemporary theoretical contributions / strands of theoretical research can inform and support further research on this line of inquiry?
  • Which possible shifts in research questions does this imply and what kind of research programs can be developed in order to pursue them?

The symposium will invite papers that respond to questions that engage critically with the conflict/consensus nexus and interrogate how this incites new and different ways of thinking about planning as a contested domain across space and time.

*All papers will be circulated to participants before the symposium*. We are currently in the early stages of approaching an international journal to publish the body of papers as a special issue. For more information about the call for papers and the symposium please contact Dr. Crystal Legacy by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Blühdorn, I. (2013). The governance of unsustainability: ecology and democracy after the post-democratic turn. Environmental Politics, 22(1), 16-36.

Bond, S. (2010). Negotiating a 'democratic ethos': moving beyond the agonistic-communicative divide. Planning Theory, 1-26.

Bylund, J. (2012). Postpolitical correctness? Planning Theory 11(3), 319–327.

Gualini, E., Mourato, JM., Allegra, M. (2015). ‘Conflict in the City: Contested Urban Spaces and Local Democracy’, Berlin: Jovis.

Gualini, E. (2015). ‘Planning and Conflict: Critical Perspectives on Contentious Urban Developments’. New York: Routledge.

Inch, A. (2014). Ordinary citizens and the political cultures of planning: In search of the subject of a new democratic ethos, Planning Theory, 1-21.

Legacy, C. (2015). Transforming transport planning in the postpolitical era, Urban Studies, 1-17.

Metzger, J., Allmendinger, P., & Oosterlynck, S. (Eds.). (2015). ‘Planning Against the Political: Democratic deficits in European territorial governance’. New York: Routledge

Oosterlynck, S., & Swyngedouw, E. (2010). Noise reduction: the postpolitical quandary of night flights at Brussels airport. Environment and Planning A, 42 (1577-1594).

Purcell, M. (2013). ‘The down-deep delight of democracy’. West Sussex: John Wiley & Sons.