Understanding the Marginalisation of Race Equality in UK Planning

Understanding the Marginalisation
of Race Equality in UK Planning :
assessing the promise of Critical
Race Theory.
Richard Gale and Huw Thomas
School of Planning and Geography,
Cardiff University
Planning and planners in a racialised
A familiar tale :
- For over 50 years, the changing demography and
associated settlement patterns of UK viewed as a
spatial/planning problem.
- History of urban policy initiatives, but if things
have changed, sometimes for the better, not
obviously as a consequence of these
- Meanwhile, the profession/system persists in not
seeing the connection between planning and race
Why such little progress in connecting
planning to race equality ?
Explanations proffered:
- Nature of professional/admin understandings
(eg Beebeejaun, 2004; Ellis, 2001; Thomas,
2000; and especially Reeves, 2005)
- Political context/history (eg Beebeejaun,2012;
Ellis, 2001;Thomas, 2000)
- Planning rarely central to politics of race and
immediate concerns of BME communities
(Thomas, 2000)
All of these approaches imply that with
mobilisation and appropriate strategy ,
something can be done (cf Fincher and
Iverson, 2007; Sandercock, 1998)
But, how much, and in particular, can the
category of ‘race’ be dissolved, analytically
and politically.
A different approach
Yiftachel (2006) and Porter (2010) suggest a different
framework for understanding these matters.
Within this, a racialised planning is central to the
politico-economic project of exploitation and
appropriation within a given territory.
[Sandercock (1998) influenced by some of same lit, but
her examples collapse into lack of prof awareness etc..]
Yiftachel and Porter both avowedly deal with distinctive
circumstances. Where does that leave the UK? Might
CRT offer insights?
Critical Race Theory
• See –eg – Delgado and Stefancic (2012), Goldberg
(2001) and West et al (1995)
• At first sight, not especially promising : developed
in the very distinctive post-slavery context of the
USA, and in relation to law. But since applied in
other policy areas, and in UK.
• Makes claim about the way racial categories are
formed in practices integral to Modern (postEnlightenment), Western (capitalist) societies.
In that sense, asks that race be understood in
the way Sandercock (1998,15) suggests
gender may be :
‘gender becomes as fundamental to our
analysis of the social order as...class, and we
regard the relation of the sexes, just as those
of class, as socially rather than naturally
This is plausible
Class, gender, physical capacity and race have
been used singly and together as measures of
moral and economic worth for centuries (eg the
‘working classes’ were typically viewed as a
different race by aristocrats for centuries)
We have been taught that gendered, racialised
etc bodies are the subjects of social ordering
Why might we expect this to be the
case ? A sketch of one possibility
In UK, racial thinking tied to justifying and
explaining empire/colonialism and its
aftermath (including contemporary global
Except perhaps for relations involving Irish,
Jews and Gypsies , racial thinking wasn’t a
spoken/conscious reality for many years for
majority of population
Changed with post -1945 immigration
But, with exception of Gypsies, racial thinking not often directly required to
facilitate goals of planning and development. But a lived reality (as framing
category) in day to day British life, including planning.
Occasionally, consciousness of racism arises :
- When state planning might be direct agent of renewal
- When planning persistently foiled distinctive needs of a racialised group
(eg places of worship)
Significant, too, is the fact that planning is framed by law, is largely
concerned with managing land markets and is democratically controlled.
In liberal democratic polities, the law, the market and the political
processes are all characterised by formal individual equality between
ostensibly abstract disembodied individuals.
In these circumstances, how might we expect
planners and planning to encounter and frame
‘race’ ?
- As an intrusion into the formal (ideological)
equality of all its key processes
- Yet as a lived reality for many who come into
contact with it
- Increasingly, as a reality involving social relations
within the planning system as proportion of nonwhite people in the population grows.
In these circumstances, planners – and planning –
will be baffled by the concerns of proponents of
race equality – after all, formal equality holds
While those proponents will become increasingly
frustrated by the blindness of planning and
planners to the systemic injustice which they
experience, not necessarily (only) in planning
What can be done?
• Challenging stereotypes and institutional
cultures is very important. But :
• Central to securing fundamental progress is
challenging the formal equality at the heart of
law, market, and polity. The abstract individual
of liberal democracy needs to be confronted
theoretically and practically.
Beebeejaun, Y 2004 What’s in a nation? Constructing ethnicity
in the British planning system Planning Theory and Practice
5(4), 437 -451
Beebeejaun, Y 2012 Including the Excuded ? Changing the
Understandings of Ethnicity in Contemporary English
Planning? Planning Theory and Practice 13 (4), 529 -548
Delgado, R and Stefancic, J 2012 Critical Race Theory – an
Introduction New York, New York University Press
Ellis, G 2001 The Difference Context Makes : Planning and
Ethnic Minorities in Northern Ireland European Planning
Studies 993), 339 - 358
Fincher, R and Iverson, K 2008 Planning and Diversity in the
City Basingstoke, Palgrave Macmillan
Goldberg, D T 2001 The Racial State Oxford, Wiley-Blackwell
Porter, L 2010 Unlearning the Colonial Cultures of Planning
Farnham, Ashgate
Reeves, D 2005 Planning for Diversity Abingdon, Routledge
Sandercock, L 1998 Framing Insurgent Historiography for
Planning , in Sandercock, L ed Making the Invisible Visible
London, Univeristy of California Press
Thomas, H 2000 Race and Planning. The UK experience
London, UCL Press
West, C et al 1995 Critical Race Theory : The Key writings that
formed the movement New York, The New Press
Yiftachel, O 2006 Ethnocracy Philadelphia, University of
Pennsylvania Press