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Session Overview
RN37_02c_P: Community(ies) and(in) the City
Wednesday, 30/Aug/2017:
4:00pm - 5:30pm

Session Chair: Marta Smagacz-Poziemska, Jagiellonian University
Location: PB.3.6
PANTEION University of Social & Political Sciences 136 Syggrou Avenue 17671 Athens, Greece Building: B, Level: 3.

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Between Structure and Agency: Towards New Perspective on Urban Communities in Postmodern City



Having the latest findings of community studies regarding “Community Question”, as well as current trends in urban sociology and urban policies as points of departure, the paper addresses the problem of contemporary urban communities’ production and reproduction processes, as well as cultural mechanisms and factors of these processes. Rejecting both the ecological determinism and cultural reductionism of community studies, I assume that postmodern city is a space of structuration of diverse urban communities that go far beyond the traditional concept of neighbourhood, personal networks or imagined communities. I assume that culture in general and symbolic meanings of territory in particular, play crucial role in the process of structuration of urban communities, and that structuration process takes place in collective cultural consciousness and is mediated by territorially embedded cultural practices of individuals. I will argue that spatial segregation of diverse cultural practices reinforces their capacity for community structuration through symbolical construction of social boundaries. The paper aims to answer the questions on how various cultural dimensions of urban space impact communal symbolic practices of individuals and what kind of cultural mechanisms shape various urban social forms. The paper provides a new theoretical and methodological perspective to analysis of cultural mechanisms of processes of urban community structuration, in which cultural practices of individuals and symbolic dimensions of urban space interact, leading to emergence, reproduction and reconstruction of a given type of social entity. Some preliminary research data will be provided in order to exemplify and support the arguments of the paper.

Neighbors online: Internet communities of neighbors as a form of micro-urban solidarity

Anna Strelnikova

National Research University Higher School of Economics (HSE), Russian Federation

Neighborhood is a significant social phenomenon and a type of relationship. On the one hand, when individual thinking someone its neighbor, he or she decides to invite (include) or isolate (exclude) him to nearby space. On the other hand, communication with people who live nearby is a way to set up familiar social space in huge unfamiliar city.

With the dynamic nature of the Internet, the neighborhood phenomenon now transfers to special online communities. Online neighborhood communities are websites where participants communicate informally with others who are living nearby or plan to live nearby in the future (especially people which house is under construction). In our research, we analyze online neighborhood communities as a form of solidarity – activity with common goals, motivations and practices.

The methods of data collection consist of online observation (20 neighborhood communities in Moscow city), and secondary data analysis (local and international surveys with questions about neighborhood, i.e. World Values Survey).

Data analysis shows 2 main features of constructing micro-urban solidarity via online neighborhood communities: 1) social ranking of potential or current neighbors (as people as city objects), i.e. categorizing neighbors as preferable or undesirable to live nearby, 2) ability to demonstrate and growing up level of social capital – a certain kind of resource available to the individual and makes their actions easier inside the social structure.

Reinventing the community

Victoria Gomez

University Carlos III, Spain

The term community is trendy topic. People mention community when talking about common goods, the social economy or the experiments in alternative economies. At the same time, sociologists are paying renewed attention to the character and nature of social ties in different fields such as integration of diversity, struggle against exclusion and particularly, urban regeneration studies. The debate about the decline of social capital is open, as is the discussion on the present and future of the community. Paying special attention to the urban sphere, the presentation will show how the community is not a type of association of the past, rather the contrary, because it has undergone processes of retreat, rediscovery and rehabilitation that has leaded us to the present moment, a point in time of reinventing the community.

Urban Community Participation in Post-Soviet Space: Community Organizing, Urban Governance and Urban Conflict in Lithuania

Jolanta Aidukaite1, Kerstin Jacobsson2

1Lithuanian Social Research Centre, Lithuania; 2Gothenburg University, Sweden

Active citizenship through community involvement has become an important tool to address place-specific problems in cities. On the one hand community organizations have been seen at the centre of urban protest as they deliberately focus on the role of local government in relation to urban-public space. On the other hand, community organizations have been found prone to co-optation and de-politicization, precisely because of their close relationship to local authorities and their focus on practical problem-solving. Thus far, most research on community mobilization has been conducted on ‘Western’ cities while it is less known what role community organizations play in post-Soviet urban space. This paper examines the development of community organizations and their relationship to local authorities in two major Lithuanian cities: Vilnius and Kaunas. Community organizations have emerged in response to market-oriented economic growth to resist the privatization of public space and public infrastructure. However, despite the similar national context, Vilnius and Kaunas have developed distinct urban governance models since the 1990s (progrowth urban governance vs. corporatist governance model), thus creating different constraints and opportunities for community participation. The paper compares the activities, collective action strategies and patterns of community mobilization in the two cities. It shows how local political priorities and policy choices of local elites generate different forms of urban governance resulting in different patterns of community mobilization. The analysis draws on qualitative interviews with community activists and local and national state officials as well as official statistics.

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