Contentious planning: insurgent practices and new democratic openings / Stream E – Contested cities

Organizer: Enrico Gualini (Technische Universität Berlin, DE) Walter J. Nicholls (University of Amsterdam, NL).


The insurgence of forms of contention and conflict in cities and the renewed interests for related practices of protest, mobilization and resistance are associated in critical urban studies with radical conceptions of democracy. Leaning on theorists of the undetermined, incomplete, and inherently differential and antagonistic nature of democracy, several 0scholars associate urban contention with the crisis of urban democratic politics and with an urgency to redefine the meaning and contents of ‘the political’ in relation to urban development processes.

In this perspective, ‘democracy to come’ (Derrida) appears as a performative challenge not amenable to closure within acknowledged institutionally and established models and routines of democratic practice. Rather, radical democratic practices are premised on the capacity of challenging the ‘urban order’ expressed by urban politics and of unravelling its contingency.

As such, however, insurgent practices also challenge received understandings of what is to be seen as democratically legitimate. It seems as if, accordingly, radical practices of contention or resistance are confronted with the challenge of either bringing forward innovations that enable new democratic openings, or rather be ultimately aligned to practices that reflect established patterns of democratic legitimacy. In this respect, even the instruments of a progressive urban policy and planning are increasingly put under stress and critical scrutiny.

The session examines how contentious mobilizations can give rise to innovations in democratic planning. We conceptualize democratic planning as methods for planning urban spaces and life in ways that are egalitarian, open, and constantly disruptive of the existing order. For example, “social centers” and squats provide members with tools to plan urban life in accordance with egalitarian values and, by doing so, disrupt the policing order. Migrant workers centers, cooperatives, and other collective projects can operate in largely the same ways. We encourage papers that highlight contentious and democratic planning projects that arise from contentious struggles, and explore how these projects create new openings for producing more egalitarian cities.

E10.1 Contentious planning: insurgent practices and new democratic openings

Chairs: Enrico Gualini (Technische Universität Berlin) Walter J. Nicholls (University of Amsterdam)


Miguel A. Martínez López
The hybrid autonomy of urban struggles within the 15m movement in Spain

Henrik Lebuhn
Urban Social Movements between Protest and Participation

Riccardo Ciavolella, Armelle Choplin
From the “città ideale” to Gramsci’s “città futura” Glimmers or Utopias of radical democracy in Nouakchott and Paris

Marie-Hélène Bacqué
From urban uprising to democratic openings

Distributed papers:

Zhonghua Gu, Bart Wissink
Contesting Guangzhou: The Language Controversy and the 2010 Asian Games

Nanke Verloo
Conflict as Opportunity for Urban Democracy

E10.2 Contentious planning: insurgent practices and new democratic openings

Chairs: Enrico Gualini (Technische Universität Berlin) Walter J. Nicholls (University of Amsterdam)


Lisa Kings, Nazem Tahvilzadeh
Mystification and coercion in the management of peripheral neighborhoods: a gramscian perspective on the emergence of urban justice movements in Sweden

Nabil Kamel
Weapons of the weak: urban form and everyday resistance tactics in Phoenix

Van Wymeersch, Stijn Oosterlynck, Tom Coppens
Contested urban development and the struggle for the ecological commons at Ghent’s ‘Landhuis’

Corinna Hölzl
Multiple spatial entanglements of contentious planning practices

Distributed papers

Luz Navarro Eslava
From Insurgent To Transgressive practices, Challenging the consensual principles or urban governance: The case of El Forat de la Vergonya in Barcelona

Charalampos Tsavdaroglou
The contentious common space in Greece

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