Policy mobilities as comparison: urbanization processes, repeated instances, topologies
Following on from calls to reformat comparative urban methods to support global urban studies, this paper draws inspiration from policy mobilities to explore how the genetic interconnectedness of urban processes and outcomes can be mobilised methodologically to critique and extend concepts in urban theory through comparison. What might be the scope and tactics for a practice of comparison through connections, which can start anywhere and build comparisons and analytical insights across a very great diversity of urban experiences? This paper explores three possible ways to take this forward. Firstly, tracing a specific connection, such as a policy link, from one context to another or across a number of different contexts contributes to understanding specific urbanization processes.
Secondly, following connections brings into view the range and variety of processes and outcomes in different contexts. In the highly transnationalised world of urban policy this method potentially links a very wide variety of diverse urban contexts and draws attention to a multiplicity of repeated instances of urban forms. Finally, the paper considers the potential to work with the array of transnational processes shaping distinctive policy outcomes and development paths as they come together in one specific place — to explore how “elsewhere” is folded in to localised growth paths. Thus, comparative practices could follow policy mobilities to explore the potential of a more topological imagination of thinking across different contexts, and bringing a diversity of urban contexts into analytical conversation. Along these lines, the invention of concepts and understandings of the urban might emerge anywhere, and perhaps find wider relevance across different situations. Following the trajectories of policy mobilities is thus not only a pathway to inventing new methods but also potentially new grounds for theorizing the urban.
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