We are organising a series of events including workshops, seminars and conferences to gather thoughts, inspire research and disseminate outputs.
Online seminar 19/01/2022  Mobilities of Planning Theory and Research

On 19th January 2022, the ChinaUrban project hosted an online seminar to discuss the mobility of planning theories. Professor Yvonne Rydin was invited to discuss this issue based on her experience and understanding. Dr. Fangzhu Zhang then reflected on doing urban research in China. The event attracted more than 60 participants.

Prof. Rydin’s talk
Prof. Rydin’s talk

Prof. Rydin first raised the discussion about the mobility of theories. She pointed out that we usually do research globally but use theories developed in certain regions, especially Euro-American contexts. She shared inspirations from Roy (2011) to emphasise the materiality of theory building.

The global mobility of theoretical ideas and urban processes takes four forms, including imposition, resistance to the imposition, endogenous out-reach and ignoring sites. Then, Prof. Rydin reflected on urban planning studies and theories based on the four categories. She encouraged PhD students to extend/revise existing theories during the literature review, before and after empirical study. 

Using discourse analysis as an exemplar, she illustrated various theoretical frameworks underpinning this method. Details for some frameworks may not be appropriate to travel across regions. Hence, not just theory but also method may also need to be adjusted in particular studies.  She concluded that we should be aware of the specific contexts of theory building but also wary of isolationism. 

Dr Fangzhu Zhang reflected on Prof. Rydin’s talk. She highlighted the importance of understanding Chinese characteristics in urban studies on the one hand and contribute to the broad theory building on the other. 

In the final discussion session, Prof. Rydin answered questions raised by the audience. They mainly discussed the balance between particularism and generalisation when designing research frameworks and conducting research. Prof. Rydin especially pointed out that the testing process is inevitable to apply theories into cross-national contexts.