Encountering the Unfamiliar in International Studies in Planning

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The opportunities of internationalised planning curricula are manifold. For students this includes scope to expand their horizons for planning careers and to develop more reflective understandings of planning issues in their ‘home’ environment (Yigitcanlar, 2013). For educators, it provides a fertile environment for exploring cross-cultural encounter, a space to investigate varied planning traditions, and to situate examples for teaching. Within planning education, professional and academic discourse offers a way for students from diverse backgrounds to communicate and conceptualise field studies within a common (universal) understanding of traditions of planning practice and public policy solutions, but also to consider those contingent on place and culture (Healey, 2012). The ethical and political implications of working internationally can, however, be masked within the seeming familiarity of planning language, concepts and techniques. Planning is inherently political and contextual, yet the explicit dilemmas of the political and economic setting can appear hidden during a field project where the apparently universal notions of effective spatial planning are central to the dialogue amongst a diverse student group. Using the example of four joint field/project visits (2010-2014) involving Australian and Sri Lankan planning students in tsunami and conflict affected areas of Sri Lanka, this paper draws on student reflections and observations to explore the explicit encounters with ethical dilemmas and political settings. It then considers the implications and transferability of these lessons for ethical reflection in planning practice within the home setting.
Book of proceedings: Annual AESOP Congress, Definite Space – Fuzzy Responsibility, Prague, 13-16th July, 2015
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