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SIEF2011 10th Congress: Lisbon, Portugal.
17-21 April 2011

(P117)

Urban scenes and cosmopolitan identities

Location Tower B, Piso 3, Room T14
Date and Start Time 18 Apr, 2011 at 11:30

Convenors

Lisa Wiklund (Ethnology) email
Hanne Eide (Centre for Fashion Studies, Stockholm University) email
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Short Abstract

Capturing the ephemeral character of metropolitan life is a challenge. The focus of interest is pluralistic understandings of the conceptions of cosmopolitanism, in both the past and the present. The spatial context for investigation is the urban scene interpreted as a stage for different notions of creativity.

Long Abstract

'The life of our city is rich in poetic and marvelous subjects. We are enveloped and steeped as though in an atmosphere of the marvelous; but we do not notice it.'

- Charles Baudelaire, 'On the heroism on modern life' from Salon of 1846.

Capturing the ephemeral character of metropolitan life is a challenge. The constant flux of people and impulses and overall frequently changing conditions constitutes a dynamic framing for the construction of different life experiences.

The focus of interest for this panel is pluralistic understandings of the conceptions of cosmopolitanism, in both the past and the present.

The spatial context for investigation is the urban scene interpreted as a stage for different notions of creativity.

In tracing various cultural expressions of cosmopolitanism over time, potential fields of research are individuals' personal lives and creative practices, as well as the mediation of these.

Technological progress has partly changed the terms and conditions. What are the possible implications of this?

Different notions of translation and transnationalism can be used to understand identity-shaping processes. How can this be further explored in relation to diverse urban settings?

At the core of metropolitan life one perceives both continuities and discontinuities.

We find historical and contemporary perspectives on these issues enriching.

In encouraging transdisciplinary perspectives, we hope to reach nuanced accounts of urban life, cosmopolitanism and/or creative production as well as consumption.

(Papers: 3/3/3)

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.

Papers

"Nairobi is a shot of whisky": sex, space and sophistication

Author: Rachel Spronk (University of Amsterdam)  email
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Short Abstract

In this paper I aim to explore the nightlife scene of Nairobi, Kenya, and specifically the nightlife practices of young urban adults. I will focus on the nexus between cosmopolitan knowledge and the production of sexualized space.

Long Abstract

'This is Nairobi! If there is a miracle in the idea of life it is this: that we are able to exist for a time, in defiance of chaos. … For us, life is about having a fluid disposition. Nairobi is a shot of whisky.'

I aim to relate Binyavanga Wainaina's quote to the nightlife practices of young urban adults in Nairobi, Kenya. Young professionals see themselves as the avant garde of Kenya and their ensuing lifestyles testify to the reconfiguration of culture, gender and sexuality that has been taking place in postcolonial Kenya. Their desire to act out a present day lifestyle often coincides with what is commonly understood as certain western modes, while they also react against this so-called 'westernisation' (to adopt a western attitude and lifestyle) as new imperialism, thereby living a reality that is inherently contradictory. Sexuality plays a salient role herein. By studying their sexuality as an embodied practice where eroticism stands central, rather than viewing sexuality as an effect of discourse only, I aim to focus on the realising capacity of sexuality. In this paper I will follow young professionals' nightly trajectories searching for the 'hottest' place through Nairobi. As a result of their dating practices they create webs of knowing and being in the world that they call "being modern the African way". I will, eventually, discuss why sexuality is crucial in the study of cosmopolitanism by comparing the ephemeral character of both sex(uality) and metropolitan life in Nairobi.

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Negotiating cosmopolitanism: the case of Baku

Author: Melanie Krebs (Humboldt University Berlin)  email
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Short Abstract

The urban culture of Baku is shaped by the ephemeral character of transition from a socialist regional center to a global capital, the future "Dubai of the Caspian". In this setting different social groups negotiate their concepts of urban culture and cosmopolitanism.

Long Abstract

Baku, today the capital of the Republic of Azerbaijan, rapidly developed from a small port at the Caspian Sea into a bustling city attracting people from all over Europe and the Russian Empire when the first oil boom set in in the early 1870s. Within a few decades Baku became a multiethnic city with a European appearance and cultural life defined by western styled theatres and opera houses. The flux of people and impulses continued during Soviet times and especially in the 1960s and 1970s when a vibrant Jazz scene flourished. These western influences are used until today as proof of Baku being "the most cosmopolitan city" of the region or the whole Soviet Union.

I focus on the shifting cultural scene of Baku which is marked by the negotiating processes between two different social groups over concepts of cosmopolitanism and culture: on one side the members of the old, Russian-speaking elite which is today often economically marginalized and therefore feel limited in their creative expressions and in (re-)creating their former (soviet) transnational networks, but nevertheless define themselves as bearers of a world culture defined through Jazz and opera as well as the literature of the last two centuries, on the other side the new English-speaking elite which has the financial opportunities to organize events with international artists and lives and works in real as well as in virtual transnational networks. The discussion processes between both groups represent the dynamics, the continuities and discontinuities of post socialist cities in transition.

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Remembering cosmopolitan Baghdad in exile: narratives from Iraqi artists belonging to the sixties and seventies generations

Author: Diane Duclos (London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine)  email
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Short Abstract

Iraqi artists in exile belonging to the "sixties" and "seventies" generations are providing portraits of a lost cosmopolitan Baghdad. By analysing these narratives from a socio-anthropological perspective, this paper explore the interactions between cities, exile, creation and cosmopolitanism.

Long Abstract

In the frame of my doctoral research focusing on Iraqi artists in exile in Middle Eastern and European cities, emerged a specific use of "cosmopolitanism". Narratives enunciated from outside by artists belonging to the so-called "sixties" and "seventies" generations tend to depict a period of peaceful cohabitation between all the components of the society in an effervescent cultural life. Most of these individuals have been living outside Iraq for more than thirty years. Both the city and the atmosphere are described as "cosmopolitan." The adjective "cosmopolitan" evokes "peace", "diversity", and a certain sense of "creativity." Has this lost Baghdad existed once? The use of the term "cosmopolitanism" within the narratives emerges through memories, meaning through an appropriation of the past from exile. Therefore, the relation between urban spaces as agents and exile in artistic spheres seem to reveal cosmopolitan processes. What do these personal "Baghdadi narratives" embedded in a certain feeling of nostalgia tell us about the interactions between cities, exile, creation and cosmopolitan dynamics?

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Celebrating the spirit of urbanity and tolerance: The Jevremova Street - Street of Meetings event

Author: Dragana Antonijevic (Faculty of Philosophy, University of Belgrade)  email
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Short Abstract

Jevremova Street - Street of Meetings is a street event held in the center of Belgrade. It aims to revive the spirit of cosmopolitan urbanity and tolerance, since the population of the neighborhood in which the street is located has, throughout its history, been multiethnic and multiconfessional.

Long Abstract

This paper aims to present from an ethnographic point of view a specific street event, Jevremova Street - Street of Meetings, which has been held for two years now in the center of Belgrade, Serbia. The festival is held on Palm Sunday, which is the feast of the Stari Grad municipality, where the street is located. Jevremova Street is situated in the oldest part of the city, which has for centuries been the hub of Belgrade's civic life. The festival aims not only to recreate the civic spirit of Serbia of the late 19th and early 20th century, but also to revive and establish, by means of various street performances and events, the spirit of cosmopolitan urbanity and tolerance characteristic of this part of the city, which has, throughout its history, been multiethnic and multiconfessional.

The concept of the event is interesting. The linear space of the street is transformed into an intersection of different segments of time and of the cultural, confessional, ethnic and professional identities and practices that used to exist or are present to this day in the life of the street and the entire neighborhood. Through the participation of various, both professional and amateur, performers, as well as the participation of citizens who live and work on or near Jevremova Street, tableaux and events are staged which, as in a mobile exhibition, revive the memory and tradition and shape the spirit of urbanity and community, and (re)construct the various identities of the oldest neighborhood of Belgrade.

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Paradise in the city: about a commercial and leisure centre called Manufactura

Author: Anna Kubisztal (University of Lodz)  email
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Short Abstract

This presentation shows how huge impact a commercial and leisure centre has on a local society. I would like to present Manufactura as a non-place and a product of supermodernity. It is also a space where temporary identity is possible

Long Abstract

The purpose of this abstract is to present a unique place not only in Poland, but also in Europe. It is situated in Lodz and called Manufactura. Manufactura is analyzed as a non-place (based on the concept of Marc Augé) and a space that can create and shape life of society. Manufactura has deep roots in Lodzian history, nevertheless, after it was adopted into a commercial centre it has become a non-place which pretends to be a place in anthropological meaning. It is situated in a revitalized factory, whose owner was a Jewish manufacturer Poznański. This place was believed to have been a promised land for Lodzian society due to a huge industrial development in the 19th century. There are a few important issues which I would like to take into consideration. The first issue is the identity of Lodzians, it seems that Manufactura reflects local identity. Not only because it is situated in a historical place but also due to cultural events which are organized on the market. On the other hand this non-place makes it possible to obtain a temporary identity. What is more, from an ontological perspective Manufactura's space forces itself on their participants using appropriate synchronized codes but these codes are not synchronized with the space surrounding Manufactura. I would like to present a market from an anthropological perspective - its influence on people's behaviour, practices, way of thinking, even way of dressing. It is a social must to be in Manufactura for shopping or during local celebrations, showing a membership to the society by wearing membership's labels (conspicuous consumption). Market is decontextualized, depending on cultural or social events and seasons. Everything that is happening in Manufactura is temporary. The central market always stimulates positive emotions in it's visitors because of a variety of events and also due to sociopetal space.

Gulbenkian Foundation: scenario of modernity

Author: Ana Bigotte Vieira (FCSH- UNL)  email
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Short Abstract

I would like to call the attention to the ways in which the Gulbenkian Foundation, since 1958 until the Eighties worked as the Portuguese main institutional 'scenario' to modern practices and consumptions - or even to a certain idea of progress and cosmopolitism.

Long Abstract

In this paper I would like to call the attention to the ways in which the Gulbenkian Foundation, since its appearance in 1958 until the late Eighties (with the opening of other big cultural institutions), worked as the Portuguese main institutional 'scenario' (Diana Taylor´s) to modern artistic practices and consumptions - or even to a certain general idea of progress and cosmopolitism.Due to Salazar's conservative, nationalist and traditionalist politics, modernity and cosmopolitism were almost institutionally inaccessible in the country. As so, Gulbenkian Foundation's activity (a private international Foundation in Portuguese territory) continuously staged the encounter with the progressive, modern and civilized Other. The opening of its headquarters and Gulbenkian park, in 1969, as well as, in 1983, the opening of its Modern Art Center materialized this idea of scenario, by creating a concrete place to locate this encounter with modernity.

City sets: visual urban identities

Authors: Marja Seliger (Aalto University, School of Art and Design)  email
Mika Tuomola (Aalto University School of Art and Design)  email
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Short Abstract

The paper presents a case study and methods applied to research visual identities and narratives in an urban environment. It aims to initiate a collaborative research project to explore the encounters of contemporary local and global visual communication design and narratives in European cities.

Long Abstract

City Sets - Visual Urban Identities was a workshop and a seminar arranged for post-graduate students in graphic design, new media, photography and architecture in November 2010. The aim was to research and discuss designs, artifacts and visual narratives embedded in an urban environment. Photo-observation, video recording and interviews were used to collect pictorial material and to investigate modes of visualizing information, identities, promotion and narratives in cities.

City Sets is a metaphor that refers to cities as stages where passers-by are seen as actors. Architecture in an urban environment tells history and frames places, which can be seen as stages for various scenes and encounters to come about. Advertising and signage as city sets influence the appearance of a place, although their functions are information and promotion. Arts on streets have developed new modes for participation questioning the restrictions and rights to use public space.

Anthropologists have used photography and filming for documentation since 1800s and photo-observation is associated with ethnography. For artists and designers it is a method to explore and observe the world and collect material to create new artworks. In City Sets project these two aspects were combined. In collaborative fieldwork the students documented urban scenes and collected material, which they developed further and created multi-linear visual narratives. The material was arranged and presented online by the City Sets Multilinear media player application designed for the project. The paper presents the workshop model as a visual method applicable for research and for media design.

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An archeology of cosmopolitanism: culture crossing and urban creativity as seen through the signs and traces of cultural diversity in urban landscapes

Author: Giulietta Laki (Université Libre de Bruxelles)  email
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Short Abstract

What makes a city cosmopolitan? This question is explored here in the very specific field of urban landscapes: I am documenting signs - from explicit icons to unintentional traces - that are visible in public spaces and that convey the feeling of a multicultural or cosmopolitan neighborhood.

Long Abstract

What makes a city cosmopolitan? I am exploring this question in the very specific field of urban landscapes: I am documenting signs - from explicit icons to unintentional traces - that are visible in public spaces and that convey the feeling of a multicultural or cosmopolitan neighborhood.

This empirical survey - an "excavation" of signs - is currently taking place in Brussels, but it is meant to be extended to other European cities. It is a spatial-based research, confined to small areas of the city: just a few streets in a transitional position between two neighborhoods with different socioeconomic and/or cultural profiles.

How are these territories marked? A graffiti, the unusual utilization made of a place, the board of an ethnic restaurant, what do they tell about their environment? And backwards: how do different aesthetics and lifestyles - namely the "ephemeral character of metropolitan life" - react and contribute to building the landscape of a city?

While inquiring on how the collected signs where produced and how they are now perceived, I am tackling several processes of identity production and (inter)cultural interaction; what can these processes reveal about urban creativity? Which is the link between cultural diversity, urban creativity and cosmopolitanism? And how are we to understand the difference between the folkloric "otherness" and the "cosmopolitan" one?

These fundamental issues are pointed out by the "archeological finds" themselves, the signs which I collected during the presented fieldwork.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.