Disappointing Encounters in the Urban Life of London and Berlin
Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Germany
Encounters with difference in the city - the ‘micropolitics’ of everyday social contact (Amin 2002) - are deemed significant for new and meaningful forms of belonging. Simultaneously, processes of urban change disrupt the possibilities of such encounters through the economic and symbolic displacement of poorer residents. These dynamics come together in Dalston (London) and Reuterkiez (Berlin), two ethnically diverse and gentrifying neighbourhoods that are home to the creative industries. This growing sector is celebrated by policy-makers and place marketing and takes part in the representation and making of the city. Based on semi-structured interviews and ethnographic observations in the two capitals, this comparative paper argues that predominantly white and middle-class creative professionals - e.g. artists, designers and media workers - have a desire for difference and diversity that is tied into discourses of creativity and a self-understanding of ‘being creative’. However, which forms of diversity (and creativity) are valued is highly selective.
Investigating how creative professionals experience and understand ethnic, social and cultural difference, findings show an awareness of the marginality of encounters that occur in these neighbourhoods. A pronounced search for diversity is the reason why these marginal encounters with difference are experienced as unrequited, challenging or disappointing; judgements that are explained by the attribution of minority ethnic communities as self-segregating and lacking of ‘openness’. Adding to predominantly positive conceptualisations of encounters in the literature, an exploration of encounters with diversity that are experienced as disappointing sheds light on the multiple ways in which difference is made sense of. Doing so then reveals a complex relationship between a desire for living with difference, gentrification, and old and new forms of exclusion.
From Strangers to Strangers: (Non)Migrant Encounters with Difference in Café Spaces
University of Vienna, Austria
In this paper, I revisit the concept of conviviality (Gilroy, 2004, 2006a, 2006b) and its much-romanticized use in understanding encounters with difference in everyday urban life. In contrast to the tendency to privilege daily interaction with difference in semi-; public spaces as cohabitation of difference, or ‘indifference to difference’ (Amin, 2012, 2013), I see that the concept overlooks the evident asymmetries of so-called prosaic negotiation of difference, as it fails to answer how individual experiences of so-called unremarkable difference at a micro-level can translate into group-experiences at a macro-level to the same degree. In critique of the concept that celebrates encounter with difference as an ordinary feature of urban multiculture, I stress that the individual moments of prosaic interaction shall not be mistaken as moments of cultural transgression, where cultural, ethnic, racial and/or religious differences become unruly and unremarkable. Rather, I argue that the concept, of which strength is said to do away with the patronizing principles of ‘European, white normativity’ (Valluvan, 2016), fails to register how habitual encounters with others can go beyond individual moments into ‘respect for difference’ (Valentine, 2008). For this, I introduce my observations on encounters with difference in three café spaces in three different neighborhoods in Vienna, Austria to demonstrate whether low-level sociability witnessed among my participants from each site translates into a normative urban multiculture.
(Im)possibilities of (urban) (food) autonomy. Everyday life struggles in the city of Athens.
University of Cordoba, Spain
New forms of struggle on the everyday life are emerging where heterogeneous radical protesters are challenging the deconstruction of the capitalist relations against life that last phases of global capitalism have reshaped. In this way, as a turn into radical politics that enforced this trend, autonomy its being claim and practice by radical protesters in the city of Athens. Furthermore, they are having the city and social reproduction processes as decisive sites of confrontation where directly connect to new everyday concerns and basic needs resulted by last capitalist crisis. Hence, Food, among other basic needs such as water, housing or education, are new spaces of confrontation but also of affinity and affection. After two year ethnographic research 2014-2016 (observatory participation and in-depth interviews) and having as departing point the 2008 December revolts in Athens in this paper we aim to explore the everyday life struggles for the reconstruction of food autonomy triggered in this city. Furthermore, we embrace agroecology, eco-feminism and radical geography as analytical frameworks to better understand the (im)possibilities of the urban (food) autonomy that these radical protesters propose and practice. To conclude, that through the reconstruction of urban food autonomy these radical protesters they got to transform Athens socio-spatiality integrating “ruralities” and thus, to challenge the limits of the urban. Yet, they have also created new forms of relation to tackle dignified life reproduction by engaging the collective, the neighbourhoods, as main new actors.
Lessons from the experiences of the city residents in a marginal perspective
Universidade Estadual do Norte Fluminense, Darcy Ribeiro, Brazil
This work, based on an ethnographic research in a half Brazilian city, Campos dos Goytacazes, located in the Northern Fluminense region, seeks to establish a relationship between the ways of living and acting in the margins of the city and perceptions about everyday life. The first hypothesis is that residents' readings of where they live - both the conditions of their physical structure and the dynamics of the internal organization of space - are strongly related to their subsequent life trajectories. These trajectories are sometimes structured within the limits of poverty, between risk and vulnerability, and in the absence of social rights and guarantees. But they also show that in the struggle they consolidate diverse activities, artistic expressions and, with them, the hope of a decent dwelling can be realized. The second hypothesis is that the favela as a margin is a center of material and symbolic production that facilitates the constitution of everyday objects and shows how the role of subject is permanently renegotiated despite the violence exercised in these places. Three questions arise in this interpretive line: 1) what does it mean to live in the favela? 2) how to interpret the process of change from the experience of the residents themselves? And 3) With what methods to approach the socio-spatial dynamics that impose the routines in the locality after the change of address?
Key Words: urban experiences, margins, socio-spatial dynamics