Cities and Communities

Our publishing on key issues around urbanisation - including housing, inadequate and overburdened services, pollution, overcrowded or inaccessible public transport - addresses many of the challenges posed in the UN Sustainable Development Goal 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities.

We acknowledge that, with Asia and Africa set to have the largest and fastest increase in urbanisation by 2050, the Global South is a critical area for study accompanying and informing work on the Global North. 

The Urban Policy, Planning and the Built Environment series looks in particular at the contested nature of government intervention in the urban land and housing market, and how urban governance, planning and design processes respond to increasing social complexity, socio-spatial diversity and the goal of democratic renewal. 

Bristol University Press and Policy Press are signed up to the UN SDG Publishers Compact. In Cities and communities, we aim to address the following goal: 

Cities and Communities

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Situated Smart Initiatives in African Cities
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The ‘smart city’ is often promoted as a technology-driven solution to complex urban issues. While commentators are increasingly critical of techno-optimistic narratives, the political imagination is dominated by claims that technical solutions can be uniformly applied to intractable problems.

This book provides a much-needed alternative view, exploring how ‘home-grown’ digital disruption, driven and initiated by local actors, upends the mainstream corporate narrative.

Drawing on original research conducted in a range of urban African settings, Odendaal shows how these initiatives can lead to meaningful change.

This is a valuable resource for scholars working in the intersection of science and technology studies, urban and economic geography and sociology.

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Following the 2008 global financial crisis, Digital Fabrication Laboratories (Fab Labs) have become a common feature of the urban landscape in cities throughout Europe. An emerging body of literature suggests that Fab Labs go beyond providing access to digital fabrication tools, and function as ‘third places’ as they enhance social connectedness. Drawing on a case study of a Fab Lab in the English city of Coventry, this article utilises the concept of ‘austerity urbanism’ to understand the changing nature of third places in England since the 2008 global financial crash. In doing so, we argue that a confluence of austerity urbanism and digital advancements has influenced both the emergence of new third places (such as Fab Labs) while simultaneously undermining long-established third places (such as libraries). As a result, vital aspects of social infrastructure are being shaped and reshaped in the contemporary era. The article reflects on what these changes mean for individual and community well-being.

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Exploring Planning Practices and the Public Interest through Workplace Ethnographies

Presenting the complexities of doing planning work, with all its attendant moral and practical dilemmas, this rich ethnographic study analyses how places are made through stories of four diverse public and private sector working environments.

The book provides a unique insight for educators, students and researchers into the everyday lives of planners and those in associated built environment occupations. This exceptional account of the micro-politics of a knowledge-intensive profession also provides an excellent resource for sociologists of contemporary work. The authors use team ethnography to push the methodological frontiers of planning research and to advance organisational ethnography into new areas.

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Housing and Home in the UK during the COVID-19 Pandemic
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The COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically exposed weaknesses in UK housing’s relationship to the labour market and welfare system. Inequalities in household type, home occupancy, housing cost and security have contributed to the unequal impact of the disease.

Comprehensively charting fast-moving and inter-linked policy developments, Becky Tunstall assesses the position of housing and home in public policy, health and in peoples’ lives, and documents the most immediate responses to the pandemic in one convenient resource for students, scholars and practitioners.

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Young people are often at the forefront of democratic activism, whether self-organised or supported by youth workers and community development professionals. Focusing on youth activism for greater equality, liberty and mutual care – radical democracy – this timely collection explores the movement’s impacts on community organisations and workers. Essays from the Global North and Global South cover the Black Lives Matter movement, environmental activism and the struggles of refugees.

At a time of huge global challenges, youth participation is a dynamic lens through which all community development scholars and participants can rethink their approaches.

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This study examines how the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) can be leveraged to facilitate strategic change towards sustainability involving multiple stakeholders in a pluralistic city environment. By drawing on an exemplary case study of the localisation of the SDGs in Bristol, a medium-sized UK city, we show how the goals can operate as a boundary object. In particular, we identify a pattern in which the discursive localisation of the SDGs moved from problematisation and visioning through strategising and structuring towards embedding and performing. In addition, we elaborate on the three tensions that the SDGs help participants to understand and use productively, that is, across scale, time and different ways of valuing. Our study contributes to research on strategic change in pluralistic settings, such as cities, by offering a nuanced account of the discursive use of the SDGs by organisations involved in a city’s sustainable development. Furthermore, by proposing a framework based on the specific tensions that play an important role in the discursive localisation, our study advances research on the role of city strategising and practice more generally.

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In early 2022, over 30 years after the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its first report on the challenges posed by climate change and four subsequent Assessment Reports later, the word ‘colonialism’ finally entered its official lexicon. The sixth report on ‘Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability’ references colonialism, not only as a historical driver of the climate crisis, but also as something that continues to exacerbate the vulnerabilities of communities to it (). As argues, this comes in the wake of long-standing arguments made by Indigenous groups and others on the frontline of climate change about the centrality of colonialism to comprehending and responding to the crisis. The last decade has also seen a significant increase in scholarly literature that draws explicit links between colonialism and climate change – much of which is referenced in the latest IPCC report. While formal acknowledgement of this relationship is long overdue, in this article we argue for caution and precision in the invocation of colonialism within these debates. Following classic article setting out why ‘decolonization is not a metaphor’, we argue relatedly that colonialism needs to be understood as more than a metaphor in climate change debates.

Open access
Tracing Spaces, Relations and Responses

Providing a much-needed perspective on exclusion and discrimination, this book offers a distinct geographical approach to the topic of hate studies.

Of interest to academics and students of human geography, criminology, sociology and beyond, the book highlights enduring, diverse and uneven experiences of hate in contemporary society. The collection explores the intersecting experiences of those targeted on the basis of assumed and historically marginalised identities.

It illustrates the role of specific spaces and places in shaping hate, why space matters for how hate is encountered and the importance of space in challenging cultures of hate. This analysis of who is able to use or abuse space offers a novel insight into discourses of hate and lived experiences of victimisation.

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How US–China Rivalry Shapes Politics and Place Worldwide

Tensions between the US and China have escalated as both powers seek to draw countries into their respective political and economic orbits by financing and constructing infrastructure.

Wide-ranging and even-handed, this book offers a fresh interpretation of the territorial logic of US-China rivalry, and explores what it means for countries across Eurasia, Africa, and Latin America. The chapters demonstrate that many countries navigate the global infrastructure boom by articulating novel spatial objectives and implementing political and economic reforms.

By focusing on people and places worldwide, this book broadens perspectives on the US-China rivalry beyond bipolarity, and it is an essential guide to 21st century politics.

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Critical Theory for Contemporary Times

This fresh appraisal of philosopher Herbert Marcuse’s work foregrounds the geographical aspects of one of the leading social and political theorists of the 20th century.

Margath A. Walker considers how Marcusean philosophies might challenge the way we think about space and politics and create new sensibilities. Applying them to contemporary geopolitics, digital infrastructure and issues like resistance and immigration, the book shows how social change has been stifled, and how Marcuse’s philosophies could provide the tools to overturn the status quo.

She demonstrates Marcuse’s relevance to individuals and society, and finds this important theorist of opposition can point the way to resisting oppressive forces within contemporary capitalism.

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