Softening the urban fabric:
Encounters, Spaces, Subjectivities
Friday 12 July 2013, 10am – 6 pm, University of East London,
This one-day interdisciplinary symposium aims to provide an opportunity to share research about current, emerging and historical moments of change and intersections in city spaces. We invite scholars of various disciplinary and theoretical backgrounds to share their research on cities, subjectivity and change – the latter to be interpreted with an equal measure of theoretical rigour and imagination. Practitioners, artists and activists whose work speaks to these concerns would be welcome.
A city is a living organism. It is both a ‘hard city’, one that can be mapped in terms of roads, buildings, public spaces, and a ‘soft city’ of inhabitants, multiple belongings, itineraries, sounds, and desires (Raban, 1974). The process of ‘softening the urban fabric’ is the extent to which the ‘soft city’ informs, interplays, and eventually remaps the ‘hard city’.
This is an area of growing interdisciplinary interest. Current debates focus on the relationships between economics, shifting societies and everyday cultural practices, providing challenging and interesting terrains for applied social research. At the same time, the current political and theoretical project is how to engage with opening spaces for critical reflection in order to advance views of how civil society changes, and make claims for new mechanisms and processes towards change. The proposed interdisciplinary symposium will attempt to engage with a range of approaches to space, social bonds, politics, culture and power.
Whether change occurs through political upheaval and economic austerity, or emerges with the ebb and flow of ‘normal’ life, it finds its way in peoples’ narratives, desires, itineraries, and everyday practices. The evocation of ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ is intended as a metaphor that insists on embodiment, sensory experiences and subjective ways of understanding cities, subjectivities and change.
Topics include, but are not limited to:
• Psychoanalytic approaches to subjectivity, desire and the city;
• Individual experiences and accounts of change;
• ‘Belonging’ and the city;
• Exploring the city fabric through the senses: itineraries, images, sounds;
• Political or economic change and representations in language and art;
• How do individuals dream, imagine and envisage the past, the present and the future of the city, especially at times of change?
• How are public spaces experienced, inhabited, or avoided?
• What are the everyday issues of navigating the city in the era of austerity?
• What does the current political mode of turmoil/ revolt/ transformation offer to the process of ‘softening’ the city?
• What are the challenges for researching the ‘soft city’ in terms of methodologies?
• Researching the changing city: theoretical issues and methodological approaches.
Abstracts of no more than 300 words with a clear indication of the authors, affiliations and contacts should be submitted to Myrto Tsilimpounidi (email@example.com) and Angie Voela (firstname.lastname@example.org) before 20th May, 2013. Authors will be notified by the end of May.
This event is free but registration is essential. To reserve a place please contact the organizers.
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