News & Press: Calls for Papers

CFP: AAG Annual Meeting New Orleans April 10-14, 2018

Thursday, September 14, 2017  
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Dismantling the Urban Decline Machine (a sub-session of the Spaces of Struggle theme)

Organizers: Michael RJ Koscielniak (University of Michigan), Eric Seymour (Brown University), and Carla Maria Kayanan (University of Michigan)

Urban decline is not natural. Urban decline is not the inverse of growth. Decline is a mode of production and a key aspect of urbanization (Akers 2013). Borrowing the parlance of Logan & Molotch (1987), the organizers of this paper session approach capitalist urbanization as a decline machine - a mode of producing and organizing the urban. We suggest that real estate and speculative property interests at a variety of scales coordinate with institutions to produce decline for the sake of profit and power. Urban scholars have argued that decline must be understood on its own terms (Dewar & Thomas 2012). However, voices within professional planning and urbanism circles typically treat decline as an inevitable historical outcome, a case of bad luck, or simply an unfortunate imbalance of capital. Recently, mainstream urban scholars and pop urbanist “thought-leaders” have each turned attention to the plethora of social challenges eventuated by inner-city decline and shrinking populations (Florida 2017). These professional and academic dialogues afford prominence to formal agendas optimizing shrinkage, justifying gentrification, normalizing demolition, and rationalizing targeted investment (Fernandez Campbell 2016).
Drawing on those discussions, local, state and national policies preserve white supremacy and capitalism as the points of departure for housing, education, employment and redevelopment. Reforms and solutions proposed by growth-focused formal actors amount to a race-blind, technical distribution of resources that camouflage embedded and historical power dynamics (Safransky 2014). Powerful interests working at the state/market nexus depoliticize the routine obscenities of the growth ideology (Lord & Price 1992). At the level of partisan politics, Democrats embrace public policies that aim to harmonize austerity against the vulnerable with the naturalized needs of white, middle-class livability (Levine 1987). In state legislatures across the United States, Republicans venerate and instantiate market logics designed to reinforce private property and debilitate egalitarian agendas (Hackworth & Nowakowski 2015) . Regardless of the discipline or doctrine, the intrication of racism, capitalism, and decline often goes unchallenged by those proposing and overseeing urban revitalization campaigns.

In this paper session, planning and urban scholars working in a variety of contexts will present original research proposing decline as a mode of production/urbanization while also amplifying radical forms of resistance and urban regeneration. We seek papers that push back against popular media and scholarly narratives ceding urban improvement campaigns to altruistic and privileged newcomers, mission-driven anchor institutions, and munificent investors. We assemble papers that approach and critique decline as a political and economic objective rather than a bug-in-the-system or a consequence of unsuccessful growth initiatives. As organizers, our aim is to spotlight the limits of contemporary planning and policy approaches in contesting the roots and consequences of decline – whether it plays out in growing or shrinking American cities. Drawing from critical perspectives investigating both community responses and political-economic relations, participants in this paper session will challenge the planning discipline and urban policy practitioners to dismantle the decline machine.

Session organizers seek papers addressing any of the following themes and concepts:
1. Decline ideologies and decline coalitions
2. Economies and assemblages of dispossession
3. Practices, politics and technologies of producing decline
4. Blight removal and demolition
5. Predatory lending and mortgage foreclosure
6. White supremacy and uneven development
7. Investment/Disinvestment/Speculation
8. Data and cartographic tools for real estate
9. Monitoring neighborhood performance and right-sizing
10. Triage policies and planning practices
11. Structural responses to decline
12. Entrepreneurialism, startups, and placemaking
13. Displacement through and beyond gentrification
14. Incentives, subsidies and regressive redistribution
15. Innovation policy, clusters, and anchor institutions
16. Routinizing displacement and vulnerability
17. Collective action against decline policies

Please send title and abstract (250 word max) to Michael RJ Koscielniak (, Eric Seymour (, and Carla Maria Kayanan ( by October 4, 2017. Send any questions about this CFP to Michael. We will respond to all submissions by October 14.

Spaces of Struggle - a global collective of urban scholars and activists studying and amplifying radical approaches to planning and development - is sponsoring this paper session. The sessions collected under this title aim to engage with the many voices who believe radical practice and scholarship are crucial to resisting institutionalized systems and mainstreamed practices. We work collectively to pose critical questions and engage directly with the histories, theories, and practices of urban planning in pursuit of more just and equitable ways forward. More info on the Spaces of Struggle: AAG sessions on Radical Planning is available at


The Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning promotes education, research, service and outreach in the United States and throughout the world by seeking to:

  • recognize diverse needs and interests in planning;
  • improve and enhance the accreditation process, and;
  • strengthen the role of planning education in colleges and universities through publications, conferences, and community engagement;
  • extend planning beyond the classroom into the world of practice.


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