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Durham University

Department of Geography

Staff Profile

Publication details for Dr Hanna Ruszczyk

Ruszczyk, Hanna A. & Price, Martin Aspirations in grey space: Neighbourhood governance in Nepal and Jordan. Area. 2020;52:156-163.

Author(s) from Durham


The discipline of geography struggles to engage with urban futures on terms that are meaningful to the world's urban majority. This paper reflects the need to open up empirically grounded dialogue on aspirations and their complex connections to perceptions of possibility and temporality. Drawing on research carried out in two medium‐sized cities overlooked by research (Bharatpur, Nepal; Zarqa, Jordan), this paper speaks back to contemporary discourse surrounding urban life and futurity. These two projects explore aspirations located within people's everyday attempts to secure urban presents and carve out spaces for the immediate future within the realm of their control. Urban futures, it is argued, need to be imagined from the perspective of the communities experiencing the complexities and uncertainties of the urban present first‐hand, and who tailor their aspirations and expectations accordingly. In both Bharatpur and Zarqa, “grey space” proves successful in framing the roles of influence, control, and management of power in determining possibility. In Bharatpur, residents learned that only by working together in neighbourhood groups could they begin to influence the local authority to provide certain aspects of physical infrastructure – the paved roads that residents had particularly hoped for. In Zarqa, residents turn to a variety of formal channels – political and developmental – in their attempts to reverse locally manifesting urban decay and provide much‐needed green spaces for the local community. In both contexts, these local, collectively‐held aspirations are deeply linked to local perceptions of possibility, which in turn are a direct result of governance structures seeking to maintain particular urban relations and to control the pace and space of urban development.