#ACSP2012 Reflections: Therapuetic Planning Session on Saturday

Attention conservation notice: Planning theorists rule! I really enjoyed my paper session, and I’m very grateful that I stuck to finishing a draft of my paper despite the crazy fall I am having. Simon Fraser’s Meg Holden was our discussant, and she did a great job. In sum, we concluded that we all had reservations about the metaphor of therapy to describe the process of restoring political community. We also discussed the distinctions of restoring relationships among and between socio-polital groups. Aftab Erfan brought in some Peter Marris; Robert Lake laid down some pragmatic approaches to constructing justice via planning with some John Dewey. Nicole Foster brought some Gibson-Graham, who are never not 100 percent interesting.


SCHWEITZER, Lisa [University of Southern California] l

Public apologies take myriad forms, from the politically expedient to the genuinely reparative. This manuscript examines the role of restitution—financial compensation—as a supplement to Sandercock’s recent writings that have framed planning as part of a therapeutic, healing dialogue (Sandercock 2004; 2010). In the first part of the manuscript, the mutually reparative nature of healing dialogues are discussed, providing insight into the moral paradox for planning theory of healing as apologies without restitution. The paradox concerns the profession’s longstanding failure to pursue restitution in communities where planning has done harm, even as planning theory has stressed the importance of recognizing past harm. Absent restitution, healing dialogues can benefit the offender—the state and its consulting professions—more so than the victims. This article argues for understanding the two different contexts of public compensation in planning and development: the utilitarian and the reparative. Three major positions on restitution and reparation are discussed in the context of planning: a) Sher’s theories of entitlement to restitution in nonideal justice; b) Derrida’s theories on public apologies as public theater; and Ricouer’s theories of public memory and forgiveness. All of these concepts have a role to play in planning theory, but the first, restitution, is an a priori condition to emancipatory planning practice and the just city.
1. Sandercock, L. “Towards a Planning Imagination for the 21St Century.” Journal of the American Planning
Association 70, no. 2 (2004): 133-141

2. Sandercock, L. “Spirituality and the Urban Professions: The Paradox at the Heart of Planning.” Planning
Theory & Practice 7, no. 1 (2006): 65-97

3. Sher, George. Approximate Justice: Studies in Non-Ideal Theory. New York: Rowman and Littlefield, 1998

4. Derrida, Jacques. On Cosmopolitanism and Forgiveness. London: Routeledge, 2001.

5. KUTZ, CHRISTOPHER. “Justice in Reparations: The Cost of Memory and the Value of Talk.” Philosophy &
Public Affairs 32, no. 3 (2004); 271-312.

Abstract Index #: 591

ERFAN, Aftab [University of British Columbia] aftab.erfan@gmail.com

Tsulquate is a small reservation on the northern tip of Vancouver Island, home to some 500 First Nation people. The conditions of the community are typical of present-day remote reservations across Canada: high incidence of poverty, addiction, mental illness, lateral violence, and general sense of anger and hopelessness. Much of this is a legacy of the history of oppression that marks these communities, including forced relocation of the people from their ancestral lands
to the current semi-urban location (1964), the forced removal of children from their families and their placement within the Indian Residential School system (1929-1975), and an ongoing attitude of racism and neglect.
In 2009, the Band leadership put in motion the creation of a Comprehensive Community Plan and welcomed university researchers to assist in the plan making and implementation process. As a doctoral student with previous experience in planning practice I enthusiastically stepped forward. It soon became clear that this was unlike any planning I had done before. Given the deepness of the community’s wounds and the extent of conflict at various levels the communicative, collaborative tools that I was used to working with did not seem appropriate, even after adjusting for “cultural” differences. Both the pain and the antagonism that seemed to dominate the collective psyche of the community, also dominated gatherings, affectively blocking any attempts at collaboration.
A primary question for community planners -or anybody else hoping to “intervene” or “assist” in such a setting – began to sharpen: What would it mean to conceive of the planning process as a healing process? Put another way, what is the “therapeutic” role that planning can/should play (Sandercock, 2003) without reproducing the “colonial cultures of planning” (Porter, 2010).

While searching for appropriate models for being, relating, and acting in such a context, I decided to grow my skills in a meeting facilitation approach developed in post-apartheid South Africa with roots in process oriented psychology, which is being called Deep Democracy (Lewis, 2008). The ensuing action research I engaged in can be seen as experimentation, applying Deep Democracy in gatherings on Tsulquate Reserve in the course of implementing the Band’s Comprehensive Community Plan. In particular, I facilitated a series of meetings among parents, grandparents and teenagers on the topic of raising children – a seemingly simple topic but one that is fraught with internal dilemmas and significant tensions, and that was identified as a priority for the Band. Stories of struggle abounded in the course of these meetings, as did stories of hope and connection, and even though I opted not to drive strongly towards agreements on appropriate planning interventions, the meetings generated practical outcomes. The initiative has resulted in the formation of an ongoing Parents Committee that has become an active voice of children and their families within the Band’s governance structure. The parenting lessons generated and debated through the sessions have been captured in a large community-painted mural, which was deemed the most appropriate format for making the lessons more widely available in the community. More importantly, the transformational learning, personal empowerment, and a sense of ongoing healing was palpable and has been captured through a participatory evaluation process, and in the transcripts and follow-up interviews with attendees. Key members of the community are now being trained in Deep Democracy, as a way of retaining the capacity to continue having affective meetings.
Based on the above, this paper summarizes my reflections on the nature of therapeutic planning, its potential and appropriateness, and the necessary skills and capacities planners need to work in this realm.


1. Sandercock, Leonie, Cosmopolis II: Mongrel Cities of the 21st Century, Continuum: 2003

2. Porter, Libby, Unlearning the Colonial Cultures of Planning, Ashgate: 2010

3. Lewis, Myrna, Inside the No: Five Steps to Decisions that Last, Published by author in Johannesburg, South
Africa: 2008


FOSTER, Nicole [University of Texas at Arlington] nicole.foster@mavs.uta.edu

In recent work, Edward Soja and J.K. Gibson-Graham explore non-foundationalist political action and the ways in which spatiality constitutes and is constituted by such practices. Although the authors share certain theoretical interests and agree on the role of academics as intentional interventionists for community-based justice and political projects, they posit contrasting ontologies and focus their analytical attention on different spatial scales, which has significant implications for identifying and nurturing political activities that empower oppressed individuals and communities.
Lefebvre’s “right to the city” serves as a productive concept in order to unpack these differences and explore their subsequent implications for planning practices. In his discussion of “right to the city” as somewhat synonymous with “seeking spatial justice”, Soja suggests that “right to the city”, practices not only include appropriating or defending space, but also inhabiting and creating space. Although Soja’s brief discussion of the creative and vital aspects of Lefebvre’s “right to the city” opens the door to questions of how such practices can generate emergent political subjectivities and agendas that are not explicitly tied to justice concerns, he does not pursue this possibility. Rather, Soja focuses on the ways in which “right to the city” operates as a mobilizing concept, enabling pre-defined groups to transcend their differences and work towards pre-determined justice claims.
The creative and vital aspect of Lefebvre’s “right to the city” concept, alluded to by Soja, draws upon Nietzschean influences, a point ignored by most scholars (Kofman and Lebas 2003). Tracing Lefebvre’s “right to the city” concept to Nietzsche challenges us to identify the political possibilities that emerge out of the actual experience of creating new spaces, places, and communities. Furthermore, Nietzsche suggests that such empowered action through lived experience is animated through a different affective stance – a kind of jouissance as opposed to ressentiment. Although they do not discuss the “right to the city” concept, Gibson-Graham’s “politics of becoming” resonates with the Nietzschean influences of Lefebvre’s work by pointing to the ways new bodily and affective practices can perform and therefore, engender new political subjectivities and practices.
As part of my preliminary dissertation research, this paper explores Lefebvre’s Nietzschean influences to suggest how certain “right to the city” practices, such as community gardens and other examples of DIY Urbanism, may indicate a “politics of becoming” as opposed to Soja’s “spatial justice”. In so doing, this paper will discuss the planning implications of these practices including how to address competing “rights to the city” and the inevitable struggles over geography that not only exist between oppressed communities and the state and/or capital, but rather as a result of the overlapping and more often, competing desires of individuals. As such, I suggest that Gibson-Graham’s discussion of Foucaultian ethical practices may prove helpful to communicative and post-structural planning practices aimed at empowering marginalized individuals and communities.


1. Gibson-Graham, J. K. (2006). A postcapitalist politics. Minneapolis: Univ Of Minnesota Press.

2. Lefebvre, H. (2003). Writings on cities. E. Kofman & E. Lebas, (Eds.). Oxford: Blackwell.

3. Merrifield, A. (1995). Lefebvre, anti‐logos and Nietzsche: An alternative reading of the production of space.
Antipode, 27 (3), 294–303.

4. Purcell, M. (2002). Excavating Lefebvre: The right to the city and its urban politics of the inhabitant.
GeoJournal, 58 (2/3), 99–108.

5. Soja, E. W. (2010). Seeking spatial justice. Minneapolis: Univ of Minnesota Press.


LAKE, Robert [Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey] rlake@rci.rutgers.edu

Considerations of justice have moved to a central place in planning theory following Susan Fainstein’s (2010) eloquent plea to elevate justice as the principal criterion for the evaluation of planning practice. In Fainstein’s principled and impassioned view, justice trumps other considerations such as economic efficiency or competitiveness as the desired outcome of planning practice. Justice is the object that planning practice should be oriented to achieve. Considered as the object of planning, justice names a widely accepted consensus on universal values (democracy, equity, and diversity in Fainstein’s formulation) to employ as standards for evaluating practice. On this understanding, while justice provides a criterion for planning evaluation, specification of its requirements occurs outside of the planning process.

In this paper, I explore the implications for planning theory and practice of making justice the subject rather than the object of planning. This reformulation places justice at the center rather than the outcome of practice. Of concern, in this view, is planning as the practice of justice rather than the justice of planning practice. Rather than assessing the outcome of practice against an independent universal standard of justice, an explicit consideration of justice becomes a central element of planning practice. In Flyvbjerg’s (2001) terms, value rationality replaces instrumental rationality at the center of planning practice, transcending the distinction between means and ends and taking seriously Dewey’s claim (1927/1954) that all knowledge is moral. Making justice the subject of planning is not simply to refocus on planning process over planning outcomes, although process is certainly at stake in such a reformulation. It is to place the explicit deliberation over justice on an equal level with the specification of planning practice within the planning process. Doing so alters the temporality of justice claims within the planning process, from an ex post facto evaluative standard of planning outcomes to a preemptive requirement in the design and enactment of planning practice. Doing so also expands the scope of deliberative democratic planning from the short-term specificity of narrowly construed planning “problems” to a multigenerational process of constructing a political culture in which the meaning and substance of justice attains the status of collectively accepted agreement. On this approach, apparently foundational principles of justice are simply (but more defensibly) understood as the generally accepted articulation of collectively adopted values worked out through reflexive practice over time (Rorty 1979).

In the second half of the paper, I review examples of planning practice that illustrate the experience and the potential of situating justice as the subject of planning. These are cases in which considerations of justice, i.e., an explicit discussion of values, govern the design of the planning process and the substance of discussion. Such examples illuminate both the promise and the challenges of elevating justice to the center of the planning process.


1. Dewey, John. 1927/1954. The Public and Its Problems. Athens, OH: Ohio University Press.

2. Fainstein, Susan. 2010. The Just City. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.

3. Flyvbjerg, Bent. 2001. Making Social Science Matter: Why Social Inquiry Fails and How It Can Succeed
Again. NY: Cambridge University Press.

4. Rorty, Richard. 1979. Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. 5. Westbrook, Robert. 2005. Democratic Hope: Pragmatism and the Politics of Truth. Ithaca, NY: Cornell
University Press.