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Astrid Wood

Building upon the debates around travelling policy and the precipitous imitation of bus rapid transit (BRT), this chapter unravels the multiple and overlapping roles global intermediaries perform in the circulation of knowledge. The chapter takes a multi-disciplinary perspective on intermediaries presenting the plurality of viewpoints from political science, communications, science and technology studies and geography. It then applies these understandings to the case of BRT to understand the business of global intermediaries in the promotion of BRT. The chapter discusses how these global intermediaries create and sustain a process whereby learning is deliberate and methodical but never-ending and unhurried. Such analyses contribute to a more critical understanding of BRT by situating it within a wider process of peripatetic policymaking and politics, and in so doing, explains why certain transport paradigms are elevated and esteemed while others are snubbed.

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Astrid Wood

The global reproduction of bus rapid transit (BRT) – a rapid mode of urban public transport that promises the high quality and speed of a rail system alongside the operating flexibility and low cost of a bus network – has been tremendous in recent years, and with dozens of new systems launched annually, it is one of the key urban policy models of the twenty-first century. While this impressive growth can be attributed to the achievements of its physical features and the services it provides, this chapter reflects on the replication of BRT worldwide, and specifically in 13 South African cities, to reinterpret the materiality and immateriality of policy models. The chapter redefines the BRT policy model as a power-laden product of transport provision, a policy of transit-oriented development and devolution and a symbolic, experiential and political practice. The nomenclature of ‘BRT’ encompasses both the material features of the bus and the stations as well as the immaterial features of policy and policymaking. These arguments employ the literature on policy mobilities to explain that BRT is more than just an imitation of the red busways in Bogotá but a story of comprehensive, locally driven change.

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Tom Baker, Mauricio I. Dussauge-Laguna, Roosa Jolkkonen, Olga Löblová, Pauline McGuirk, Sergio Montero, Michelle Morais de Sá e Silva, Alexandru Rusu, Titilayo Soremi, Jennifer Spence, Christopher Walker and Astrid Wood

Like philosophy, the study of policy circulation has become pluralistic and we too are faced with the question of how best to respond to such pluralism. This chapter, and the book it summarises along the way, offers one way forward. First, the chapter discusses a range of possibilities open to scholars of policy circulation in grappling with the plurality of their research field. Inspired by recent discussions in other heterodox fields of social scientific research, we argue that, to date, policy circulation studies have often been fragmented under the labels of policy diffusion, transfer, learning or mobilities. This exemplifies a form of ‘fragmenting pluralism’ that falls short of proper dialogic interaction across different research traditions and disciplines (Dolowitz and Marsh, 2012; McCann and Ward, 2012) and, indeed, often becomes an obstacle to advance knowledge on the what, how and why of policy circulation (Dussauge-Laguna, 2012; Cook, 2015). Following Bernstein (1989), we suggest that consciously embarking on a collegiate project of ‘engaged pluralism’ offers one route to a trans-disciplinary, not simply multi-disciplinary, research endeavour. Second, the chapter discusses the practices involved in creating the ‘trading zones’ (Barnes and Sheppard, 2010) through which engaged pluralism might take root in policy circulation studies, including a commitment to intellectual openness, the creation of venues for dialogue, and the (de/re)construction of coordinating concepts. We recount the circumstances involved in the creation of this book as a humble, and in many ways accidental, example of such practices.