WORKSHOP, CfP: Imaginations of the street European Capital of Culture events and the right to the city, Munich, 03.-04.05.12. Deadline: 11.03.12

Imaginations of the street
European Capital of Culture events and the right to the city

Workshop, 3-4 May 2012
Center for Advanced Studies, Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich
Organized by Dr. Derya Özkan, Vildan Seçkiner (M.A.)

Deadline: 11 March 2012

This workshop is organized as part of the Emmy Noether Research Project “Changing Imaginations of Istanbul: From Oriental to the ‘Cool’ City”, and will focus on the role of the Istanbul 2010 European Capital of Culture (ECoC) Project in the consolidation of the imagination of “cool Istanbul.”

The main purpose of this workshop is to discuss how cities are imagined in European Capital of Culture events and to what extent and in what ways that interacts with the daily life of people in these cities. The concept of “the right to the city” elaborated by Henri Lefebvre and later developed, criticized and revised by other urban theorists will be at the center of the workshop discussion. The concepts of ‘the police’, politics, and ‘the political’ by Jacques Ranciere and the discussion on ‘street politics’ by Asef Bayat may also provide a fruitful basis for discussion in this workshop – along with other approaches, theories and conceptualizations.

The workshop seeks to develop a terminology on the production of urban public space in terms of the right to the city, which can be used to critically investigate international mega city events such as ECoC from an interdisciplinary perspective. The workshop aims to bring together international scholars from different disciplines and research areas, to combine diverse theoretical approaches and various case studies, working on ECoC or similar mega city events and elaborating on the concept of “the right to the city”.

The workshop will include four sessions. The first three sessions will be devoted to case studies and will include two presentations each. In these three sessions, ECoC events will be discussed in terms of the right to the city. The fourth session will include an overall discussion that will allow the workshop participants to elaborate on all the foregoing presentations and discussions. There will not be any presentations in the fourth session.

European Capital of Culture Events and the Right to the City

Propounded at the beginning as a “concept of generating a greater knowledge of European cultures within the member nations of the European community” (ECoC Final Report 2000), in order to take culture into account as much as trade and economy in local governance policies, since 1985 the ECoC events have intended to fulfil the goal of the European Council to comprise a ‘European identity’ as a representation of the cultural diversity in European cities. While the amount of the subsidy for the ECoC cities rose, the event worked for local authorities as a means of implementing culture-led regeneration policies.

Glasgow 1990 stands out in ECoC history in terms of generating cultural capital out of a city which was not recognized for its cultural and artistic life earlier. ECoC in Glasgow in 1990 later became a model for promoting the consumption of cultural capital in order to improve the local economies of ECoC cities in times of transition from production based economies to consumption based economies. Accordingly, the main purpose of ECoC events evolved to become the marketing of cultural consumption in cities.

This was exciting for the local governments that wanted to ‘sell’ their cities in a global arena. Thus, art and culture played an important role to package the marketing image of cities in the guise of composing a European identity through the slogan of ‘Unity in Diversity’. After all, ECoC turned out to be an opportunity to activate the potential cultural and artistic diversity of cities and to turn them into marketable items. To make cultural diversity visible, marginalized identities were brought to the fore as cultural values such as the Roma in Avignon or in Istanbul. While trying to implement the goal of ‘uniting in diversity’, and promoting the cultural capital to attract cross-border investors and visitors, in many cases ECoC events failed to communicate with the people and take into consideration the needs and desires of urban inhabitants.

SESSION 1 (3 May, 10:00-13:00) : “The production of the street as a political space and the space of politics”

The ECoC events attracted a substantial amount of investment in projects involving the regeneration of urban public space. Accordingly, the imagination of the street was considered an important element of city marketing. It is evident in the programs and final reports of examples such as Glasgow, Liverpool and Istanbul ECoC events that street life was instrumentalized to attract visitors; and it was turned into a means for the promotion of a city image.

This session will focus on the production of the street and its political contents to discuss the approach of the ECoC events to the political dynamics of street life. Some questions to explore are the following: What is the political on the street? Which terminologies and theoretical discussions can lead us towards rethinking and realization of the right to the city on the street? What kind of urban public spaces are produced by the political actions/moments on the street? What is the relationship between the instrumentalization of the street as political space by ECoC and similar mega city events and the street as a space of political acts that do not necessarily conform to the urban public order?

SESSION 2 (3 May, 14:30-17:30): “Visibility on the Street”

The purpose of the European Council to achieve a ‘Unity in Diversity’ through ECoC events in terms of a European identity resulted in the inclusion and exclusion of various acts and identities on the street; and this attempt was legitimized with reference to the neoliberal discourse of democracy. While the people raising the issue of identity politics were in struggle with the state on and off the streets’, the issue of visibility was articulated by the ECoC events and by the final reports as a matter of social integration.

The second session will discuss issues such as the street as the space of identity politics and self-expression, identity politics claiming visibility on the street, and the modes and tactics of street politics that are outside of the visible part of daily life. What is included and excluded by the ECoC events in terms of visibility on the street? In what ways are these exclusions and inclusions exercised? In this session we will discuss the street not only as the space of visibility for politics but also as the space of invisible resistance.

SESSION 3 (4 May, 10:00-13:00): “Resistance through Street Arts: performances and public demonstrations”

The ECoC programs encouraged street artists to take part in the ECoC program and act as an intensifier of the city marketing image. In this session, we will dwell on issues of the street as a space of free expression and resistance against the policies of authorities and their attempts to govern public space. The inclusion of such expressions and acts of resistance by mega city events to generate an image of the city desired by the authorities will be discussed. The discussion will develop around the following questions: To what extent and in what ways do the governing policies and the market co-opt resistance and free expression? To what extent and in what ways is outdoor culture (street festivals, etc.) transformed into a commodity by the market and the governors? What does “freedom on the street” stand for?

SESSION 4 (4 May, 14:30-16:00): “Governing the street and policy making”

The main argument of ECoC events was putting ‘culture’ on the agenda of governance. To this end, in 1997, the Council of Europe put forward a model of cultural governance, which described the position of culture and art in the urban economy and proposed a monitoring system to promote cultural developments according to public financing and investment. Although these cultural concerns were pronounced by the Council of Europe as a way to invest in the quality of life of the citizens, the results of the events revealed that the main purpose had been the touristic attraction and competitiveness in city marketing rather than facilitating cultural accessibility for the inhabitants.

In this concluding session, the reproduction of the street as a space of ongoing resistance, the concept of governance, the policy making mechanisms of local governments in terms of the right to the city, and the exclusion and inclusion processes in the policy making processes will be discussed. The relationship between the state, local governments, the market, civil society and everyday life will be dwelled upon. Some questions to draw on will be the following: Can a mode of ‘participation’ in decision making processes in terms of the liberal democratic discourse solely be considered as the realization of the right to the city? In what terms can we discuss the case of international mega city events in terms of “the right to the city”?

Please send an abstract of max. 300 words (for a twenty-minute presentation) by 11 March 2012 to .

Please mention which of the first three sessions you would like your abstract to be considered for.

The Emmy Noether Research Project and LMU Center for Advanced Studies will cover the costs of travel and accommodation for the selected participants of the workshop.

Derya Özkan
Institut of European Ethnology
Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich