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In the name of the future: rule-breaking in urban settings II 
Saša Poljak Istenič (ZRC SAZU)
Valentina Gulin Zrnic (Institute of Ethnology and Folklore Research)
Alexandra Schwell (University of Klagenfurt)
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Alexandra Schwell (University of Klagenfurt)
Urban Studies
Wednesday 23 June, 14:00-15:45 (UTC+3)

Short Abstract:

Cities set the rules of the contemporary world, but are also prone to interventions breaking them. While rule-breaking is considered a reaction to a past or present, the P+R seeks to discuss it as a future-directed action and potentially moral imperative in urban settings.

Long Abstract

Cities are central foci of power, hubs of creativity and innovation, and spaces of citizen participation. They set the rules of the contemporary world, but they are also prone to interventions breaking them. While rule-breaking is generally considered a reaction to a past or a present, the P+R seeks to discuss it as a future-directed action. Moreover, invoking a future may become a moral issue that empowers people to act for the greater good.

The panel focuses on practices of individual and collective urban life in which legal, unwritten, conventional, embodied, spatial, historical, or other rules are broken, contested, extended, or enacted in the name of the urban future. As the future is always elusive, contested, and multiple, questions arise on who acts, who speaks about which future, who breaks which laws and in whose name, and whose futures are at stake.

Specific topics include:

- urgencies that motivate people to act for the sake of the urban future;

- urban futures contesting the rules of mainstream politics, economy, lifestyles;

- imagination of the urban futures expressed at the demonstrations, civic participation, social experiments, art interventions;

- rules reproduced in practices enacting a better future;

- heritagization challenging dominant visions of urban future;

- breaking the rules of everyday habits contributing to a better collective future;

- and, finally, the impact of COVID-19 on urban futures.

The panel will end with the roundtable involving discussants and panel participants in a debate on how to research urban futures.

Accepted papers:


Valentina Gulin Zrnic (Institute of Ethnology and Folklore Research)
Saša Poljak Istenič (ZRC SAZU)

Paper short abstract:

What are the rules for particular urban futures? Who are the actors that set them out? How are they negotiated? These questions will be discussed comparatively from the perspective of strategic plans and visions, using urban gardening in Zagreb and Ljubljana as case-study for argumentation.

Paper long abstract:

The paper focuses on two capitals on the margins of the European Union, Zagreb and Ljubljana, with common history: they were provincial centres in the Habsburg/Austro-Hungarian Empire, regional (republic) capitals in socialist Yugoslavia, and have become national capitals at the beginning of the 1990s. However, do they also share the same vision of the future? We will discuss it with regard to urban gardening, which has been a contested issue in both cities since the turn of the century. Originally stemming from grassroots initiatives, it has become implemented into official urban documents and actions but with various outcomes in terms of positioning such practices for urban futures. Ethnographic cases and discursive study will serve for comparative analysis of the dynamic and complex relationship between top-down and bottom-up ideas about particular urban future. Questioning the rules for cities’ future, actors that set them out, and negotiations taking place, we argue that the difference in cities’ visions come out not only from having (or not having) a long-term vision directing urban development but also from potential integration of interventions which break the rules of formal and strategic planning and embody their future-making into official vision.


Anna Horolets (University of Warsaw)
Dorota Rancew-Sikora (University of Gdansk)
Joanna Krukowska (University of Gdansk)

Paper short abstract:

Community gardens are part of planning resilient cities of the future. In Poland, they fall outside of the well-known scenarios of modernization. We will present how the new rules of approaching work/leisure, property and environment are negotiated by working the land in community gardens.

Paper long abstract:

Community gardens have started emerging in many Polish cities as a part of a wider Europe-wide trend towards more sustainable and resilient societies. Community gardens are the new sites of urban gardening run and imagined differently than allotment gardens, which have long been a familiar feature of Central and Eastern Europe urban socio-economic and natural landscape. Community gardens are novel and future-oriented, and the new ideas of work/leisure, property and environment are a part of their design. The trend towards creating cities of the future stems from the notion of a green city as well as from the vision of the commons as an alternative to private and public property. The economy of sharing and tuning to environmental needs are both inscribed in the hopeful scenarios of the urban future.

In the proposed paper, we rely on the ethnographic study conducted in over a dozen community gardens in large Polish cities in 2019. We aim to investigate how the rules of working the land and sharing the fruits of this work are negotiated in newly developed community gardens. We will describe which rules are adhered to and which rules are broken by actual gardeners and managers of the gardens, and offer interpretations as to why this is the case. The second aim is to look at community gardens in the broader context of Poland’s socialist past and capitalist present, and to discuss the possibility of breaking-up with well-established scenarios of modernization in search of new solutions to contemporary environmental problems.


Ana-Marija Vukušić (Institute of Ethnology and Folklore Research)
Melanija Belaj (Institute of Ethnology and Folklore Research)

Paper short abstract:

In this paper, we will focus on selected dimensions of food supply in Zagreb during the epidemic of COVID-19. We will pay special attention to the consequences of the closure of city food markets, as well as to the alternative forms of assistance regarding food supply of vulnerable social groups.

Paper long abstract:

In this paper, we will focus on selected dimensions of food supply in Zagreb during the epidemic of COVID-19. Starting from the understanding of markets as a public space and one of the focal points of citizens’ daily rhythm, we will highlight some aspects of food markets’ "life" during the lockdown in Croatia. The closure of markets has made people aware of the importance of local food production and distribution, i.e. its availability, especially to the marginalized groups. The devastating earthquake that hit Zagreb during the lockdown had a strong impact on the daily lives of the city's residents and thus on the food supply. The consequences of lockdown and earthquake had a particular influence on marginalized social groups (e.g. homeless and very poor citizens), for whom markets, as a highly inclusive social space, also serve as a place to meet some of the basic needs.

By analysing the public (media) discourse that followed the changes in the status of food markets we tried to find out how the users, producers, suppliers, and sellers of Zagreb markets experienced and survived this interruption. Some of the questions we’ll raise in this paper are: What were the food supply strategies in such a situation? How did food producers cope with demands spawned by this crisis? What alternative forms of assistance to vulnerable social groups in the city of Zagreb has the current crisis produced? Do any of these spontaneously and crisis-driven mechanisms have the potential for future improvement of urban life?