The world is changing so rapidly that today’s issues caused by climate change, social media, racism, gentrification, and the pandemic are radically different to those of the twentieth century. As the change progresses, rendering extant intellectual frameworks obsolete, much faster than one would expect, planning and design have lost their “proactive” capability. Yet, the change also precipitates new opportunities for planning and design to influence the overall outcomes of the transformation. The talk explores this opportunity. Inviting planners and designers to lead this change, Professor Nihal Perera will map out some key potentials and limitations to such an effort. The biggest issue we face today is the inapplicability of old frameworks in the new world. Also, no formulas work in a changing environment. Hence, intellectual agility is a must and learning by doing is the biggest weapon. Drawing attention to how Asians produce their contemporary urban practices, spaces, and identities, Perera will argue that (1) the vast terrain of ordinary actors and spaces which are currently left out of professional and intellectual consideration should be reflected in academic debates, policy decisions, and professional practice and (2) the local thinking processes that constitute these spaces, including the worldviews they employ, ought to be acknowledged, enabled, critiqued, and utilized. The aim of the talk is to expand room for multiple understandings of Asian cities from Asian standpoints, especially acknowledging how Asians observe, interpret, understand, and create their own space for everyday activities and cultural practices.
Nihal Perera, PhD, is Professor of Urban Planning at Ball State University (USA) and the founder and director of CapAsia, immersive-semester in Asia. The two-time Fulbright Scholar (China and Myanmar) was also Senior Research Fellow at the National University of Singapore, at KMITL (Thailand), and the University of Alberta (Canada). A primary contributor to the field of “postcolonial urban studies,” and leading scholar of Colombo, his research investigates how ordinary people produce (lived) spaces for their daily activities and cultural practices. He has written articles on gender, race, planning, Chandigarh, Dharavi, Yangon, and Gary (USA) and his books include Decolonizing Ceylon, Transforming Asian Cities, and People’s Spaces.