Presenters:Nik Theodore, Gautam Mody, Teresa Gowan
Discussant: Vinay Gidwani
The anointing of cities as future engines of growth and accumulation in the global capitalist economy has given warrant to neoliberal urban policies that seek to transform urban land and working populations through market forces, unleashing "value" that ostensibly lies dormant. Urban "reforms" enacted under this entrepreneurial agenda has aggravated various forms of informality, all the way from housing and real estate to labor and livelihoods. Growth in the so-called formal economy has been accompanied, in virtually all instances, by an explosion in unorganized sector activities and informalization of labor. Employment forms such as day labor, once thought to have been on the wane as countries modernized, have re-appeared with a vengeance, even in cities of the global North. One remarkable phenomenon is the surge in unorganized employment within the formal sector. While there is increasing recognition of the importance of non-formal or "need" economies to urban livelihoods and life, there is scant analysis of how workers and petty entrepreneurs who constitute this growing "precariat" depend on the ability to claim and use urban space, and how neo-liberalization produces urban space and its conditions of access. Correspondingly, there is scant analysis of the "politicization" of precarious work - for instance, how repertoires of contestation - have percolated across border from mass-movement struggles in various parts of the global South. This panel will examine the intensifying conditions of precarity that characterize contemporary urban working classes; the everyday practices of the urban precariat in negotiating and resisting their circumstances; as well as the diffusion of political tactics and strategies that activists seek to leverage in building a new Left.
Resisting Discrimination in the World of Work: Towards building a New Left in the Era of Imperialist Globalisation
This paper will examine the emergent discriminatory practices that have more often than not accentuated the fault lines of pre-capitalist social discrimination. At the same time, emergent employment practices have changed the urban space as public goods and services, as it were, have come under the profit system reducing the possibilities of mobilisation along class lines within these spaces. At the same time the fluidity of employment relations has for a significant section of the working population blurred the boundaries between town and country as this section sees the urban space purely as a site of earning while locating their political and social lives in the countryside. Addressing discrimination in all its manifestations, and most of all in employment relations, has become imperative for advancing a working class politics.
The Hustler and the convert
How might a view from the South illuminate the fast-developing world of extreme poverty among the homeless and jobless in the good old US? What might we understand better, from the infinitely larger and more diverse ways that poor people produce and reproduce their lives across the cities of the global South, about possible, likely, or desirable responses to wholesale abandonment by capital and government? To address these questions, this paper draws on street ethnography in San Francisco, St. Louis and Minneapolis-St.Paul to meditate on two primary roles, the hustler and the convert, each of which represents a powerful organizing archetype among very poor Americans, covering not only ethical position-taking but mundane ways to "get by" when jobs disappear and housing costs too much.
Presenters:Nezar Alsayyad and Muna Guvenv, Tim Bunnell, Sophie Oldfield
Discussant: Anant Maringanti
Social Media, Urban Space, and the Spatiality of Uprising in the Middle East
This paper analyzes the political geography of uprisings in the Middle East. We interrogate the proposition that the use of social media resulted in further articulations in physical space in a manner that may enhance our understanding of social movements in the 21st Century. We try to pay careful attention to national and transnational networks that shape the spaces of insurgency and protest in different countries in the Middle East and North Africa. We attempt to demonstrate how the production of the urban takes place in a cluster of diverse social mobilizations, state-society relations, political cleavages, and the regimes of governance under post-colonial conditions. In this paper we are particularly concerned with the spatial and temporal dimensions of these urban uprisings with a focus on the interwoven relationship between social media that organize political gatherings and communicate political messages; the practices of protest in urban space; and the global and national media coverage of the ensuing events. We thus highlight two related phenomena: (a) the mutually constitutive relationship between messages of social media and actions in urban space; and (b) the tendency for media coverage of events to drive events in specific directions often resulting in a spectacle that accounts for an instance of popular power. Using several case studies, we analyze several recent protest movements as articulated in social media, manifested in urban space, and covered by the national and global media. The first part of the paper is spent on the cases of Tunisia, Egypt, and Yemen in the context of the reciprocal interactions between social media, urban space and media coverage. The second part of the paper is devoted to the cases of Bahrain, Syria and Turkey and to exploring the ways in which each of these three components transformed and altered each other. Our discussion highlights the need to breathe the elements of social media and media coverage into the ambiguities of state-society relation, and social mobilizations as key factors in urban uprisings. Finally, we suggest that the reciprocal interactions between social media, urban space, and media coverage, does not simply reproduce the relations between them, but it incrementally transforms both actors and relations. We recognize that these processes generate a multitude of relations grounded in the actual making of urban spaces emerging from the Global South. In the end we speculate on the lessons learnt from studying the uprising in the Middle East and what they may bring to mainstream urban theory and the study of social movements and the politics of insurgency.
Cities of Cities: Asia and the Leading Edge of Global Urban Change
Urban imaginations have long centred around models based on the experiences of a small number of cities and metropolitan regions. An increasing body of scholarship recognizes that such a subset does not do justice to the diversity of urban settlements and ways of life around the world. It is also by now widely recognized that city models have overwhelmingly been derived from experiences in distinct regions, namely Western Europe and North America. One manifestation of this is the ingrained tendency to reference cities back to a small number of archetypes in the West. Therefore, drawing upon my own reading on cities in Southeast Asia, a city with canals (e.g. Banjarmasin in Indonesia) becomes 'the Venice of the East', proponents of high-rise skylines (e.g. in Kuala Lumpur or Singapore) are 'doing a Manhattan', while a sprawling, automobile-dependent metropolis (e.g. Jakarta) is likened to Los Angeles. In each case, cities in Asia are referenced 'back' to putative antecedents elsewhere. However, there are also now increasingly cases where it is Asian cities that are being held up as models or archetypes. What does this tell us (beyond simply affirming the 'rise' of Asian economies)? Is it possible that the emergence of Asian models can provide clues as to how to 'postcolonialise' (Robinson, 2006) Anglophone urban studies? As the leading edge of global urban development shifts eastwards, Asian urbanisms will more and more exceed understandings and vocabularies derived from prior western experiences. Asian 'cities of cities' might therefore help to contribute to efforts at revolutionizing urban theory for a decreasingly western-centred world.
From the southern tip of Africa: Social movements, global stories, southern frictions
What does it mean to read and interpret movements 'from the south' - 'from' and 'in' southern cities? Building on Rao (2006) and Tsing (2005), amongst others, I critically reflect on divergent ways movements are read substantively and theoretically, and the 'frictions' that lie in and between these accounts. I am interested particularly in the ways in which research on social movements configures a 'politics of the poor' at various scales, that travels in and between debates about: national development and modernization and the problems of inequality; global, often quite universal, critiques of southern states and their broad acquiescence to neo liberal market political economies; and, the grounding of movement politics in everyday realities and struggles in cities in southern contexts. By contrasting and bringing together these readings of movements and their analytical configurations, I explore a framework that attempts to account for the empirical conditions and the politics generated by movements in southern cities under the banner of globalization, illustrated in struggles for land and housing in a Southern African context.
Panel III New Urban Regimes in the Global South
Presenters: Oren Yiftachel; Jiang Jun; Ravi Sundaram
Discussant: Ananya Roy
Gray spacing and the transformation of urban regimes
Middle Eastern cities have recently experienced unprecedented waves of demonstrations, coupled by the mushrooming of tent cities, and the articulation of mass demands for political, social and economic change. At the same time, a quieter transformation has spawned a process of 'gray spacing', during which informalities have shaped anew urban spaces and regimes. The paper analyzes and conceptualizes these transformations with a focus on Israel/Palestine, in order to ask: do these transformation herald a new democratic age and the dawn of urban citizenship? Or are there the pangs of a 'creeping apartheid' process, during which ethnocratic and neo-liberal forces co-opt, colonize and entrap the growing class of 'unwanted/irremovable? In the spirit of global urbanism, the paper compares events in Israel/Palestine's main cities to urban transformations in other world regions, and theorize the connection between gray spacing, the current revolutionary pulse and the emergence of new urban regimes.
From plan to planning:China's adaptation to the market
The postcolonial city: from planning to information?
Panel IV Subaltern Urbanisms
Discussant: Helga Leitner
Description: This session is concerned with subaltern urbanism and its role in social transformations. For some scholars, subaltern urbanism refers to the manifold individual informal practices that are occurring at the socio-spatial margins: practices of disadvantage, of vulnerable groups in particular spaces (e.g. the slum). Indeed much of the work on subaltern urbanism focuses resolutely on everyday tactics, encroachments, subversions and accommodations of subordinated populations. Other scholars, however, question whether subaltern urbanism can be reduced to such activities and tactics, and instead suggest that they need to be examined in their articulation with the state, capital, and organized collective action. This implies that more emphasis needs to be placed on structural enablements and constraints surrounding these practices. In this session we engage with this problematic, interrogating more generally both the meaning and productivity of the notion of the subaltern, and the condition of subalternity.
Democracy, Re-Making Cities, De-Centering Theory
In many cities around the world, the imagination of democracy has anchored processes of intense socio-political transformation. Urban policy has been one of the arenas in which democracy has been experimented and contested. Citizens of unequal, authoritarian, and segregated cities have engaged in the processes of transforming them, processes that have had contradictory results. Urban theorists have been analyzing theses engagements and creating new references to understand them. In this paper, I propose to take the analyzes produced about the processes of democratic experimentation and urban transformation in the cities of São Paulo and Johannesburg as references for a discussion about the interconnections between political and urban transformation and theory making in the global south.
The University of Abahlali baseMjondolo: Reflections on an Ongoing Political Experiment in Durban, South Africa
Urban Subalterns in the Arab Revolutions
Panel V Great Transformations: Land, Finance, Power
Strategizing Urbanism in the Era of Neoliberalization: Power Reshuffling, Land Development, and Municipal Finance in Urbanizing China
Mega-events and the city of exception: Theoretical explorations of Brazilian experience
The hosting of FIFA World Cup in 2014 and the Olympic Games 2016 in Rio de Janeiro are the achievement of a process of construction and consolidation of a new concept of city and of urban planning. Drawing on the Rio de Janeiro and Brazilian recent experience, the papers describes and discusses the conceptual and political-institutional changes that led us to a context in which both the local dominant coalitions and the forms of political power in cities have been restructured and redefined.
The abandon of urban planning patterns based on comprehensive master plans, which has been parallel and consequential to the crisis of the Keynesian consensus and the "welfare state", opened the space for the emergence of a new competitive and entrepreneurial planning model. The Barcelona pattern and the new conceptions of urban strategic planning, diffused by well known intellectuals as Jordi Borja and Manuel Castells, as well as by multilateral agencies (World Bank, Interamerican Development Bank, UN-Habitat, etc) became dominant in Brazilian and Latin American cities. The ideals of a rational, functional and normative planning essential to modern post-war planning models and practices have been replaced by the new principles of urban competitiveness, and the market friendly and market oriented planning. The attack on the so called rigidity and interventionism of modernist urban planning prepare the offensive of a new regime of flexibility. Master projects instead of market planning, public-private partnerships instead of state activism and voluntarism.
After a quick review of the Marxist debate (Marx, Gramsci and Poulantzas) and the recent writings by Giorgio Agamben on the state of exection, the paper argues that a new regime of urban governance is emerging: the city of exception. Now, the "urbanisme ad hoc" (François Ascher) makes that exceptions become the rule.
On the other side of the coin, the city of exception is the direct democracy of capital and the direct appropriation of cities by the valorization process and the control of land and territories by corporations.
The paper ends with an overview of the impacts in Rio de Janeiro of this new urban regime - city of exception and direct democracy of capital - and the emergence of resistance and alternative experiences of conflictive planning.
(Paper to be read by Abdoumaliq Simone)
In the so-called majority urban world of today, the trajectories of change sometime seem univocal, at others, all over the place. Speeds of transformation are deceptive in their manifestations. The seeming hegemonies behind the logics of mega-development appear to chew up everything in their path. But in their production of more of the same, they leave little to constitute the basis of dynamic interactions between them, and such interactions otherwise constitute the speed, the registration of history.
The chipping away of residential and commercial districts built up over many years to accommodate a great diversity of activities and people produce multifarious dispositions--different gradations of gentrification, renewal, decay, resurgence, and dissipation. While injustice could hardly be more glaring and the poor more discounted, maneuvers to foster more comprehensive integration into urban systems often prove intensely exclusionary. On the other hand, spatial polarization often proves the condition under which the marginalized, weakened or threatened work out operational spaces--however temporary--to establish more effective terms under which to participate in corporate modalities of governance.
Within such conditions, how do the majority of urban residents in the postcolonial urban world put together ways for inhabiting the city? The specifications of land use, the conditions of tenure, the financial procedures for accessing housing, and the calibrations of labor markets are structural devices that generate a specific framework of possibilities. But there are also deep inventories of various social practices, ways of interpreting urban conditions, modes of social support and stabilization that have long "guided" urban residents.
What I want to do in this contribution is to explore some of the practices that residents have used to make viable forms of inhabitation in the postcolonial urban world. Most of these reflections are drawn from several years of research, activism and community organization in Jakarta--now part of one of the world's largest urban regions. While these reflections are specific to Jakarta, other work that I have done over the past thirty years in Africa's major urban areas, as well as in Bangkok and Phnom Penh, make me think that many of these maneuvers undertaken by residents, nominally "belonging" to the working poor, working class, lower middle-class, are also applicable more widely. Here, I focus on infrastructures of relationality. In other words, the ways in which relationships themselves constitute an infrastructure for inhabitation. These relationships are not just social events or descriptors of exchanges and transactions. They are not simply embodiments of sentiment or vehicles for organizing work, expenditure, attention and recognition. Rather, they are materials themselves to be articulated in various forms in order to construct circulations of bodies, resources, affect and information. They are vehicles of movement and becoming, ways of mediating the constantly oscillating intersections of various times, spaces, economies, constraints and possibilities making up city life. Relations are also the tools through which political imaginations and claims are exerted and thus are the embodiment of force. Here, force, regardless of how it is mediated or institutionalized, exists in its potential as a means of urban change. More than notions of social capital, care, support, economy and livelihood are entailed in the efforts inhabitants make to work on and with relations. For what is also entailed are the circumvention of domination and the keeping open of many different trajectories of what life could be all at once.