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Projections 14: Call for Papers

Projections: 14: New Uses for Old Rivers: Rediscovering Urban Waterways

MIT Press / Call for Papers

Editors: Andrea Beck and Isadora Cruxen

  • Abstract submission deadline: March 15th, 2018
  • Paper submission deadline: July 15th, 2018

The goods and ecosystem-based services provided by rivers have been indispensable for the emergence and development of many cities. The first urban civilizations arose on the floodplains of large rivers thousands of years ago. As documented by environmental historians and urban political ecologists, however, from the mid-eighteenth century onwards, urban rivers in much of the industrializing world served predominantly as shipping arteries, flood control channels, hydropower sources, and sinks for urban wastes in the quest for modernity and industrial growth. In the process of industrialization and urbanization, many rivers were being “pushed around” by planners and engineers, and many experienced morphological changes to such an extent that they came to resemble canals more than natural streams. Stretches of some urban rivers were even diverted into underground tunnels, paved, or filled, making them disappear entirely from the cityscape.

Deindustrialization, grassroots activism, and water quality regulations have done much to reverse the widespread decline of urban waterways since the environmental awakening of the 1960s and 70s. While many urban rivers remain heavily polluted today, especially in the rapidly industrializing parts of Asia, a growing number of rivers flowing through cities of the global north and south have been revitalized and restored to acceptable levels of environmental quality, turning them from concrete-lined eyesores into urban amenities and restorative, accessible “blue space.”

In this issue of Projections, we seek to explore the variety of “new uses for old rivers” that have emerged in conjunction with these transformations. Such river uses include, but are not limited to, recreational water-based activities (e.g., swimming and bathing, boating, paddling, surfing), food production, fishing, biodiversity cultivation, floating home construction, and cultural and artistic expressions. We invite papers that examine such uses and attendant processes of transformation, by addressing one or more of the following questions:

  • What are the driving forces behind the emergence of new river uses in cities? In what ways do these transformations revive or reinterpret historical use patterns?
  • What are relevant design, planning, or community organizing approaches for realizing accessible urban rivers and new water-based activities? Which approaches are most successful and why?
  • What roles do city governments, state and national governments, communities, and the private sector play in such initiatives?
  • What ecological, financial, legal, social, cultural, and political challenges and tensions arise in the process of repurposing and reviving urban rivers? What user conflicts occur, and how are they being addressed or resolved?
  • Who benefits from new river uses? What are the distributive effects of restoring access to rivers in cities, in terms of the overall economic, social, and ecological gains and losses, especially for low-income and minority populations?
  • How does direct access to and embodied engagement with blue space affect the physical and mental health of city residents?
  • How does the revitalization of urban rivers relate to larger processes of urban and regional development or to broader discourses on sustainable development? What are the implications of accessible rivers and new river uses for achieving sustainable and inclusive cities in the twenty-first century?

Papers will be juried through a blind peer-review process by an editorial board. We expect to publish this issue of Projections in late 2018/early 2019.  For more info and to download the complete call for papers, see https://dusp.mit.edu/department/projections

Editorial Board – Projections Vol. 14

  • Matthew Gandy (University of Cambridge)
  • Martin Knoll (University of Salzburg)
  • Claudia Pahl-Wostl (University of Osnabrück)
  • Dieter Schott (TU Darmstadt)
  • Erik Swyngedouw (University of Manchester)
  • Jim Wescoat (Massachusetts Institute of Technology)
  • Anne Taufen Wessells (University of Washington Tacoma)