Speculative Infrastructures and Cities in-the-making
6-7th September 2018
Arts Tower, University of Sheffield
Paula Meth & Jonathan Silver
This workshop responded to the growing prominence of infrastructure in understanding urbanisation as a dynamic, open ended and contested process of global transformation. It sought to reflect on the utility of infrastructure as a problematic in examining cities in-the-making, developed over the last twenty years – whilst reflecting upon the expansive ways in which the term is increasingly mo- bilised through diverse theoretical and methodological approaches. Across the urbanisation experience infrastructure is arguably the critical materiality in the shaping of urban worlds. The workshop brought together a wide range of scholars to focus on various infrastructures and how they can be understood as practices/processes of urban speculation across multiple scales, geographies, connections and temporalities. Using notions of infrastructure, as a form of speculation in-itself the workshop developed unexpected conversations concerning cities in-the-making and the increasingly speculative ways in which the term ‘infrastructure’ is now being used across urban studies to consider issues such as financialisation, new technologies and everyday life. The workshop was hosted by the multi-disciplinary urban research community at the University of Sheffield (including Architecture, Geography, Sheffield Institute for International Development, Urban Studies + Planning and the Urban Institute) building upon debates developed by staff that have taken place over the last two years on this topic.
(anti)Blackness in the American Metropolis
2-3rd November 2018
Baltimore Impact Hub
Willie Wright, Yousuf Al-Bulushi & Adam Bledsoe
This workshop focused on the question of (anti)Blackness in studies of urban geography. By privileging Black urban geographies (post-Baltimore and post-Ferguson) our inquiry challenged what the organizers see as a glaring disdain and disregard for Black places, people, and governance throughout the United States. We selected presenters that place understanding and transforming “urban geography in the age of Ferguson” at the center of their research and praxis. The catalyst for such a gathering is clear. The world has borne witness to the wanton assault of unarmed Black men, women, and children by police and American-born vigilantes. The ubiquitous nature of anti-Black violence and the subsequent lack of accountability for assailants illustrate the lack of value placed upon Black lives. The parallel assault on Black geographies via disinvestment, urban renewal, emergency management, and gentrification is evidence of further disregard for Black spaces and Black spatiality. The mutual removal of Black people and places, and their place-making practices—particularly in majority Black cities—is indicative of a crisis within the American metropolis, a crisis to which urban geographers should be attentive for they foreshadow forms of austerity which may find homes in municipalities writ large. In addition to highlighting the ways Blackness is exploited in urban America, the workshop acknowledged and learned from the ways communities and organizations are challenging the anti-Black nature of racial capitalism in cities across the nation and how they are theorizing/practicing rights/rites to the city. Last, this workshop complements a growing body of work on postcolonial urbanism by further decentering urban geography’s hegemonic white lens. In so doing, we argue the neoliberal city is an anti-Black city and that social justice in the city requires attention to the ways in which social death in the city serves as the matter from which racial, spatial, and capitalist notions of value are re-generated.