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Accepted Paper:

The promise as a way of engaging ethnographically with probable urban futures  
Alexa Färber (University of Vienna)

Paper short abstract:

The promise is a performative gesture that allows to engage with ethnography’s futurity. I will question the techniques of the “elusive promise” of urban planning (Abram/Weskalnys 2013) and analyse effect of synchronising ethnographic research with the temporality of urban development’s promise.

Paper long abstract:

The promise is a performative gesture that contains empirical and conceptual aspects to engage with ethnography's futurity. Its particular temporal structure - relating an actual articulation to a probable future - relates to the question of the FAN-panel: How does ethnography interrogate the possible/probable - and thereby realise futures?

1. Unfolding the overlapping promises that are inscribed into an urban development site, I propose to analyse how the probable is articulated through the cultural form of the promise as a mode of futurity. The HafenCity Hamburg, Europe's largest urban development area, contains the promise of implementing urban life into the area of the former dockland area: work and dwelling shall intertwine, touristic infrastructures shall become local attractions while public and private universities would contribute to the liveliness of the not yet fully realised neighbourhood. Despite these promises are coming true, HafenCity is widely perceived as an office district, an empty and exclusive public space without any urban atmosphere.

I will question the techniques of this typically "elusive promise" of urban planning (Abram/Weskalnys 2013) from different angles based on an experimental photo-ethnographic workshop held in 2014, a commissioned ethnographic study for the development agency in 2015 and a follow-up study that has just been commissioned.

2. I will point out the conditions for ethnography to engage with these probable futures of (this part of) the city in analysing the expectations attributed to ethnography in this context. I will further analyse the effect of synchronising ethnographic research with the temporal structure of urban development's promise.

Panel P070
Possible/plausible/probable/preferable: concepts and techniques for realising futures [FAN]
  Session 1