Thursday, 12 June 2014

Conference papers at 'The right to the city in an era of austerity', Paris

Dr Ala Sirriyeh and Dr Andrzej Zieleniec, (Sociology) recently gave papers at a conference at the Université Paris Ouest Nanterre/Université Paris-Sorbonne,The right to the city in an era of austerity’.

The abstracts for the papers are below.  A recent blog post about Andy’s work can be found here and the final report that Ala’s co-authored paper was based on is here.  

‘The Great Meeting Place’: Bradford’s City Park, doing regeneration differently?
Dr Nathan Manning (University of York) and Dr Ala Sirriyeh (Keele University)

Recent accounts of urban space frequently note pervasive trends which undermine public spaces: privatisation, commercialisation, securitisation and homogenisation (e.g. Hodkinson 2012, MacLeod 2002, Minton 2009, Mitchell 2003, Sennett 1974). While we accept the broad sweep of these analyses, this paper will present a case study of Bradford’s City Park which, to some extent, seems to run counter to prevailing tendencies.
City Park is a new urban space with a central interactive water feature in the centre of Bradford (West Yorkshire, UK). The park is a focal point of Bradford Council’s regeneration plan. It opened in March 2012 and despite some on-going criticism, the site has drawn thousands of people to the heart of Bradford. 

During the summer of 2013 we undertook a research study in City Park to explore how the park is used, experienced and perceived by different groups. The fieldwork involved a series of observations in City Park, interviews with park users, relevant council staff, security personnel, and businesses operating in the park.

We argue that commonly accepted principles of urban regeneration structure who has the right to the city and what activities are pertained to be acceptable. In particular, post-industrial city regeneration is often centred around appeals to commercial interests and investment and to attracting creative classes into the city (Florida 2000, Power et al. 2010). Bradford’s City Park displays some elements of these models of recovery: as an investment in physical infrastructure and the urban environment and also a site for showcasing key arts and cultural events in the centre of Bradford. However, we found the development also presents a unique regeneration pathway which deviates from renewal projects in other northern UK cities.

 ‘The Right to Write the City: Lefebvre and Graffiti’
Dr Andrzej Zieleniec (

There is an increasing academic, artistic and practitioner literature on graffiti. It covers a range of issues (identity, youth, subculture, gender, anti-social behaviour, vandalism, gangs, territoriality, policing and crime, urban art, aesthetics, commodification, etc.).  

What they all have in common is an acknowledgement of graffiti as a quintessential urban phenomenon. However, there is a fairly limited attempt to specifically address graffiti within theories of the urban and more explicitly within conceptualisations of the complexity of produced urban space.
Lefebvre’s analysis of the city as an oeuvre, a living work of art, is linked to his ‘triad of necessary elements for the production of space’ and his ‘cry and demand’ for the ‘Right to the City’ as a means to argue that graffiti, in its various forms, styles, locations, meanings and values demonstrates features that represents Lefebvre’s assertion of the need to appropriate and use space in everyday life. In particular, it is argued that the lived experience of everyday urban space is creatively engaged with through the imaginative and artist interventions of mural, pictorial and textual graffiti to challenge dominant representations and regulation of space.
Graffiti represents a quotidian and non-commercial artistic intervention in the urban landscape. Graffiti involves knowledge and use of the urban environment and practices that challenge and contest the schemes and structures imposed by urban designers, planners and architects. It confronts and resists the restrictive political regulation and imposition of the spatial order. It offers non-commercial alternative aesthetics to the economic and financial interests who decorate the urban landscape with signage and commodity advertising. This perspective then sees graffiti in Lefebvrian terms as everyday acts in which representational space is literally created through imaginative acts that reassert through visual poesies and praxis, the right to colonise, appropriate, use and inhabit public and social space. That is, graffiti is a political as well as artistic and aesthetic exercise. An example of the creation of socially meaningful space through the reassertion and reprioritisation of use values rather than exchange values. ‘The Right to the City’ by ‘Writing the City’ through graffiti provides an urban semiotic that engenders new spatial practices and new ways of reading and understanding the urban, the city and everyday life.

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