Undecidability and the Urban: Feminist Pathways Through Urban Political Economy

Mclean, Heather and Kern, Leslie

There is a well established body of feminist scholarship critiquing the methodological and epistemological limits of an “objective” view from nowhere in urban research and political economy frameworks. Recent developments, such as the planetary urbanization thesis, have reignited feminist efforts to counter patriarchal, colonial, and hegemonic ways of knowing. Here, we recount our frustrations with the reproduction of dominant political economic modes of “knowing” urban processes such as gentrification and culture-led regeneration in research that seeks to uncover the production of neoliberal spaces and subjectivities. We argue that this narrow approach forecloses the possibility of observing or working with radical world-making projects that stand outside of traditional understandings of the political. Thus, we heed our feminist colleagues’ call to foreground the undecidability of the urban, allowing ourselves and our subjects to express uncertainty about the causes, outcomes, and impacts of urban processes. In what follows, we share short research vignettes from our projects in Toronto and Glasgow and discuss the implications of forging unexpected solidarities, engaging in embodied, participatory knowledge production, and reading urban politics off of persistent, uncertain, under-the-radar projects. We maintain that working from a position of undecidability yields greater potential for renewing our political imaginations beyond neoliberalism.