Farhan Anshary: “The city, the periphery, and the faraway: Contesting imaginaries of “cities” and “non-cities” in a mega-city region”

In Students by General Account

For the last few decades, planning and urban scholars have called to imagine space differently, especially in the light of contemporary socio-ecological crises. However, the existing traditional spatial understandings are proven to be tenacious. On the other hand, international planning practices have undergone a seemingly curious trend. Some planners now propagate the idea that the city becomes the saviour for the planet and urbanisation can become sustainable. Both were initially considered as problems. So why do some spatial imaginaries persist and why do some changes? What are the consequences?

Against such a backdrop, my research explores how the “city” and its perceived opposite “non-cities” (countryside, nature, agriculture, sea etc.) are understood and imagined by multiple actors, including planners. I intend to trace the origins of those imaginaries, how they are circulated, mobilised, and how those imaginaries may enable certain actions to happen. The main concern here is to examine how certain imaginaries of “cities” and “non-cities” may legitimate certain forms of injustice. It may be possible when certain actors obscure or fail to incorporate certain aspects of urban realities in their imaginaries.

This project will be based in Greater Jakarta, home to approximately 30 million people. It is currently suffering from multiple socio-ecological crises when ambitious megaprojects and plans are continuously issued in its periphery, from the land to the sea. It is also a place where imaginaries of “distant non-cities”—such as the countryside— are constantly played to govern who belongs and does not belong to the city, neglecting and depoliticising the longstanding problems of deprivation in the rural area. The data collection will be done mainly through interview, ethnography, policy, and archive analyses.