Going Underground: Excavating the Subterranean City
An Interdisciplinary Workshop 21st – 22nd September 2006
Co-organised by SURF, Salford University and Centre for the Study of Cities and Regions (CSCR), Geography Department, Durham University
Location: MANCHESTER, UK.
Like trees, cities have root systems. The spaces, materialities, imaginaries, experiences and processes of cities delve deep into the subterranean world as well as towering vertically into the sky. And yet urban studies has focused overwhelmingly on the surface of cities and has only very rarely considered the urban underground. As a result, understanding of the mutually defining material, technical, political, social and cultural relations between the surface and subterranean city remains poorly developed. At a time when underground spaces are being bombed by terrorists, networked by infrastructure operators, colonised by the military, excavated ever-more deeply by engineers and planners, and stalked intensively by a whole range of fictional narratives, archaeologists, historians, subterranean explorers and tourist guides, it is time for the urban subterranean to emerge as more than an esoteric interest within urban studies. This workshop is designed to address to help achieve this. It will bring together 20-30 researchers from as wide a range of disciplinary backgrounds as possible to reflectively discuss the affinities between their work on the urban subterranean and assess the potential for constructing a more symmetrical view of the relations between the surface and the sub-surface city.
Aim and Objectives:
The core aim of the workshop is to critically explore the conceptual, empirical and theoretical issues involved in developing an interdisciplinary and critical urban studies of the urban subterranean. There are therefore three objectives:
1. to review the work of researchers who have focused on the urban underground from across social science, history, the arts and media, engineering, architecture, journalism, literature and film studies to explore how the underground is understood from within these different disciplines.
2. to critically examine competing conceptual and theoretical approaches to the urban underground by contrasting their different ways of understanding the relations between the hidden and visible city.
3. to consider the desirability and feasibility of producing an interdisciplinary book on the urban underground and its relations with contemporary urban studies based on the papers presented at the workshop.
Proposals for papers could be orientated around the following themes:
The Politics of the Urban Subterranean: papers could include the relationship between geopolitics and the underground such as recent attacks on London; contesting the commodification of underground space; competition for underground space by utilities and infrastructure operators; use of underground bunkers for security and survival; informal use of underground for the homeless; the political ecology of lost rivers, rats, alligators and sewers; workers on the underground in sewers and transport networks; contested design, planning and engineering of the underground space and tunnelling; sociologies of underground technology and techno-science; the contested archaeology of cities; risk and resilience of underground assets.
The Imaginary of the Urban Subterranean: papers could include work on the representation of the underground, in film, literature, art, religion, history, sci-fi and journalism; the growth in underground guidebooks, exploration and tourism; the treatment of the underground in design and architecture; art in, of, and on the urban subterranean; the iconography of the underground and cultures of design; the concept of the lost underground; revealing the city through excavation; urban subterranean mythology; senses and the underground; exposing and remembering the past through the underground.
The Otherness of the Urban Subterranean: papers could include representation of the separateness and the distinctiveness of the underground; death and fear of the urban underground; the links with hell, myths and religion; unusual uses of the urban underground such as catacombs; forgotten time and clashing temporalities of the underground and modernising urban landscapes; the puncturing of the city through the underground; the absence of the underground in contemporary urban studies; the niche and esoteric nature of underground research; the growth of popular interest in excavating the city; experiencing the urban underground as spectacle and explorer; exposing and remembering the underground.
Submission of Abstracts:
Please send a 200 word abstract to Pam Allen on P.Allen@salford.ac.uk by December 17th 2005, selected papers will be notified by 27th January 2006 and draft papers will be required by July 31st 2006.
Professor Stephen Graham
Department of Geography
University of Durham
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