28 Jun

Poetics, Materialisms, Formations

Current Contributions to Urban Lives from Cities in the South

University of Cologne

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28-29 June 2023, Seminar Room 3.03, Global South Studies Centre, University of Cologne

A Workshop on the narrative dimension of urban conviviality-inequality, Research Area [Hi]Stories of Conviviality, Mecila and Global South Studies Centre, University of Cologne

Participants: Ajay Gandhi (LUC, Leiden), Sandra Kurfürst (UoC, Cologne), Tilmann Heil (UoC, Cologne), Daniela Vicherat Mattar (LUC, Leiden), Ramiro Segura (UNLP, La Plata)


It is now commonly agreed that urban socio-material life worlds in the global south demand their own conceptual language to be properly framed and understood. The resulting attentions and concepts prove to be conducive to relevant insights across world regions. This workshop explores three areas of such cross-fertilization that are immanent to the work of invited workshop participants: poetics, materialisms, and formations.

Firstly, urban life in the global south clearly reveals the utmost importance of understanding the political also in its poetic dimension. Urban hip-hop, graffiti/tagging, or cultural and artistic performances break down the dichotomy of politics-poetics and request more extensive notions of participation and belonging. Secondly, the intersection of urban built space and the myriad forms of sociality in the city has become a key site of rethinking the relation of the material and the social. Urban infrastructure has become a primary example to draw the social and material together, to show how they become interchangeable while also interwoven to build the urban fabric. As lively matter, building materials may inform any dimension of the socio-material urban world. Far from apolitical, urban assemblages are socially and spatially layered, both laterally and hierarchically. Thirdly, urban life often is much less about purified and hegemonic moulds but about the indefinite and unpredictable process of formation in which any strict boundary between the person and society becomes blurred. For this reason, urban collectives of any kind – niches, enclaves, milieus – come into being and break down continuously. This bears both the creative possibilities and political risks of life for which southern cities are prominent examples.

The workshop will offer ethnographically informed, theoretical insights into these three areas that are co-constitutive of the urban dimension of stories and histories of conviviality-inequality. It compares and juxtaposes examples from across the different regions in the global south, especially Asia and Latin America.

This workshop takes its name literally: In 1.5 days, colleagues come together to discuss work in progress that is at an advanced stage and addresses one of the key conceptual dimensions outlined above.

A journal draft or chapter of a book project of 5,000-7,000 words will be circulated in advance to the other participants. The organizer assigns two key respondents to each paper to open the debate and make suggestions after a short 15-minute introduction by the respective author.

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