The panel focuses on different ways in which political action, protest and commemoration form and are informed by urban public spaces, and how the witnessing of past and present events creates particular kinds of engagement, understanding and indeed historicity.
This panel is an exploration of ways in which action, sentiment and discourse shape and are shaped by urban public spaces. The discussion will address the relationships between emotions and action, focusing in particular on activities such as political protest and the creation or production of monuments and their elaboration thorough acts of commemoration. What is the effect of public action on urban space and how does urban space condition/inform public action? Do cities or urban spaces provide particular kinds of 'spaces of communication'? How is public space regulated during different governmental regimes (fascism, Stalinism, neoliberalism etc)? Recent anthropological and historical research has emphasised the significance of the 'witness' to history. What different kinds of witness emerge in the wake of brutal or repressive acts, at times of revolution, or during periods of reconciliation? In other words, how does the witnessing of history (in the sense of both time and space) form, and reform, the present with reference to the past? In the current era of what often seems to be almost compulsive or mandatory witnessing to incredibly well documented events, how are some acts and spaces in the public sphere given salience while others are silenced or ignored. We invite papers from anthropologists and others working on political protest, commemoration and/or the public sphere. We are particularly interested in the ethnography of urban places, but we recognise the impossibility of considering the urban to be an isolated place and therefore will welcome studies from a wider perspective.