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Making the Invisible Visible

A Multicultural Planning History

Leonie Sandercock (Editor)

Available worldwide
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Paperback, 268 pages
ISBN: 9780520207356
February 1998
$31.95, £23.95
The history of planning is much more, according to these authors, than the recorded progress of planning as a discipline and a profession. These essays counter the mainstream narrative of rational, scientific development with alternative histories that reveal hitherto invisible planning practices and agendas. While the official story of planning celebrates the state and its traditions of city building and regional development, these stories focus on previously unacknowledged actors and the noir side of planning.

Through a variety of critical lenses—feminist, postmodern, and postcolonial—the essays examine a broad range of histories relevant to the preservation and planning professions. Some contributors uncover indigenous planning traditions that have been erased from the record: African American and Native American traditions, for example. Other contributors explore new themes: themes of gendered spaces and racist practices, of planning as an ordering tool, a kind of spatial police, of "bodies, cities, and social order" (influenced by Foucault, Lefebvre, and others), and of resistance.

This scrutiny of the class, race, gender, ethnic, or ideological biases of ideas and practices inherent in the notion of planning as a modernist social technology clearly points to the inadequacy of modernist planning histories. Making the Invisible Visible redefines planning as the regulation of the physicality, sociality, and spatiality of the city. Its histories provide the foundation of a new, alternative planning paradigm for the multicultural cities of the future.
Leonie Sandercock is Professor of Human Settlements and Head of the Department of Landscape, Environment, and Planning at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology in Australia.
"I think this will be a fundamental and widely used text in planning schools and planning courses and will also be of major interest to students and workers in sociology and urban studies. Further, a number of the articles are real contributions in other fields: feminist theory, gay and lesbian literature, United States history, historiography, black and minority studies."—Peter Marcuse, Columbia University
This collection re-presents planning history. It begins with an exposé of the "official story"--the heroic tale of the modernist planning project. In this view, planning is the voice of reason in modern society, the carrier of the Enlightenment mission of material progress through scientific rationality. The modernist story tells of planning by and through the state, as part of a tradition of city-building and nation-building. Its themes are well worn: the rise of the profession, its key thinkers and thoughts, its institutionalization, its achievements and frustrations. Modernist planning histories have assumed that planning is a progressive practice, rather than scrutinizing the class, race, gender, or ethnic biases of planning ideas and practices. This collection adopts a range of critical and theoretical lenses--feminist, postmodern, and postcolonial--through which to re-present planning's histories. In so doing it makes hitherto invisible practices and agendas of exclusion visible. The book focuses on two areas of exclusion: planning's noir history and its insurgent history.

The most conspicuous omission from the official story of "the rise of planning" is the absence of all but white professional males on the historical stage. Where are women? Where are African Americans; Native Americans; Mexican, Japanese, and Chinese Americans? Where are they both as subjects, doing planning, and as objects, on the receiving end? The book advances explanations for their erasure from history.

There is also the untold story of planning's role as spatial "policeman." The exclusionary zoning against nineteenth-century Chinese immigrants; the restrictive covenants against Mexicans, Jews, and blacks in the first half of the twentieth century; the "planned reservations" for Native Americans and the internment camps for Japanese Americans; the many regulations preventing gays and lesbians from openly occupying and using certain spaces and places--all reveal the need for a broader reinterpretation of the work of planning as the restriction and control of certain bodies in space: those of women, racial minorities, the poor, indigenous peoples.

If we define planning as not only city-building, but also community-building, then we invite a more inclusive set of narratives of "planning from below," often against the state. These narratives include African American, Latino, and Asian American communities, who have all responded to their exclusion from mainstream planning by developing counter- (or insurgent) planning traditions involving self-help, community solidarity, and community organizing for socioeconomic development. Each of these stories demonstrates the ordinary people's ability to plan on their own behalf despite, or perhaps because of, the forces of exclusion, marginalization, and discrimination that have characterized professional planning practice since its inception. Most of the book's essays focus on the United States, but the themes are relevant to the global need for revisionist planning histories.

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