Urban Experiments in Times of Crisis: From Cultural Production to Neighbourhood Commoning
Manchester Metropolitan University, Greece
This paper presents a longitudinal action research, concerned with the development of a bottom-up neighbourhood initiative in Thessaloniki, Greece. This activist project was launched in order to stimulate the creation of a new neighbourhood identity, whilst promoting place-framed urban experiments that aim at the gradual appropriation of public space on various levels. The project attempts to link research to action and demonstrate how various commoning practices can foster a neighbourhood-scale economy and consolidate a more participatory culture. This chapter contributes to the discussion on the repositioning of urban neighbourhoods in relation to the broader organisational challenges currently faced by Greek cities. Thus, it makes a case for the emergent and critical alternatives to urban management. The importance of this empirical work lies in an identifiable tension between the neoliberal image-making agenda of a city that seemingly attempts to managerialise and depoliticise eventfulness within the parallel absence of a regulatory framework that focuses on the quality of life and allows cultural participation at a neighbourhood level. It is argued that the ‘revival of the neighbourhood’, seen as an intersectional representation of place, can be developed as a locally organised response to the crisis in Greece. In the longer term, this project aims to identify the extent to which neighbourhood initiatives can present an alternative means of urban management and the participation of citizens in the midst of a crisis that has more than a financial aspect. The paper concludes by considering how realistic such an aim might be.
„Moving for the Kids – Does the Perception of Spatial Educational Opportunities and Neighbourhood Quality Influences Relocation Decisions? “
University of Bremen, Germany
There is an ongoing debate about middle class parents actively shaping the educational trajectories of their children, driven by an uncertainty regarding the intergenerational status reproduction. This debate motivates our investigation of how perceived local educational opportunities and neighbourhood quality are related to residential relocations.
We suppose that during family formation and extension the evaluation of place utilities depends on the perception of local contexts and their assumed impact on child development. Parents might be particularly sensitive to the educational infrastructure and neighbourhood. In case of dissatisfaction with the spatial living conditions, middle class parents with high educational aspirations might tend to adjust their housing situation and move towards a more appropriate residential environment. Based on existing research on residential and school segregation, we expect the social composition in schools and neighbourhoods to play an important role in middle class parents’ residential decisions.
In our research project “Moving for the Kids”, we collected data in three German federal states and asked parents of primary-school aged children about the timing and direction of past residential moves, future relocation plans and the perceived local school and neighbourhood quality. In my contribution I would like to present first empirical findings based on event history analysis: Controlling for important life course events and the individual social class, we find that the perception of schools and neighbourhoods is significantly related to a higher tendency to relocate. Moreover, the relocation rate of academics and non-migrants to neighbourhoods subjectively described as non-divers are significantly increased, which indicates ocurring segregation processes.
Practices of Neighbouring and Social Order(s)
1Jagiellonian University in Kraków; 2Jagiellonian University in Kraków
Increasing of social mobility and proliferation the scales of people activity as well as their ways of life make the explanatory potential of the traditional approaches to the neighbourhood run down. The conceptual categories such as neighbourly bonds, local identities and local social capital have also proved to be analytically useless in relation to the complexity and dynamics of everyday life in urban housing estate and beyond. How then can we explore the processes of social ordering and structuralisation of urban communities? To answer these question we test the practice approach, developed in works of Schatzki, Reckwitz, Shove, Nicolini and others. Generally speaking, the practice is "a collection of activities that are linked through an array of understandings, rules, and teleoaffectivities" (T. Schatzki, The Site of the Social: A Philosophical Account of the Constitution of Social Life and Change, The Pennsylvania State University Press, University Park 2002: XXI). From this theoretical angle neighbourhood is seen not as territorial community, but as being a set of dynamic arrangements of socio-spatial practices, embedded in wider institutional (normative), class, emancipatory and political settings. Based on our field research carried out in 6 housing estates of three Polish cities we would like to detail such practices as car parking, space marking, fence making and some others, and to indicate their potential for creating the contours of social order(s).
Unfamiliar Eyes and Fragile Trust. An Ethnographic Research into Boundary Practices in ‘Unsafe Neighborhoods’
1Maastricht University, Netherlands, The; 2Independent
This paper aims to contribute to insight in residents’ practices for promoting safety in a city-area that was considered ‘unsafe’ in municipal reports. Engaging with the work of Jacobs and Lofland, we ask how residents’ efforts at improving safety, established boundaries between public, private and parochial realms. The analysis is based on participatory ethnographic research lasting one year, day and night in a city area of Maastricht.
Residents in two neighborhoods engaged in different boundary-practices. In Greenspace, residents saw many signals of unsafety: drugs, deterioration, racism, loitering youth. While Jane Jacobs wrote about eyes on the street for safety, residents were seeing with ‘unfamiliar eyes on the street’. At loss about how to interpret these signals, it was difficult for them to take action in the street and instead residents sought safety with a fortification of private realms by abstaining from interference with others and adding locks and fences to their houses. By contrast, the stories in Stonevillage show the unfeasibility of protecting private space against intruders, violence, noise and smells, and residents invested in a parochial realm by familiarizing themselves with their streets and making distinctions between insiders ‘knowing their ways’ and outsiders, ‘unknowing strangers’. As the neighborhood was also hosting powerful criminal networks and unpredictable institutions for welfare, housing and police, trust in this parochial realm was fragile. While citizen efforts at improving safety were compromised by the lack of parochial space in Greenspace and lack of private space in Stonevillage, scarcity of public space was reported in both neighborhoods. This limited resources for residents to open new perspectives and improve living conditions.