Keynote Speakers

Below you find short presentations of the three keynote speakers and further below, the titles and summaries of the talks.

Diana Mitlin, Professor of Global Urbanism and Director of Global Urban Research Centre at the University of Manchester; Principal researcher in the Human Settlements Programme at the International Institute for Environment and Development

AbdouMaliq Simone, urbanist and Research Professor at the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity; Visiting Professor at Goldsmiths College, University of London; Visiting Professor at the African Centre for Cities, University of Cape Town; Research Associate with the Rujak Center for Urban Studies in Jakarta; and Research Fellow at the University of Tarumanagara.

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Diana Mitlin
Building cities from the bottom-up. Old challenges; new options
There has been considerable work on the ways in which cities are built from the bottom-up, and what such approaches offer to an inclusive equitable urban centre which is responsive to and respectful of of the creative activities of its citizens.  But what are the difficulties that emerge?

This presentation is a reflection that draws on my engagement with community processes and specifically the work of the affiliates of Shack/Slum Dwellers International and the Asian Coalition for Housing Rights.

Bottom-up development is celebrated for many reasons. Two primary reasons are: first, the potential value of opportunities for the most disadvantaged to drive development in their homes and workplaces and a “gut” feeling that it is “right” that people are encouraged to this and permitted to do this, and second, because the alternatives have not worked. Top-down development may have promised a lot but it has delivered very little.

However, this does not mean that everything can be managed at the local level. Indeed, some of the most active proponents of bottom-up development and stronger citizen voice have developed complex structures that nurture this process. These structures build on momentary frustrations and consolidated experiences about what are the problems that can emerge, and what can be done about them.

The need to stop local processes getting “stuck” at the neighbourhood level due to powerful individuals who seek their own advantage – and the value of federating and networking in addressing exclusionary local practices.

The need to pre-empt professional domination of the neighbourhood development process – and the value of federating and networking to strengthen members’ voice and enable effective relations with support professionals.

The need to provide for services and infrastructure at the city-scale– and the value of federating and networking to grassroots mapping and planning of the city, and to developing new and alternative options. Not all services can be dealt with at the local scale; two obvious examples are drainage and flood water, and piped water services.

The need for a pro-poor politics and co-production of informal settlement upgrading between organized citizens and the state – and the value of federating and networking to political transformation through electoral pressure. There are multiple benefits that networked communities offer. There is a need, for example, to develop new options in the most favourable locations and this requires a strategic choice after scanning the city. There is always a danger that communities will be “played off” against each other by politicians and others.

This reflection highlights the need for us to understand coproduction not as a local (technical and political) process at the level of specific localised intervention but rather as a process of making and re-making the city. The alternative and complementary scales for thinking about coproduction are rarely discussed but are very significant.

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Abdoumaliq Simone
The Infrastructures of the Many
What kinds of stories can be told that might enable the capacities of the urban majority to invent anew the conditions of their everyday lives? What kinds of stories can be told about those whose stories end up being expendable, wasted? What might we pay attention to in the very process of narrating the many formations of everyday collective life that might enable stories to be heard in a world where there is both a surplus of sensibility and an impoverishment of imagination? A world where larger volumes of data are mobilized instantaneously so as to increase our resilient adaptations to the multiple appearances of realities from all over the place with no clear story to tell.

Narrating the composition, actions, and potentials of the majority have their infrastructures—a constantly expanding hardwiring of materials, senses, and signs. This is what allows for stories to take shape, to be conveyed. Yet each suture, hinge and agglomeration applied to make an orderly, sensible narrative, in face of the uncertain flows of forces and momentum, points to its own insufficiency. Infrastructure is always falling short; it can never fully contain or channel the stories it tells. For from its inception, infrastructure seems to point to the simultaneous presence of many temporalities—all of the actions never quite constellated as events, all of the intersections and transactions that either could have happened somewhere but didn’t or that did but didn’t go anywhere specific or didn’t leave enough of a tangible trace to point back to or move on from. The very material frame of the story, of the city continuously haunts us. So how do we engage this materiality the operating systems of the urban—to support the collective possibilities of “the many?”