Urban Activism: Staking Claims in the 21st Century City

September 12 – 14, 2019, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA

This conference emerges from the shared need to create a collective discourse on how critical urban research and urban political activism are increasingly converging and creating a common field of inquiry and action. It connects scholars in various fields such as planners, geographers, historians, and critical urbanists with activists working on housing rights and the right to urban identity and the city more generally.

Together, we will discuss a number of theoretical, methodological, and practical questions, including: How shall communities and activists be involved in the production of knowledge? What constitutes the archive and evidence? What possibilities are there to disseminate the knowledge produced? Can scholarship suggest political solutions? Who are the agents of this story? What is the relationship between the state and the market in displacement processes? Can we think beyond the framework of structure and agency? How does ideology make its way into research and action? What is the appropriate scale of analysis?

A consideration of cities as different as Beirut, Istanbul, Athens, Barcelona, Johannesburg, São Paulo, and Boston sheds light on commonalities that point to a single dynamic operating on a global scale, which is at play in the various distinctive manifestations apprehended at the local level in very different contexts. While a consideration of global, structural transformation can contribute to an understanding of the specificities of every case, the global phenomenon itself cannot be fully captured without a serious engagement on the local scale with the social, cultural, economic and political processes in which each specific case is embedded. A global understanding can only contribute to local struggles if it remains attentive to the subjectivity of local communities within their particular context as they experience and think it.

Organizers: Aylin Yildirim Tschoepe, Joan Chaker, Stefano Portelli

Dates: September, 12th-14th, 2019

Location: Thompson Room of the Barker Center, Harvard University, Cambridge (MA)

Attendance to panels, the roundtable, and associated events is free of charge. No registration required.