“Urban Governance and its discontents” Seminar Series – Trinity Term


We are happy to present the Seminar Series program for Trinity Term 2015.

The seminars will take place on alternate Tuesdays 2:30-4:00 in the Wharton Room at All Souls College

May 5th : “Governing the Informal City: The “Jugaad” State in Mumbai”

Shahana Chattaraj, Post-doctoral Fellow,Blavatnik School of Government

May 19th : “Liquid traces, mobile subjects: the governance of mobility and control at the maritime borders of the EU”

Lorenzo Pezzani, PhD candidate at Goldsmiths University’s Centre for Research Architecture

June 2nd : “Justice and the racial nomos or how should we write the history of antiracism?”

Paul Gilroy, Professor of American and English Literature, King’s College London


The notion of governance has emerged in the 1990s as both an analytical and an operational framework under which to interrogate and intervene on the relation between state organizations, civil society, and local stake-holders. Composed by technical, political, institutional, and cultural dimensions, governance—especially in its aspirational declension of “good governance”—has been coupled with development and adopted by international organizations, specifically the UN and the World Bank, to conceptualize the manner in which power is exercised in the management of a county´s economic and social resources for development.” (WORLD BANK 1992: 1).

Focusing on cities and expanding the concept to include both administrations and a variety of actors involved in urban decision-making, UN HABITAT launched in 1999 the Global Campaign on Urban Governance. Urban governance, therefore, became an instant buzzword which describes “[…] the sum of the many ways individuals and institutions, public and private, plan and manage the common affairs of the city. It is a continuing process through which conflicting or diverse interests may be accommodated and cooperative action can be taken.”(UN HABITAT 2002: 14)

While in this formulation urban governance has been presented as synonymous to more participative administration, significant critiques have been raised both to specific instances of implementation and to the general framework. As a number of political theorists have argued, governance is always haunted by its own duality: one a side a potential progressive project of more efficient and inclusive administration, on the other a potentially hegemonic and disciplinary project of increased legibility and control over the city.

This year activities aim at analysing and exploring this inherent duality of urban governance, its strengths, tensions, and contradictions. We propose to do so by creating as space in which scholars, practitioners, and students can reflect on the value and significance of this framework as well as question its validity and political underpinnings.