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CANCELLED! Cosmopolis lunch seminar with Wojciech Kębłowski (VUB): Re-politicizing Transport with the Right to the City

25 January 2018 , 12.00h-13.00h VUB - Pleinlaan 2, 1050 Brussels, Building F, Room F 4.66

Re-politicizing Transport with the Right to the City: how to reveal political-economic contradictions of fare-free public transport practices?

The contemporary urban transport debates appear to be dominated by an orthodoxy according to which transport is on the one hand perceived through the ‘neoclassical’ lens of utility, efficiency and economic growth, and, on the other, framed within the question of ‘sustainable’ development. We argue that this orthodoxy to a substantial extent functions as a masquerade veiling fundamental political-economic choices embedded in transport planning and practice, hence contributing to a largely technical, descriptive and de-politicised character of urban transport studies. By proposing to re-connect them with explicit political-economic considerations, we intend to mobilize and strengthen critical perspectives on urban transport. To do so, we develop a framework for studying transport practices and policies inspired by Henri Lefebvre’s conceptualization of “the right to the city” (RTTC). Rather than being understood as an addition to sets of liberal-democratic rights, RTTC functions here as a theoretical apparatus that reveals deeply political character of urban transport, connecting it to issues of participation, power, justice, accessibility and equity. The framework is illustrated with a critical de-construction of the policy of fare-free public transport (FFPT), drawing on multi-site fieldwork in Aubagne (France), Chengdu (China), Tallinn (Estonia) and Żory (Poland) to demonstrate a variety of social, economic and political contradictions and paradoxes embedded in FFPT programmes.

Speaker: Wojciech Keblowski - VUB- Cosmopolis

Wojciech Kębłowski is a PhD researcher at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel and the Université Libre de Bruxelles. In his research, he critically investigates urban policies and practices that are allegedly alternative to urban neoliberalism. He is particularly interested in “alternatives” related to (a) urban transport and (b) citizen participation.  His main research project is on the “Mobility of alternative transport policies: multi-site lessons for Brussels”, financed by Innoviris through the Prospective Research for Brussels programme, and jointly supervised by David Bassens (VUB, Cosmopolis) and Mathieu Van Criekingen (ULB, IGEAT). The research focuses on the policy and practice of fare-free public transport, analysed in a variety of urban contexts including Aubagne (France), Brussels, Chengdu (China), Tallinn (Estonia), and Żory (Poland). This project investigates political-economic context in which fare-free programmes are implemented, the mechanisms of their circulation and promotion between particular localities, and their adaptability to Brussels.