Debating ‘Development’ in Economic Geography: Alternative Conceptualisations and Different Perspectives from around the Globe

Compounding challenges such as global warming, loss of biodiversity, rising inequalities, and the rise of populism, lay bare the inadequacy of economistic approaches to development. However, growth remains at the core of the mainstream development agenda (Bhattacharya & Stern, 2021; Cárdenas & Guzmán, 2020), even though the need to include environmental and social sustainability concerns in development thinking has been recognised for decades (Brundtland, 1987; Steffen et al., 2015).

Rethinking development poses challenges for the practice and foundations of economic geography (Gibson-Graham, 2020). Post-development approaches (Gudynas, 2017), the Well-being Agenda and debates about going ‘beyond GDP’ (Howard & Chambers, 2016; Stiglitz et al., 2018; Tomaney, 2017) have contributed to conceptualising and practicing (local and regional) development in new ways. Diverse and alternative ways to understand socio-economic spaces, such as diverse economies (Gibson-Graham, 2008) or the foundational economy (Foundational Economy Collective, 2020) have been gaining traction, yet they still remain in the fringes of economic geography research. Furthermore, perspectives on development in the Global North remain by and large separated from discussions on development in the Global South (Murphy, 2008; Pike et al., 2014). Indeed, one could argue that postcolonialism has not really been embraced within economic geography (Cox & Evenhuis, 2020). Dominant views about what constitutes development (and lack thereof) continue to hold sway at the expense of alternative conceptions based on the theorizations and experiences in places outside the core cities and regions in North America and Western Europe (Pollard et al., 2009; Hassink et al., 2019).

With this special session we aim to further the debates on ‘development’ within economic geography, by facilitating an exchange between various alternative conceptualisations and theorisations. We are looking forward to receiving proposals that discuss, for example (but not limited to):