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Cosmopolis Lunch Seminar: Paul Blondeel (VUB & UA)

12 May 2016 , Department of Geography, room F4.66, 12h00-14h00

'Rereading Dewey and Lefebvre for urban research and collaborative planning: misunderstandings and methodological pathways.'

Theories about local democracy and collaborative planning often refer to situated experience (or local knowledge) and everyday practice as core concepts.  Citizens and local actors are said to be the bearers of critical expertise about an urban environment and its opportunities for a more just and sustainable development (e.g. Innes and Booher, 2008).  The argument being substantial within critical urban theory, it does not provide us with a clear understanding of these core concepts.  We do not have a definition about experience and about ‘action(s)’ [Handlung(en)] clarifying the relation between everyday routines and the specific urban environments where they take place. 

This presentation makes two claims about the ways everyday actions may be analysed as bearers of subliminal patterns in a given urban area or district.  The first argument starts with two famous French theorists on ‘practice’, Bourdieu and Certeau.  Although theoretically positioned in an oppositional way, neither of them provided a clear understanding on how everyday actions are informed by deeper patterns in a given spatial-physical environment.  The second and maior argument, drawing on John Dewey´s theory of knowledge and Henri Lefebvre´s double triad, asserts that local actions can be studied as bearers of localized meaning, provided these actions and the meanings they seem to reveal, are thoroughly deconstructed.  This in turn implies a multiple inquiry documenting both ongoing and coagulated routines and investments in the area under study, apart from other layers of research. This approach (and some outcomes) will be illustrated with the lecturer's empirical work in Sint Niklaas and with an older case-study in Rotterdam (Delfshaven), relating both cases to an agenda for further methodological research. 



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