EASA, 2006: EASA06: Europe and the world

Bristol, UK, 18/09/2006 – 21/09/2006

(W018)

Bringing Europe down to earth: reconfigurations of politics and development

Location MVB 1.11
Date and Start Time 19 Sep, 2006 at 16:30

Convenors

Simone Abram (Durham University) email
Gisa Weszkalnys (London School of Economics) email
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Short Abstract

What are the understandings and practices of city development? How are current concepts of city, citizen and state, public and private, politics, planning, commerce and welfare related and materialised?

Long Abstract

This workshop's theme is the contemporary reinvention of city spaces and politics, and the implicit social models at play in this process. European cities, old and new, and the relationships between them, have been rethought and re-planned in recent years, after major structural upheavals such as the fall of the Soviet Union and the expansion of the EU. Redevelopment has not been confined to the physical environment and the redistribution of material resources, but has also included a rethinking of local government. The city's physical and political reinvention can thus appear entwined: changes in the built structures of contemporary cities are often considered to be symptomatic of broader structural changes, such as the shifting relationships between citizens and the state, the state and the market, and public and private. A strong European model of participatory democracy has emerged, based on ideal-types of citizen, community, the public and state and other central organising categories. Yet as states apparently become more participative, more of their work and resources are being transferred to the private sector.

In this workshop, we will ask how European these changes are. What are the contemporary conceptualisations of public and private, of space, politics, commerce and welfare? What happens to these concepts, ideas and models of practice as they travel across unlikely borders through EU funding initiatives, inter-regional partnerships and other types of interconnections between cities and states? How does the new politics of the city relate to ideas of nation and state? What is a city in the 21st century and how is it materialised?

Papers

Who and what is the public space for? A case study from the old centre of Palma (Majorca): streets, shops and landscapes

Author: Jaume Franquesa (University at Buffalo-SUNY)  email
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Long Abstract

This paper, based on a 30 months fieldwork, explores one of the most visible consequences of the urban regeneration plan carried out in the neighbourhood of Sa Calatrava: the dramatic decrease in the number of shops and bars. The article argues that this process is closely connected with the changing conception of the public space triggered by this plan, the main, explicit goal of which is the gentrification of the neighbourhood.

Through both the analysis of the policies and aims of the regeneration plan and the presentation of ethnographic 'vignettes', the paper will focus on two related issues:

(a) The strong link between, on the one hand, the disappearance of shops and bars and, on the other hand, some measures pursuing the embellishment and pacification of the public space.

(b) The complex relationship local shops and bars maintain with neighbourhood networks. Firstly, I will show how these places articulate networks of sociability and create a sense of community. Reciprocally, I will argue that the debilitation or fragmentation of these social bonds is one of the main reasons why shops and bars close down. This complex relationship will be exposed through the presentation of some conflicts, especially between shopkeepers and newcomers. .

After this analysis I will defend that the ultimate explanation of the decrease in the number of shops (and of the weakening of sociability) has to be found in the production of Sa Calatrava as a purified arena for capital and its aim of extracting surplus value from it. The objective of attracting visitors and investment lies at the core of a new conception of the public space that privileges its transformation into a landscape and undermines its communicative and relational dimensions. Nonetheless, the fact that this production privileges categories such as 'visitor' or 'house owner' to the detriment of categories such as 'neighbour' or 'resident', allows us to read this changes not only in economic terms but also in political ones. Thus, I will tentatively argue that this transformation in the conception of the public space must be understood as a form of spatial governmentality: given that it undermines place-bond experience (and instituted rights associated with it) it prevents contest and politicization.

Slow Cities: transnational interventions and the constitution of urban sites

Author: Sarah Pink (Monash University )  email
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Long Abstract

The Slow City (Cittàslow) movement was started in Italy in 1999 as a response to what its founders perceive as the 'fast' and globally homogenising times we live in. Cittàslow emphasises local distinctiveness in a context of globalisation by focusing on 'small realities in a more and more global connected world' (Cittàslow Philosophy) and seeking to improve the quality of life locally. Internationally it now has over 50 member towns and in addition to Italy national Cittàslow networks have been set up to manage these in the UK, Germany and Norway in ways that respond to the contexts shaped by different nation states. To be granted Cittàslow accreditation a town must score over 50% in a self assessment process, against specified criteria concerning its environmental and infrastructure policies, the quality of urban fabric, encouragement of local produce, hospitality and community and creation of Cittàslow awareness. Cittàslow towns are expected to continue to develop in these areas through organising and engaging in projects, activities and events that support the cittàslow philosophy (www.cittaslow.net), and through active involvement with the related Slow Food movement.

Cittàslow is gaining momentum across Europe and beyond, with a whole list of towns in the process of applying for accreditation. In Britain Cittàslow UK was set up in 2004 and Cittàslow is now part of Britain's market town's strategy (http://www.cittaslow.org.uk/Cittaslow_UK_background.doc). To date three UK towns have Cittàslow status, Ludlow (Shropshire), Aylsham (Norfolk) and Diss (Norfolk), with others currently in the pipeline. In this paper, taking the UK as a case study I shall analyse Cittàslow from two perspectives.

First, drawing on existing academic literature, published Cittàslow and Slow Food materials and interviews with Cittàslow leaders, I analyse the aims and models proposed by the movement. I shall interrogate the idea of Cittàslow as a transnational movement that, through a series of localised interventions seeks to resist globalisation. Alongside this, though an analysis of my own long term ethnographic research in Aylsham (Norfolk) and comparative reflections on Ludlow and Diss, I shall examine how urban localities are constituted through the sets of knowledge, practices, experiences and identities that Cittàslow policies, activities, events and projects generate. As such I hope to discuss how Cittàslow's ideals are materialised in the culturally specific context and lived reality of a Slow City that is further situated transnationally through the Cittàslow network. Finally I shall reflect on the potential role of Cittàslow UK as a driving force behind shifts in government urban policies in Britain.

The urban space as political space: territorialisation processes in two forms of 'local participation'

Author: Catherine Neveu (LAIOS CNRS)  email
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Long Abstract

In contemporary European cities, institutionalized procedures of « citizens' participation » have become a generalized feature of "local governance". While in Britain, this often takes the form of tenants' "self-management" of estates or of public/private partnership, the multiplication of "participatory" councils at the neighbourhood level has been the main form taken by such a development in France. Most of the research carried on about such procedures aim at determining the extent of their actual democratic or participatory dimensions. But very little attention seems to be paid to the ways they inform citizens' relationships to the urban space, and the types of territorialization they propose.

Based on two fieldworks led in Tours (France), this paper's main topic will be to explore and analyze how such issues are dealt with in two radically different types of "participatory practices". On the one hand, the local elected Council set up (within the framework of the 2002 Law on "local democracy") "Conseils de la Vie locale", the working procedures of which tend to produce specific forms of "depoliticizing territorialization"; on the other, an informal group of local youth set up a "merry political festival", one of the main aim of which is to give back its political role to the urban public space, by its reappropriation from the private and commerce.

These two sets of practices and representations will be contrasted, so as to grasp different forms of what it means today to get involved in the city as a political space, and the kinds of territorialization processes it gives space to.

Occupying public space: the street as political metaphor

Author: Gwyn Williams  email
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Long Abstract

This paper explores the politics of the city street. In 2002, faced with another season of mass protests for a "social Europe", French Prime Minister Raffarin publicly asserted that "it's not the street that governs". While protesters have, for Raffarin, a right to express themselves, elected representatives equally have the right to ignore "the voice of the street". French alterglobalisation activists, however, take to the streets precisely to affirm their right to participate in political life, one guaranteed under the revolutionary Constitution of 1793. For activists, the street is a political stage. It is where they insist on conducting a politics of protest in explicit opposition to the politics of elected representatives and capitalist elites. They consider any assertions that existing democratic channels are participative to be mere pretence, and aim to bring Europe's leaders down to earth.

During marches and demonstrations, in which all can participate, activists take over the street, openly and visibly occupying public space and using it for a purpose at odds with what the authorities intend. The street, for activists, embodies ideas of openness, publicness and visibility, all of which are considered the marks of truly political activity. The street is thus a metaphor for an ideal form of politics. As such, it signifies the public and common good in opposition to the private and constitutes an exemplary space in which ordinary citizens can actively participate in political life and social struggle. Sometimes, however, the street becomes, quite literally, a site of struggle, contestation and conflict. The repressive tactics of the state are aimed at denying the street its political quality, imposing political silence upon the street and returning it to law and order. But activists resist the attempts of power to control the street and to define the political. They affirm the street as the sphere of politics par excellence.

Women's Design Service, London: 20 years of materialising the environment

Author: Eeva Berglund (Aalto University)  email
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Long Abstract

Women's Design Service has campaigned on behalf of women's needs in the built environment since the early 1980s. In international context it can be considered a success of feminist urbanism, having survived a series of organisational changes and major shifts in local and regional governance, particularly the abolition of the Greater London Council and, fifteen years on, the setting up of the Greater London Authority. The paper examines the fortunes of WDS over its life-time, showing that it has consistently worked against ideal-types of citizenship and womanhood, always emphasising context and the situation-specific needs and aspirations of its constituency.

Mapping unauthorised citizens in New Delhi

Author: Anne Waldrop (University of Oslo)  email
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Long Abstract

India has a fairly long tradition of state planning, which since its Independence in 1947 has been based on modernist Five-year Plans. In the case of the New Delhi State, city planning has since 1957 been based on The Delhi Master Plan of the Delhi Development Authority (DDA). In reality, however, DDA has not had the capacity to control that city-land is used according to the intentions of the master plan, with illegal settlements as a result. This paper will track changing relations over time between, on the one hand, the New Delhi government through DDA and, on the other hand, people in illegal settlements. Focus will be on two illegal settlements, classified by DDA as an Unauthorized Colony and as a Jhuggi Jhompri Colony respectively. What forms of relation do people in these illegal settlements have with the state, and what do these kinds of relations say about citizenship? To what extent do the recent changes in the Delhi State Government's normative perceptions of citizenship, towards a model of increased people's participation, influence political mobilization and notions of citizenship in these two illegal settlements?