Geert Castryck (Leipzig University) and Johan Lagae (Ghent University)
Urban Citizenship, Space, Global Urban History
Throughout history, countless city-dwellers did not enjoy the benefits of legal citizenship. Denizens, newcomers, historic minorities, colonial subjects, foreigners, undocumented migrants, refugees, minors etc. often did not bear full rights in the city. Yet, that did not prevent them from partaking in city life and appropriating the city. Sometimes supported, sometimes hindered by fellow townsmen, associations, or municipal institutions, they claimed access to the city and in so doing shaped the city no less than burghers, poorters or legal citizens did.
Putting the city back into citizenship (after Tom Hulme), this session particularly wants to highlight the spatial dimension of navigating urban citizenship. We will do so by exploring the boundaries of citizenship, by looking at the informal and formal ways by which groups, individuals or their intermediaries claim their right to urban territory, urban institutions and urban life; and by localizing the sites and spaces of aspiring, claiming and practicing citizenship.
In the use and production of urban space, city dwellers shape the city they live in, and they do so in cooperation or in confrontation with fellow townspeople, in hiding or in the open. The people under scrutiny are thereby confronted with spaces of threat and of denied access as well as with spaces of shelter, support and protection. Likewise, the spatial layout of the urban environment is both reflected in and a reflection of the spatial practices of city dwellers. Disputes over property, ownership and right of shelter mark the division between formal and informal, between scales of agency, levels of governance, social networks and spatial strategies, and thus become an arena for negotiating the boundaries of urban citizenship.
We invite papers dealing with cities around the globe and laying bare how different attitudes and actions of urban citizens are reflected in and make use of urban space. Particular attention should go to people and groups who claim a degree of freedom or agency and use or shape loopholes in the system in order to navigate between regulations and arrangements on different scales and levels of government, thereby manipulating levels of control.
Growing Citizenship. The Socio-ecological City of Louis G. Le Roy (1970-2012)
Michelle Mlatti (KU Leuven/Chalmers University of Technology), Bruno Notteboom (KULeuven - Faculty of Architecture) and Isabelle Doucet (Chalmers University of Technology)
Citizenship, Ecology, Post-humanism
Since the 1960s, the environmental movement has evinced an ambiguous relationship with questions related to urban citizenship. On the one hand, ecological and social issues have been thoroughly intertwined in environmental activists’ discourses and actions rooted in both an environmental and a ‘right to the city’ agenda. On the other hand, as (uban) ecology was increasingly incorporated in urban planning, environmental agendas often became absorbed in a technical rationale stripped of socio-political questions, and separating rather than uniting discussions on the ‘just’ and the ‘green’ city.
This paper focuses on one specific voice in the debate on ecology and citizenship. Louis Le Roy, who described himself as an ‘ecotect’, developed since the 1960s a design and planning practice that questioned conventional ways of governing the city both from an ecological and socio-political point of view. Throughout a range of landscape projects in Belgium and the Netherlands (among others gardens for the ‘do-it-yourself’ student housing ‘La Mémé’ in Brussels, the ‘Ecocathedral’ in Mildam, and participatory green infrastructure in Lewenborg and Herenveen), he reintroduced inhabitants and users in the design and governance of urban space. This paper particularly focuses on Le Roy’s combined anarchist-ecological approach evinced by his struggles with existing power dynamics, and on the back of a more widely emerging resistance towards a hegemonic capital-led and/or technocratic planning system in both countries.
Through archival research and interviews with the actors involved, the paper will study a number of concepts that Le Roy used to contest existing regulations and spatial/legal arrangements. By developing both small and large-scale, shared, socio-ecological infrastructure, Le Roy highlighted issues of ownership, control and access, and renegotiated the positions of citizens, governmental and other urban actors such as. An important element in the discussion is the notion of process. Expanding ecological notions on process into the human world, Le Roy projected issues of governance, control, and citizenship onto a timeframe that surpassed existing frameworks; turning these into concerns also for future generations. In the current conceptualisations of post-human approaches to design, politics, and citizenship, Le Roy’s anarchist-ecological approach seems particularly timely to revisit.
Building Working-class Urban Spaces: The Construction Cooperatives of Interwar Europe
Philipp Reick (Aarhus University)
Construction Cooperatives, Trade Union Movement, Working-class Urban Space
Over the past decades urban historians have devoted much attention to the study of urban space. However, most of this research has focused on how experts and decision makers–from planners to architects, from leaders in business to leaders in politics–(re)produced, experienced, and controlled urban space. As a result, we still know relatively little about the urban experience, let alone urban vision, of lower-class communities. Even studies interested in urban history from below usually rely on sources reflecting the perspective of middle-class observers or representatives of the state. Against this backdrop, Shane Ewen has recently argued that we need to pay closer attention to how marginalized urban communities “defined and articulated their own individual identities, rather than continuing to focus on elite representations.”(1) Instead of studying how class as a structural force shaped urban experience, this paper explores how organized members of the working class negotiated and envisioned life in the city. It will do so by analyzing one of the most striking trade union movements of the early twentieth century. In the aftermath of the First World War, construction cooperatives mushroomed all over urban Europe. Directly employed by the cooperatives, bricklayers and carpenters for the first time had a say in not only how they were remunerated but also in how their businesses were run and how decisions were made. These producer cooperatives thus pushed for a more democratic economy and society, but they were also important places for working-class discussions about urbanization and urban space. Analyzing their periodicals, organizational set-ups, and decision-making processes, this paper will explore whether building decisions were dictated exclusively by external factors (such as available land and price) or whether urban aesthetics and working-class rationalities had an impact on cooperative construction and the acceptance of mass housing among lower-class communities. While the paper will focus primarily on the building guilds and producer cooperatives of England and Germany, it will reveal the manifold connections and links that the movement has spun across Europe.
Claiming the Public Space: the Presence of Non-muslim Minority Identities in the Public Ceremonies during the Late Ottoman Empire
Ahmet Erdem Tozoglu (Abdullah Gul University, Department of Architecure, Kayseri)
Official Ceremonies, Minorities in the Ottoman Empire, Public Spaces of Istanbul
As frequently demonstrated in the late Ottoman historiography, the Reform Movements of 19th century emphasize gradual provision of de jure equal rights to the non-Muslim communities and the rise of the cultural awareness and proliferation of their ethnoreligious institutions. In time the consequences convinced the government to propose political reforms binding multifarious ethnoreligious identities. The proclamation of the constitution in 1876 and establishment of constitutional monarchy was a short-lived but symbolically significant attempt for the representation of equal citizenship. Desipte the suspension of the constitution in 1877-1908 period interrupted the sequences in political realm, the continuum revived when the constitution came to force in 1908 again. The peaceful transformation to constitutional monarchy in 1908 injected optimism to many Ottomans to stitch diverse structure of the Ottoman society, which was composed by many ethnoreligious communities.
The leaders of the 1908 revolution pronounced a utopian society: every community have their peculiar identities, which were encompassed by a supra-identity, Ottomanism. Despite political consequences smashed popular optimism soon, the practical results, such as the representation of non-Muslims in the local and national assemblies, paved the way for their visibility in official events and ceremonies.
This paper posits the official ceremonies, which were held in the public spaces of Istanbul during the second constitutional era (1908-18) as a medium to understand the representation of minority identities. By following European counterparts, public spaces of Istanbul were actively utilized by the government for celebrations. Besides, erection of memorial monuments, installation of triumphal arches by the institutions, communities and companies, including the non-Muslim ones were among ephemeral architectural features of the intensive program of the events.
This is significant because public celebrations have examined in the academic literature by focusing on political and social dimensions of this illustrious events and its architectural and urban features and their functionality for communal representation have not comprehensively interpreted yet in Ottoman context. By critical analysis of archival sources and extensive use of comparative secondary sources, this paper aims to discuss how the minorities claimed their citizenship and represent their identity in the public space.
Evict the Council, Not the People: the Bengali Housing Action Group, Slum Clearance, and the Meaning of Home in 1970s Britain
Claire Wrigley (University of California, Berkeley)
Slums, Colonial Citizenship, The State
Slum clearance in postwar Britain, particularly in its later iterations in the 1970s, disproportionately affected people of colour, almost all immigrants from Britain’s former colonies. Using the 1975-77 protests of the Bengali Housing Action Group, from East London, I argue that these slum clearances demonstrate the state’s adoption and employment of a racialized understanding of the concept of the home. The state neither understood homes of former colonial subjects as homes nor recognised those people as rights-bearing citizens. The protests of BHAG were thus a demand by Britons of colour to have their rights as citizens respected, which in itself contained an implicit demand that the state recognise the additional meanings that Britons of colour assigned to the idea of home: a place safe from racial harassment in which residents could enjoy distinct forms of family and social life. Beginning in November 1975, BHAG picketed the offices of the Greater London Council to protest eviction notices that gave no options for alternative accommodation, the designation of their neighbourhood as a slum, and the failure of the GLC and Tower Hamlets Borough Council first to comply with their statutory obligations to rehouse residents at all, and then to rehouse them in houses that met the needs of a community largely made up of textile workers living in extended families.
The struggle of BHAG for the satisfaction of an immediate material need – appropriate accommodation – was therefore a part of the much larger fight of former colonial subjects in Britain to be recognised as full citizens whose rights cannot be abrogated. By viewing the homes of Bengalis in the East End only as slums, the state understood the neighbourhood only as an obstruction to be cleared away, rather than as a place where people lived, worked, ate, and loved. Urban historians and sociologists have showed the numerous ways in which public spaces, from shopping centres to the nebulous place called the ‘inner city’ were racialized in postwar Britain, but the protest of BHAG against the GLC and Tower Hamlets suggest a much deeper racialization: that of the home itself.
Locals on the Stage: Claiming Urban Citizenship in Early Republican Istanbul (1923-1949)
Ümit Fırat Açıkgöz (American University of Beirut)
Local Participation, Urban Modernization, Urban Citizenship
“This public square belongs to us!” One could mistake this for a slogan oft-chanted during protests against urban projects jeopardizing public squares in Turkey over the past decade. But this is Ziya Molla Bey, a member of the Istanbul Municipal Council, speaking during a council meeting in 1925. In the name of all the elected representatives of the people of Istanbul in the council, he criticized the mayor Emin Bey, who was appointed by the government, and asserted their right to the public squares: “Nobody can intervene in [the square] without our knowledge and authorization!”
Throughout the Early Republican Period (1923-1949), the residents of Istanbul struggled to claim their agency as rightful urban citizens against the top-down urban transformation schemes imposed by the government, now based in Ankara following the demise of the Ottoman Empire in 1922. Despite the authoritarian, single-party regime precluding any form of political opposition, they successfully pushed for the recognition of their demands and grievances. Based almost exclusively on the analysis of top-down social and spatial transformation of post-Ottoman Turkey, the existing scholarship has undermined, if not completely neglected, the fundamental role Istanbul’s urban citizens played in the transformation of their city.
This paper explores the ways in which the residents of Early Republican Istanbul claimed their right to the city at the municipal council, which they turned into an effective platform to convey popular demands and grievances to the local public sphere. By examining the minutes of the council meetings and contemporary newspapers, it demonstrates that the residents of Istanbul commanded a sophisticated knowledge of modern urbanism, municipal administration, public spaces, and participatory politics. The paper argues that the residents of Istanbul were not passive observers of urban modernization projects imposed from above. Rather, they were active participants in the remaking of their city from an imperial capital into a modern metropolis, harnessing the municipal council and local newspapers to put pressure on national authorities.
Materialised Empowerment: Reconfiguring the SICAP Neighbourhoods of Dakar in Colonial and Postcolonial Times
Luce Beeckmans (Ghent University) and Séverine Awenego Dalberto (CNRS, Cemaf-U, Paris 1-Sorbonne)
SICAP Neighbourhoods of Dakar, Spatial Agency, Radical Reconfigurations
Post-war colonial housing in sub-Saharan Africa, among which the SICAP neighbourhoods of Dakar, has often been depicted as an ‘instrument of government’, intended to create, as well as regulate, a new class of modern urban Africans in an era of 'developmental colonialism' (Awenengo et al. 2009; Beeckmans 2016). This project of social engineering went hand in hand with the importation of new spatial typologies to Dakar and this on different scales, from the neighbourhood to the house. While much of the literature on colonial housing has focused on the disciplining character of these typologies and the spatial forms of governmentality at play, this paper takes a different approach.
In this paper I will scrutinize how the Sicapois have appropriated and transformed the SICAP neighbourhoods of Dakar from their early establishment in 1951 until today. The spatial reconfigurations of the dwellings, public and religious facilities is particularly salient since the withdrawal of the French from SICAP in 1973 (as SICAP remained under French rule long after independence in 1960), but already started during the colonial period. Today, the original SICAP dwellings are hard to recognise, as floors are added, verandas closed or additional rooms constructed in the gardens to fit the universally deemed, yet quite normative and Eurocentric typologies to the extended African families and their lifestyles. In addition, garages were transformed into small-scale commercial spaces and dwellings started to accommodate bars and (political) associations behind walls.
Moreover, since only churches were included in the neighbourhood designs, wooden, make-shift mosques were soon to be established. By drawing on archival research, ethnographic fieldwork and visualisation (also by students), this paper will give insight into the radical transformation, densification and ultimately the vanishing of a colonial housing project. Yet, as 'the city about to dissolve' is also 'the city yet to come' (Simone 2004), the perspective this paper takes is certainly not that of a certain nostalgia towards a lost (colonial) heritage. Instead the paper aims to highlight the spatial agency of the Sicapois in their process of 'homing the city' (Low 2016), experienced both as alien and familiar. While it is questionable to what extent the radical reconfigurations of the SICAP neighbourhoods can be considered as either active or passive forms of resistance, as often both formal and informal actors were involved, they can certainly be considered as the materialisations of processes of empowerment, and thus as spatial claims to urban citizenship.
Water Shortage and Narratives of Citizenship in the Inter-war English City
Andrew McTominey (Leeds Beckett University)
Urban Drought, Citizenship, Water Supply
Whilst studies of inter-war England have often focused on political and economic instability, there was a cultural engagement with the city as residents navigated, and sometimes contested, their role as urban citizens (Hulme, 2019, p.202). Although water had been of importance to towns and cities for centuries, it was during the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth century that water usage became associated with narratives of citizenship. This paper will explore drought and narratives of citizenship during the inter-war period in Manchester and Newcastle-upon-Tyne. Both of these northern English cities were of international importance in the fields of textile production and ship-building, however both had began to suffer from industrial decline by the 1920s. Water providers attempted to invoke narratives of citizenship when encouraging water economy during periods of shortage, however there are questions over how effective these appeals were. As research on water shortages during this period in Australia has shown, suburban residents were particularly affected by drought due to a lack of water infrastructure in newly developed areas of the city, and were especially immune to calls to stop using water to keep lawns or wash cars (Gaynor, 2017; Gregory, 2017).
This paper, then, will address two main questions: firstly, whether there was a socio-spatial dimension to water supply during periods of drought in Manchester and Newcastle-upon-Tyne; and secondly, whether the narratives of citizenship during periods of drought were stressed as much in Newcastle, which was supplied by a private water company, as much as in Manchester, which was supplied by the municipal government. In doing so, it will highlight the importance of water supply to urban citizenship, and how citizens, at times, contested these narratives.