RGS-IBG CFP: Resistance in public spaces – Questions of distinction, duration and expansion

Lars Meier and I are planning to host a session at this year’s conference of the Royal Geographical Society – Insitute of British Geographers in London. The title for the session is:

Resistance in public spaces – Questions of distinction, duration and expansion

In this session, we want to discuss the limits of resistance in public places in the context of artistic practice and political movements. While actions such as impromptu performances, entities such as flash mobs or practices like street art are often referred to as instances of opportunities for social change, their actual effects remain understudied. If the ‘right to the city’ is at stake here, however, it is necessary not only to reflect about possibilities for alternative development or about artistic ideals. It becomes necessary to study the manifold ways in which such practices, entities or events enter the practices of those who are in the places where they occur. We would propose that three distinct dimensions are important in this undertaking:

Distinction: Understood in a Bourdieuan sense, what are the positions of those who enact and those who perceive artistic expression or countercultural performance? Where in the social and cultural fields are they located and how do they present themselves in relation to everyday culture and the avant-garde? How will people with different taste be emotionally affected by performances and will the experience change or stabilize their aesthetic preferences? Do artists/protesters bridge social distinction or do they perhaps even enforce or solidify it?

Duration: How long does the event last? When do the last traces of an act of resistance disappear? Here, it becomes important to think both about the materiality of places and about memory, the duration of sensual impressions, both on a social and individual level. In addition, the role of recording technologies is complex: while they do serve to extend the time frame in which the event can be ‘witnessed’, they also fundamentally change the access to an event, which is now mediated in a different way and also accessed by a different set of people (youtube users instead of passers-by etc.).

Expansion: What is the spatial scale of the act, entity or performance? Does it affect only a very limited space or is the reach much wider? The geography of resistance is of crucial importance if one wants to understand its spatial implications. Accordingly, we would like to invite presentations to examine the sensual and material extension of practices of resistance.

We especially want to encourage people to consider connections of art and resistance with current political movements and protests like in Arabian countries, Russia or China or the economical and political crisis in Europe.

We would like to invite presentations that use concrete instances as the basis of arguments about how resistance plays out in public places and where it fails to bridge socio-cultural divisions. We are particularly interested in the limits of resistance and in the ways in which these limits could be extended. At the same time, it remains an open question to us if an extension of limits is actually to be wished for or not, since such an extension might also serve to water down the intended effect itself. In short, we are looking forward to explore the ambivalences of resistance together with the other presenters and with the audience.

Please send abstracts of around 200 words to Lars Frers (lars.frers@hit.no) until 27th of January 2013.

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