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Panel 52. Narratives, Planning and Urban Change: Anti-Colonial Practices, Transformative Storytelling and Experimental Urban Politics


  • Sergio Montero (University of Toronto)
  • Helen Pineo (University of Washington)


This panel will explore the relationship between storytelling, planning and urban change and discuss new theoretical and methodological avenues in this field. Over the last three decades, storytelling has been used as a metaphor for describing how planning works in practice (Throgmorton, 2003), as a pedagogical tool for planners (Fischer & Forester, 1993), and as a means of engaging excluded populations in urban planning processes (Sandercock, 2003). Debates on emotions and planning have also showed that what makes policy actors pay attention and learn from particular policy models is not necessarily rational evaluation mechanisms but rather the capacity of a policy to emotionally move them by showing them the effects of that policy in their well-being and in the well-being of those they care about (Hoch, 2006). However, incorporating storytelling into urban policy does not automatically lead to more inclusive or community-centered cities (Ortiz, 2023; Van Hulst, 2012). Indeed, urban policy elites, multinational companies and international development organizations have often resorted to storytelling to produce and mobilize particular policy models (Montero, 2017), to circulate corporate discourses around smart cities (Soderstrom et al., 2020) or to brand cities to particular audiences (Duque-Franco & Ortiz, 2020). In this context, how can future research in storytelling help forge more inclusive and sustainable urban futures? In this panel, we seek to expand the debate on storytelling, planning and cities by engaging with emerging scholarship such as:

  • Decolonial and anti-racist approaches to storytelling. How can urban researchers, educators and community organizations adopt anti-colonial and anti-racist approaches through storytelling? (Ortiz, 2023; Knapp, 2022). In what ways do racialized narratives allow or restrain certain forms of legal or illegal city-making (Tucker, 2023)?
  • Gender, Cities and Feminist Storytelling. How can feminist storytelling challenge traditional narratives, highlighting gender disparities and intersectional experiences in urban spaces (Peake, 2016)? How can it contribute to gender-sensitive policies and the creation of safer, more equitable cities (Jirón & Singh, 2017)? Conversely, what forms of storytelling can be detrimental for women (Kabeer, 2020)?
  • Exploring the institutional complexities of urban The global mobility of certain policy stories contrasts with the immobility -and silencing- of institutional structures and political economy changes that allowed those policies to emerge (Montero & Baiocchi, 2022; Whitney & López García, 2023). How can storytelling show the complexity of actors, institutions and forces behind policy change? How can storytelling disrupt dominant institutional structures and create intersectional alliances (Rice & Mundel, 2018)?).
  • Storytelling, sustainability and experimental urban politics. How can we conceptualize the role of storytelling in sustainability transitions (Keith et al, 2022) and healthy cities (Pineo, 2022)? How can narratives help imagining and implementing a post-fossil future in cities (Hajer & Versteeg, 2019)? What are key tensions in the current emphasis on urban pragmatism and experimental approaches to climate change and sustainability transitions (Bulkeley, 2021; Castán Broto & Westman, 2020)?
  • Data, Storytelling and Urban Change: Artificial intelligence and data-driven narratives are increasingly shaping cities and How is digitalization changing our cities and creating new centers and peripheries (Datta, 2023)? How can we think about storytelling and smart cities beyond corporate storytelling (Soderstrom et al, 2020)? How can data visualization and storytelling techniques work together to generate urban change?

Centro de Estudios de Conflicto y Cohesión Social.

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