There has been increasing recognition that culture matters and plays an important role in sustainable urban development. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of Agenda 2030 (UN 2015), the African Union’s Agenda 2063, UN-Habitat’s New Urban Agenda (NUA), and the UCLG’s Agenda 21 for Culture share a commitment to consider sustainability in environmental, economic, social, cultural and political terms. The Sustainable Development Goals emphasise the importance of protecting and safeguarding natural and cultural heritage, specifically in Goal 11.4, and with cultural dimensions implied across almost all of the goals – from gender equality, addressing poverty to climate action and peace, justice and strong institutions. According to UCLG’s (2015) Culture 21, “[c]ultures forge dynamic and interactive relationships between people and their environments” (p.4). Embracing a cultural lens offers cross-cutting opportunities for acknowledging the interconnectedness of culture, citizenship and sustainability, arguing that culture be recognised as the fourth pillar of sustainability.
Despite the recognition of the importance of culture, how this appears in policy in local, regional and national agendas and how these ideas are operationalised need further exploration. In addition, crucial to realising culture’s potential is a need for interrogation of whose culture, cultural forms and voices are represented. In fact, defining the terms and conditions for how culture comes to be understood, described and operationalised remains a significant hurdle, especially beyond mandated state authorities and institutions dedicated to arts, culture and heritage (Du Plessis and Rautenbach 2010). The ability for policy and large state infrastructures to be flexible and malleable enough to respond to the nebulous and difficult to define thing called culture is a key issue in defining the place of culture in, for, and across policy design and implementation toward sustainable and just urban development.
The editors, Rike Sitas (African Centre for Cities, University of Cape Town), Victoria Durrer (University College Dublin) and Nancy Duxbury (Centre for Social Studies, University of Coimbra), are inviting abstracts for a proposed special issue that will explore these challenges through a focus on the local scale. We are specifically looking for papers that explore the conceptual and operational challenges that local state and partner agencies face when working with, on, and for ‘culture’ through research reflections co-authored or co-edited by academics and practitioners (Lassiter, 2005). They are interested in papers that unpack not only substantive dimensions of the collaborations, but the processes of knowledge coproduction and action at the intersection of municipalities and the academy (Patel et al., 2015). Contributions that stem from collaborations between scholars, public administrators and cultural practitioners in the global South, are preferred.
If you are interested, please submit a 300-500 word abstract to [email protected] by 30 November.