[URBANTH-L]CFP: The City from Below (Baltimore)

Angela Jancius jancius3022 at comcast.net
Sat Dec 13 17:12:00 EST 2008

The city from below: call for participation

March 27th-29th, 2009


The city has emerged in recent years as an indispensable concept for 
many of the struggles for social justice we are all engaged in - it's 
a place where theory meets practice, where the neighborhood organizes 
against global capitalism, where unequal divisions based on race and 
class can be mapped out block by block and contested, where the 
micropolitics of gender and sexual orientation are subject to 
metropolitan rearticulation, where every corner is a potential site 
of resistance and every vacant lot a commons to be reclaimed, and, 
most importantly, a place where all our diverse struggles and 
strategies have a chance of coming together into something greater. 
In cities everywhere, new social movements are coming into being, 
hidden histories are being uncovered, and unanticipated futures are 
being imagined and built - but so much of this knowledge remains, so 
to speak, at street-level. We need a space to gather and share our 
stories, our ideas and analysis, a space to come together and rethink 
the city from below. To that end, a group of activists and 
organizers, including Red Emma's, the Indypendent Reader, 
campbaltimore, and the Campaign for a Better Baltimore are calling 
for a conference called The City From Below, to take place in 
Baltimore during the weekend of March 27,28,29, 2009 at 2640, a 
grassroots community center and events venue.

Our intention to focus on the city first and foremost stems from our 
own organizing experience, and a recognition that the city is very 
often the terrain on which we fight, and which we should be fighting 
for. To take a particularly salient example from Baltimore, it is 
increasingly the case that labor struggles, especially in the service 
sector, need to confront not just unfair employers, but structurally 
disastrous municipal development policies. While the financial crisis 
plays out in the national news and in the spectacle of legislative 
action, it is at the level of the urban community where foreclosures 
can be directly challenged and the right to a non-capitalist relation 
to housing can be fought for. Our right to an autonomous culture, to 
our freedom to dissent, to public spaces and to public education all 
hinge increasingly on our relation to the cities in which we live and 
to the people and forces in control of them. And our cities offer 
some truly inspiring and creative examples of resistance - from the 
community garden to the neighborhood assembly.

We are committed in organizing this conference to a horizontal 
framework of participation, one which allows us to concretely engage 
with and support ongoing social justice struggles. What we envision 
is a conference which isn't just about academics and other 
researchers talking to each other and at a passive audience, but one 
where some of the most inspiring campaigns and projects on the 
frontlines of the fight for the right to the city (community anti-
gentrification groups, transit rights activists, tenant unions, 
alternative development advocates) will not just be represented, but 
will concretely benefit from the alliances they build and the 
knowledge they gain by attending.

At the same time, we also want to productively engage those within 
the academic system, as well as artists, journalists, and other 
researchers. It is a mistake to think that people who spend their 
lives working on urban geography and sociology, in urban planning, or 
on the history of cities have nothing to offer to our struggles.  At 
the same time, we recognize that too often the way in which academics 
engage activists, if they do so at all, is to talk at them.  We are 
envisioning something much different, closer to the notion of 
"accompaniment". We want academics and activists to talk to each 
other, to listen to each other, and to offer what they each are best 
able to.  Concretely, we're hoping to facilitate this kind of dynamic 
by planning as much of the conference as possible as panels involving 
both scholars and organizers.

0.            Gentrification/uneven development
0.            Policing and incarceration
0.            Tenants rights/housing as a right
0.         Public transit
0.         Urban worker's rights
0.            Foreclosures/financial crisis
0.         Public education
0.            Slots/casionos/regressive taxation
0.            Cultural gentrification
0.            Underground economies
0.            Reclaiming public space
0.         The right to the city
0.            Squatting
0.         Urban sustainability


Please share with us your proposal for workshops or presentations. We 
hope to host 15-25 sessions with a mixture of formats and welcome 
proposals from groups and individuals. The conference is geared 
towards discussion and participation. People are welcome to bring 
papers andother resources with them, but this conference is not 
oriented to the presentation of papers. There will be 50 and 110 
minute sessions. We welcome self organized workshops but will also 
work to incorporate individual proposals into panels with others. In 
your proposal please indicate how your proposal relates to the themes 
of the conference, expected participants, organizing partners and 
session format (training, panel, open discussion, video, etc.) and 
how long the session will be. We are especially interested in 
proposals which combine critique of the urban environment with 
discussions of new strategies for its reclamation.

Please send proposals to:

cityfrombelow -at- redemmas.org

Email is preferred, but you can also send a proposal to:

City from Below
c/o Red Emma's
800 St Paul St.
Baltimore MD 21202

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