[URBANTH-L]NEWS:Call for Papers: Urban identity, Power and Space...

gbp G.B.Prato at kent.ac.uk
Wed Oct 18 18:33:04 EDT 2006

Annual Conference of the Commission on Urban Anthropology
International Union of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences


Urban Identity, Power and Space:
The Case of Trans-European Corridors
Tirana,  27-31 August 2007

The programmes for the reconstruction of post-Communist Europe, such as the 
Stability Pact for South-East Europe, have been compared to the Marshall 
Plan implemented after WWII. These programmes, however, are having a 
significant impact not only on post-Communist countries but also on the rest 
of Europe and on other areas worldwide. These programmes aim at fostering 
peace, democracy, respect of human rights and economic prosperity, through a 
shared strategy of stability and cooperation among the involved countries. 
To this extent, the construction of the so-called Trans-European Corridors, 
also known as Multimodal Transport Network, seems to be playing a central 
role in such a strategy.
      The 'Trans-European Corridors' aim at making exchange of goods, 
people, oil and other energy supplies easier between the EU, the East and 
South-East European states and other areas of the world. They also aim at 
improving stability in historically troubled regions of Europe.
      The conference will address the changes that are occurring throughout 
Europe in relation to the construction of the Corridors. In particular, it 
will focus on urban change, old and new identities and the methodological 
issues raised by carrying out research in this new geo-political situation.

The conference will be structured around three main sessions: 1) Corridors 
of Power; 2) History and Memories; 3) Anthropology, Research and Local 
Spaces. The sessions will follow a sequential order, focusing on specific 
aspects of the conference’s overall theme. Each session will bring together 
papers that speak to each other and stimulate constructive discussion among 
the participants..

Session 1. Corridors of Power - Convenor: Dr Italo Pardo, University of 
Kent, UK.
E-mail address: i.pardo at kent.ac.uk

The progressive enlargement of the European Union and the subsequent 
‘restructuring’ has led to a redefinition of identities and boundaries, 
including, political, economic and symbolic boundaries. Such ongoing process 
of redefinition poses disciplinary challenges and the question of how to 
link academic research to responsible and legitimate policy.
      The construction of the Trans-European Corridors has brought to a head 
critical aspects of this problematic. While the dominant political rhetoric 
has portrayed the Corridors as an opportunity for economic development and 
integration, they and their ramifications have been either hailed or 
vilified at grassroots level, often with equally strong feelings. 
Environmental and cultural concerns have been voiced. Economic development 
and sometimes conflict have been stimulated, particularly by the growing 
participation of the private sector in urban affairs. Legal problems remain 
unsolved in highly significant fields, such as the regulation of 
international business deals, citizenship rights and cultural conflict. Such 
complexity has raised both fundamental issues of legitimacy at the various 
levels of the decision-making process and significant questions on how this 
process is experienced at the local level, particularly in urban areas; on 
how it is affecting urban change and expansion; on what impact the internal 
and international demographic movement, particularly, though not only from 
outside the European Union, is having on urban life and identity; on the 
attendant competition; on whether the new social, economic and spatial 
situation is contributing to entrenching or to solving existing problems and 
on whether new forms of inequality and exclusion or new opportunities and 
forms of integration are instead taking shape. The mixture of graded 
timidity and political determinism with which the ruling élite in various 
countries have addressed this problematic has visibly compounded on their 
difficult relationship with citizenship.
      An anthropological approach based on a contested understanding of the 
empirical situation at the local level illuminates key methodological and 
theoretical issues with specific reference to relations of power among 
different States and between governing élite groups (national and 
international) and the rest of society.

Session 2. History and Memories: Roads of Power-Roads of Exchange and how we 
came to remember them - Convenors: Gerda Dalipaj and Armanda Hysa, Albania 
Academy of Sciences. E-mail addresses: ethno_studies at yahoo.com; 
armanda_hysa at yahoo.com

The development of huge communication networks has been historically linked 
with the expansion of empires. Communication through roads has been central 
to economic, political and cultural unification, as well as to military 
domination. Over time, these roads have affected and have been affected by 
the changes in economic and political relations. However, although initially 
built to serve military purposes for the acquisition of new areas and the 
control of those already conquered, they turned out to be roads of exchange, 
linking these areas to each-other and to the centre, while reshaping 
existing borders. These roads became the source of livelihood for many 
communities, also generating a new sense of belonging. People who lived near 
them, or made use of them, transformed their space while, in turn, being 
transformed by it. These roads encouraged new trades, movement of 
population, the creation of new urban settings and the reconfiguration of 
existing ones. The changes that they brought about were also reflected in 
people’s lifestyles, especially as people adjusted to the new circumstances 
either through resistance or through cultural, economic and political 
      The Trans-European Corridors, which are now being built along ancient 
itineraries, are presented as corridors of power and to power. The history 
of the old itineraries is being used to stress a past identity and a 
re-discovered belonging, or to legitimise the new politics of the involved 
states in opposition to those who stress the original military purposes 
ignoring the impact they had on economic development and cultural exchange.
      This session addresses historical, social and political issues. It 
asks, who built the old roads of communication and why? What were their 
itineraries? What were their primary purposes and how have they changed over 
time? How did they affect people’s life and sense of belonging through new 
trading centres, movement of population, new urban settings and the changes 
they brought to existing ones, and the reshaping of borders? The session 
also addresses the ways in which history and social memory are politically 
used, and the extent to which our understanding of ‘roads of power’ affects 
our scientific approach to the study of history, culture and society.

Session 3. Anthropology, research and local spaces: Spatial connections and 
representations - Convenor: Dr Manos Spyridakis, University of the 
Peloponnese, Greece.
E-mail address: maspy at otenet.gr

Social anthropology has been historically founded on the primacy of 
participant observation, which has undeniably shaped the epistemological 
‘autonomy’ of the discipline.
      Participant observation takes place in a specific geographic space, 
the field. Space has traditionally been seen as portioned, as divided up 
into localities, places, regions. An isomorphism was assumed between 
culture/society and place. Cultures had their own places, and the 
differences between place-based cultures were believed to be internally 
generated and preconstituted. This created a picture of identification of 
space with the culture that it ‘included’ and vice-versa. ‘Territorialized’ 
data gave a sense of ‘real’ world and a certainty that what one needed to 
know about the field could be found in a limited space. Therefore, the field 
as a limited space predetermined the information and its interpretation.
      Many anthropologists see this notion of ‘enclosed’, ‘isolated’ field 
as obsolete. Today, places are seen to function more as palimpsests within 
which the game of identity, multiplicity and relations are in an incessant 
process of embeddedness and recreation in social, economic and political 
terms. Therefore, the anthropological field as a space through which the 
social action exists constitutes a means for bringing about the variety of 
practices and not their ending, because social action is also affected by 
processes that take place outside the anthropological field.
      Through discussion of several contributions, this session intends to 
challenge fixed views about space through anthropological work in urban and 
other contexts, keeping in mind that space as such is not a neutral entity; 
it is, instead,  an interactive entity involving social practices, which in 
turn affect the notion of field and of anthropological practice and theory. 
The challenge is to see place and space in a way which is not defined in 
terms of exclusivity, of contraposition between an inside and an outside and 
which is independent of false notions of internally-generated authenticity.
      This session proposes three stimuli for discussion:
1. Space is a product of interrelations. It is constituted through 
interactions; from the immensity of the global to the intimately tiny.
2. Space encompasses multiplicity. If space is indeed the product of 
interrelations, then it must be predicated upon the existence of plurality. 
Multiplicity and space are co-constitutive.
3. Because space is the product of relations, which are necessarily embedded 
in actions that have to be carried out, it is always in a process of 
becoming; it is always being made. It is never finished, never closed.

Paper proposals should be submitted both to the Session’s and the 
Conference’s Convenors by 31 January 2007. Proposals should include the 
paper title, an abstract of 250 words, the author’s name, institution, 
address and a brief biography. The working language of the Conference will 
be English. Paper proposals from scholars from related disciplines are 
encouraged. Accepted papers will be notified by the end of February.

Registration Fee: The Conference registration fee will be 20 Euros.
There will be no registration fee for postgraduate students who wish to 
attend the Conference.

Output: A selection of revised papers will be published in edited volumes 
and in academic Journals.

More information on the Conference can be obtained from Dr Giuliana B. 
Prato, Co-Chair of the Commission on Urban Anthropology and Conference 
Convenor. E-mail: g.b.parto at kent.ac.uk

Dr Giuliana B. Prato
Co-Chair, Commission on Urban Anthropology
Department of Anthropology
Marlowe Building, University of Kent
Canterbury, Kent CT2 7NR
Tel.: +44 (0)1227 700366

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