Abstract: From fights against racism to women’s inclusion, from access to education to integration of migrants: “Inclusion” and the “inclusive city” have been used in many ways and at different scales, running the risk of becoming a kind of catchall. Following increasing use by public authorities, media, and urban professionals, the inclusive city now serves as a normative framework for urban development. Although it is aimed at social cohesion, one nevertheless wonders whether it has not become more of a buzzword that obfuscates the reproduction of power relations. Moreover, while being somehow mainstreamed into institutional discourses, the inclusive city has been quite overlooked so far by academics, and an effort is needed to clarify its conceptualisation and democratic potential. This article provides a theoretical and critical perspective on how the concept of inclusion is used in urban public policies in relation to gender, by examining the public these policies address. Using a multiscalar analysis and drawing on Warner’s framework of publics and counterpublics, I examine more specifically which public is targeted in inclusive policies, concerning gender and sexualities, and how this participates in the reshaping of (urban) citizenship and sense of belonging, as well as the implications this has for social justice. Thus, I argue that while the inclusive city has become a normative idiom imbued with the neoliberal grammar of public politics, it also offers a paradoxical framework of democratic cohesion that promotes consumption‐based equality. A focus on (counter)publics serves to highlight the need for a more queerly engaged planning practice—one that draws on insurgent grassroots movements—to seek to destabilise neoliberalism’s attempt at pacification in its use of inclusion and citizen participation.
Keywords: feminism; gender equality; inclusion; LGBTQ+ rights; participatory planning; public space; queer critique; social justice