EASA, 2010: EASA2010: Crisis and imagination

Maynooth, 24/08/2010 – 27/08/2010


Out in public: towards an anthropology of public socialities in urban space

Location Rowan Room 1
Date and Start Time 26 Aug, 2010 at 11:30


Kira Kosnick (Goethe University Frankfurt) email
Begonya Enguix (Universitat Oberta de Catalunya) email
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Long Abstract

This workshop will explore the formation of urban publics as forms of deliberate stranger sociality that flourish in urban environments. The participation in urban publics is a significant form of place-making through which city residents can both stake symbolic claims to the city and shape the urban fabric. While cities have always presented contexts for the close co-presence of strangers, publics involve a conscious, voluntary stranger-relationality centered around a shared activity. The question of the relationship between publics as fleeting social formations and geographically locatable urban space has not been central to the debates on public spheres that developed out of the famous Habermasian account of decline. The quasi-metaphorical usage of space that dominates in the works of many public sphere theorists elides the question of how public stranger sociality is tied to the use and production of concrete spaces. We invite papers that draw upon ethnography to reflect upon different forms of public sociality and the production of urban space. Questions to be considered could include the following:

How do different kinds of publics influence the production of urban space?

How do non-hegemonic groups contribute to the formation of urban publics through particular forms of sociality?

How are socio-political dimensions of public urban space affected by increasing privatization and commercialization of urban environments?

How are uses of public urban space regulated in the name of security and/or order, and what consequences does this have for the formation of publics?

How do multiple public spheres relate to hierarchies and hegemonies?

This workshop is closed to new paper proposals.


Contesting space: framing a housing crisis in south Tel Aviv Jaffa

Author: Zsuzsa Katona (Goldsmiths College London)  email
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Long Abstract

Considering that public space is being made in the conflicts that take place in public, I explore a housing struggle on behalf of Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel, who are protected tenants in public properties undergoing privatization in an impoverished part of the city impacted by gentrification. I explicate how the interaction among legal, planning and real estate orders, resident coping strategies and their mode of hierarchical incorporation into current state framework were implicated in the making of the housing problem. Then I examine the public space that emerges from the contestation conducted with Arab and Jewish mixed groups and NGO networks. Different conceptualisations and uses of urban space limit how the housing problem may become public (if at all) just as strategies and techniques of public mobilization seek to re-formulate the problem, have the collective it affects recognized and its problem addressed with public policy and funds. Fragmented by multiple conflicts, public domains are temporarily marked with the claims made visible/audible and different people being present, yet power differentials and ongoing fragmentation pose a challenge for any durable change in the rules of access to housing in the neighbourhood, and therefore the composition of residents in the future.

Jerusalem of go(l)d: imagination and western immigration in the neighborhood of Baka in Jerusalem

Author: Hila Zaban (SOAS University of London)  email
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Long Abstract

The global recession notwithstanding, immigration to Israel by Jews from western countries has been growing over recent years. Jerusalem attracts more of these mainly religious immigrants than any other city in Israel. The way diasporic Jews imagine Jerusalem plays a crucial role in their decision to move there or just purchase a second-home for the Jewish holidays. Through a detailed ethnography of Baka, I will document the changing cultural and socio-economic status of the neighborhood, its growing religiousness, its increased culture of consumption, the development of its real estate market and the struggles of residents to maintain the neighborhood's character. The dominance of the wealthier immigrants and the great symbolic importance of Jerusalem sharpen theoretical issues, such as the role of imagination in immigration, the expansion of gentrification processes and the material and symbolic aspects of belonging.

Consuming the City: Centrality and Class in a Eastern European City

Author: Norbert Petrovici (Babes-Bolyai University)  email
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Long Abstract

During the neoliberal restructuring in the first postsocialist decade, class and marginality in Cluj, Romania, tended to be constituted in the language of localist identity. The city center bared the marks of the symbolic fights where the former socialist workers, made redundant, claimed their right to the city by supporting nationalist public reordering. However, in the second decade the center was apparently neutralized politically by means of commodification, the coffee houses have become landmarks of centre. The new middle class was becoming more sophisticated and their consumption places were becoming increasingly complex, producing two types of spaces, 'cultural coffee shops' and 'posh coffee shops', used by two opposing middle class factions. The working class reappropriation of the city center by means of localist language was replaced by intra-class struggles, where the politics of image and selfhood became major instruments in reshaping the political discourses over legitimate public intervention.

'Moving on up': the South Asian public's creation and influence over public spaces

Author: Harpreet Cholia (Goethe University, Frankfurt)  email
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Long Abstract

The South Asian club scene in London, though more diverse than the name implies, has evolved over the last two decades, moving from being in spaces that catered for mainstream, white-dominated young people, to creating and moulding spaces that cater to the needs of young South Asian people.

Second and third generation South Asians have spawned entrepreneurs, who have created spaces and staked a claim in places previously untapped by them. With reference to Bourdieu's practices of distinction and drawing upon ethnographic research conducted in the city, the paper considers the social elevation of young South Asians who influence and create these new spaces in this urban setting. The paper then moves on to look at how these spaces relate to hierarchies and hegemonies in different spheres of their everyday lives.

Caging difference: Budapest pride and the re-bordering of belonging

Author: Hadley Renkin (Central European University)  email
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Long Abstract

Recent homophobic attacks by far-right nationalist groups on the Budapest Pride March have located the March at the heart of current struggles over the meaning of public space in postsocialist Hungary, and thus over the nature of postsocialist belonging as well. In this ethnographically-grounded paper I examine the changing use of Budapest's space by the Pride March. Mapping its emergence from marginal to central and national spaces and sites, I argue that the March has simultaneously appealed to and challenged the hegemonic meanings of such spaces, thus producing alternative imaginings of the relationship between national and transnational identities and communities. Spatial restrictions imposed in response to the attacks in the name of security, however, have dramatically reshaped the March's relationship to public space, threatening to transform its key role in ongoing debates about the boundaries of postsocialist citizenship.

Reading the Landscape: Public Art as Dialogue in a Reforming New Orleans

Author: Kara E. Miller (Louisiana State University)  email
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Long Abstract

This paper relies on the theoretical stance of hyper-public modes of thought, which are seen in various forms of public art. Public art and messaging, embedded in the urban landscape in the form of graffiti, slogan-culture, and public spectacle, show merging and exchange between genre and class. Public art is a reflection of the city and serves as an expression of current events, ideas, and issues. In a city devastated by the effects of a massive hurricane, underground and folk art emerge as a voice for reforming communities, and move through multiple communicative spheres. With ethnographic engagement and urban exploration, I bring public dialogue out from forgotten spaces and introduce a unique post-post-Katrina style. I interpret the urban experience through varied dialectical happenings that form imagined spaces of identity and belonging, where people create place and a face for the city of New Orleans through collaborative, shared acts of art.

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Parisian performance poetry: cosmopolitanism and democracy in practice

Author: Cicilie Fagerlid (Oslo Metropolitan University)  email
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Long Abstract

During a slam/performance poetry session, a wide variety of people more or less strangers to each other come together and perform their own texts. Following the ethos of s'exprimer, partager and écouter (to express oneself, share and listen), they create a cosmopolitan and democratic space. This highly socially, ethnically and generationally diverse milieu reflects the cosmopolitan, bohemian and popular environment of North-East Paris, where the slam phenomenon originated and still abounds. In this paper, I will explore the relationship between the characteristics of the space created during a soirée slam and the particular environment in the city where it is situated.

The study is based on 16 months of fieldwork in North-East Paris, from the riots in the autumn 2005 until the election of President Sarkozy in 2007.

Focusing-in: youth filmmaking as place-making

Author: Alicia Blum-Ross (London School of Economics and Political Science)  email
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Long Abstract

This paper explores the ways in which collaborative video with young people allows for the re-imagination of place in London. In the ethnographic examples cited here, young people are invited to use the use the sensory and technological processes of participatory filmmaking as a method of 'focusing in' to tune their perceptive faculties towards 'creating place.'

In this paper, I use case studies from my research to understand young peoples' relationship to their physical surroundings, and the ways in which filmmaking projects intercede in or reinforce a sense of belonging or involvement. These projects, funded by state sources, are often conceived in response to the positioning of young peoples' spatial relationships in terms of deviance. From reports on 'territoriality' to fear of 'post-code gangs,' young peoples' movements are prescribed by visible and invisible boundaries which are self-proclaimed, media-fostered and legally enforced, and have inherent consequences for perceptions of safety.

This workshop is closed to new paper proposals.