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Urban Struggles in Mediterranean Cities: The Right to the City and the Common Space

International (Un)Conference

May 31th – June 3th, 2018, Athens, School of Architecture, National Technical University of Athens

In the late 60’s, Henri Lefebvre published his influential piece the “The Right To The City” for the 100th anniversary of the publication of Marx’s “Capital”, just before the revolutionary outbreaks in Paris, Prague, the rest of Europe and the US. “The Right To The City” became a cornerstone in radical thinking, thus, in urban social movements.

In recent years, the discussion on “The Right To The City” has been enriched with the notion of the urban commons, which evokes territories governed by a group of people, the commoners, and a social relationship that  underpins that governance. Commons do not exist per se but they are constructed in times of social struggles constituted through social process of commoning. Discussion on urban commons is articulated with the so-­‐called new enclosures and revolves mainly around critical geographers’ approaches that focus on the “accumulation by dispossession” and conceptualize commons as a new version of the “right to the city”. Significantly, during the current urban struggles and revolts, the rebels do not just claim the urban space from the sovereign power, but they occupy and tend to transform it into an emancipatory common space. Through praxis of “relocation” and “reinscription”, they produce hybrid spaces and collectively reinvent a culture of coexistence. Moreover, they try to challenge the neoliberal metropolitan time, as well as seeking to negotiate and going beyond cultural, class, gender, racial, religious and political identities, privileges and temporalities. Consequently, during rebel times the protestors are transformed into an unpredictable and misfitted multitude that produces unique and porous common spaces, spaces in movement and threshold spaces. On the other hand, neoliberal urban policies tend to appropriate and distort the common space through several methods like forced evictions, gentrification and touristification processes, creative city rhetorics and city branding policies that seek to improve the cities’ competitiveness. Thus, the discourse on “the right to the city” and on “common space” has to be reconsidered, as the latter is becoming the hybrid arena of cultural, political and social urban conflicts.

This international (un)conference attempts to elaborate a postcolonial, decolonial and intersectional methodological framework that examines the right to the city and emerging common spaces focusing on the cities of Northern and Southern Mediterranean. These cities are figured as exemplary places for neoliberal urban policies while simultaneously they constitute the epicenter of urban riots and revolts. Characteristic examples are, inter alia, the December 2008 uprising in Athens, the Arab Spring in 2011, the Indignados movement in Spanish and Greek squares in 2011, the Gezi uprising in Istanbul in 2013, the Balkan protests in 2013-­2014 and the ongoing migrants struggles across Mediterranean cities. At the same time, several social struggles for and through urban commons have emerged across the Mediterranean cities such as: housing projects, communal gardens, self-­organized health centers, self-­organized theaters, social kindergartens, social groceries, squats-­social centers, collective kitchens, give-­away bazaars, barter structures, community time banks, DIY offline networks and neighborhood assemblies constitute an emerging and fruitful urban common spaces.