(P016)

Reconsidering the future of urban space: social and economic divisions in the public domain (Commission of Urban Anthropology and Commission on the Anthropology of Women)

Location Hall 2
Date and Start Time 15 May, 2014 at 15:30

Convenor

Italo Pardo (University of Kent) email
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Short Abstract

Most cities are divided along social and economic lines, which belie the liberal and secular nation states' rhetoric, particularly evident in urban areas. We invite empirically-based papers on changing urban scenarios, also paying attention to changing ideologies, perspectives and living conditions.

Long Abstract

The urban public space is ideally democratic, and most modern states do officially subscribe to secularism and equality. Ideally, public space in modern cities should be freely accessible to all. However, this is rarely the case, as most cities are divided along social and economic lines (gender, class, caste, ethnicity, employment, income, etc.), which belies nation-states' liberal and secular ideologies. Not only do deeply embedded social, economic and cultural divisions not disappear in the city; at times they become even more pronounced.

City dwellers are unequally placed in respect to the sources of power. A very significant area is the place that migrants have in the city, especially those who are made vulnerable in terms of class, gender and ethnic marginalization. However, it is often found that large sections of native people may well be equally marginalized.

We invite ethnographically-based papers that contribute to debating three, interrelated key issues:

1. The social and economic divisions and forms of exclusion in urban areas as they are observed in public space;

2. Second, how such divisions are manipulated into cognitive maps; neighbourhoods, shopping malls, streets and markets all carry the stamp of the political and social divisions that mark urban society.

3. As urban spaces change alongside political, economic and social transformations, this Panel will address empirically such changing urban scenarios, also paying attention to changing ideologies and living conditions.

We also welcome analyses based on archival and historical research. This panel is interdisciplinary and will benefit from diverse viewpoints.

Chair: Italo Pardo

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.

Papers

Economic crisis and urban inequality: the case of Athens

Author: Manos Spyridakis (University of Peloponnese)  email

Short Abstract

The paper aims at exploring the extent to which local government can really design an urban policy towards alleviating crisis' severe impact through the implementation of anti-poverty and anti-exclusionary programs. Data come from empirical anthropological research in the city of Athens.

Long Abstract

This paper, based on empirical data from an ongoing research project in the urban setting of Athens, attempts to shed light on the impact of the crisis on several dimensions of quality of life. It attempts to incorporate both elements related to certain objective conditions of living as well as subjective views, perceptions and representations about the serious economic crisis. In this context it aims to explore the extent to which local government can really design an urban policy towards alleviating crisis severe impact through the implementation of anti-poverty and anti-exclusionary programs. The empirical evidence so far reveal that the economic crisis and the policies of memoranda have caused deep wounds and strong inequalities, not only in terms of disposable income and material resources of individuals and households but also in the overall quality of urban life, with serious implications for the future of social cohesion.

Religious exclusion that did not properly work: South Lebanese Christian land at stake

Author: Marcello Mollica (University of Messina)  email

Short Abstract

Based on fieldwork conducted in the last three year in South Lebanon and by reference to a summer 2013 case of inter-religious transaction in a Christian area, this paper aim to shed lights on the increasing dichotomy between the consociational national level and the highly sectarian local level.

Long Abstract

Although a limited number of mixed rural and urban areas still exist, Muslim and Christian Lebanese communities increasingly maintain their homogeneity in spacial terms by excluding others from buying land or property within their communities. The trend is particularly strong within Christian communities of all denominations because of their limited demographic size. A sense of religious affiliation with the land is thus developed so that it becomes part of a communal heritage that precludes the sale of any land to other religious groups, and sometimes even to members of different Christian denominations. Separation is also becoming traditionally fixed and determined in a way it was not before.

Based on fieldwork and intensive interviews conducted in the last three year in South Lebanon and by specific reference to a Summer 2013 case of inter-religious transaction in a Christian area, this paper aim to shed lights on the increasing dichotomy between the consociational national level and the highly sectarian local level. By looking at the way religion acts as a surrogate of ethno-nationalism, the inter-religious property transaction case study will help to understand how local control was defied and customary local rules based on community self-control jeopardized.

Inclusion of difference in the case of Betawi ethnicity: Indigenous Batavian population and its tolerance towards "otherness within" in contemporary Jakarta

Author: Shohei Nakamura (Graduate School of Letters, Kyoto University)  email

Short Abstract

This presentation examines self-representations of Betawi people. The case illustrates the potential for ethnicity as rhetoric of difference, where it can be utilized for the maintenance and negotiation of different senses of belonging and thus for the prevention of exclusionism.

Long Abstract

There has been a presupposition in the explanation of ethnicity as sub-groups of a nation-state that there exist persistent, if not fixed, boundaries between these groups. A number of scholars have postulated that the modern nation-state imposes a homogeneous notion of groups that people eventually accept, resulting in rigid social demarcation within the population.

The case of Betawi ethnicity in Jakarta, generally known as the "Batavian Indigenous" who emerged as a creole in the colonial setting, illustrates a distinct contradiction to such conventional wisdom. Betawi people basically accepted the definition of ethnicity which has long been promoted and imposed by colonial authority as well as by authoritarian rule, yet they emphasize the similarity rather than the difference between cultural features of each sub-group and those of the "Betawi culture" officially defined by the government, so that people of different group-consciousness could tolerate each other within one broader category.

The presenter attempts to investigate the origin of this tolerance by tracing back the group's history, as well as to demonstrate how historically constructed ideas and symbols are utilized for the maintenance and negotiation of diversity in the current setting. The case of Betawi ethnicity instantiates a paradoxical consequence: universalistic rhetoric of difference that the state has constructed along with the flat-faced demarcation of geographical units in turn become the principle for partial deauthorization of supposedly rigid boundaries and incessant inclusion of different senses of belonging.

The social life of water after the riots on the sand: sociability at South Cronulla beach, Australia

Author: Nathalie Boucher (Université de Montréal)  email

Short Abstract

In the neoliberal era, the value of beaches as essential places to the social urban life remains unknown. This paper stems from ethnographic work in Cronulla Beach, known for the 2006 riots. Despite the discrimination in spatial frequency patterns, this place reinforces the social urban fabric.

Long Abstract

Are pools and beaches used only for fitness and recreational activities, or do people also socialize while bathing? In an era when public aquatic facilities are highly impacted (as are other urban parks) by the neoliberal reform, the value of beaches, as public places where bridges are built between citizens’ differences, remains unknown. In 2012-2013, using indicators from the literature on sociability in public spaces and interactionist methodology, I performed ethnographic work in four urban aquatic public spaces of Australia. Down Under beaches and pools constitute an important case to study because they are threatened by decreasing ground water levels, environmental hazards, and neoliberal processes of privatization. This paper focuses on South Cronulla Beach, a free public beach 30 km south of Sydney where interracial riots took place in 2006. Observations and interviews revealed that South Cronulla Beach is strongly dedicated to organized and supervised socialization and not to sociability. Nonetheless, it hosts a very strong social life involving mixed social group interactions within symbolic territories. While a surprisingly high number of interactions occur in the most coveted area - supporting the general belief that the riots are a thing of the past - a subtle discrimination can also be observed in spatial frequency patterns. However, through familiarization, interactions, and processes of negotiation and appropriation between citizens from different backgrounds attracted by the features of South Cronulla Beach, this public place reinforces the social urban fabric. This research thus advocates for maintaining the public funding required by this aquatic public space.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.