181128 - From the Public to the Commons: a Conceptual Vocabulary of Open Spaces

Me, 2018-11-28 17:00 - 19:00



Seminar Cities are back in town "From the Public to the Commons: a Conceptual Vocabulary of Open Spaces"

Wednesday 28 November 2018, 5 - 7 pm, Sciences Po LIEPP’s Conference Room, 254 boulevard Saint-Germain, 75007 Paris

Public spaces are a key analytical filter through which urbanisation processes around the world have come to be understood and addressed. However, for scholars emphasising de-centering theory to the South, this is a point of discomfort as they question if the global South needs the concept of public sphere, a European construct, and whether we need to look for more appropriate alternatives. It is, in this context, that this paper considers efforts at providing new analytical vocabulary to make sense of open spaces and their drastically shrinking prospects within cities of the global South asking if it is really possible to reject completely an established sense of the public for newer possibilities such as the notion of the commons which seems to find increasing favour in southern scholarship’s efforts at provincialising urban theory. Based on ethnographic research in the Indian city of Chennai, this paper shows that it is not so easy or straightforward to find ‘homegrown’ conceptualisations where the idea of the public proves to be invested with meanings that are indicative of a not so totalising European reality, and the commons might not be a befitting category as assumed, given its problematic entanglements with concerns of nature. More importantly, there is a third crucial aspect that is often ignored in the play of open spaces, and that is the presence of the crowd, an ontological ubiquity that proves to have a more important epistemic role in the framing of open spaces.

Speaker: Pushpa Arabindoo, UCL / IEA Fellow

Pushpa Arabindoo is an Associate Professor in Geography & Urban Design at University College London. With an inter-disciplinary background in architecture, urban design/planning and geography, her research cuts across disciplinary boundaries in conducting ethnographic investigations of urban transformations in the Indian city of Chennai, where she has been exploring a range of issues from middle-class activism to subaltern politics of evictions and resettlement as well as ecological imaginations of water and nature in the city. She is a co-director of UCL Urban Laboratory as well as an Editor of the City Journal. She is currently a Fellow of the Institut d’Études Avancées in Paris for 2018‑19. 

Discussant: Marco Cremaschi, Sciences Po, CEE

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