Self-Organisation of Neighbourhoods, ‘Parallel’ Infrastructures
This table is organized around the ideas of neighbourhood solidarity and neighbourhood-level activism. Neighbourhood politics, stressing the importance of “commons”, offers a reconceptualization of ‘the right to the city’. Virtual and actual neighbourhood initiatives are becoming widespread in different parts of the world. They address the individual everyday-life needs of neighbourhood dwellers— such as a lost cat or the pursuit of recommendations for a local plumber or hairdresser — and open up new avenues to exercise a more participatory social and political role in the local affairs of the neighbourhood and the city more broadly.
In recent years, neighbourhood initiatives have become increasingly vocal against and avenues for the struggle against evictions, uniting neighbourhood dwellers with architects, ecologist collectives, and anti-capitalist groups fighting against gentrification and the commodification of the city. In contexts of political transformation, conflict and civil unrest, neighbourhood watchdogs played a crucial role in establishing a sense of security and safety amidst turmoil. At times, impromptu and self-proclaimed neighbourhood watchdogs assumed more formalised structures, gradually transforming themselves into permanent features of civil society. In European cities, neighbourhood initiatives gave right-wing populisms a local face, promising to ‘guard’ local communities against an unwelcome Other or, conversely, promised to fend off right-wing bigotry and safeguard unity in diversity.
Neighbourhoods are also self-organising entities that respond to the material needs of their residents by allowing for the establishment of parallel structures for the provision of goods and services.
This table fosters a debate on, but not only, some of the following questions:
- How do the legal, politico-economic and social processes that relate to urban transformation affect neighbourhoods and their inhabitants’ ability to organize?
- What are the responses local residents develop to aid fellow neighbours or to defend their right to city?
- What kind of neighbourhood solidarity initiatives are formed particularly in times of crises, such as natural disasters, war, and mass migration flows?
- To what extent can neighbourhood initiatives be successful in voicing the concerns of local residents and safeguarding their interests?
- While they are a means to address inhabitants’ immediate needs, especially in contexts of transformation and conflict, can neighbourhoods’ ‘parallel infrastructures’ provide a long-term avenue for political mobilisation or for the provision of goods and services?
Nazan Maksudyan is currently an Einstein guest professor at the Friedrich-Meinecke-Institut at the Freie Universität Berlin and a research associate at the Centre Marc Bloch (Berlin). She was a “Europe in the Middle East – The Middle East in Europe” (EUME) Fellow in 2009-10 at the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin and an Alexander von Humboldt Stiftung Postdoctoral Fellow at the Leibniz-Zentrum Moderner Orient (Berlin) in 2010-11 and in 2016-18. From 2013 to 16, she worked as a professor of history in Istanbul and received her habilitation degree in 2015. Her research mainly focuses on the history of children and youth in the Ottoman Empire during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, with special interest in gender, sexuality, education, humanitarianism, and non-Muslims. Among her publications are “Control over Life, Control over Body: Female Suicide in Early Republican Turkey” (2016), Orphans and Destitute Children in the Late Ottoman Empire (2014), Women and the City, Women in the City (ed., 2014).
Fouad Gehad Marei is a Mercator Research Fellow at the Max-Weber Center for Advanced Cultural and Social Studies, Universität Erfurt. Previously he was a Research Fellow at the Orient Institute Beirut and a Research Associate at Freie Universität Berlin. Fouad holds a PhD from Durham University, UK. His research focuses on local politics and faith-based activism in conflict and post-conflict contexts as well as the politics of sectarianism in the Middle East and Middle Eastern diasporic communities. In addition to his academic research, Fouad serves as a Conflict Transformation and Stabilisation Consultant. He oversees research and authors policy papers examining civilian and neighbourhood politics and dynamics of conflict with a particular focus on Syria.