Urban Scholarship, Urban Activism, and Justice Struggles: The Academy as Enabler of Emancipatory Politics?

Drawing on Marcuse’s plea to translate urbanists’ knowledge into action (2009), this panel calls for contributions exploring the relationship between academic research and organizations centered on issues of urban justice in the context of contemporary urban social movements and organizational politics. We seek papers that investigate theoretically and empirically some or all of the below listed questions. 

  • How, in contexts where university-based scholars, grassroots groups, reflective urban practitioners, urban activists, and research-based NGOs concerned with spatial issues interact and network, are claims for justice formed and organized?
  • Are such networks issue-based and transient, or do they aim to have a long-term impact on urban politics and seek political change, by engaging for instance into electoral politics?
  • Under what conditions do these networks coalesce into movements that can inform and impact policy-making and/or engage the political realm?
  • What are the forms of knowledge produced by such networks/movements, and how are they disseminated (newspapers, public debates, workshops, competitions, visualization, infographics, social media, forums, etc.)?
  • How are these networks/movements connected to other urban activists across national borders, and how are urban activism ideas, models, and tools circulated, shared, and mobilized?
  • How do these networks engage and position themselves vis-à-vis the market and the state (change from within/lobbying, negotiation, and participation in elections vs. change from without/protest and radicalism)?
  • How can the academy support and/or discourage these novel forms of engaged urban scholarship (grants, scholarships, research programs, dedicated university units, promotion criteria, etc.)?
  • How can we rethink urban scholarship and the university’s role as an enabler of justice struggles in light of such networks/movements?

The panel favors contributions featuring case studies that can illuminate the comparative investigation of how urban scholarship and reflective urban practice can positively contribute to justice struggles and political change, and the enabling role the academy can have throughout the tormented journey to produce “cities for people, not for profit” (Brenner, Marcuse, and Meyer 2012).

Mona Fawaz, American University of Beirut Beirut mf05@aub.edu.lb

Mona Harb, American University of Beirut Beirut  mona.harb@aub.edu.lb