CESCAME mini-series 2022: Urban practices and social change

12. 10. 2022

An exciting series of three guest-lectures on the city, sustainability, urban practices and politics, everydayness and informality and their potential for social change. Register here.

Hot on the heels of the last year’s inaugural lecture and the online conference, CESCAME invites you to an exciting series of three guest lectures on the city, sustainability, urban practices and politics, everydayness and informality and their potential for social change.

The confirmed presenters are: Örjan Sjöberg (14 June), Alexa Färber (20 September), and Lela Rekhviashvili (12 October).

Why won't urban informality disappear? Marketisation, social embeddedness and shifting spaces of informality in urban mobility

12 October 2022, 14:00-16:00 CET, Institute of Sociology of the Czech Academy of Sciences, room 207 and Zoom.

Lela Rekhviashvili

Leibniz Institute for Regional Geography, Leipzig

Literature on urban informality in post-socialist East has concerned itself primarily with how informality relates to state, whether it operates “ beyond”, “in-spite of”(Polese et al., 2018) or “under the auspices” of the state (Olma, 2021), all the while dismissing what kind of socio-economic orders are produced, reproduced or contested by informal practices. Lack of interest in diversity of socio-economic logics of informal practices coupled with overall dominance of capitalocentric attitude in social science (Gibson-Graham, 2006) has often led to implicit and explicit equation of urban informality with market-like practices. Initially seen as a transitional phenomenon to disappear alongside advancement of capitalism in the region, urban informality proved resilient throughout the past decade. In this talk I elaborate on how urban informality relates to capitalism, and why it's being reproduced. 

Drawing on long-term ethnographic study of various subaltern groups in Tbilisi – informal transport workers, and informal parking guards – and inspired by Polanyian reading of non-market forms of social integration and Gibson-Graham’s diverse economies perspective – I illustrate challenges of seeing urban informality as yet another, albeit inferior, manifestation of capitalist relations. Such an approach misleadingly portrays informal or ‘shadow’ or ‘second economy’ under socialism as a space for capitalist entrepreneurship. It also is often seen as one of the negative legacies of Socialism, as well as manifestations of the deficiencies of the new capitalist economies of the East. The suggested political solution to the prevalence of informality seems to be the establishment of deeper and more institutionalised forms of capitalism, to ‘emancipate’ informal entrepreneurs. In contrast, in this talk I illustrate that informal economic practices, especially those pursued by urban subaltern groups,  often subvert rather than resemble capitalist relations, are socially embedded and have their own reciprocal and redistributive logics. Established forms of urban informality are being reproduced and new forms of informality emerge in the face of each wave of Neoliberal marketisation policies. They stay continuously important to absorb social-costs of marketisation, to ensure social reproduction, and doing so, also to enable capitalist accumulation. In the light of these findings, I suggest that informality is not an outcome of unfinished marketisation but rather a product of marketisation, its not necessarily resembling capitalist relations but is an integral part of it, primarily because it represents the non-capitalist ‘other’, necessary for expansion and reproduction of capitalism. 

For both online and offline participation, please register below. 

For queries and further information, please contact Terezie Lokšová.

Registration:

Enduring the city? How to do social change with promises

20 September 2022, 15:30 to 17:30 CET, Institute of Sociology of the Czech Academy of Sciences, room 207 and Zoom.

Alexa Färber

Institute of European Ethnology, University of Vienna

The attraction of cities stems between others from a multitude of promises. These urban promises typically appear as promises of urbanity – imbued with ethical imaginations of freedom, equality (access to infrastructures, to consumption and, most important, to work) and, therefore, care and opportunities. Concerning these cultural representations, urban anthropology may add insights into the lived disparities they entail and question their potential for social change. More profoundly, the analysis of everyday situations may help to complicate indealised visions of urban promises and shed a light on the quality of time, space and social bonds emerging from the city as promissory assemblages.

Watch the lecture here:

The missing link between climate action (SDG 13) and reduced inequalities (SDG 10): the urban dimension

14 June 2022, 15:30 to 17:30 CET, Institute of Sociology of the Czech Academy of Sciences, room 207 and Zoom.

Lin Lerpold and Örjan Sjöberg

Dept. of Marketing and Strategy and Center for Sustainability Research, Stockholm School of Economics, Stockholm.

A considerable and growing body of research focuses on the interlinkages between the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) under the United Nations Agenda 2030. One consistent finding is that synergies and trade-offs across the SDGs appear to exist. Although there is little agreement just how these synergies and trade-offs align, it is indicative of a need to think through that interdependence. This is also true of the interconnectedness of different types of SDGs. Thus, climate and environmental sustainability and social sustainability are often theorised and empirically depicted as separate challenges. We set out to explore the trade-offs and suggest ways forward for a more holistic understanding. Unlike the rapidly expanding body of quantitative assessments, we focus on conceptual issues. We do so because data-based approaches do not only yield conflicting results but are typically not in a position to discriminate between them. Instead, starting from a main assumption under SDG 8, namely if the SDGs focused on the social world are to be met with a measure of success, economic growth has to continue but without it increasing the ecological footprint of humankind. For now at least, evidence of such decoupling is patchy at best. We therefore inquire into the possible risk of environmental goals and targets under Agenda 2030 might come in conflict with those that address social equity. We illustrate what this might imply with reference to sustainable urban development.

Presentation was held by Örjan Sjöberg only.