Reading Group

Critical Geographies of Policy

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Next Meeting: Friday, April 27th, 3-5pm, SFU Harbour Centre, Rm. 1500.


Meeting monthly since February 2015, this group welcomes anyone with an intellectual interest in policy and policy-making and who is willing to be pretty broad in conceiving of those terms.

Our general approach to policy resonates with that of Merje Kuus in her book Geopolitics and Expertise (2014, 39): “… policy [can be approached] as the fundamental organizing and productive principle of modern societies. … [P]ublic policies … [are] technologies of power that do not simply serve public interests but also produce these very interests. Policies do not merely regulate existing relationships; they create new relationships, objects of analysis, and frameworks of meaning.” She continues, “This [understanding] departs from the broadly positivist approach according to which there are objective entities called policies that are produced for rational consideration of facts to solve knowable problems. … Missing from [the positivist approach] is an empirical investigation of the individuals who actually make policy … an open-ended and ambiguous practice that pivots on flexibly interpretable objectives and mutates as it travels.”

The reading group, like Kuus, is interested in policy from a generally critical perspective – one that balances critique of how the world is and how we understand it with a commitment to generating ideas that better explain it and maybe even aid in changing it for the better.

Most of us are geographers and most of the readings will have a geographical element to them. But this is an interdisciplinary group and geography is an interdisciplinary discipline. So it’s important for us to look broadly for readings that help us understand policy. We don’t limit ourselves to work from the discipline of geography. But we limit ourselves to literatures that build on critical social theory perspectives of one form or another.


Anyone interested is welcome, as long as you read the readings and come prepared to contribute, of course.

The group will meet on the last Friday of the month, 3pm-5pm, at SFU Harbour Centre.

We will read two article-length items (or their equivalent) for each meeting.

The readings will be nominated by a member of the group who will circulate the references via the email list, ideally at least 3 weeks before the meeting in which they will be discussed.

Generally, they’ll be new works – ones published in the last two years.

At that meeting, the nominator will provide a brief introduction to get the conversation started.

The group includes undergraduates, graduate students, and post-grads. Most are Geography graduate students from SFU and UBC but those from other disciplines are welcome.

The reading group will work well if we all approach it with a willingness to engage in open and respectful discussion. We subscribe to the following principles: We should be welcoming to all. Each of us has the opportunity to refine our own understanding of the material, help others think issues through, and to practice valuable analytic and communication skills. We, listen more than you talk, we don’t hog the floor when we are speaking, and we don’t interrupt or disparage others.

Past Readings (reverse chronology)

March 2018

No Meeting (Easter)

February 2018 (Semester-long theme: Public Space)

  • Duff, C. (2017). The affective right to the city. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, 42(4), 516-529.
  • Williams, M. J. (2018) Urban commons are more-than-property. Geographical Research, 56: 16–25.

January 2018 (Semester-long theme: Public Space)

  • Lefebvre, H. (1991).  The Production of Space.  Blackwell. Selections: pp.46-65; 285-291; 305-312; 375-376.
  • Mitchell, D. (2017). People’s Park again: on the end and ends of public space. Environment and Planning A, 49(3), 503-518.

December 2017

No meeting.

November 2017 (Semester-long theme: Futures)

  • Carpenter, C. (2016). Rethinking the political/-science-/fiction nexus: Global policy making and the campaign to stop killer robots. Perspectives on Politics 14(1), 53-69.
  • Leszczynski, A. (2016). Speculative Futures: Cities, data, and governance beyond smart urbanism. Environment and Planning A 48(9), 1691-1708. 

October 2017 (Semester-long theme: Futures)

  • Jefferson, B. J. (2017). Predictable Policing: Predictive Crime Mapping and Geographies of Policing and Race. Annals of the American Association of Geographers, 1-16.
  • Collard, R. C., Dempsey, J., & Sundberg, J. (2015). A manifesto for abundant futures. Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 105(2), 322-330.
  • Kok, M. T., Kok, K., Peterson, G. D., Hill, R., Agard, J., & Carpenter, S. R. (2017). Biodiversity and ecosystem services require IPBES to take novel approach to scenarios. Sustainability Science, 12(1), 177-181.
  • Bennett, E. M., Solan, M., Biggs, R., McPhearson, T., Norström, A. V., Olsson, P., … & Carpenter, S. R. (2016). Bright spots: seeds of a good Anthropocene. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, 14(8), 441-448.

September 2017 (Semester-long theme: Futures)

  • Anderson, B. (2010). Preemption, precaution, preparedness: Anticipatory action and future geographies. Progress in Human Geography34(6), 777-798.
  • Cooper, D. (2017). Prefiguring the state. Antipode49(2), 335-356.

June 2017 – August 2017 (Our summer book club)

  • Vasudevan, A. (2017). The Autonomous City: A History of Urban Squatting. Verso Books.
  • Graham, S. (2016). Vertical: the city from satellites to bunkers. Verso Books.

May 2017

This month’s meeting cancelled.

April 2017

  • Jarvis, H. (2015). Community-led Housing and ‘Slow’ Opposition to Corporate Development: Citizen Participation as Common Ground? Geography Compass 9(4), 202-213.
  • Levy, C., Latendresse, A. and Carle-Marsan, M. (2017). Gendering the Urban Social Movement and Public Housing Policy in Sao Paulo. Latin American Perspectives 44(3), 9-27. 

March 2017

  • Lovell, H. (2017). Are policy failures mobile? An investigation of the Advanced Metering Infrastructure Program in the State of Victoria, Australia. Environment and Planning A, 49(2), 314-331.
  • Montero, S. (2017). Study tours and inter-city policy learning: Mobilizing Bogotá’s transportation policies in Guadalajara. Environment and Planning A, 49(2), 332-350.

February 2017

This month’s reading group is slightly different.  In advance of the meeting, read the readings below and also watch the film My Winnipeg (

  • Robinson, I. (2014). The Critical Cinematic Cartography of “My Winnipeg”. Revue canadienne d’études cinématographiques/Canadian Journal of Film Studies, 96-114.
  • Masuda, J. R., & Skinner, E. (2016). Countermapping Inner City “Deprivation” in Winnipeg, Canada. Ch 7. in Giesbrecht, M. D., & Crooks, V. A. (Eds.). Place, Health, and Diversity: Learning from the Canadian Experience. Routledge.

January 2017

  • Weber, R. (2010). Selling city futures: the financialization of urban redevelopment policy. Economic Geography, 86(3), 251-274.
  • Guironnet, A., Attuyer, K., & Halbert, L. (2016). Building cities on financial assets: The financialisation of property markets and its implications for city governments in the Paris city-region.  Urban Studies, 53(7), 1442 – 1464.

December 2016

  • No meeting

November 2016

  • Peake, L. (2016). On feminism and feminist allies in knowledge production in urban geography. Urban Geography, 37(6), 830-838. doi: 10.1080/02723638.2015.1105484.
  • Jupp, E. (2014). Women, communities, neighbourhoods: approaching gender and feminism within UK urban policy. Antipode 46(5), 1304-1322.
  • Hawkesworth, M. (2010). Policy discourse as sanctioned ignorance: theorizing the erasure of feminist knowledge. Critical Policy Studies 3(3-4), 268-289.

October 2016

  • Humphreys, D. (2015). Integers, integrants and normative vectors: The limitations of environmental policy integration under neoliberalism. Environment and Planning C: Government and Policy, 34 (3) 433-447.
  • Boucquey, N., Fairbanks, L., Martin, K. S., Campbell, L. M., & McCay, B. (2016). The ontological politics of marine spatial planning: Assembling the ocean and shaping the capacities of ‘Community’ and ‘Environment’. Geoforum, 75, 1-11.

September 2016

  • Fischer, F. (2016). Forum on What is Critical in Policy Studies. Critical Policy Studies, 10(1), 95-120 (papers by Fischer, Howarth et al, Jessop & Sum, Braun, Luke, and Jones & Radaelli).
  • Blomley, N. (2006). Uncritical critical geography? Progress in Human Geography, 30(1), 87-94.

August 2016

  • Shabazz, R. (2015). Spatializing Blackness: Architectures of Confinement and Black Masculinity in Chicago. University of Illinois Press.  Second half.

July 2016

  • Shabazz, R. (2015). Spatializing Blackness: Architectures of Confinement and Black Masculinity in Chicago. University of Illinois Press. First half.

June 2016

  • Duneier, M. (2016). Ghetto: The invention of a place, the history of an idea. Farrar, Straus & Giroux.  Second half.

May 2016

  • Duneier, M. (2016). Ghetto: The invention of a place, the history of an idea. Farrar, Straus & Giroux.  First half.

April 2016

  • No meeting.

March 2016

  • No meeting (AAG)

February 2016

  • Wells, Katie. “Policyfailing: The Case of Public Property Disposal in Washington, DC.” ACME: An International E-Journal for Critical Geographies 13.3 (2014): 473-494.
  • Akers, Joshua M. “Making markets: Think tank legislation and private property in Detroit.” Urban Geography 34.8 (2013): 1070-1095.

January 2016

  • Shaw, K. (2015). The intelligent woman’s guide to the urban question. City, 19(6), 781-800.
  • Roy, A. (2015 (Online First)). Who’s Afraid of Postcolonial Theory?. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research.DOI: 10.1111/1468-2427.12274

December 2015

  • No meeting.

November 2015

  • Robinson, J. (2013). “Arriving at” urban policies / the urban: Traces of elsewhere in making city futures. In Soderstrom, O. et al, eds. Critical Mobilities. New York: Routledge. Ch. 1.
  • Robinson, J. (2015). Thinking cities through elsewhere Comparative tactics for a more global urban studies. Progress in Human Geography. Available in the journal’s OnlineFirst section.

October 2015

  • Baker, T. & Temenos, C eds. (2015). Urban policy mobilities: Moving forward. Special debates & Developments section of the International Journal of Urban & Regional Research:
    • Tom Baker and Cristina Temenos. Urban Policy Mobilities Research: Introduction to a Debate.
    • Eugene McCann and Kevin Ward. Thinking Through Dualisms in Urban Policy Mobilities.
    • Jennifer Robinson. ‘Arriving At’ Urban Policies: The Topological Spaces of Urban Policy Mobility.
    • Ian R. Cook. Policy Mobilities and Interdisciplinary Engagement.
    • Merje Kuus. For Slow Research.
    • Cristina Temenos and Tom Baker. Enriching Urban Policy Mobilities Research.

September 2015

  • Newman, J. (2014). Governing the present: activism, neoliberalism, and the problem of power and consent. Critical Policy Studies, 8(2), 133-147.
  • Routledge, P., & Derickson, K. D. (2015). Situated solidarities and the practice of scholar-activism. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 33(3), 391-407.

August 2015

  • Jamie Peck & Nik Theodore (2015) Fast Policy. University of Minnesota Press. Selections: Introduction; Part 1; Ch 5; Ch 8; Conclusion.

July 2015

  • No meeting.

June 2015

  • Sengers, F., & Raven, R. (2015). Toward a spatial perspective on niche development: The case of Bus Rapid Transit. Environmental Innovation and Societal Transitions.
  • Affolderbach, J., & Schulz, C. (2015). Mobile transitions: Exploring synergies for urban sustainability research. Urban Studies. DOI: 10.1177/0042098015583784

May 2015

  • Roy, P. 2015. Collaborative planning – A neoliberal strategy? A study of the Atlanta BeltLine. Cities, 43, 59-68.
  • Rosol, M. 2014. On resistance in the post-political city: conduct and counter-conduct in Vancouver. Space and Polity, 18, 70-84.

Apr 2015

  • No meeting (AAG).

Mar 2015

  • Kitchin, R., Lauriault, T. P., & McArdle, G. (2015). Knowing and governing cities through urban indicators, city benchmarking and real-time dashboards. Regional Studies, Regional Science, 2(1), 6–28.
  • Prince, R. (2014). Calculative cultural expertise? Consultants and politics in the UK cultural sector. Sociology, 48(4), 747–762.

Feb 2015

  • Faulconbridge, J. (2015). Mobilising sustainable building assessment models: agents, strategies and local effects. Area. (Online First)
  • Wood, A. (2014). Learning through policy tourism: circulating bus rapid transit from South America to South Africa. Environment and Planning A, 46(11), 2654-2669.