In and Beyond the City: Emerging Ontologies, Persistent Challenges and Hopeful Futures
Across the globe, cities surpass their own contours. Urban cores expand and intensify in size and height, and we see connectivities, nodes and enclaves involving new technologies, information flows, migrations, time/space compressions and everyday rhythms and experiences that defy known cartographies and categories. Meanwhile, a city’s decision makers, planners, politicians, representatives and all other agents who govern urban life face increasing challenges that exceed their tools of measurement and categorizations in unprecedented ways.
This surpassing of the gaze and grip of the city can also be seen as a reworking of everyday ontologies, or the properties and relations between concepts that we, as urban scholars, may long have assumed to be easily understood, like ‘neighborhoods’, ‘social networks’, ‘place’, ‘urban politics’, ‘urban movements’, ‘rural-urban continuum’ or more. While these contours impact how we live in and understand cities, most traditional urban concerns and vulnerabilities – social and spatial inequalities, racial and ethnic exclusions, injustices and exploitations in livelihoods, inadequacies of housing, infrastructure, health, security and environment – remain. Practices of technology, design and innovation develop simultaneously which adapt to scale and pressure, for example, sustainable, affordable and resilient building and infrastructure, or ways to manage urban waste. New urban experiences that produce new cultural formations, practices, urban art and aesthetics and modes of being political also emerge.
The conference’s location in Delhi – a city that has long exceeded theoretical parameters, material forms, planned or unplanned practices both within and outside its limits – provides an ideal starting point to think through emerging and dominant concerns of addressing the city.
In this conference, our call is to search for perspectives that support these changing theoretical, practical and empirical terrains. We invite discussions that move beyond conventional understandings and encourage an inclusive framing that allow innovative planetary comparisons that are not confined to a North – South divide. We invite proposals on sessions that focus on ways in which city futures are imagined and addressed in scholarship. While we encourage a critical approach to agendas for the future in cities, we are eager to learn about hopeful futures that may be unfolding over urban terrains.Overall, the conference invites proposals that address conventional challenges as well those related to changing scales and technologies of the urban.
Under the three overall sub-themes, Emerging Ontologies, Persistent Challenges and Hopeful Futures, alongside our committed focus on urban injustices and dispossessions, we offer the following suggestions as possible topics for submission:
- State, city and governance: How does the logic of the state or practices of governance respond to the changing scales of the urban/the city that is mentioned in the main theme? In what ways is control displaced or redistributed? How do people engage with, modify, manipulate and negotiate the structures of urban control in their everyday life?How does governance and infrastructure regulations provoke practices of housing, water, electricity, transportation that do not follow typical planned developments.
- Networks, communities and capital: Stable durable networks are only part of the picture of sociabilities we know in the urban – how can everyday ways of knowledge transfer, circulation, care and connectivity in and beyond the city be thought of beyond simple forms of capital? How do mobility, residence, dis-locations and trans-local lives affect these?
- Place, belonging, and action: How are understandings of connections between concepts of place, belonging and communities affected by the expansion of urban cores, for example in the cases of extensive suburbia, large urban conglomerations and conurbations, community neighbourhoods and vertical living? How do these influence people’s potentials for urban collective action?
- Rights, entitlements and citizenship: How do rights, entitlements and forms of citizenship change, empirically and conceptually, when their connection to other concepts like nation or state becomes challenged? This includes but is not limited to, for example, forms of voice and exit; political economies in urban health,housing regimes and education; global migration and the city;refugees, violence and security.Or, what futures are imagined through the lens of the urban as a focused venue for political expression and change, or as a venue for claims on justice and rights.
- Emerging technologies, exclusions and inclusions: How do we think about and include technology and its manifold applications in urban life, from security regimes to its potential for local connectivity and social action. How does technology enable urban networks, virtual or actual, which do not necessarily follow planned city forms and functions? How can we discuss futures like the “Smart City” idea through the lens of such newer formations, their advantages and their possible critical effects? How do technological changes affect patterns of exclusions, the formation of social categories, or new and persistent inequalities?
- Ecologies, Environments and Encroachments:How does an expanding urban show its impact on concerns of the environment? What kind of issues come to the forefront in city discourses – for example, waste management, air pollution, or environmental degradation. How do these processes produce zones of heightened vulnerability, destabilize existing fragile ecosystems -for example,increasing number of people live with threat of unprecedented floods in urban areas. At the same time, what kind of strategies and innovations are developed in order to respond to thee concerns.
- Persistent problems in a changing world: How do we continue to think about structural forms of exploitation and urban poverty and all those other themes mentioned in the concept note in a global perspective in a politically fragmented world? For instance, how are issues related to housing and segregation developing now? How do we include the everyday and the resilient without romanticizing the grassroots, losing sight of structural inequalities and reactionary movements on the ground?
- Architectures, Aesthetics and Art: How does architectural or artistic thinking at the scale of a neighborhood, a community or a city manifest, expand and negotiate with an aesthetic vision of the city? What is the imagination of the city that can be learned from the proliferation of public art? Or, how does the city become a location for new social movements and other collective expressions in urban art, visual and material cultures?Imaginations of the urban that shed light on nuances of artistic expressions, material cultures and architectural imaginations in and about the city, that think of social and political futures.
- Methodologies and Comparative Theorizations for new forms of urbanity: How can visual and digital methodologies help us improve our understanding of the urban? How do cinematic imaginations or visual methods help in understanding the expanding scales of the urban? What can sociology learn from other disciplines, and what new techniques and methods can we incorporate in urban sociology research in understanding the emerging ontologies? How do new scales of connections, networks outside the usual frameworks of globalities or localities inform comparative theorizations beyond conceptions of size, function, ‘importance’ or economic scale? What are the ways in which we can go beyond the divisions of North-South? What compels us to do so?