Urba05


The everyday makeshifts of life at the urban margins 
Convenorss:
Martina Klausner (Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main)
Michele Lancione (Cardiff University)
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Discussants:
Ignacio Farias (Humboldt University of Berlin)
Stream:
Urban
Location:
VG 4.103
Start time:
29 March, 2017 at 8:30 (UTC+0)
Session slots:
2

Short Abstract:

In this panel we elaborate on a nuanced approach to life at the urban margins and examine the makeshifts of dwelling in the city by different urban groups. Our specific interest is on the assemblage of everyday life in the city at the intersection of public infrastructures and more mundane matters.

Long Abstract

Cities with their specific density and intensity offer a variety of resources but at the same time also pose specific impositions for their inhabitants (cf. Schillmeier 2010; MacFarlane 2011). Dwelling in the city - understood as a non-linear way of place making and learning (McFarlane 2011) - demands dealing with those specific urban affordances in creative ways. This is specifically true for people "at the margins", who assemble their everyday life at the intersection of public infrastructures - from welfare institutions, health care services, sheltered housing, sanitation, transportation - and more mundane matters. A focus on the makeshifts of life at the margin then highlights how bodies, infrastructures, and broader urban processes are being brought together in diverse ways. In our respective works we have approached these makeshifts as processes of assemblage (McFarlane, 2011; Lancione, 2014), infra-making (Lancione and McFarlane, 2016) and of niching (Niewöhner et al. 2016). Drawing from our own research (which focused on people with mental illness in Berlin, homeless people in Turin and drug users in Bucharest) we want to elaborate on a nuanced approach to the makeshifts of life at the margins and specifically encourage contributions that help to identify convergences and divergences across different marginalized urban groups. Ideally, paper will critically address questions of lived experience and their entanglement with broader urban processes, such as urban policies, state regulation, or infrastructural developments.

Accepted papers:

Authors:

Patrick Bieler (Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin)
Zoé Codeluppi (University of Neuchâtel)

Paper short abstract:

I will present work in progress from my current PhD project on the everyday lives of people with mental distress in Berlin. By ethnographically examining people's dwelling in the urban environment I want to understand what socio-material relations enhance or reduce degrees of freedom.

Paper long abstract:

According to new epidemiological findings, urban upbringing and living cause stress in humans that can lead to the development of severe mental health problems (Lederbogen et al. 2011). At the same time, psychiatry has gone through a shift from patients in hospital care to clients receiving community based services. Ethnographic research has shown that the everyday lives of people with mental distress are heavily shaped by these care infrastructures and that these people are in a constant process of rendering the city habitable (Bister et al. 2016). Yet, people with mental distress are also especially vulnerable to urban atmospheres, the materiality of and people in places (Söderström 2017).

I would like to present work in progress from my current research project on the everyday lives of people with mental distress in Berlin: Drawing from first walk-alongs and interviews with people with mental distress, I want to understand how they navigate the streets and what environments they thereby assemble. Through which socio-material practices is the urban made bearable and what socio-material relations are reducing degrees of freedom? This will be complemented by interviews with staff from the psychiatric care infrastructure as well as the public administration in order to understand how the possibilities of dwelling are structured in the linkages of care infrastructure, urban planning and health policy.

Author:

Deborah Fromm (University of Campinas)

Paper short abstract:

This study investigates strategies of everyday life of homeless crack users and their relations with the treatment programs of state and evangelicals in a region stigmatized as "Crackland", located in the center of the city of São Paulo, Brazil

Paper long abstract:

During the last decade, Brazil has experienced a spread of consumption of crack by different social strata. However, the fact that has drawn media attention and alarmed public opinion is, above all, its combination with a type of sale and consumption conducted in public spaces in big cities, which are named as "Cracklands". In this sense, the crack took a central position with respect to the uses of urban spaces and the proposals and struggles about the models of treatment for drug addiction. In response to such a "social problem", there was the proliferation of a series of emergency campaigns and government measures. Thus, the "Crackland" of the center of São Paulo started to set up a field of targeted state interventions both for care and control of drug users. From an ethnographic research (2011 - 2015), the present study aims to investigate the relationships established by users with such treatment programs as well as their daily survival strategies. I intend to draw attention to an important contradiction is the fact that although this territoriality is publicly known for consumption and sale of crack, beyond the quest for use, users move to the location to find treatment. Furthermore, I argue that there is an "unwanted effect of the territory", on the perspective of managers, which enhances the circulation of users for different treatment programs, which helps the maintenance of life on the street and goes against the normativity proposal by such treatments.

Author:

Tomás Criado (Humboldt University of Berlin)

Paper short abstract:

An ethnographic exploration of makeshift urban accessibility interventions-inclusive assembly methods, debates to discuss the everyday experiences of exclusion, processes of low-cost gadget design, and documentation interfaces to share them-in Spain as a form of urban cosmopolitics.

Paper long abstract:

Probably one of most interesting effects of the Spanish indignados protests and public space occupations were the many new connections amongst different frail forms of activism around bodily diversity that until then had operated in a segregated manner. In this presentation I would like to show the makeshift urban accessibility interventions-inclusive assembly methods, debates to discuss the everyday experiences of exclusion, processes of collaborative low-cost and open design gadgets, and documentation interfaces to share them-crafted in and thanks to the alliances forged in the 'commissions of functional diversity' that sprung in those protests in Madrid and Barcelona. 'Functional diversity', originally a self-representational term used by independent-living activists to substitute discourses around 'dis/ability', has since then expanded into broader fights for bodily and sexual diversity, and urban accessibility. Particular attention will be paid to characterise this particular kind of makeshiftness and its impact on urban accessibility's legal activism-using a language of rights-, and its fight for state/market universally-designed inclusive standards. Using different examples from my ethnographic engagement in the last years in these movements, rather than merely focusing on their low-quality or fragility, I would like to characterise these interstitial practices as entailing a particularly powerful kind of 'urban cosmopolitics' (Blok & Farías, 2016): these 'evental' articulations of frail and disparate bodily diversities involving uncertain and recursive explorations of the conceptual and material arrangements needed to have access to each others' bodily experiences in a search for a common world beyond state-market urban assemblages.

Author:

Isabel Gutierrez Sanchez (University College London)

Paper short abstract:

“Governing by dwelling” seeks to provide a framework to explore a form of emancipatory politics emerging from grassroots spaces of social reproduction in Southern Europe. A politics that reflects a reality in which the “paradigm of dwelling” and the “paradigm of governing” mingle and clash.

Paper long abstract:

A "paradigm of dwelling" in the form of conceiving politics would be that of sensing, accompanying and fostering the potentialities emerging from the embodied experience of daily encounters. It would be a form of ordinary steering that does not follow pre-fixed rules or protocols, but rather assumes the contingency and specificity of the everyday to do politics from there. Hence, it embraces diversity, affections and interdependency. This is the fictional framework that the philosopher Fernández-Savater proposes as a lens to look at and imagine a new political culture, already latent in the contemporary Southern European context. The "paradigm of dwelling" stands in opposition to the long-established "paradigm of governing", by which politics follows abstract universal models of what-ought-to-be.

I will use this dichotomous fiction to situate the political practice and imaginary produced in emerging grassroots spaces of social reproduction in cities of Southern Europe. I will draw on the case of City Plaza Refugees Accommodation Centre in Athens, as an instance representative of a growing network of citizen-led welfare infrastructures, addressing the survival needs of those marginalised in a current context of multi-faceted crisis. For this situated scenario, I propose the idea of "governing by dwelling" as a way to understand a form of doing politics that reflects a reality in which both the aforementioned paradigms mingle and clash. A politics intimately attached to space and the body. I will argue that these bottom-up solidarity initiatives are sites with a transformative potential of the social and urban enclosures created under austerity.

Author:

Sabine Mohamed (University of Heidelberg Max Planck Institute for the Religious and Ethnic Studies)

Paper short abstract:

This paper examines the inscription of ethnic difference within a state project to constitute a pluralist vision of the nation in the aftermath of a violent political transition. It investigates how difference becomes in/visible through processes of urban development in everyday Addis Ababa.

Paper long abstract:

This paper examines the inscription of ethnic difference within a state project to constitute a pluralist vision of the nation in the aftermath of a violent political transition. It investigates how difference becomes in/visible through processes of urban and infrastructural development in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. This work engages the everyday life of young men in an eviction site in the city center, navigating between erasures, ruins of their former demolished houses and creating new jobs in between emerging infrastructures.

Ethiopia was administratively reconstituted in 1991 and divided it into nine ethnically identified regions and two multiethnic areas- one of the latter being Addis Ababa. Representing a fundamental break with the former Communist state and the earlier monarchy, the current regime has attempted to mediate citizenship through the formal recognition of ethnic difference as the key to national unity. How may unity be forged under a system that recognizes diverse ethnically based sovereignties? How do these inscriptions and affects emerge in everyday Addis Ababa? How do the spectacular attainments of the state, new infrastructures and the surge for national development, translate into the time-space, chronotope, that these young men situate themselves in?