Looking to the future, Balkan cities today move away from their pasts and strive to be world cities. We seek to elucidate the transformations of Balkan cities under the duress of neoliberal rebuilding projects and globalizing desires, as these cities get reincorporated into the new global landscape.
Once viewed as "Eastern Europe," Balkan countries now aspire to become part of "Europe" and try to enhance their images. Looking to the future, Balkan cities, similar to their counterparts elsewhere, strive to be world-class cities where great things happen, and simultaneously enable the re-imagination of the national. They undertake grand architectural and infra-structural projects, ranging from new roads and bridges, luxury residences, and low cost housing to monumental shopping malls and office towers. They desire to host mega events, such as design and fashion weeks, art and film festivals, and international sports meets. Ljubljana resembles one grand, open-air café. Istanbul boasts of its Biennale and Formula One. Sarajevo rebuilds its heritage sites. The Macedonian government plans to mount a statue of Alexander the Great in the center of Skopje. Sofia opens its doors to visitors from other EU countries. In this workshop, we aim to explore the processes that underlie Balkan cities' efforts to enter the new global landscape. Traversing diverse historical and contemporary settings, we seek to explicate the new practices, economy, and spatial distribution of urban life. Our animating concern is to elucidate the changes in the cultural and social topography of Balkan cities under the duress of neo-liberal rebuilding projects and globalizing desires, as these cities get incorporated, yet again, into the world culture and economy. While doing so, we will examine the voices and praxis of the institutional and individual actors involved, and treat the historically peculiar relationship between the Balkans and the West as a catalyst and resource for change.