The Social Production of Neighbourhoods
In many cities of the world, unplanned neighbourhoods are the habitat of a large majority of the population. Whereas these have been the object of a prolific field of research, which prominently described them via the lens of “informality” in the past decades, the everyday life practices of self-organisation — regarding for example the provision of basic services — and resistance — for example to eviction, and more in general to social stigmatisation — continue to escape a clear definition, mostly due to their contingency on very specific characteristics and features of the places where they are enacted. How do the conditions of the production of neighbourhoods under which the urban poor operate in megacities of the South actually look like? Moreover, the increase of livelihoods forged by migration and based on mobility and circulation is set to impacting them in ways that we still know very little about. How are also provisory, temporary versions of neighbourhood lived, experienced, and nursed?
Prof. Dr. Elisa T. Bertuzzo is currently heading the masters programme “Spatial Strategies” of Weißensee Academy of Art Berlin. Over the last decade, she has been observing the everyday life facets of self-organisation and -empowerment especially in South Asian cities, and reporting thereon by bridging discourses from the fields of cultural and urban studies. She recently completed the project Archives of Movement with the monograph Archipelagos. From Urbanisation to Translocalisation.
Orientalist scholarship has, for some time, discovered the neighbourhood as basic unit of the ‘Oriental city’. These neighbourhoods, described as almost unchanged and unchanging in time and space, with residents bound together by common religious or ethnic affiliations, were, nevertheless, dynamic entities of urban society. Cities grow and shrink and so do – consequently – their neighbourhoods.
From a historical perspective, taking Aleppo in Syria as example, we will inquire into the modes of production of neighbourhoods from the 18th century up to the present situation. The balance between top-down, bottom-up dynamics, and the different forms of agency involved are in the focus: Who produces neighbourhoods, and how and why are they produced? And finally, what today remains of past neighbourhoods will be asked as well.
Stefan Knost is currently editing – as part of an interdisciplinary team – the travel diaries of the German botanist Carl Haussknecht (1865-1869). Before, he was guest professor for Islamic Studies at the Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg, associate researcher at the Orient-Institut Beirut, as well as fellow at the Toyo Bunko (Oriental Library), Tokyo and the Institut français du Proche-Orient, Damascus. His researches focus on modern and early modern Ottoman urban history.