CFP/conference and book pub – The Right to the City in an Era of Austerity (1973-2014)

The Right to the City in an Era of Austerity (1973-2014): Perspectives on the Past, Present, and Future of Urban Democracy in the United States and Great Britain

An International Conference Organized by the Research Center Monde Anglophone: Politiques et Sociétés (HDEA/Université Paris-Sorbonne) and the Research Group Politiques Américaines (CREA/Université Paris-Ouest Nanterre La Défense)
Paris, France
May 30-31, 2014

If Henri Lefebvre’s idea of “the right to the city” has become fashionable in recent years, this is because it seems to describe something elemental about the current political context in Europe and North America. Indeed, the body of work Lefebvre completed from the late 1960s to the mid 1970s has seen a revival, in part, because it predicted so well the circumstances that now shape the global urban landscape. Writing amidst the social and political upheaval of the late 1960s, Lefebvre fixed his gaze on a dimension of the contestation that many other observers were overlooking—the grassroots campaigns against the destruction of old Paris neighborhoods by modernization projects like the Left Bank Expressway and the Tour Montparnasse. For Lefebvre, these struggles over the use of urban space were critical because, as he also predicted in his classic book The Urban Revolution, urbanization itself was becoming one of the driving forces of capitalism. In view of the importance that the process of gentrification has taken on in Europe and North America since the 1970s and 1980s, it is hard to argue that history has not proven him right. By the 1990s, the phenomenon that British sociologist Ruth Glass had first observed in London in 1964 had become a central strategy of cities throughout the world. As David Harvey argued in 2008, such circumstances have revealed the extent to which “the right to the city” has come to mean “the right to command the whole urban process.”

This conference seeks to build upon the insights of Lefebvre, Harvey, Don Mitchell and others by exploring Continue reading

Journal CFP: ‘Saving the City’: Collective Low-Budget Organising and Urban Practice

Call for papers for an ephemera special issue on:

 ‘Saving the City’: Collective Low-Budget Organising and Urban Practice

Issue Editors: Paula Bialski, Heike Derwanz, Lena Olaison, Birke Otto, Hans Vollmer

In times of financial and economic crisis, cities have become sites of austerity measures, permanent fiscal restraint, declining tax revenues, bankruptcies and ever increasing cuts to public services. In order to ‘save the city’, Jamie Peck argues that the imperative to ‘cut back and save’ and ‘work your way out of debt’ results in urban policies such as structural adjustment, privatization, public-private partnerships, and welfare retrenchments (Peck, 2012). While existing institutional arrangements, collectivist, social-state based ideals and redistributive systems are diminishing, there has been a proliferation of collectively organized urban practices.

In light of these developments, urban dwellers are working creatively with urban scarcity to develop new forms of organizing the city parallel and/or in contrast to centralized, state-based infrastructure, and are forced to do so with a low budget. These include collectively organized urban survival strategies such as car sharing as opposed to car ownership, traveling using online hospitality networks (e.g. CouchSurfing) instead of hotel accommodation (Bialski, 2012; Rosen et. al., 2011), second-hand shopping, cloth swapping and ‘dumpster diving’ versus mass consumption and throwaway culture (Gregson and Crewe, 2003), or, DIY-building rather than ready-made (Brodersen, 2003; Drotschmann, 2010). Other examples include urban farming and cooperative gardening (Schmelzkopf, 1995), local currency systems (Hughes, 2005), transport ticket sharing, house squatting (Neuwirth, 2005), up-cycling of sewage and trash, and other forms of re-using and re-valuing urban resources. As the city is made up of multiple forms of organizing, forming an alternative, low-budget solution often means moving away from the more centralized and top-down forms of urban organization into the decentralized and local.

These self-organized, collective saving practices all involve “complex encounters, connections and mixtures of diverse hybrid networks of humans and animals, objects and information, commodities and waste“ (Sheller and Urry, 2006: 2). Here cultures of frugality and sharing (Botsman and Rogers, 2010) emerge, creating new Continue reading

CSA 2014- “Ecologies: Relations of Culture, Matter, and Power”

Society for Radical Geography, Spatial Theory, and Everyday Life

The Cultural Studies Association has announced the theme for their May 2014 conference, “Ecologies: Relations of Culture, Matter, and Power“:

Call for Proposals for the Twelfth Annual Meeting of the Cultural Studies Association (US)

Ecologies: Relations of Culture, Matter, and Power

University of Utah, Salt Lake City May 29-31, 2014

The Cultural Studies Association (CSA) invites proposals from its current and future members for participation in its twelfth annual meeting in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Everyone cares about the environment these days, but what does it mean to speak of ecology? Network and systems theories suggest complex approaches to questions of culture and ecology. Assemblage theories explode stable conceptions of locality, sociality, and the human. We speak of programming environments, learning environments, media ecologies, organizational ecologies, digital ecologies, ecologies of resistance, ecologies of play, flows of information, nodal points of power, and open-source ecologies of collaboration and collective…

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Open University – Gendered Space in Delhi – Full-Time PhD Studentship

The Department of Geography at the Open University invites applications for a full-time PhD studentship for three years commencing as soon as possible.

You will be part of an international research team undertaking a HERA funded project examining the cultural geographies of gendered space in Delhi, with a particular interest in ethnographic understanding of the mobility of single women in the city.

You should have a 2:1 for your first degree, or equivalent, and a relevant honours or masters degree with some experience in research methods (ethnographic, mobile and/or visual methods).

Please note that residency requirements apply to this studentship.

The details of the studentship are here.
For more information please contact Melissa Butcher (
Closing date : 27/09/2013

Richard J Williams podcast interview with Times Higher

Follow link for 40 min. interview with Times Higher (UK) on the new book Sex and Buildings.  Much discussion of US urbanism, modernism, and LA architecture, as well as the relationship between sexual ethics and architecture. More broadly, it discusses how to write history while acknowledging a personal perspective.

‘Architects always seem pretty uncomfortable with feelings…’ Interview with Richard J Williams

Interview first published in Building Design (UK) in August 2013. The subject is the book ‘Sex and Buildings’, published by Reaktion on 15 August in the US



Interview text first published in Building Design, August 2013

BD: What made you want to write a book about sex?

There is a quite an intellectual history to it, I suppose. The first piece I ever published on architecture (1996, I think) was about photography, and I was aware then that architecture could have rather bloodless quality. I had a fat file of quotations by architects complaining about “people” in photographs. Architectural photography has changed quite a lot since them but there’s still a general problem around the body, unless it’s highly abstracted.

I did some more thinking about the problem in 2004 in the book The Anxious City, which argued that the kind of civilised urban life we being offered by Richard Rogers et al was oddly desiccated. It seemed to cut out all the stuff that makes us human. I spent a lot of time in Brazil around…

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Paper sculpture maps reveal the history of cities

The future is fast approaching

The Atlantic Cities takes a pictorial stroll through Matthew Picton’s paper sculptures of cities, combining their streetmaps and their history in a way that quickly conveys geolocated information about major events.  The Atlantic’s Mark Byrnes says:

“In his series “Paper Sculptures,” Picton creates hand-cut and folded paper 3D street grids. He also incorporates art, text, or even special paper to evoke something specific about the city (often, a historical event or time period). So, for example, Picton’s London “Great Fire” of 1666 map depicts burned illustrations of 17th century street life. In the case of Las Vegas, Picton uses neon green paper decorated solely by the words from Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.”

While these are primarily positioned as art, and deservedly so, I like the concise and subtle information design, communicating the damage done by the French invasion of Moscow or…

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Housing the Remnants of Capitalism.



“The third world is not a reality, but an ideology.”
― Hannah Arendt

A few days ago we found the project let’s talk about garbage through a tweet by @alucidwake and immediately two things catched-up our attention, the renders of such a big slum project and the quote “the land (and people living there) has been put up for sale by the city authorities.” The people has been put for sale?

We have been writing recently about capitalism and his close and deep relationship with architecture, and this project is a clear example of this fact. Dharavi is one of the largest slums in the world, with an estimated population between 600,000 and over 1 million people. This land, according to the architects’ research, is worth over 2.3 billion dollars, because the slum generates profits worth 500 million dollars, supplying the whole of Mumbai with necessary products and goods…

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Instauratio Urbis: Urban Artefacts & Latent Form

Aldo Rossi’s seminal text “The Architecture of the City” presents an understanding of the city as a complex man-made object. The physical form of the city records the achievements of its many creators and contributors throughout its history. Individual “objects and places” within the city are considered artefacts in themselves, and while experienced in the present, their form and image is connected to the time in which they were created. Rossi therefore concludes that the past is partly being experienced in the present.
Considering the entire city as an artefact, the individual buildings and fragments within it can themselves be considered as constituting parts of a whole. For Rossi these “urban artefacts” may be buildings, public spaces, streets or anything which contributes to the image and form of the city. Rossi differentiates his understanding of urban artefacts from the general built fabric of the city, as the fragments with a…

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