Lecture 12: The ‘Right to the City’? Urban citizenship, Politics and…
Lecture 12: The ‘Right to the City’? Urban citizenship, Politics and Protest**
Cities, democracy & Citizenship
- cities associated with democracy since ancient Greece
- only recently (19th Century) that the nation state (Britain, France, USA) became the primary political unit for organising democracy
JAMES HOLSTON: ideas that cities are coming back to the centre. argues the social imaginary of the nation (the idea that the most important part of identity is citizenship to a particular country) is disintegrating.
also argues globalisation is driving a deeper wedge between cities. EG: London has a separate identity to England?
Goes back to his argument > how do we distribute rights? in a world where people are citizens of a city rather than country how do we allocate rights?
- Migration (increasing diversity within cities
- Global cities
- Strong divide between rural and urban.
EG: China, the 'two' Chinas - Traditional vs Modern
Citizenship in motion
- ideas about citizenship are changing and cities are at centre of change
- cities important regards to planning > who are we planning for? what type of people?
Changes in citizenship ideals due to:
- Global economy, flexible labour markets and refugees/asylum seekers
- Pressures on urban infrastructure and services
- Tensions between populations (pressures on urban infrastructures and services - mainly in cities and towns) generates conflict
- Increasing focus on culture, values and conduct in addition to legal status
- Urban citizenship: can be conditional, earned (and denied)? can you become a citizen if you stay long enough? if you pay taxes? etc
People can contest urban cultural citizenship. Due to conflicts about whether people deserve citizenship or not
Controversies over the Niqab in France
- 2010 French 'Burkha ban' illegal for Muslims to wear traditional dress
- against french citizenship and identity? cultural conflict
Cities and governance
Urban governance has also changed in recent decades in the context of decentralisation across the world
- decentralisation - having more powers in local government than central government - allows communities to have a say and authority more accountable for local services and municipal services (planning, water etc)
Democratising city governance requires ‘political will’ to be effective – positive cases from Brazil
‘Metropolitan innovation’ is often a response to decay & urban crisis (Holston 2009) how do we reinvigorate cities?
- mayor of Bogota (colombia) playing the 'super citizen role'
- Efforts to ‘bring government closer to the people’ in 80% of countries
- The return of city mayors
-Emphasis on ‘localism’ in UK
- Efforts to localise democracy
-Collaborative/community planning (NPPF in UK)
Centrality of cities
Changed role of city centres
- links to processes of suburbanistion
- idea of edge cities, cities centres no longer relevant
- loss of centrality as a fundamental aspect of urbanism
- people feel the lack of centre and protests movements have been about reclaiming centres
"‘The traditional centrality of the city has been destroyed, but there is an impulse towards and longing for its restoration" Harvey
city centres important as they provide a communal space for people to come together, gather and make their claim against government. Inability for an effective urban social movement if protesting on the periphery of cities as it's harder to be heard as one voice
Taksim Square, Istanbul:
- symbolic as one of the city's few large open spaces
- government plans to clear public space for a shopping mall which involved replacing cultural centre for a mosque
- many people upset about government agenda to commercialise public park and turning secular spaces into religious space
- claiming urban space
"square showed to the world was an obvious truth: that it is bodies on the street and in the squares, not the babble of sentiments on Twitter or Facebook, that really matter" (Harvey) physical presence on the street more effective
- square became a city within a city
- camp within square played fundamental role to topple a dictator
- peoples ability to 'claim a space' for political motives
Wave of Protests
- 2008 financial crisis and ‘Arab Spring’ uprisings came together to form a new wave of global protest
- ‘Occupy’ movement of 2011-12
- Questionable success in both social movements
Protests have fundamental impacts on the making of urban places
- Can alter power relations, transform legal rights and even cause revolution
- Political protests often gauge their effectiveness in terms of their ability to disrupt urban economies > blocking enough of the city to stop it working, such as transport, it blocks the economy from working
When is a protest just a riot?
- London riots of 2011- conflicting interpretations
protests against usterity and movement against capitalist exclusion and inequality. A broader social movement against neoliberal capitalism? OR youths from broken families and morally indisciplined people within a broken society
- Effect of riots on communal violence on social fabric
When are urban social movements successful?
- When they make strategic use of illegality > occupying space that shouldn't but technicalities in law allow you to
- When they succeed in balancing autonomy with links to a well-organised political force (e.g. party)
- When protest is accompanied by parallel, formal political processes (e.g. The March on Washington, MLK)
- When they make policy and not just ‘noise’ > must have a clear agenda, Occupy Movement did not have a defined set of demands
- When they succeed in dividing elites and exploit it
- The last few decades, globalisation, urbanisation and technology are changing how people think about citizenship
- Meanwhile, neoliberal capitalism and increasing income inequality in cities highlight the exclusionary and unequal nature of different urban-dwellers access to urban services and life
- While a ‘return to Ancient Athens’ (everyone who has a voice in decisions) is impossible, many feel that cities need to become more meaningful sites of democracy
- The ‘right to the city’ is touted everywhere as a slogan, but has yet to find an adequate expression in concrete policy terms
- If ‘Occupy’ is likely to serve as a model for future urban protests and social media are increasingly important, what are the implications for planning public space?