Call for Articles: “Experts and the City. Urban/spatial planning between politics and expertise in Western Europe, 1945 to present”

21 Aprile 2023

The “Annali dell’Istituto storico italo-germanico in Trento / Jahrbuch des italienisch-deutschen historischen Instituts in Trient” is delighted to announce a Call for Articles for the special issue “Experts and the City. Urban/spatial planning between politics and expertise in Western Europe,
1945 to present”. The special issue will be edited by Giovanni Bernardini and Thomas Großbölting and will be published in 2024.
Interested authors are invited to submit abstracts up to 300 words on a topic of their choice within this theme to before May 20, 2023. For accepted proposals, the final articles will have to range between 40.000 – 50.000 characters spaces included and will have to be submitted to peer-review process before January 31, 2024.

Since the dawn of Western modernity, the city has been the place of choice for experiments aimed at promoting its development consistent with social needs and at remedying the “social ills”  produced by urbanization processes. The challenges posed by demographic growth, the densification of social life and by the new functions conferred on urban centers during the age of the industrial revolutions provoked a rapid decline of both the Renaissance ideal city and the laissez-faire approach. At the same time, a growing number of scientific disciplines and areas of knowledge emerged that, based on new methods of quantitative and qualitative investigation, aimed at controlling, operating, and developing the city through mediating between science and administration. Thus, the city became the main place for the “scientization” theorized by Lutz Raphael: a primacy that it has never abandoned in the following decades, through the emergence of new urgencies such as today’s growing awareness for environmental sustainability.

The special issue will focus on the Western European space between post-WWII reconstruction and the present. This period of time has seen the emergence of three phenomena:  “the apogee of the European state” (in the words of Tony Judt) during the 1960s, with the expansion of state powers and prerogatives and with the design and application of “strategies for social cohesion, moral sustenance and cultural vitality”; the emergence of an increasingly composite civil society, ever less able to be framed in simplifying schemes and progressively aiming at self-representation and self-management through intermediate bodies; the questioning and (re)affirmation of the category of “experts” as holders of technical knowledge functional to a non-pathological development of society; and finally, the rise of the “neoliberal city” theorized by David Harvey and others.
The special issue aims to examine national, inter- and transnational cases that bring out the historical development of conflict and cooperation among these three levels around the planning and management of the city and territory. Although focusing on special cases, the contributions should address some of the following questions:

  • Which new or renewed forms of knowledge were most influential on urban/spatial planning between the 1940s and the present? How did interaction, contamination and transfer among them take place (or not)?
  • What dialectical relationship has expertise maintained with demands from urban politics, city administration and civil society? How were these conflicting demands and especially the more and more powerful call for participation from side of the civil society taken into consideration (or not) in the process of designing the city of the future?
  • What forms and dynamics of conflict and cooperation between expertise and other players in the field of urban planning and development can be analyzed? In how far did the mode of observed?
  • What relationship has emerged between the transnational production and circulation of expertise and its translation in the national contexts?
  • Was there a process of homogenization of urban and territorial planning knowledge and practices that corresponded to the progressive homogenization of European societies?