Simon Fraser University :
Eugene McCann is University Professor of Geography, an Associate member of the Department of Sociology and Anthropology, and Chair of the undergraduate Urban Studies Certificate at Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, Canada. An urban political geographer, he researches policy mobilities, urban policy-making, development, public space, and planning. He is co-editor, with Kevin Ward, of Mobile Urbanism: Cities & policy-making in the global age (Minnesota, 2011) and of Cities & Social Change: Encounters with Contemporary Urbanism, with Ronan Paddison (Sage, 2014). He is co-author, with Andy Jonas and Mary Thomas, of Urban Geography: A Critical Introduction (Wiley, 2015). He publishes in journals including the Annals of the American Association of Geographers, Environment and Planning A, the International Journal of Urban & Regional Research, Urban Geography, and Urban Studies. He is managing editor of EPC: Politics & Space, a journal of critical research on the relations between the political and the spatial.
Reflections on geographies of adjacency and relationality: Borders, bordering, and the city
This symposium is premised on the argument that “Spatial borders – visible or invisible – define our encounter with the world.” Moreover, one of its guiding questions is, “How do we articulate fractures, openings and passages that access desires, needs, cultures and moments of encounter?” As an urban political geographer, I will address these and related points, while raising questions about the role of boundaries, borders, bordering, and relationality in the production of urban space. Drawing on the literature on policy mobilities and related discussions of inter-local referencing and the global circulation of knowledge, my presentation will argue for thinking about (urban) borders as always also global in their construction, their meaning, their effects, and their possibilities. The ways in which knowledge circulates – in forms including architectural and engineering designs, policy models, ‘best practices,’ and the counterhegemonic plans of social movements – constitute and transcend borders of various types. Thus, in order to understand how the (bordered) city is produced, we must consider its production in terms of relations across scales, from the local to the global. In this sense, while the symposium rightly “aspires to look into borders as the possibility for a meaningful adjacency and spatial interexchange,” I will suggest that meaningful adjacency (a term that speaks to a topographical understanding of space) must be combined with a vision of meaningful relationality (connoting a topological vision). How, then, might we think about a critical politics of relationality, encounter, and responsibility with, through, and beyond the local and the adjacent?