Episode 44 – Decolonize/Decenter: Planning in the South

‘How can academic research be of service to envisioning alternative planning agendas that reflect the realities of the so-called Global South?’ is the central question that our guest host Inhji Jon stresses in this episode. 

Since Western-centric planning approaches imposes norms on places and times where they are inappropriate, we need to explore the possibilities of city making and planning which recognize the value of informal and transient structures of the lives the people have that make up the city itself. Follow the discussion between Smruti Jukur, Prince K Guma, and Mark Davidson on what needs to be addressed when challenging Western planning agendas. Therefore, our guests debate the epistemological contentions between theory and practice and the processes of deciding what makes a ‘good policy’. Last but not least, have a listen to their takes on how researchers and planners can make a positive contribution in the lives of urban dwellers and to transformative urban agendas.


Ihnji Jon

Ihnji is a Lecturer in International Urban Politics at the University of Melbourne, interested in planning/political theory, urban governance, environmental politics, and interdisciplinary feminist STS (Science and Technology Studies). I have taught courses in environment planning and urban politics, with invested readings on more-than-human philosophies, critical pragmatism, and situated justice. Born and raised in Seoul, South Korea, I have obtained master’s degree from Sciences Po Paris (in Urban Governance) and PhD from University of Washington Seattle (in Urban Planning)

Our guests:

Smruti Jukur

Smruti is an urbanist working based in India and extended work in Asia and Sub-Saharan African cities. Smruti is currently the Programme leader at SPARC-Society for the Promotion of Area Resource Centre which is an affiliate for the transnational Slum Dwellers International (SDI) network, which spans over 30 countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America. She is presently based at Mumbai and works with an organised network of the urban poor on issues of rehabilitation and relocation, gentrification,access to basic services -water, sanitation and housing. The network operates from the premise that organized communities of the urban poor are central to the generation of inclusive, resilient and sustainable cities. Her recent work is in working with communities of development induced displacement and relocated sites in cities. She also works closely with Urban planning and Architecture universities to bridge the research and practice gap.

Prince K Guma

Prince is a researcher of cities, infrastructures and technologies in eastern Africa and currently a Research Fellow and Assistant Country Director at the British Institute in Eastern Africa. His recent work, at the intersection of STS, urban studies, and postcolonial studies, to examine the contingent and place-based articulations of cities, and how these are mediated through the diffusion and uptake of new plans, technologies and infrastructures both small and big. His findings are hoped to provide a menu for new explorations and contribute insights to debates on technology and urbanity in the global South and beyond.

Mark Davidson

Mark is a Professor of Urban Geography in the Graduate School of Geography at Clark University. His research has examined the relationship between cities and politics, city finances, and the drivers of contemporary urban change. Mark has an international reputation for his research on gentrification, critical urban theory and urban sustainability. He has received research funding from the National Science Foundation and the International Olympic Committee. Prior to joining Clark University, Mark held fellowships at the Nelson A. Rockefeller Centre for Public Policy and Social Science, Dartmouth College, and the Urban Research Centre, University of Western Sydney. He holds a BA (Hons) and PhD in Geography from King’s College London.

Relevant writings: Jon, I. (2021). The city we want: Against the banality of urban planning research. Planning Theory & Practice, 1-8. https://doi.org/10.1080/14649357.2021.1893588 Jon, I. (2020). Reframing postmodern planning with feminist social theory: Toward “anti-essentialist norms”. Planning Theory, 19(2), 147-171. [PDF] researchgate.net Jon, I. (2020). Pragmatism and contemporary planning theory: Going beyond a communicative approach. In The power of pragmatism (Jane Wills & Bob Lake eds.). Manchester University Press. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/351893083_Pragmatism_and_contemporary_planning_theory_Going_beyond_a_communicative_approach