Call for Papers and Panelists

28th Sep 2017

The public wealth of cities and regions?

Draft Call for Papers and Panelists

American Association of Geographers Annual Meeting 2018

New Orleans, USA, 10-14 April 2018



Peter O’Brien and Andy Pike (Centre for Urban and Regional Development Studies (CURDS), Newcastle University) Andrew Cumbers (University of Glasgow)



Economic Geography Specialty Group



Amidst continued fiscal crisis and austerity and efforts to stimulate growth, address major societal challenges and expand public service reform, national and local government actors are being compelled into considering how best to manage public assets. A series of variegated institutional arrangements of public ownership are emerging in different places and at different geographical scales, seeking to reform the use, management and ownership of public assets – particularly land, property and infrastructure. Against growing concerns about the ‘under-utilisation’ of public assets deemed ‘surplus’, an ongoing fiscal squeeze and exhortations to become more ‘business-like’ and ‘commercial’, sub-national and local governments are developing new forms of public ownership and agency in the search for new assets and sources of financial revenue and capital.


As yet, the socially and spatially uneven unfolding of these new concerns with public assets by national and local states has received limited attention. Definitional, conceptual and theoretical issues bedevil our understanding of public assets. The conventional economic frameworks of value and valuation are being troubled by social and environmental claims and dimensions. Yet, public assets are also being subject to financialisation and new financial instruments and practices.


Political-economic debate and deliberation about public assets and the role of the state are intensifying. With some interests bemoaning the “phony war” (Detter and Fölster 2015) between public ownership and privatization, calling for the improvement of “the quality of public asset governance” via “professional wealth managers working with a measure of political independence in national wealth funds” (2015: 1, 7), and calling for the creation of new institutional vehicles at arms-length from central national and city/regional governments in ‘Urban’ or ‘Regional Wealth Funds’. While other interests are questioning public asset sell-offs due to their risk of net losses to the taxpayer and loss of future long term revenues, and arguing for the regional and local state as a legitimate and efficient owner and manager of public assets.


These sessions seek to convene researchers engaged in conceptual, theoretical, empirical and policy work in this area to address these and other issues relating to the public wealth of cities and regions internationally.


 We very much welcome abstracts which connect to one of more the following themes, in addition to those that may address other, related themes:


·      Defining and conceptualizing public assets

·      Conceptualising and theorizing the role of the state in relation to public assets

·      The financialisation of public assets

·      Value and the valuation of public assets

·      The rise of ‘commercial councils’ and new forms of municipal entrepreneurialism

·      New and existing models, institutions, strategies and governance arrangements for public asset ownership and management

·      The politics of public assets and contestation of privatization and reform

·      Public assets and urban and regional policy


 Papers and panel contributions

The aim is to organize several sessions for papers, depending on the quality and quantity of submissions, and a panel discussion session. Please email ideas for papers with a 250 word abstract and/or panel contributions with a 100 word outline to Peter O’Brien (peter.o’[email protected]), Andy Pike ([email protected]) and Andrew Cumbers ([email protected]>) by 6 October 2017.



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