RGS-IBG Annual International Conference 2019

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291 Citylife: Agency, Aesthetics, Politics (1)
Convenor(s) Colin McFarlane (Durham University, UK)
Michele Lancione (University of Sheffield, UK)
Chair(s) Colin McFarlane (Durham University, UK)
Timetable Friday 30 August 2019, Session 1 (09:00 - 10:40)
Room Sir Alexander Fleming Building, Room 122
Session abstract The idea of ‘citylife’ is one of the more pervasive to the history of the city. In that couplet, there is a suggestion of something distinct about life in the city, but that distinction depends significantly on how we define and come to know ‘life’, ‘city’, and their relations. What does it mean to be 'alive' in the urban? How might we think ‘citylife’ as a plural set of forces, agencies, ideas, epistemologies and aesthetics encompassing and going beyond what humans make of them? What are the affective qualities of such a life, and what kind of politics emerges when one starts to reconsider the 'citylife' couplet? While we may typically think of 'citylife' registering either excitement and opportunity on the one hand, or alienation and oppression on the other, what kind of politics emerge in-between and beyond these forms, and what is quintessentially 'urban' about them? This session asks contributors to explore these and related questions and concerns, including:

• Thinking ‘citylife’ in the age of global urbanism: meanings and possibilities;
• Race, class, gender and social structuration: thinking tensioned politics and ‘citylife’;
• Density and ‘citylife’: affective capacities and urban experience;
• Dwelling in the interstices: propositional politics from/of the margins;
• Improvisation: getting by, making do, getting on;
• Intersections: life at social, spatial and political conjunctures;
• Urban policy and the conditioning of ‘citylife’;
• Urban dark matters, affects and atmospheres: what kind of aesthetics?
• Methodologies of encounter and plurality for life in the city.

We invite speakers to discuss these and related questions in the form of short reflections. The aim is to invite an open dialogue with the audience and generate a productive discussion around the limits and opportunities of the idea of ‘citylife’.
Linked Sessions Citylife: Agency, Aesthetics, Politics (2)
Contact the conference organisers to request a change to session or paper details: ac2019@rgs.org
Reflections on the social infrastructures of (street) CityLife
Tatiana Thieme (University College London, UK)
In this presentation I reflect from ethnographic experiences with refugees, migrants, hustlers and ex-offenders in Kaduna (Northern Nigeria), Paris, Berlin, Nairobi and London. The vignettes that I will be presenting from these research projects are threaded together by a preoccupation by how ‘life’ and ‘a living’ are made when the city is precarious. So to respond to this call for papers on CityLife, this reflection will examine the small but meaningful strategies that lie behind the performative acts to beg or to wait in the streets one moment, to pull away from or leave the street at another moment, to be seen and unseen when it suits, to make or unmake place in a way that allows the person on the move to dwell in the city even when it seems ‘uninhabitable’ (Simone 2018). In response to the theme of this year’s RGS conference, I’d like to suggest that these ‘social infrastructures’ of (street) CityLife are neither just troublesome or hopefully, but rather a fragile oscillation between the two anchored in a ‘precarious present’ (Millar 2016) that rejects prescriptive aspirational futures and defers the making of plans.
Citylife as everyday infrastructural relationships
Francesca Pilo’ (Université Libre de Bruxelles, Belgium)
When we get to know ‘citylife’ through networked infrastructure, social and political relationships emerge that are distinctly urban. I explore this idea by considering electricity infrastructure politics in Rio de Janeiro. I suggest that looking at ‘citylife’ through networked infrastructure offers the possibility of exploring the materiality and spatiality of these relationships, which help build an understanding of both everyday life and governance structures. This enables us to examine these politics, both towards and from the margins, looking at both agency and structure.
The (non)urban human: conundrums and interstices
AbdouMaliq Simone (University of Sheffield, UK)
If the urban operates with the capacity to make valuable the intensive particularization of things on the basis of its undeserving bodies, how might it operate as a field of experimental gatherings and provisional sutures? What if the answer does not rely upon a compromised politics of rights and humanitarianism, but instead requires the sabotage of the coherence of a specific subject/object? The human needs to be approached as a polyrhythmic constellation of simultaneous stories not judged according to any criteria, but constantly crisscrossing bodies, technics, machines, landscapes and disciplines. What kind of Citylife emerges from these (non)urban human conundrums?
Traditional public markets: endangered or generative spaces of “citylife”?
Sara Gonzalez (University of Leeds, UK)
To explore the concept of Citylife I will concentrate on markets, which can be seen both at the centre and at the margins of “citylife”. They are mostly independent, non-corporate and often informal work spaces serving millions of the most vulnerable communities in cities. But at the same time they are being squeezed out by corporate retail and sometimes reframed as foodie tourist destinations. The confluence of these potentially contradictory processes turns markets into contested urban spaces.
Intersections: life at social, spatial and political conjunctures
Lindsay Sawyer (University of Sheffield, UK)
Many urbanisation processes in cities of the Global South are structured through dualisms relating to land, property and governance institutions. In Lagos, the majority of the city is produced through the intersection of coexisting land regimes, concepts of tenure, and structures of government and customary authority. These intersect in different places in different ways, producing a variety of urbanisms and creating complex configurations of power, authority and social relations. Accepting these coalescing, competing, and contradictory dynamics as a de facto reality, what kinds of ‘citylife’ might be made visible? What is made possible, and what is frustrated by having to navigate this deeply historically inscribed but potentially fragile status quo?