Albeit with misgivings : applying actor network theory to the contested case of the South Lawrence Trafficway
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This paper analyzes a contentious road-building project by elucidating the different values involved and articulated in the decision-making process, delineating the various networks of institutions, individuals, organizations and materials formed around these values, and describing the outcome of the conflict as a function of the interactions between and among these networks. The project in question is the South Lawrence Trafficway, a section of Kansas Highway 10 (K-10) intended to route traffic south around the City of Lawrence, as opposed to its current alignment through the local streets of the city. This particular project has been contested for decades, primarily because of the historical, cultural and environmental values placed on the land through which the road is routed, known as the Wakarusa Wetlands, Baker Wetlands, or Haskell/Baker Wetlands. The analysis focuses on moments of value articulation- critical points during the conflict during which actors and networks of actors express their values with the intent of affecting the outcome of the decision. This paper’s analysis of the conflict draws on Henrik Ernstson’s framework for studying environmental justice and ecological complexity in urban landscapes, along with research on place meaning and desired outcomes for land-use decisions and natural resources planning efforts. The report will examine the decision-making process behind the proposal and approval of the South Lawrence Trafficway, taking into consideration the various institutional and individual actors (and networks of actors) involved, the positions, motivations and strategies of these actors, and the documents used in arguments for either side (maps, documents, court decisions, reports, etc.). The paper begins with an introduction, which includes a condensed summary and chronology of the South Lawrence Trafficway project. Literature review and research design sections follow. The next chapter discusses the actors, networks, values and materials involved in the conflict, as well as the legislative and institutional context within which the conflict occurs. The paper concludes with a summary of findings, and the proposal of future research questions.