Challenging the capitalist cityscape: Debating temporary uses and alternative imaginaries in Barcelona and Budapest

Authors: Luca Sara Brody*, Gran Sasso Science Institute
Topics: Urban Geography, Europe, Qualitative Methods
Keywords: vacancy, temporary use, citizen participation, alternative imaginaries
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/11/2018
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Riverview II, Marriott, River Tower Elevators, 41st Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


As a corollary of the global financial crisis in 2007-2008, vacancy has become once again a visible and politically significant issue, playing a key role in determining how cities respond to both local and broader urban challenges. Therefore, it is necessary to focus research on how different actors re-use these spaces and whether they provide a criticism to capitalism, and in what ways. A special focus has been carried out on the rise of temporary use practices, which scholars have analysed both as sites of resistance, but also as practices that enable neoliberal modes of governance. To escape this binary position, I argue for a deeper theorisation of citizen participation in vacant space reuses, looking into discourses that shape temporary use practices, to understand how economy and culture is related. The aim of this paper is to locate alternative imaginaries and unfold if and how these are attached to value orientation towards the realms of social justice and equity. Empirical fieldwork is carried out in two European cities: Barcelona and Budapest. Methodologically, this study emerges from a qualitative study, based on semi-structured interviews and non-participatory observation of city council policies that were introduced after the crisis, offering a public competition for citizen initiatives to reuse vacant sites. The two cities provide different contexts for analysis, Barcelona being a post-austerity Mediterranean, and Budapest a post-socialist East European city, offering examples outside of the mainstream Anglo-American literature and meta-narratives of neoliberalizing cities.

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