SIEF2015 12th Congress: Zagreb, Croatia.
21-25 June 2015
Ethnographies of urban public spaces
Date and Start Time 23 June, 2015 at 10:30
Public space is a scene of urban everyday life and an arena of/for various discourses and interactions. The panel focuses on ethnographies of public space and marginal groups, space and current urban trends as well as on global and local initiatives negotiating the politics of public space.
Public space is the scene of urban everyday life. It is also an arena of/for urban conflicts illuminating social, cultural, economic and political tensions of contemporary world. The public space has been specifically threatened by the impact of neo-liberal economies. By the end of the last century the very "end of public space" has been questioned while the beginning of this century has brought to the fore global and local trends that reclaim public spaces thus signifying a change from almost dystopian course of reality of public spaces (privatization, surveillance, control) to ideas and actions of almost utopian inspiration (the right to the city, direct democracy, solidarity etc.).
We solicit urban ethnographies that focus on heterotopic and contested public spaces in terms of dialectics of discursive and actual, imagined and real, controlled and subverted, ordered and loose thus questioning underlying social and cultural flows of current cities and societies. Presentations might focus on, but need not be limited to, public space and marginal groups (homeless people, migrants, etc.), space and current urban trends (urban gardening, bicycling etc.) as well as on case studies of global and local initiatives negotiating power relations and the politics of public space (The Right to the City, Occupy movement, Transition movement etc.). Broadly speaking, we would like to foster interdisciplinary discussion on potentials of contemporary urban life and politics to develop a participatory, just, as well as socially and environmentally sustainable city.
This panel is closed to new paper proposals.
An urban ethnography of power relations and the racialization of space
This paper examines a rich body of oral narratives co-created with African Americans that form an urban ethnography of the power relations inscribed on the landscape by racializing movement in space.
People of color in the United States have been obligated to move through public space in particular ways, dictated by law and social custom. Narrators create cognitive maps of movement in the city shaped by racial codes of behavior. The maps change over time as law and social custom changes. Narrators create the maps in relation to an imagined race neutral urban space. The fluidity of the maps is also influenced by status, gender, class, and skin tone. This paper examines a rich body of oral narratives co-created with African Americans from 2004 to the present focusing on how men and women narrate their concepts of racialized space. It moves from narratives about the larger landscape—the city—to smaller, more personal public places—the sidewalk, the café, the doctor's office—to intimate sites of contact in the public sphere. Many of the narratives describe complex flows of controlled movement dictated by racial boundaries in the context of capitalism. The narratives form an urban ethnography of the power relations inscribed on the landscape by racializing movement in space.
Narrative maps of danger as a means of subjective psychological protection
The focus of my paper is on narrative maps of danger in urban space. Some examples from the recent years will illustrate how such maps can be seen as examples of selective collecting and remembering of information and as triggers of specific protective behavior of people.
The focus of my paper is on narrative maps of danger in urban space. Based on oral narratives, narratives from the media and personal experiences, mental mapping of urban space takes place - some places are perceived as dangerous, others as safe, and specific behavior is chosen respectively. The aim of my paper is to show how danger caused by moving danger sources (criminals, insane people) is being fixed to certain locations so that the dangerousness of such persons is transferred to the places on the landscape. Such maps can be seen as examples of selective collecting, processing and remembering of information and as triggers of specific protective behavior of people. When comparing contemporary narrating and older belief narratives about mythological dangers, it becomes clear that there are similarities in the process of mental mapping in both cases; characteristic is a simplified, black-and-white way of representing information, the suggestion to avoid danger areas and instructions to behave "correctly" while in danger epicentre. It is noteworthy that subjectively perceived fears and places connected with them in urban space are often solely based on recurring narratives in the media (and not on the person's real-life experiences of dangerous situations), thus creating a certain media- and narrative-based imaginary world of danger and protection. I will illustrate my observations with some examples and their reflection in newspapers and their commentaries, internet forums and interviews.
"My kids aren't allowed to go there": parental perspectives on teenage spaces of leisure in a Copenhagen neighborhood
This paper explores how parents in a Copenhagen neighborhood perceive of their teenage children’s leisure activities in urban spaces such as shopping malls, the streets of the neighborhood, and voluntary associations.
Young people's movements in public space are often related to their generational positions. Whereas children's institutions or playgrounds are sites that are associated with children, public spaces such as streets or shopping malls are sites where teenagers may be left to roam on their own and thus be outside of adult control. In this way, places and activities can be deemed morally proper or improper. Yet, perceptions of what is a proper place may change across time or differ and be negotiated across relations of e.g. generation, social class, ethnicity, and gender.
This paper explores how parents in a Copenhagen neighborhood perceive of their teenage children's leisure activities in different urban spaces. More specifically, it investigates the different meanings and perceptions of sociality that parents attribute to sites such as shopping malls, the streets of the neighborhood, and voluntary associations. The paper shows how these spaces become associated with different norms for appropriate and non-appropriate behavior that is attributed not only to the young people, but also other parents. Due to the more or less valued kinds of sociality associated with different sites, a hierarchy of places evolves. In this way, studying young people's leisure activities in public spaces may also shed light on ideas about the good life for youth, perceptions of parenthood and how these norms and ideas interrelate with conceptualizations of space in the city.
Maps of anxiety or empowerment: undocumented migrant' leisurely use of public spaces
The paper focuses on how the status of Polish and Latino undocumented migrants in Midwestern US is interrelated with the way they use urban public space for leisure as well as how urban space is imagined by migrants and how race, gender and socio-economic status differentiates these images.
In the proposed paper we would like to pose a question of how undocumented migrant status is interrelated with the way migrants use and appreciate public spaces in cities in their free time.
The paper is based on the comparison between Latino and Polish undocumented migrants who use urban public spaces in Midwestern US for their leisure. The material was collected through observation and interviews conducted in 2010-2011 and in 2014, respectively. Specific character of the US migration regime as well as the differences in policies towards undocumented migrants between Chicago and Urbana-Champaign, the two research sites, form the background for our analysis. We will focus on the marginalizing and empowering qualities of public space use by the undocumented migrants. We aim to tackle the following questions: Which public spaces are considered by the undocumented migrants as dangerous or non-inviting and why? Which are considered attractive? What roles do race, gender and socio-economic status play in these perceptions? How city space is imagined by the migrants? Are there utopian or dystopian visions of city space specific for undocumented migrants?
Despite commonsensical perception of leisure as a domain of free will, it is much structured by legal, economic, social and cultural factors. The deprivation of leisure and dissatisfaction with one's leisure can be an impediment to migrants' well-being and affect their identity. We therefore aim to bring more attention to the importance of leisure in people's migration experience.
Gardening the city: appropriation of the common spaces and neigbourhooding in Bulgarian towns
The paper presents different discourses of construction the borders between public and private space in Bulgarian towns, researching the urban gardening and everyday practices in urban neighbourhood, inherited from the socialism.
The paper discusses the forms and mechanism of public-private division in the postcosialist Bulgarian towns and cities though the everyday practices of inhabiting and appropriation of the common spaces in the urban neighbourhoods in Bulgaria.
The anthropological research of the urban spaces includes a long term observation of the everyday practices in the city of socialism, the city in transition and the changed cities nowadays, following the line of the changing boundaries, distinction and expression of the public and private, common and individual.
The cases of particular interest in my research are the forms of transgression of the physical borders and social boundaries as well as establishing new, according to the changing identities, social hierarchies, power relations, forms of social solidarity and networking and investment in social capital.
The paper presents two cases of blurring borders and boundaries as two urban discourses - one of the city in transition (the city from below) and the other - the city after 2007 when Bulgaria joined the EU (the city from above). These cases are studied on the base of the everyday practices of urban gardening in common spaces - around blocs of flats, on the windowed balconies and small gardens in the city outskirts and, as urban management efforts in regulations and rules implementation.
Belgrade's public space and the ethics of the sound: the case of two 'parades'
I investigate events in the urban soundscape of Belgrade, analyzing how ‘resilient bodies’ can open avenues of dissent, windows through which the citizens can act as political subjects. I scrutinize two events that took place in Belgrade in autumn 2014: the Gay Pride and the military parade.
In this paper I will investigate events in the urban soundscape of Belgrade, analyzing how 'resilient bodies' - the carnal body which is irreducible to semiotic models, the residue which is not (or not yet) subjugated to mechanisms of discursive social control - can open avenues of dissent, windows through which the citizens can act as political subjects. I will particularly scrutinize two events that took place in Belgrade in autumn 2014: the Gay Pride and the military parade. The Pride provoked public discussion to what extent sexuality should be kept private and the street march itself turned into a sonic conflict between the crowd, the organizers (providing the official programme and even trying to silence the crowd), the state apparatus (which demonstrated its surveillance power with the helicopters flying over) and the Serbian Orthodox Church (which used the church bells to express its protest as the parade passed by). The military parade held just nineteenth days later, both to honor the anniversaries of two world wars and to mark the state visit of the Russian president Vladimir Putin, again opened the question on who has the right over the public/sonic space, as citizens had to cope with week-long rehearsals of the military aircrafts performance. I will analyze how modern political subjectivity arises in these ruptures challenging the system of cultural hegemony, particularly paying attention to instances where the public-private divide, as one of the most fundamental borders which structure everyday urbanity, is being sonically violated.
Pristina as a divided city
The paper negotiates the transformations in urban space of Pristina (Kosovo) in 1951-1971 and their ensuing aftermaths. The analysis shows how changes in cultural landscape contribute to creating and maintaining ideological discourses in different periods of the 20th and 21st centuries.
The paper is aimed at negotiating the transformations in urban space of Pristina (Kosovo) in 1951-1971 and their ensuing aftermaths. The main analysis is devoted to the changes in cultural landscape and their role in creating and maintaining ideological discourses in different periods of the 20th and 21st centuries. As a hypothesis I propose the idea that the large-scaled reorganization of the urban public space that took place in 1951-1971 resulted in cultural division of the city (opposition between Western and developed southern & central districts vs. Oriental and later on ruralized northern area of the city). Public and private spaces in the southern and central districts of Pristina were fully included in the process of Socialist urbanization where the main Yugoslav slogan "Brotherhood and Unity" was successively realized by means of architecture and urban planning. The newly built theater, library, university, stadium, sports-hall, schools, hospitals, department stores, etc. could be regarded as instruments of social control that functioned as synchronizers of public activity. At the same time, in the northern part of the city, which remained in many ways Oriental, such large-scale urban projects were never realized. Moreover, I claim that Pristina's divided nature has added to the ethnic tensions between Serbs and Albanians that led to the mass protest actions and war in Kosovo, as the northern districts were initially used as a reliable platform for parallel structures of education and health-care after 1990.
Reconstruction of Bosnian cities and the end of multicultural utopia
After the war in the 1990s Bosnian cities were largely destroyed, not only in material meaning. The urban space was subject to the process of change, motivated by the nationalist policy. Divided cities give the manifest example of interrelation between urban planning, politics, and cultural change.
After the war 1992-1995 Bosnian cities were largely destroyed, not only in the material meaning. The urban space was subject to the process of change, motivated mostly by the nationalist politics of local governments. Divided cities, like Sarajevo or Stolac, give the most manifest example of interrelation between urban planning, politics, and cultural change.
Urban space should be considered as a complex ecosystem of social relations and cultural environment. Reconstruction of the city has to be seen as an attempt to return social life into material form. Nationalist policy in today Bosnia tries to produce "pure" national space, Serbian, Croatian or Boshniak, and withdraw influence of other nation/culture. Urban space becomes this way the place of symbolic war, or the object of culturalist purification.
The paper takes into consideration urban planning as an instrument which helps to separate communities formerly living together, like Serbs and Boshniaks in Sarajevo, or Boshniaks and Croats in Stolac. Development of Sarajevo and East Sarajevo gives an example of how the urban planning can be used to intensify the difference between two neighboring communities. Stolac was also subject of symbolic war and symbolic change, where intervention in urban space can be treated as the expression of hegemony, in this case of Croatian nationalist policy. The impossible reconstruction of divided cities can be interpreted as the manifestation of the end of Bosnian multicultural utopia.
Citizenship, agency and urban spaces in a central Serbian town
The paper addresses reconfiguration of public spaces in an industrial town in central Serbia since the end of socialism. These reconfigurations result in conflicting imaginations of modernity, which, in turn, shape moralities and political subjectivities of people inhabiting an urban space.
The paper analyzes the ways in which public spaces were reconfigured since the end of socialism in Jagodina, a middle size industrial town in central Serbia. As opposed to most of provincial towns in Serbia and in wider region, Jagodina experienced extensive building within the last decade. It is seen as a success-story and a rare Serbian provincial town to have managed to develop economically in spite of challenging economic and political circumstances in the country. This extensive building significantly influences the nature and function of public spaces, producing conflicting imaginations of modernity. These conflicting modernities inscribed in public spaces, the paper argues, have important role in shaping citizenship, moralities and political subjectivities of people inhabiting an urban space.
Kotti & Co: taking a protest to the street
The paper deals with assets of using public space in the context of protest and struggle. I explore a Berlin based initiative called Kotti & Co and their use of public space for their protest against gentrification.
The so-called utopian potentials of urban public space are often seen as an arena for the representation and articulation of the needs of people with different social and ethnical backgrounds, as well as a space for encounter and communication between them. The aim of this paper is to suggest an answer to the question how these potentials are turned to account in the context of fighting for the right to stay put.
I will approach that question by exploring the activities in public space that were carried out by the initiative Kotti & Co in Berlin Kreuzberg. Being motivated by the need to fight against unaffordable housing and displacement in their neighbourhood, Kotti & Co started in May 2012. During a summer street fair, the locals managed to occupy part of a public square and to turn it into a permanent protest camp. Among other things, they built a little wooden hut called "Gecekondu". This name means "built overnight" and is a reference to illegally built houses in Turkish cities. From here, the activists visualise their protest, voice demands, and resist political strategies that try to assimilate them or to tire them out.
I argue that the initiative has created an important meeting place for people with different social, political and ethnical backgrounds, as well as a forum for a new and solidary form of public togetherness. These activities have strengthened Kotti & Co´s protest against gentrification.
Public writing, utopia and resistance in a new urban geography: examples from Gezi park
In this paper I will consider examples of urban public writing appeared during the Gezi Park of Istanbul in 2013 as a form of expression allowing the creation and circulation of utopian messages of resistance and the inclusion of a multiplicity of identities in the protest arena.
My paper aims at illustrating patterns of spatial and linguistic reappropriation and resignification in
the context of the Gezi park protests that took place in Istanbul during May and June 2013, focusing on some examples of urban public writing (graffiti as well as other forms) associated with expression of utopia and resistance.
I will argue that these public writings become part of a strategy of resistance as they "manipulate" and re-adapt the language in order to express messages that go beyond ordinary and superficial ones, in line with utopian ideals of change. Such written expressions contribute in creating further levels of idealistic signification by showing peculiar irony and criticism and are used as a crucial tool for the emerging of a multiplicity of identitites, among which some "marginal" ones such as the Kurdish, the Armenian, and the LGBT community's one.
It is remarkable that the utopian atmosphere of the park involves specific changes in temporal as well as spatial perception that are made possible also by virtue of the public writing's creative force; Taksim square and Gezi Park are not the same place as before and there is the need of creating (and calling) meaningful points of reference in collective consciousness: street names, first-aid centers, "border check points" and barricades. These all represent the coordinates of a liberated, utopian area of action and change.
Egalitarian practices in alternative youth and music centres in Slovenia
The author will present ethnography of youth/music centres in Slovenia. He will discuss egalitarian nature of non-governmental alternative centres. They are spaces of creativity and radical art production, relevant socially and politically, places of confrontation and defence of freedom.
In January 2015, after 25 years of renting the building by the Society of the Admirers of Moderate Progress, the mayor of the town of Koper decided to terminate the contract for the use of the building of the Youth, Cultural, Social, Multimedia, Intergenerational and Museum Centre (MKSMC). This intent caused tremendous revolt among the members of the centre, as well as other activists in similar "grass-roots" youth and music centres in Slovenia.
Non-governmental centres are among the rare places at the present where egalitarian social relations are practiced. Despite the declaratively egalitarian constitutional basis of modern societies, they are, not only in terms of property inequality, hierarchical societies. Profit-making private and non-profit public organizations, including youth centres, are mostly organized hierarchically. Only some organizations of civil society, including youth non-governmental organizations, are organised non-hierarchical.
Based on his recent collaborative ethnographies of youth and music centres in Slovenia, the author will discuss utopic and dystopic elements in everyday activities in those centres. The author will as well address music creativity in these centres.
'Meat smells like corpses': sensory perceptions in a Sicilian urban marketplace
Based on my in-depth ethnographic research (2008-2012), this article demonstrates that it is possible to analyse the changes in the urban social context of food markets though accounts of the sensory experience.
In this paper I analyse how the tendency to sanitising urban spaces has affected an urban marketplace ('La Pescheria', Catania, Sicily) and how this transformation is reflected in the sensory experience of the space itself. Local authorities aim to render the market more appealing for a new clientele, mainly tourists and gastronomic experts. The reactions to this urban gentrification attempt is observable through ethnographic accounts of people' sensory experience, which informs what kind of social order is maintained and/or contested within the market. Focusing on what is allowed to be experienced helps to unveil stratification of meanings, which demonstrate that bodily knowledge is deeply connected to space. The relationship with urban space appears to be active, complex and multi-sensory. The market is seen as a space under construction, in which cultural values are intertwined within the economic system.
Pervasive smells provoke disgust, informing a social order in which blood, death and decomposition are hidden from customers. Moreover the increasing distance between food and buyers provokes suspicions and resistance within the market and the de-materialisation of food introduces anxieties.
The shift in the direction of a more sanitised and secluded urban space encounters resistance and a smelly, noisy market can be understood as a space of disobedience, in which noise and smell become a statement against authority.
Adding values to urban space: two ethnographies in Lisbon
Focusing the discussion on two case studies located in Lisbon, this paper aims to explore a set of values assigned to urban space and its impacts on the rent market mechanisms and social selection of inhabitants.
This paper aims to discuss processes of valuation and evaluation of residential urban spaces based on two case studies located in Lisbon: Príncipe Real, a prestigious neighbourhood situated in the historical city centre, and Telheiras, a peripheral neighbourhood known for its social homogeneity.
Through a comparative analysis between the two examples, I intend to demonstrate how a set of values assigned to different urban spaces can attract several investors, interests and residents and, how these urban spaces make use of these values to differentiate and promote themselves in various ways. From the gentrification process to the transition movement, including spatial justice issues, the focus will be the urban middle classes, their residential spaces and social belonging strategies.
Bicycle as the means of transport, actor of social events and business opportunity: the case study of cycling-related creativity in Ljubljana
The presentation discusses the importance of socially and ecologically conscious creative activities in Ljubljana, related to urban cycling, for the economic success of actors, quality of urban life and the appealing image of a city, which is also important for the development of creative economy.
The capital of Slovenia, Ljubljana, has recently won the title of the European Green Capital 2016 due to its sustainability strategy, progress in the area of green procurement and increase of eco-friendly modes of transport such as cycling. Over 1.6 million journeys were made using the city's bike-sharing system from 2011 to 2014, and the number of bike-related activities in public space is constantly growing. But bicycles do not remain only one of the means of urban transport, but have become the object of individuals' creativity as well as the bond for members of various social groups. The presentation is a case-study of creativity in Ljubljana inspired by urban cycling. It will focus on the social actors, as individuals or joined in the associations, who organize or perform activities which revive public places, promote anti-consumerist philosophy, encourage ecologically-friendly and sustainable practices and have subsequently inspired the development of some cycling-related small-scale businesses. The presentation will strive to show the correlation between social and cultural capital of creative individuals and their economic success. The author assumes that creativity of social actors, oriented towards preservation or strengthening of social values or compliant with them, contributes to the quality of life of urban population and helps to create an appealing image of a city, which is also important for the development of the cultural and creative industries.
Walking the walled city: the dérive as urban ethnography
This paper seeks to analyse the Situationist dérive as an ethnographic pedestrian practice of Indian urbanism, and interrogate the encounters between this form of the dérive, local architectures and everyday life in the public space of an Old Delhi market.
This paper focuses on the possibilities and limitations of the contemporary dérive as a form of everyday ethnography in contemporary Delhi. The dérive, which originated as the Surrealist déambulation and subsequently took form in practice as the Situationist dérive in the late 1950s, has now been anthologised and re-imagined by walking artists and practitioners as the last political movement in the history of western walking practices (cf. Coverley 2012, Careri 2001) and as an imaginative but failed political practice (cf. Sadler 1999, Wark 2011). The architectural context of post-War Europe that the dérive was created out of—and continues to remain within—remains to be questioned and thusly, the withheld encounters of the dérive with vernacular architectures.
In seeking to locate the Situationist dérive as an ethnographic practice within the architectural space of the public market of Chandni Chowk in (Old) Delhi—a postcolonial city that functions simultaneously as a "walled city" but above all as an "ordinary city" (cf. Robinson 2005)—the paper seeks to engage with the dérive as a pedestrian activity that is, firstly, specific to and politically engaged with the vernacular architectures of Delhi. Secondly, it questions the everyday ethnography-framework of the dérive in this context, and the utility of its enactment as auto-ethnography. Lastly, it dwells on the experimental origins of the Situationist dérive and its journey through contemporary pedestrian practices, and asks how walking as an ethnographic practice of the city might help narrate and navigate local and global public place.
Stop and go: nodes of transformation and transition
Increasing numbers of people are obliged to spend increasing amounts of time in transit. Transition nodes and hubs acquire ever-greater significance and serve as (semi-)public spaces which have an impact on the public realm at the margins and even in the core of the cities.
In a globalized economy increasing numbers of people are obliged to spend increasing amounts of time in transit. Therefore transition nodes and hubs alongside major transnational European traffic corridors - where traffic comes to halt - acquire ever-greater significance. These hubs and nodes are considered as (semi-)public spaces which are linked via the paths of individuals to and have an impact on the public realm at the margins and even in the core of the cities. At places like border controls, highway service stations, formal and informal markets, both individual's routes, routines, and rituals, but also political transitions, transformations of working and living conditions, and the landscapes of mobilities and dismobilities can be best explored by listening to the narratives of individuals on route, which use to be structured by the encounter of significant signs and places, while the same narratives are producing a landscape of their own.
The paper presents the theoretical framework and the methods developed during preceding art based research projects emphasizing on nodes of mobility and migration as well as a part of their current project investigating nodes alongside the main road connection between Vienna and the Bulgarian-Turkish border. Using a transporter van for 'embedded' research on route and as a trigger for episodic in-situ interviews we generate a networked "cartography" of hubs and routes that displays both supranational developments and individual experiences of mobile actors, integrating their individual experiences and narratives - their imaginary landscape - as well as the impact of both on urban transformations.
"Quanlitative" study of driving habits in Ljubljana: ethodological challenges
The research, presented in this paper, supplements qualitative (ethnographic) findings with quantitative approaches, e.g. the measurement of driving styles with the help of telematics solutions. In this way we obtain a more precise answer to the question of how do people in Ljubljana actually drive.
How do people use their vehicles in an urban context? How can we analyse and influence their driving habits? These are two key questions of a 3-year interdisciplinary applied research project "DriveGreen: Development of an eco-driving application for a transition to a low-carbon society." The project, which started with a 6-month study in Ljubljana, attempts to fill a void in anthropology, which has thus far only partially addressed issues to do with traffic. Simultaneously, it tries to supplement qualitative ethnographic findings, collected by observations of traffic, interviews, video-ethnography and "participant driving" (i.e. participant observation in vehicles), with quantitative approaches, e.g. the measurement of behaviour in traffic with the help of telematics solutions, which allow us to analyse fuel consumption and CO2 emissions, and monitor the key elements of a driving style (acceleration, braking, idling, driving speed, etc.). The multi-faceted study helps researchers explain in greater detail exactly how the "driving habitus" of the city is formed by individuals and influenced by external factors, e.g. regulations and penalties, traffic conditions, climate, and infrastructure. Such interdisciplinary studies are challenging for research teams, especially due to the inclusion of different scientific disciplines, each with its own requirements, expectations, and scientific rigor. This paper pinpoints and highlights the main methodological challenges presented by such "quanlitative" or "mixed" research approaches. It also explains how interdisciplinary findings about driving can be used and interpreted in the most productive way (also as a foundation for developmental procedures) and how these approaches can be transferred to other similar projects in national and international contexts.
This panel is closed to new paper proposals.