[URBANTH-L]CFP: The Architechture of War and Peace

Angela Jancius jancius at ohio.edu
Mon Apr 2 12:15:13 EDT 2007

                    CALL FOR PAPERS
                for a Special Issue of

            The Journal of Urban Technology


Urban artefacts and social practices in contested spaces

A large, and even growing, number of cities around the world is
characterised by ethnic, ideological, religious, linguistic or other
forms of diversity. Unfortunately, in many cases, this diversity is not
embraced as an asset but results in tensions, competing claims,
polarisation and seclusion. As can be seen in cities like Belfast,
Beirut, Berlin, Mostar, Jerusalem, Nicosia, Johannesburg, Kuala Lumpur
and many others, such contestations have massive spatial, architectural
and infrastructural implications in the form of clear-cut segregation, a
patchwork of enclaves, an array of walls and fences, no-go areas, street
blockades, the duplication of services and infrastructures, or - more
subtly - painted curbstones as territorial markers.

In other words, the material make-up of a "contested city" is to a large
extent the result of its social conditions. One purpose of the special
journal issue is therefore to highlight how the built environment
(building designs, street patterns, public spaces, infrastructures,
etc.) reflects the social reality around it. Ideal contributions will
provide examples of this social construction of artefacts but also help
to conceptualise, theorise and categorise the types of planned and
unplanned physical interventions; be it the prevention of violence, the
provocation of 'the others', the facilitation of friendly encounters,
the "outsourcing" of morality into artefacts or any other motivation.

The second and equally important purpose of this special issue is
exactly reverse: In what ways does the shape of the man-made physical
environment exert an intended and/or unintended gravitational pull upon
social practices? The mere existence of fences, paintings, specific
buildings, bridges and other non-human "actors" can condition and
solidify the way daily lives are acted out, for example, the route
someone takes to go shopping, the preference for a child's playground,
the likeliness of meeting 'others', the accessibility to employment etc.
Contributions are therefore invited that present examples and analytical
reflections of such causal links from the physical to the social.

Taken together, both conceptual halves of the special issue should avoid
the dangers of both physical determinism and naïve voluntarism. The
former sees human beings as determined by technologies and
infrastructures whose obduracy implies a massive obstacle on the path
towards a more amicable future. The latter claims that human beings
retain the ultimate primacy over the design of artefacts, the shape of
their social relations and thus over their future in general.
Empirically, both mechanism can be observed and it is therefore
mandatory to focus on both of them simultaneously. In other words: The
causal arrow between artefacts and the social is double-headed.
This theoretical angle has been applied to refrigerators, planes, GMOs,
sewerage and highway systems but not to the cases of contested spaces.

This is not to say that contested cities have never been the focus of
conceptually sophisticated research; in fact a large body of literature
exists that investigates contested cities primarily from political
perspectives. There is, however, a materiality gap in the literature on
contested cities. This is especially deplorable because planning and
design can definitively ameliorate as well as (inadvertently) accentuate
divisions in contested spaces. What we need, then, to make careful
interventions is a thorough understanding of the gears in the
socio-technical engine room of contested cities.

Being convinced that no single discipline is exclusively useful  for the
understanding of contested cities we encourage submissions from all
disciplinary fields as long as they focus on mundane urban artefacts in
contested spaces, their construction, perception and interpretation,
their user-enrolment through behaviour-petal and -fugal affordances or
"scripts", their appropriation, reproduction and subversion. Possibly
useful explorations could, for example, highlight the role of
institutions for the production of artefacts or for the definition of
their meaning. Especially welcome are descriptive and analytical
accounts of attempts to deliberately shape urban artefacts in order to
ease tensions, facilitate positive encounters and move towards a more
peaceful future. Interesting contributions could also describe the
mutual shaping of artefacts and social conditions in estates and places
that were explicitly designed to accommodate non-sectarian life and on
the socio-technical dynamics in not violently diverse cities like
Brussels, Montreal, Fribourg. In addition to such empirical studies we
invite papers that help us think conceptually and systematically about
materiality in contested cities. We are convinced that different
concepts are different mental tools and allow us to see different things
without being more or less true.


Dr. Ralf Brand
University of Manchester
Manchester, UK
ralf.brand at manchester.ac.uk

Dr. Rachid Chamoun
Lebanese American University
Beirut, Lebanon
rchamoun at lau.edu.lb

Interested authors should prepare a one-page abstract and submit it by
June 1 2007 to both editors at <ralf.brand at manchester.ac.uk> and
<rchamoun at lau.edu.lb>. All abstracts will be reviewed by the editors for
their fit with the theme of the special issue as specified in the call
for papers. Depending on the outcome of some pending funding
applications, the editors will invite 5-8 authors for a workshop in the
autumn of 2007, most likely to take place in Beirut. It is intended to
provide some financial support for at least those participants who
cannot fully source their own funding. By the time of the workshop,
drafts of full papers are required which will form the basis of the
discussion during the workshop. Final versions of full papers2 are
expected by December 31 2007. They will then be reviewed by at least two
peers in a double-blind peer-review process. The reviews are expected to
be returned to the authors by March 1 2008. Revisions will have to be
submitted by April 15 2008 which should permit a publication date of
late 2008 or early 2009.

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Ralf G. Brand, Ph.D., Lecturer

Manchester Architecture Research Centre (MARC)

phone: +44 / 161 / 2750317
email: ralf.brand at manchester.ac.uk
skype: brandrg

publications: www.b-r-a-n-d.de/pub
consultancy:  www.coevolution.info
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