participatory urbanisms

P[art]icipatory urbanisms is an experimental web publication interrogating the “participatory turn” in contemporary urban studies, performance studies, and art practice. The bracketed [art] in the title of this publication refers to participatory urban aesthetic practices which could include community, social, or relational art initiatives, but also more general claims by city residents, city workers or activists on the visible and sensible aspects of public space. Bracketing the [art] in ‘participation’ also suggests a blurring of the conventional separation between the aesthetic and the political dimensions of urban participation.

The publication has two components. The first, is an interactive platform of interviews featuring the praxes of twenty participatory urban practitioners and collectives in the cities of São Paulo, Brazil and New Delhi, India. The interviews map the multiple and disjunctive ways in which ‘participation’ is enacted—from mobile performances of poetry and theater, to citizen journalism on gentrification in Sao Paulo’s old city center, to radical neighborhood pedagogical initiatives in Savda Ghevra, a New Delhi resettlement colony, and in Grajau, a southern periphery neighborhood of São Paulo. The interviews trace how urban actors create politico-aesthetic ruptures; experience and experiment with the material and affective force of participation; and potentially reshape the urban imaginary. The interviews also speak to the limits of participatory working processes in the face of small budgets and divided spaces. The cities of São Paulo and New Delhi were chosen as sites for this project for the comparisons that their similar size and positions in global urban imaginations and political economy enable, and for the enduring histories of participatory urban activity in both spaces.

A second element of this publication is a peer-reviewed anthology of twenty articles expanding methodological and theoretical debates around the themes of urban participation and its entanglement with state power, aesthetic praxis, racialized and queer spaces, citizenship, temporality, publics, and infrastructure. Contributions to the anthology span a broad range of disciplines and engage research from diverse geographic and temporal sites–from the occupation of a theater in Athens amidst the Greek economic crisis, to agonistic politics and participatory video art in a New Delhi urban village, to the cartographic interventions of a Harlem mailman in Jim Crow-era America. The form of writing extends beyond traditional scholarly articles to include ethnographic reflections, case studies, and photo essays.


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