20 April, 2017

UL Geographers attend the Annual Meeting of the American Association of Geographers in Boston

April 5th - 9th was a whirlwind week for geographers from the Institute of Geography and Spatial Planning as they headed to Boston to meet 9,500 other geographers from around the world at the Annual Meeting of the American Association of Geographers.

Noam Chomsky in conversation with Douglas Richardson*
David Harvey selected for the AAG Featured Lecture**
Professors Harvey and Sheppard at AAG Awards Luncheon**
There were a number of highlights over and above the opportunities to engage with other researchers at individual sessions, and/or meeting up with colleagues rarely seen because they are settled in other far away institutions. For many, a big highlight was the chance to hear Noam Chomsky speak. With seating for about 2500, the Ballroom at the Hynes Convention Centre was packed in order to listen in on a conversation between Chomsky and AAG Executive Director, Douglas Richardson. At the end, Chomsky was presented with the AAG Atlas Award, which "recognizes and celebrates outstanding, internationally-recognized leaders who advance world understanding in exceptional ways. The image of Atlas bearing the weight of the world on his shoulders is a powerful metaphor for this award program, as nominees are those who have taken the weight of the world on their shoulders and moved it forward, whether in science, politics, scholarship, or the arts." (2017 AAG Program, p.239). Previous recipients include primatologist, Jane Goodall, and the civil rights activist, Julian Bond.

A second highlight was the opportunity to hear David Harvey's lecture, "Marx, Capital and the Madness of Economic Reason." Harvey later received the AAG Brunn Award for Creativity in Geography which recognizes geographers who have demonstrated originality, creativity, and significant intellectual breakthroughs in geography. For those of us who were able to attend the awards ceremony, we were also happy to see Eric Sheppard win the AAG Meridian Book Award for Outstanding Scholarly Work in Geography for his (2016) book,, "Limits to Globalization: The Disruptive Geographies of Capitalist Development," , and Michael Storper win the AAG Distinguished Scholarship Honors.


Thirteen members of the Institute of Geography and Spatial Planning were accepted to sessions at the AAG. (This lead one AAG participant from Tufts U to comment: "Luxembourgers, they are everywhere!  Is there something in the water over there?") In alphabetical order, the list of papers held were:

Dr. Constance Carr - "Urban sustainability prioritizing economic development over social and environmental justice: A tale of two urban regions in Europe" as part of the three part session of "Environmental Justice Dimensions of Urban Greening“
The search for the 21st century green city is definitely on. And, European cities are often held as archetypal urban form that exemplify the desired sustainability transformation end goal. Further, not few policy-makers from these city-regions hail their integrated planning approaches as the means to get it right. This paper examines how these approaches mask economic growth agendas at the cost of social equality and environmental justice. Conceptually, sustainability is seen as a discursive construct, a master-signifier, which ultimately signifies agendas of power, and associated corporeal spatial consequences. The empirical base is drawn from two urban regions, Luxembourg and the Glatt Valley that spills around the north eastern regions of the City of Zurich. These two contexts share a lot in common: both are under growth pressure that is largely driven by the financial and related services industry; both are divided up into micro- to mid-sized Municipalities that function on similar systems of 'militia government' that manage limited land resources and allocation of infrastructure; and both are regions of high income wealth associated with high land prices. Methodologically, the discourse was reconstructed by surveying relevant documents and conducting over 50 conversational interviews with actors in both regions. It was seen that sustainable development was an empty master-signifier that policy makers engaged to justify the integration (quilting) of certain planning imperatives that prioritize business development, and market-led infrastructure provision, over social and environmental justice. Conceptually, urban sustainable development policies becomes a hegemonic discourse of power that deepens social spatial fragmentation processes.

Nathalie Christmann, PhD Candidate presented "Extending the scale of critical housing studies: Towards 'cross-border gentrification'?" at the session entitled, "Development and Urban Planning Series"

Drawing upon the case of a cross-border metropolitan region in western Europe, this paper seeks to explore population mobility and housing market developments at the regional/international scale. Transnational linkages within this cross-border region intensified with the opening of the borders and the economic development of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg as a global financial centre and a centre for European Institutions. Today about 44 per cent of employees working in Luxembourg live nearby across the Belgian, French or German border. One of the reasons is that housing prices in Luxembourg are nearly twice those in the neighbouring border regions. This increased mobility has an impact on the residents living in these areas. The research that guides this paper aims to detect perceptions of this phenomenon. Therefore principles of municipal policy, urban planning documents and the local media of three medium sized towns in the borderland are reviewed. Following a rather open research concept based on qualitative approaches (discourse analysis, grounded theory), findings reveal that locational advantages such as the proximity to Luxembourg do play a role; the perception that affordable housing is becoming increasingly critical leads to resentments that mix up with national stereotypes; while city officials report displacement due to the border-effect, they also illustrate the opportunities for regional development; at the same time property developers foster the internationalisation of urban planning. Pointing to the relational geographies that link these different places, the paper discusses the pros and cons of an umbrella concept that might be called 'cross-border gentrification'

Prof. Markus Hesse presented, "Freeports": Driving vertical metropolisation in relational cities" as part of the four-part session on "The process of Metropolisation: Reconfiguring the city at the regional scale"
This paper sets out to study the process of metropolisation not in horizontal but vertical terms. It addresses scalar changes of more medium-sized city regions as a consequence of their particular insertion in global networks of flows. These flows can be material (commodities), virtual (financial services), or value-based (arts). As a case study, the paper looks at Freeports that have been established as customs-free enclaves or bunkers for the storage of luxury goods, such as watches, jewelry, vintage wine and arts. Freeports are operational in the cities of Geneva, Switzerland, Luxembourg, Luxembourg, and in the city-state of Singapore, and thus serve here as our entry points to study these three city regions as such. In our research we see Freeports as being representative for a broader process of internationalization, if not metropolisation of these places. It is the combination of limited size/scope and presence at the global scale that qualifies these places to be relational, and the detailed study of the Freeports allows us to illustrate the peculiar ways or trajectories of "becoming" that these city regions have undergone in recent times.

Dr. Nikolaos Katsikis, "Operational Assemblies of Planetary Urbanization" as part of the 6-part session on "Planetary Urbanization"
This paper aims to investigate, both conceptually and cartographically, how urbanization as a mode of generalized geographical organization activates, and brings together a multitude of landscapes within and beyond dense agglomerations. Building upon the agenda of Planetary Urbanization and the concept of concentrated and extended urbanization, I suggest that all processes of urbanization extend beyond dense agglomeration zones, due to its biogeographical interdependencies, resulting in the activation of a multitude of composite geographies. In order to examine how these geographies come together, I built upon earlier conceptualizations of agglomeration landscapes and operational landscapes, as landscapes of possible externalities associated with particular operations, and I introduce the concept of 'operational assemblies'. On the one hand, agglomeration landscapes characterized by the presence of 'urban' and 'clustering' externalities. On the other hand, operational landscapes mostly connected with 'locational' externalities. These externalities emerge out of, or are prohibited by, particular compositions of asymmetrically distributed, but largely continuous, elements of geographical organization (natural environment, infrastructural equipment, demographic factors, institutional and regulatory frameworks). Finally, as they are brought together through complex webs of commodity chains, reflecting the advanced division of labour that characterizes industrial and postindustrial societies, they create 'operational assemblies': Multiscalar combinations of operational landscapes and agglomeration landscapes that are brought together in order to accomplice particular sociometabolic functions, which are integral parts of the urbanization process. Thus, the concept of operational assemblies aims to offer an alternative to conceptualizations of urban metabolism and a more dynamic and expanded interpretation of the fabric of urbanization

Dr. Annick Leick, (recently relocated at the ETH) "Improvisation in the context of large-scale urban developments in small urban settings" as part of the two-part session on, "Improvisation: the art of making do"

This paper aims to explore improvisation in the decision making, planning and implementation process of large-scale urban development projects (LUPs). It is based on case studies undertaken in the small state of Luxembourg, where several LUPs have been launched, most notably the European and banking district on the Kirchberg plateau and the brownfield redevelopment Belval. Urgency, the need to action, ad hoc decisions and redesign were recurring aspects characterising the process. From the beginning, different actors needed to or could take the opportunity to improvise, whilst other didn't have the right to improvise and reproduce the urban space in their manner. Improvisation can have contradictory features. It can be spontaneous or premeditated , in or outside the legal frameworks etc. Improvisations in the context of LUPs are often considered being a consequence of poor planning and therefore happening behind closed doors. My claim is that the problem lies not in the fact that it has to be improvised, but that improvisation is concealed and limited to certain actors. An alternative to this would be a constructive and open approach to uncertainties , accepting that it is not possible to plan each and every aspect thoroughly in advance and enabling a more transparent and democratic improvisation. The concepts of the perspective incrementalism of Ganser Siebel and Sieverts , of muddling through of Baybrooke and Lindblom and contingency planning of Silver could be a step in the right direction as they are recognising the potential of improvisation.

Evan McDonough, PhD Candidate - "Aircraft noise and trajectories of urbanization: Governance of the urban-airport interface in London and the South-East of England" as part of the three-part session on "The relationships between airport-driven impacts and urban areas' social-spatial patterns"
Aircraft noise pollution remains a highly contentious local effect of aviation, despite recent technological improvements. Theorized here as London's urban-airport interface, issues related to aircraft noise, flight paths, and the location of a new runway in the South-East can be understood as part of the transformation and extension of the urban realm towards - and above - the urban periphery. This paper explores the planning, decision-making, rationales, and organizations involved in the negotiation of airspace and the implications of airport expansion. Drawing from empirical evidence related to the controversy concerning airport expansion decisions, this paper connects Heathrow and Gatwick's existing three-dimensional 'noise shadows' to the complex urbanisation patterns below the flight paths. Findings demonstrate the central role of transport flows as a fundamental element of urbanization, continually carving out new, perhaps unexpected, and often contested spaces of activity and growth. Analysis of the logics of aviation and their relation to the broader extension of 'the city' contributes to emerging discourses in urban geography on the increasingly vertical, or three-dimensional shape of contemporary urbanization. Conflicts between national economic benefits from increased aircraft flows on one hand, and the local lived experience beneath the flight paths on the other seems to present an unresolved conflict within the realms of height, noise, and material flows. Tensions with concurrent patterns of urbanization in London and the South-East present a distinct scalar mismatch, and a paradox for urban governance.

Dr. Cyrille Médard De Chardon - "Peaking bike-share to move forward: A critical analysis on bike-share purposes and outcomes" as part of the five-part session on "From sustainable to critical transport studies: a global perspective"
Bicycle Sharing Systems (BSS) are now ubiquitous due to their plausible environmental and social benefits promoted by municipalities, operators and technology providers. Recent BSS literature however undermines many suggested benefits showing them rather to facilitate transport for already privileged demographics. Additionally, case study performance estimates in Europe and North America commonly show low usage rates further undermining promoted benefits. In the context of urban transport's existing social injustice, energy consumption and land use, which cannot be sustained, this work, drawing on data analysis, interviews and literature and media review in North America and Europe, presents how existing BSS deployments have intrinsic flaws. These convenient luxuries are typically not effective or less so than familiar, proven and less technologically innovative opportunities at achieving greater cycling modal share.
   This paper illustrates how with BSS deployments come convergences of many actors benefiting through diverse outcomes while residents subsidize the services economically, through public land or advertising. Municipalities and mayors consistently use BSS to promote their city, themselves and attract investment but also develop local pride in representatives and this policy. While being a good example of policy boosterism, it is without effective or just public outcomes, providing mostly sustainability rhetoric. Advertisers meanwhile utilize sustainability narratives to capitalize on new markets and commercialization opportunities while effectively undermining some promoted BSS outcomes. This paper concludes that most BSS do not alter urban infrastructure towards what is necessary for mass cycling transport but are used as easily deployable technological (false) solutions to multiple contemporary problems.

Berenice Preller, (PhD candidate)- "Addressing Climate change through green building in Luxembourg and Freiburg: achieving urban sustainability or business as usual?" as part of the three-part session on "Contradictions of the Climate Friendly City"
Grounded into critical literature on the green economy and ecological modernisation (e.g. Gibbs and Krueger 2007; Bina 2013; Whitehead 2013; Bailey and Caprotti 2014) the proposed contribution looks at climate policies focusing on green building in two city regions: Luxembourg (LU) and Freiburg (DE). Although they have engaged differently and at different points in time with the topic, both identify the built environment as key in reaching urban sustainability. Through the discursive analysis of policy and media documents, further contextualised with interviews of key local actors, I will inquire how far these green building policies, following their claim to be innovative and transformative, can indeed be considered to be so, further from their technological carbon-controlling dimension. I will focus specifically on the visions, rationales and justifications mobilised to show that, despite their apparently different conceptions, green building policies in both places are framed along a "sustainability (policy) fix" (While et al. 2004; Lombardi et al. 2011) prodded by the dominant socioeconomic consensus. In Luxembourg, green building is strongly articulated as a mean to pursuit the existing model of social affluence, while in Freiburg the citizen-led achievements of the 90's have been recuperated by the city administration to competitively position itself as a leader in green wealth and quality of living (Cidell 2012; Mössner 2016). I will conclude by illustrating how this materialises into concrete building projects with very similar (technological) focuses towards carbon controlling.

Dr. Mirjam Schindler - "Location and socio-economic sorting in the use of green space: evidence from Brussels" as part of the four-part session, "Framing Urban Sustainability: Smart, Efficient, Green, or Just"

Urban green space is important for making cities sustainable. It provides environmental benefits and makes cities attractive to people. Extensive evidence exists on their benefits but is lacking in quantifying how and whether socio-economic benefits of green space accrue to all households or only a portion depending on their socio-economic status and residential location. From urban economic theory we know that residential markets sort households by income along an urban-suburban continuum and the housing-transport-costs trade-off. This trade-off can however be dominated in the presence of exogenous central amenities (parks) or endogenous effects (high income attracting high income) and pull better-off households toward the center, adding discrepancies in accessibility to green amenities by different socio-economic groups. Tiebout's hypothesis implied that marginal benefits from localised amenities are the same for all households in a given location but empirics point to non-efficient sorting and endogenous effects (socio-economic sorting) in the demand for localised amenities in general. We address these questions based on results of a survey conducted along an urban-suburban continuum in Brussels (Belgium) in May 2016. The survey includes around 500 respondents sampled across (non-park) public space and malls to reach both users and non-users of green space and cover the variety of residential locations (good or bad provision of green / distant or far from the CBD). We analyse the role of proximity, size and quality of public green space on its use across different socio-economic attributes and residential/job places and stated willingness-to-pay and substitution possibilities with private green space.

Prof. Christian Schulz organised along with Guest Professor Rob Krueger and former UL researcher, Dr. Julia Affolderbach the two-part session on "Alternative Green Practices". He also sat on two panels: 1) "Going Rouind in (Perfect) Circles? Exploring the Circular Economy"; and 2) "Services and the Green Economy"


Visiting researcher Dr. Thomas Sigler presented a paper focused on understanding the distribution of global economic activity both between and within cities, defined as those sectors with high proportions of firms having overseas branch office activity. His paper, entitled,
"Globalizing Australian Cities: The Spatial Distribution of Economic Activity Through Firm-Level Data" as part of the session entitled, "Issues in (air)port cities and global cities"
Australian cities have always benefitted from global linkages. Colonial ties with Britain and other Commonwealth nations ensured that from their origins, Australian cities have been dependent upon commodity exports and foreign investment. More recently, the Australian economy has matured, with concurrent processes of deindustrialization and growth in the service economy tied to neoliberalization and globalization more generally. This paper investigates the specific geographical distributions of firms in Australia's largest cities, with a focus on global vs non-global firms, and global vs non-global industries


Dr. Catherine Wong- "Exploring Trajectories as an Analytical Frame for Explaining and Comparing Relational Cities" as part of the three-part session on "City Economic Evolutions: Relational Perspectives"
This presentation explores the appropriateness of 'trajectories' as a methodological tool for investigating and comparing 'relational cities'. Current literature on this emerging category of cities have tended to focus on rich descriptions of individual city attributes and the role they play in the new global economy. Yet, little is known about where these attributes come from; what constitutes them; why they have managed to navigate larger structural changes in the global economy while others have failed; and the processes of reinvention/evolution. A trajectory approach, it is argued, enables us to shed light on these questions and capture the interactions between both micro- and macro-level processes, mechanisms and actors in the making of 'relational cities'. Further, comparing trajectories of 'relational cities' may help uncover connectivities among cities previously unknown, and identity a broader set of processes that drive convergences and divergences in city trajectories. A trajectory approach, however, presents a number of challenges to research in practice. At a fundamental level, what constitutes a trajectory approach requires clarification. Questions about what is the most appropriate way to trace a city's trajectory, and what kind of empirical data best represents a trajectory remains contested. This presentation reflects on these questions in the context of a comparative study of Singapore, Luxembourg and Geneva, cases that are emblematic of relational cities. It further discusses how, in spite of their distinct evolutionary pathways, the three cities exhibit a number of functional commonalities in the global economy as well as trajectory characteristics.

**Photos from Evan McDonough

* Photo from Constance Carr

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