Abstract: A persistent challenge to deliver a socially just and ecologically sustainable development in the Global South is that legitimacy and effectiveness often hinge on the normalizing effect of international 'models' and 'standards' defined by the Global North. In cases such as Shanghai's latest urban sustainability programme, a fixation on excelling at 'global indicators' has led its promises of inclusive social progress astray. We argue this is not simply because Shanghai authorities didn't 'get' just sustainability, but highlights a more rooted subaltern anxiety that constrains their perceptions on how their programmes should be identified and delivered. Drawing on Bourdieu's theorisation of how social agency's 'logic of practice' is connected to their positions in the 'field', we investigate a shared epistemic deference among Shanghai experts and publics towards knowledge generated from the Global North. This has reproduced a marginalization of the subaltern public in the field of developing sustainable cities.
Keywords: just sustainability, urbanization, subaltern, field, Bourdieu, Shanghai
November 2020, Society and Natural Resources