Session 18

18. Spatial Methods in Transdisciplinarity for Urban Sustainability

Since the publication of the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in 2015, transdisciplinarity has been accentually gaining traction among scholars concerned with the issue of urban sustainability. Debates have accordingly witnessed an upsurge of contributions that underscore the epistemological, political, and ethical relevance of transdisciplinarity, although the discussion on especially this issue is historically older: it stems from the 1970s and has re-emerged precisely during the 1990s, when climate change and sustainability entered the public agenda (see Bernstein 2015). Furthermore, inherent in this body of work are calls for the gap between research and practice to be bridged (see Fam et al. 2018; Padmanabhan 2019). This is an entailed complexity to be both acknowledged and dealt with (Kirby 2018), and its contextual singularities should be strategically and substantially integrated (Bojorquéz-Tapia et al. 2020; Thondhlana 2021; Marshall et al. 2018). Given that transdisciplinarity betokens the kind of knowledge production that is innately forged in research-practice collaborations between scientific researchers and local practitioners (based in NGOs, private firms or local government agencies) as well as independent policy-makers or artists, transdisciplinarity research development is not only action-bent but also of transformative nature. As such, transdisciplinarity, in view of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) becomes a crucial cognitive device for both scientists and practitioners engaged in finding political ways to render urban sustainability attainable. In addition, seen as “transformational scientific field” (Lang et al. 2012), transdisciplinarity research catalyses transformative agencies and spaces to give way to the transformations that sustainability requires. Against this backdrop, this session discusses the role of spatial methods in a transdisciplinary research-practice agenda regarding urban sustainability. More concretely, it explores possibilities and limitations that empirical research techniques sensitive to both the social and relational dimension of space (ethnographic observation, go-along interviews, and visual methods such as mapping, drawing, photographing, GIS) offer to transdisciplinarity applied to urban sustainability issues. We particularly welcome papers that critically address any of the following issues:

(i) the theoretical, or methodological role of spatial methods in a transdisciplinary research-practice agenda of urban sustainability;

(ii) incremental, evolutionary, and social learning approach in transdisciplinary research and practice;

(iii) the appropriateness of spatial methods to the diverse transdisciplinary partners, issues and contexts; (iv) any common lines of discussion between transdisciplinary and participatory research that make use of spatial methods.